Georgia Tech Shows Off High-Lift Wings

Nancy Anderson
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At the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), they’re developing some novel technology to reduce the takeoff and landing requirements of modern commercial jets, and at the same time, reducing the noise impact on the areas surrounding airports. And they’re doing it by marrying some old ideas with new.

The research is being conducted as part of NASA’s Hybrid Wing-Body Low-Noise Extreme Short Takeoff and Landing (ESTOL) program, and GTRI’s contribution is significant: A blown-wing configuration that results in a level-flight lift coefficient between 8.0 and 10.0, where most traditional wing designs struggle to reach 1.0.

Compressed air is vented from a slot in front of trailing-edge flaps, which serves to increase the wing’s lift, but also to entrain the exhaust from jet engines mounted on nacelles above the forward portion of the wing. The combination of the high-velocity air passing over the flap, the flap deflection, and the entrained jetwash add massive amounts of active lift to the wing area, allows designers to reduce the wing area, and therefore the amount of power required for flight. HIgher lift means shorter runways, less time near ground level, and fuel savings in most flight regimes.

The added bonus is the reduction of ground noise: With the engines mounted above the wings, much of its noise is reflected away from the ground, instead of back toward it like underslung nacelles.

Hopefully, we’ll see real gains in aviation efficiency from the NASA program sooner, rather than later -- aircraft design cycles, though greatly shortened by the use of advanced visualization and design software, are still notoriously long. If we could get some of these new technologies into airframes within 10 years, instead of 20 or more, the cost savings in fuel alone would be staggering. Here’s hoping.

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Mike Wrightly is mostly diesel fumes and duct tape; he grew up around heavy equipment, and holds a Bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering.

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