Wing flaps are a common component of most airplanes. As the name suggests, they consist of hinge-like flaps on an airplane’s wings. Most fixed-wing airplanes have flaps on both of their wings. When taking off and landing, pilots will raise or lower them. How do wing flaps work exactly?
The Purpose of Wing Flaps
To better understand how they work, you must familiarize yourself with the purpose of wing flaps. They are designed primarily to reduce the speed at which airplanes stalls. Stalling speed, of course, is the speed at which an airplane needs to fly in order to produce lift. When an airplane flies slower than its stalling speed, it will essentially fall and experience a decrease in altitude. Wing flaps create drag when raised that reduces the airplane’s stalling speed. In turn, this makes wing flaps particularly useful for takeoffs and landings.
Wing Flaps During Takeoffs
Pilots will often engage the airplane’s wing flaps when taking off. Engaging the wing flaps means that they’ll be fully or partially raised. As a result, the airplane won’t have to travel as far on the runway. Engaging the wing flaps allows for a shorter takeoff distance. The downside, though, is that it comes at the cost of a lower climb rate. Nonetheless, wing flaps are often used during takeoffs. They minimize the distance at which airplanes need to travel on the runway before taking off.
Wing Flaps During Landings
In addition to takeoffs, wing flaps are used during landings. As previously mentioned, wing flaps are designed primarily to reduce stall speed. Airplanes must experience a controlled stall in order to land. After all, airplanes can’t land if they are producing lift. Landing requires a decrease in both altitude and speed, which can be only be achieved through a controlled stall. By engaging the wing flaps, pilots can reduce the airplane’s stall speed as they approach the runway for a landing.
Engaging the wing flaps will help to reduce the airplane’s stall speed so that it can safely land on the runway. The airplane’s stall speed will decrease, in which case its altitude will drop. The raised wing flaps will crease drag that, in turn, reduces the airplane’s stall speed as it approaches the runway for a landing.
Wing flaps may feature a small and simple design, but they serve an important purpose. Wing flaps reduce stall speed, which is useful for takeoffs and landings.