Why Do Airplanes Have Extended Wing Flaps?
During the takeoff and landing of many commercial jets, flaps on the wings extend for the duration of time it takes the aircraft to reach cruising altitude. While these wing flaps deploy for a small portion of flight, they serve the important purpose of altering the entire shape of the wing. This small adjustment redirects airflow over the wing and greatly improves takeoff and landing capabilities. This blog will explore this small but impactful feature of flight to understand why so many planes employ extended wing flaps.
When activated, wing flaps can extend by a few feet or, in certain circumstances, they can be angled. Through extension, the wing flaps function to create additional lift under the wings, allowing the aircraft to take off with greater ease. This works by changing what is known as the camber line in the wing, that of which is a line parallel to the upper and lower surfaces of the wing. It runs through the middle of the wing and, as the line becomes more curved, camber increases. A wing shape with a high camber as a result of a curved camber line will generate more lift. A second factor known as the chord line determines the surface area of the wing. When the flaps are lowered, the chord line elongates to expand the wing, leading to more lift production.
In addition, this angling feature allows pilots to take the factor of wind into consideration. The pilot can adjust the angle of the wing flaps from the cockpit in accordance with the wind to generate optimal lift. An example of this is positioning the flaps at a 30 degree angle to optimize airflow both over and under the wing.
Although they assist with lift, extended wing flaps also create drag, so pilots normally retract the flaps back to their original position once cruising altitude has been reached. The drag created by the extended wing flaps slows the entire aircraft down, so leaving the flaps extended would cost time, money, and fuel unnecessarily. While the drag is not enough to derail the plane from its path, pilots will retract the flaps for a more efficient flight.
Extended wing flaps also play a role in landing, similar to that which they play in takeoff. The flaps can be adjusted to the appropriate angle to redirect airflow over the wing; however, during landing, the goal is to slow the plane down rather than generate lift. Therefore, during landing, the wing flaps’ ability to create drag comes in handy as they can be angled to increase the airflow against the plane, slowing it down to the point of stopping on the runway.
As with many components of aircraft, it is easy to overlook the great importance of extended wing flaps due to their seemingly minimal role in flight, yet they improve flight when necessary without taking away from the efficiency or smoothness of air travel. Wing flaps are a beneficial addition to any commercial jet and offer the benefit of being selectively activated by the pilot. If you are currently in the market for wing parts or other components to improve your aircraft, look no further than ASAP Distribution!
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