Aircraft feature countless parts that are crucial to their function; the wings in particular are outfitted with many components, including what are called winglets. The winglets of aircraft help to reduce vortices that form because of the difference in pressure in the air above and below the wing. Winglets aid in stabilizing the aircraft and improve the efficiency of the design by helping the vehicle burn less fuel. Those interested in learning more about the role of winglets on aircraft should review this blog.
Though aircraft wings appear to be a single, smooth surface, they are actually built from many individual components that all have specific purposes. Winglets in particular are featured on the wingtips of aircraft and they look like small vertical flaps that are pointing upward and away from the body of the vehicle. Depending on the type of aircraft, winglets are available in different sizes, angles, and materials to suit their particular application; despite this, their purpose remains the same for all aircraft.
Invented by NASA before their introduction to civilian aircraft, the very first winglet design was developed during the end of the 19th century before heavier-than-air aircraft came about. It wasn’t until about a century later that these devices became mainstays on civilian aircraft. Aircraft wingtips without winglets form a small vortex on each wing because the air above the wing has low pressure while the air below the wing exhibits high pressure. As such, air extends past the wings, the currents of which meet and form a vortex. Vortices drag the aircraft downward because they change the angle of the lift vector which causes the engines to work even harder to lift the plane upward. Though these vortices are often weak, they are often enough to destabilize the aircraft, especially during takeoff and landing.
Wingtips work by generating their own lift which counteracts these vortices; winglets redirect the vortices which form at the wingtip so that they are simply another form of wind pushing the plane ahead. Though the vortices created are relatively small, any passenger jetliner will benefit from additional precision in all forms. At higher angles of attack, vortices are the most powerful, such as during takeoff. In addition to preventing vortices, winglets also improve airplane efficiency.
Wingtips not only improve aircraft stability at high angles of attack, but they also save airlines money and make aircraft move with more efficiency, reducing jet fuel costs. In fact, airlines began adapting these winglets during the 1970s during the oil crisis which increased jet fuel costs, and this falls in line with the popular objective of finding any way to lower flight costs. The majority of aircraft possess winglets, with the exception of passenger planes like the Boeing 777 because they are so large; the winglets on a Boeing 777 would cause the aircraft to not be able to dock at a gate.
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