Different Types of Aircraft Wings – Airplanes by Design

Here are 5 characteristics of aircraft wings. (This is only five – there are many more ways to compare wings.) Understanding the characteristics of a wing helps test pilots predict how it will fly.

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Sweep – the F-14 here has wings with variable sweep. Angle of sweep is measured between the wing and the aircraft centerline (with many variations of this definition depending on the type of wing).
Grumman F-14 Tomcat Arnold AEDC Tullahoma Tennessee

Camber describes the shape of the top and bottom of the airfoil in relation to the chord line as seen here on the Carbon Cub.
Carbon Cub right wing tip and fuselage, airfoil cross section

Chord is an imaginary straight line from the leading edge to the trailing edge. Here you can see the airfoil shape on the C-17 wing, where the top is “flatter,” and the bottom is “fatter” and imagine a straight line from the leading to trailing edge.
C-17A left wing underside side view winglet and supercritical airfoil

Long slender wings have a high Aspect Ratio, a comparison of chord length and planform area of the wing.
Flight Design CTLS

The Airfoil is essentially an imaginary cross section of a portion of the wing. The F-18 has a very long and slender airfoil.
McDonnell Douglas F-18 Hornet Arnold AFB Tennessee


Airplanes by Design features photographs of aircraft from a test pilot perspective, highlighting aeronautical engineering characteristics and flight test facts.

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