Phenomena

Those Funny Fins on Airplane Wings

Ever look out an airplane’s window and wondered why a row of little fins runs along the upper side of the wing? These vortex generators help prevent a wing from stalling at high angle of attack by keeping flow attached to the surface. Airflow over the vanes creates a tip vortex that transports the higher-momentum fluid from the freestream closer to the wing’s surface, increasing the momentum in the boundary layer. As a result of this momentum exchange, the boundary layer remains attached over a greater chordwise distance. This also increases the effectiveness of trailing-edge control surfaces, like ailerons, on the wing. (Photo credit: Mark Jones Jr.)

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