Wingtip Vortices

Wingtip vortices are the result of high-pressure air from beneath a wing sneaking around the end of the wing to the low-pressure area on top. They trail for long distances behind aircraft, and are, most of the time, an invisible hazard for other aircraft. If you’ve ever sat in a line of airplanes waiting to take off and wondered why there is so much time between subsequent take-offs, wingtip vortices are the answer. The larger a plane, the stronger its vortices are and the greater their effect on a smaller craft. Much of the time between planes taking off (or landing) is to allow the vortices to dissipate so that subsequent aircraft don’t encounter the wake turbulence of their predecessor. Crossing the wake of another plane can cause an unexpected roll that pilots may not be able to safely correct, a factor that’s contributed to major crashes in the past. (Image credits: flugsnug, source video; submitted by entropy-perturbation)

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