What are the Curved Wingtips on Aircraft?
There are many types of wings for various aircraft. Some may be long or short, and others wide or thin. Some commercial aircraft however, may feature a curved tip at the end of the wings. These aircraft wingtips can often prove beneficial to aircraft performance, and contrary to some beliefs, they can even increase an aircraft’s lift. In this blog, we will explore the functionality of these curved wingtips and why some commercial aircraft feature them.
While an aircraft is in flight, there exists a difference in air pressure above and below the aircraft wings. Above the wings, the pressure is lower, and below it is much higher. With flat wings, the lower pressure from above the wings curls and meets the higher pressure at the bottom, creating wind vortices that result in induced drag. These vortices can also be turbulent as they are a tornado of wind that flows behind the wings, sometimes strong enough to even spin a small airplane following too close behind. While these vortices may not slow down an aircraft, they cause the engines to have to work harder to maintain speed especially at higher angles of attack, and thus fuel efficiency is lower.
Winglets are the solution to this problem by helping to eliminate the effects of induced drag caused by wind vortices. Another solution is to simply make wings longer, but this proves to be difficult for aircraft that have size constraints due to storage and other similar factors. Winglets help aid the lift of an aircraft through the use of bending the relative wind inwards, which in turn creates a forward lift. This also helps to reduce the size of the vortices that are created by aircraft.
With aviation winglets, an aircraft can achieve greater lift and mitigate the drag from wind vortices without having to have bigger wing spans. With their benefits, aircraft can see greater savings in their fuel efficiency with reduced power consumption, as well as lower CO2 emissions. Modern designs and materials have even mostly improved on drawbacks such as angel induced drag, proving winglets to be a solution for size constrained aircraft.
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