Aircraft wings are airfoils that attach to the body of an aircraft at different angles and shapes to create lift and sustain flight. Different wing configurations provide variant flight characteristics like the amount of lift generated, the level of control at different operating speeds, aircraft stability and flight balance. Aircraft wings may be attached at the bottom, mid or top of the fuselage. The wing tip can be pointed, rounded or square and the wing can extend out from the fuselage perpendicularly , angled down or slightly up. The angle at which a wing extends out from the fuselage’s horizontal state is called the dihedral angle and this affects an aircraft’s lateral stability.
Wings are mostly constructed using aluminum, but they can also be made using wood covered with fabric, magnesium alloy, carbon fiber, and in modern aircraft, stronger and lighter materials like titanium. The framing of aircraft wings are outlined by beam like spars. The ribs of a wing are connected to these spars and provide sound structure and stability. Lastly, the entire aircraft from fuselage to wingspan is covered in a skin that ensures the aircraft moves through the sky as one unified body.
There are 9 types of wing design that each offer their own unique capabilities. The rectangle wing (not aerodynamically efficient) is your basic non-tapered, straight wing, mostly used in small aircraft, extending perpendicular to the fuselage. Elliptical wings (most aerodynamically efficient) induce the lowest possible drag and their thin wing structure was initially designed to house landing gear, ammunition and guns inside the wing. The chord of a tapered wing varies across it’s span for approximate elliptical lift distribution.
Delta wings are triangular in shape and lay over the fuselage. Their low aspect ratio makes them ideal in supersonic, subsonic, and transonic flight. These wings have improved maneuverability and reduced wing loading but due to their low aspect ratio, do have a high induced drag. Trapezoidal wings offer outstanding flight performance, highly efficient supersonic flight, and have great stealth characteristics. Ogive wings are designed for very high speeds, have minimal drag at supersonic speeds, but are very complex and difficult to manufacture. Most high-speed commercial aircraft use a swept-back wing design that reduces drag at transonic speeds. Forward-swept wings have controllability issues and because of the flow characteristics the outboard wings stall before the flaps. Variable sweep wings were designed to optimize flight experience over a range of speeds and have three modes of extension: straight out to the side, slightly back, and farther back to create a triangle shaped aircraft.
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