Why Do Some Airplanes Have Winglets?
Have you ever thought about how a passenger plane flies at an altitude of approximately 3000 km at such a fast rate? To discover how aircraft utilize modern technology to manage their speed while turning, during takeoff, and while landing, you have come to the right source!
The pointed and tilted tips of an aircraft's wings, also referred to as “winglets,”- are influenced by the flying motion of aves. As such, like birds, winglets were invented so aircraft could fly efficiently at higher altitudes. To accommodate various aircraft models, the length of an aircraft's wings must be in consideration to its size and weight to maintain flight.
The Purpose and Function of Aircraft Winglets
The manufacturing and development of aircraft winglets can be viewed throughout history. In 1970, manufacturers and airliners were continuously trying to amplify the capabilities of aircraft due to the increasing price of aviation fuel. The inflation on fuel had drawn the attention of manufacturers towards focusing on developing fuel-saving technologies, allowing winglets to become one of the most popular solutions still used to this date..
The purpose of using winglets is to maximize an aircraft’s operating efficiency by minimizing turbulence at the tips of the wings. The shape of an aircraft's wings is designed to generate pressure differences at each side of the wings which helps the plane to move ahead. This unequal pressure produces lift, allowing the aircraft to generate enough power to leave the ground and fly.
When there is unequal pressure, the air at the wingtips flows outward from the bottom of the wing and around the tip. Simultaneously, air will flow in an inward direction at the top of the wing, causing a whirlwind of air commonly known as a "wingtip vortex." This can result in increased drag, reducing flight efficiency and increasing one’s cost spent on fuel.
Winglets, on the other hand, can help in improving flight efficiency. Winglets are airfoils which weaken vortices by producing forward thrust inside the circulation field, resulting in less drag at the wingtips. Thus, they help in improving wing efficiency, lead to less fuel consumption, and increase flight range.
Why Do Some Aircraft Have Winglets?
As we know, winglets reduce the drag faced by aircraft which results in fuel savings, so it begs the question of why all airplanes don’t have winglets. Tangled air often flows around the winglet, which makes its design quite complicated. While one could make the wings longer so that the airplane's lift-to-drag ratio will quickly improve, this can create an issue of the size of the wingspan and the ability of the aircraft to move through certain areas.
Winglets usually help in controlling and balancing the airplane during flight. They are implemented at the tip of the wings with an upward direction to help lower vortex drag. Large airplanes have long wings that make the plane heavy and harder to traverse through smaller areas. Winglets are crucial for the easy movement of an airplane and its ability to maintain balance during flight. Wide-reaching airliners can often take advantage of the benefits of long-wing airplanes. However, small aircraft like fighter planes do not need longer wings, which is why not all airplanes have winglets. Typically, winglets are used by many airlines, such as Boeing featuring them on the 747-400 and Airbus on the A330 – A340. Boeing is using blended winglets in some of its 737 models which are designed in curvy shape instead of a straight design.
Some examples of aircraft with winglets are given below:
- Boeing 737 MAX
As we discussed before, they usually come with winglets mounted on the top of the wing which are pointed upward. However, the Boeing 737 MAX has an entirely different system. With the Boeing 737 Max, there is another winglet provided on top of the regular winglet at the bottom surface of the wing. It helps in reducing drag and increases efficiency.
- Boeing 777X
Boeing 777X features some of the most updated technology in the Boeing series. It is a typical Boeing aircraft, except for one thing, it has foldable winglets due to its large wingspan.
- Airbus A350
A350 aircraft have ordinary winglets which usually helps in reducing drag.
Winglets have many more benefits. Beside their fuel saving capabilities, they help the aircraft in many ways to achieve a smooth flight. Implementing winglets increases the performance of an aircraft as an enhanced technology usable during emergency flight. In short, winglets help in increasing performance, reducing costs, maximizing safety margins, and bolster value enhancement in airplanes.
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