Airplanes are equipped with a variety of flight control surfaces. The wings, for instance, typically feature several smaller flight control surfaces, including slats. What are slats on an airplane exactly, and how do they work?
Overview of Slats
Slats are small flap-like devices on the front of an airplane’s wings. Most airplanes have a single slat on each wing. Slats are extendable, meaning they can extend out in front of the wings.
Slats have been around for over a century. They werre invented by German aerospace engineeer Gustav Lachmann in 1918 as a solution to prevent stalling.
How Slats Work
Slats are designed to increase an airplane’s angle of attack so that it can generate more lift. Airplanes, of course, may require additiona lift when taking off and landing. During these takoffs and landings, the slats may extend out in front of the airplane’s wings. With extended slats, the airplane will have a greater angle of attack, which allows it to generate more lift.
Airplanes typically don’t need their slats extended all the time. Rather, they only need them extended when landing and taking off. Landing and taking off requires slower speeds. By extending the slats, airplanes will generae more lift during the low-speed operations.
3 Types of Slats
While all slats serve the same purpose of providing lift, they are available in different types. Most slats can be classified as either automatic, powered or fixed. Automatic slats are characterized by their automatic method of operation. They are designed to extend automatically in response to aerodynamic forces. As an airplane slows down, springs within the slats will force them extend.
Along with automatic slats, there are powered slats. Powered slats are the most common. They are controlled electronically via a mechanism in the cockpit. If an airplane is taking off or landing, the pilot may extend the powered slats.
There are also fixed slats. While not as common as automatic or powered, fixed slats are the simplest. They feature a permanent design in which the slats are always extended. You won’t find fixed slats on commercial airplanes. Rather, they are typically limited to smaller, low-speed airplanes.
When looking at the front, leading edge of an airplane’s wings, you may see slats. There’s typically a single slat on each wing. Slats are flight control surfaces that, when extended, increase the angle of an airplane’s attack so that it generates more lift.