Wingtip Vortices Visualized

In flight, airplane wings produce dramatic wingtip vortices. These vortices reduce the amount of lift a 3D wing produces relative to a 2D one. How much they influence the lift depends on both the strength and proximity of the vortex. The stronger and closer it is, the more detrimental its effect. One way airplane designers reduce the effects of wingtip vortices is by adding an extra section, called a winglet, to the end of the wing. Among other effects, the winglet moves the wingtip vortex further away from the main wing, which reduces its influence and allows the airplane to regain some of the lift that would otherwise be lost. (Image credits: A. Wielandt et al., source)

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