Why modern airplanes have wings?

(CNN) – What was your eye the last time you looked out of your plane window? It may be the winglet, an attachment now attached to the back of each wing, often used by aircraft to display their logo and put their logo on your flight photos.

But the winglet isn’t there just for the price – it really saves fuel. On average, an aircraft equipped with them can use up to 5% less fuel, and for a typical Boeing 737 commuter aircraft that can consume as much as 100,000 gallons of fuel per year, according to NASA. The budget for aircraft is in the billions of dollars.
They do so by reducing the natural twists created on the wings, which can be so strong that small planes can fly through the air as they travel in the path of larger planes. The result is obvious that aerodynamicists are thinking about before the Wright brothers ’first flight is over. The more widespread the winglets, the more recent.

It’s a good design

The wing: The buttons on the back of the new aircraft wings are on the right.

The wing: The buttons on the back of the new aircraft wings are on the right.

Pascal Pigeyre / MasterFilms

As the air travels around the wings of the aircraft, it exerts high pressure on the lower skin and low pressure on the wing, where it awakens. But as soon as the air flowing under the wing reaches it, it swells to spin upwards and meets the low -pressure air above, producing a kind of small whirlwind. This increases after the plane is doing the pulling, as is the loss of energy.

“That energy that’s being put into the air coming from the plane,” said Al Bowers, a former scientist at NASA’s Neil Armstrong Flight Research Center. “If there’s a way to capture that energy and store it on the plane, that’s the result of less energy being consumed in its path.”

In 1897, British aerodynamic pilot Frederick W. Lancaster extended the “rear wings,” the vertical sides attached to the rear of the wings to block air from below and above. joining, reducing pull. “In different ways like the winglets do, but it’s much better to improve the lifting, because the flats don’t do well on their own,” Bowers said.

The idea for new aircraft was refined in the 1970s by NASA engineer Richard Whitcomb, who devised an increase in the number of stable wings inspired by the way birds twirled in the back of their wings. their wings when the way is needed.

“Whitcomb was the one who developed the idea that more of these aerodynamic surfaces, a real wing,” Bowers said. “He knew that setting the corner right on top of them would result in a huge reduction in pull.” The name winglet, or small wing, was actually followed.

Whitcomb tested the concept in a wind tunnel and found that winglets could achieve a pull reduction of about 5%. At the same time, winglet research took over at NASA, and LearJet the professional jet manufacturer was the first to mount winglets on a real aircraft, in 1977. Two years later, NASA first flew to an Air Force KC -135 test aircraft – no. Very different from a Boeing 707 aircraft – equipped with nine -foot -high wings. Over 47 test missions, NASA confirmed the discovery of Whitcomb’s hurricane.

Combined wings

Winglets was the original teacher of NASA engineer Richard Whitcomb.

Winglets was the original teacher of NASA engineer Richard Whitcomb.


Despite the encouraging effects, the winglets did not immediately draw interest from the aircraft, as they also added weight to the aircraft and made the landing cumbersome.

“In the early days, even after Whitcomb, the engineers weren’t well trained and the mantra was‘ winglets help at low speed but they hurt at high speed, ’” Mark D said. Maughmer, a lawyer. in winglet design and professor of aerospace engineering at Penn State.

“So they didn’t see their way to the commercial cars at the time because the planes didn’t like the winglet’s punishment.”

Things changed when a company called Aviation Partners launched the “joined” winglet. Founded in 1991, it previously hired Boeing aerodynamicist Louis Gratzer, who in 1994 obtained a certificate for a new winglet design that smoothly flows out of the wing, giving the greater the accuracy compared to the previous controls, the more angular.

The first aircraft to use the combined winglet was the Gulfstream II, a twin-engine industrial aircraft with a total of 19 crew. Soon after, Aviation Partners looked to expand into larger aircraft and began working with Boeing, which showed interest in winglets by boarding them on 747s for the first time in 1988.

“The entry number with Boeing is the Boeing Business Jet, which is a 737,” said Mike Stowell, CEO of Aviation Partners Boeing, a joint venture between Boeing and Aviation Partners. It was founded in 1999 and features winglets that were directly installed by Boeing at the factory on new aircraft, and has restored the current Boeing aircraft with integrated winglets (a standard 737 retrofit). $ 750,000).

According to Stowell, one of the complaints of the combined winglets is about their beautiful appearance, not just the fuel storage.

The split wing scimitar on a Boeing 737 MAX 8.

The split wing scimitar on a Boeing 737 MAX 8.

Stephen Brashear / photojournalist

“I think some of the [early business customers] They wanted a different look – they didn’t want their plane to look like a commercial plane, “he said.” So for gay men there is a combination of width and features, keeping up with the men behind. For traders, perhaps not.

“We asked a large aircraft about the specific type we were looking at, and the flight attendant said ‘You can put a piano on the back of the wing – if he cares for the wood, we don’t care. ‘”

According to Aviation Partners, it has installed 10,000 aircraft with their wings – in the 737, 757 and 767 families, as well as commercial aircraft – which they estimate have stored a total of 13 billion gallons of fuel. .

They made new designs, including the “split scimitar,” designed for the 737, and the “spiroid” winglet, used on some industrial aircraft, that included a loop. All measures are intended to further improve efficiency and reduce fuel consumption.

Wings wings

Most recent Boeing aircraft have the wings or rear wings in place of the wings.

Most recent Boeing aircraft have the wings or rear wings in place of the wings.

Bob Ferguson

Unlike Boeing, Airbus was the last user of the winglets and did not continue their benefits until 2000. In 2011 it first launched their own wing design, called he is a “mano.” “Airbus was late in the game, but they caught up quickly,” Maughmer said.

The A320 family – the best -selling aircraft in the world with 16,000 orders – began receiving sharks as an option in 2012, although the A320s have now been returned from 2015. CO2 per aircraft each year.
In 2013, with the A350, Airbus redesigned its winglet design, which was not a separate add-on but a “simple three-dimensional spin of the original wing type.” The redesign also used the A320neo, a new version of the popular aircraft with better engines, which now comes with sharks in the traditional way.

Winglets are found in close proximity to small and medium -sized aircraft, although the quality of large aircraft is not clear.

“They’re helping to climb, but they’re hurting the cruise ship,” Maughmer concluded, explaining why the planes make the longest flights, so it’s worth it. most of their time at sea, the benefit from the winglets is small.

As a result, wings like the Boeing 787 and 777 do not have wings, but wing wings, or wings that are more reversible compared to the rest of the wing – a design It is better during the voyage to eliminate wing vortices. . Fuel storage is similar to winglets.

If you’re a frequent flyer, you might want to know that winglets can create turbulence more easily, as Bowers puts it: “They improve the flight’s directional stability,” he says.

“I flew on two 737 wings on the voyage at the same time, one wing and the other not. The difference is huge: the wingless one is harder than the turbulence. It’s the same. riding a sports car on a cold road, compared to a fancy sedan. “

Top image: An Airbus A320neo winglet. Currency: Airbus

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