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Aircraft Wings: Types and Configuration

The mainplanes or wings are designed to support the weight of the aircraft and to produce lift and weight balance.

It creates a lift by moving rapidly through the air and it can create lateral stability.

Types of Aircraft Wings

Bi-Plane

biplane_airplane__Aircraft Wings Types and Configuration
  • Most Bi-Planes have Truss Type Fuselage
  • Have wires connected to the fuselage, upper and lower wings
  • Parts of a Bi-Plane Aircraft
    • Wings spar
    • Vertical struts
    • Bracing wires: Landing and flying wires
    • Upper mainplane/wing
    • Lower mainplane/wing
  • Advantages of a Bi-Plane Wing Construction
    • High rigidity
    • Light wing structure
    • Smaller wingspan required
    • Strong resistance to bending and twisting loads
  • Disadvantages of a Bi-Plane Wing Construction
    • Cost
    • Hard to construct
    • Time-consuming maintenance
    • Thin airfoils
    • Needs additional bracing
  • Example of Aircraft with of Bi-plane Wing Configuration
    • Sopwith Camel
      • Wing: Bi-plane with 5″ dihedral lower wing
      • Fuselage: monocoque construction
      • Powerplant: 1 x Clerqer 38 9-cylinder air-cooled rotary piston engine
      • Empennage: Conventional standard type
      • Landing gear: Bicycle type
    • Beechcraft Staggerwing
      • Wing: Bi-plane
      • Fuselage: Semi-monocoque construction
      • Powerplant: Pratt and Whitney R-485-An- 4 Wasp Junior engine
      • Empennage: Conventional standard type
      • Landing gear: Tailwheel

Braced Monoplane

cessna 140 example of landing gear tail wheel high wing brace monoplane
  • Monoplane means it has one wing only
  • Most used for low-speed aircraft
  • Similar to the construction of a bi-plane wing construction but it has no lower wing and fewer bracing wires
  • Advantages of a Braced Monoplane Wing Construction
    • Simplest to build
    • Highest flight efficiency
    • Lowest drag wing configuration
    • Additional vertical struts for additional support 
  • Disadvantages of a Braced Monoplane Wing Construction
    • Time-consuming maintenance
    • External bracing needed
    • Prone to bending forces 
  • Example of Aircraft with of Braced Monoplane Wing Configuration
    • Curtiss Robin
      • Wing: strut-braced monoplane
      • Empennage:  Conventional type
      • Fuselage: Truss type
      • Landing gear: Bicycle
      • Powerplant: 6-cyclinder radial engine 
    • Stinson HW75
      • Wing: High wing braced monoplane
      • Empennage: Conventional type
      • Fuselage: Truss type
      • Landing gear: Tailwheel
      • Powerplant: 75 hp continental A75 
    • Piper J-3 Club
      • Wing: High-wing strut-braced monoplane
      • Empennage: Conventional type
      • Landing gear: Tail wheel
      • Powerplant: 65 hp continental 0-170-3 piston engine 
What’s the difference between Braced Monoplane and Bi-Plane wing configuration?

Bi-plane has two wings and monoplane has one upper wing. The braced monoplane has no interplane or vertical struts.

 
Cantilever Monoplane

Cantilever wings_airplane_plane_Aircraft Wings Types and Configuration
  • Used by modern transport airplanes
  • Has equal leverage of both wings
  • Advantages of a Cantilever Monoplane Wing Construction
    • No external supporting struts needed
    • Lighter structure
    • No need for external bracing
    • Reduces bending moment
  • Disadvantages of a Cantilever Monoplane Wing Construction
    • Cost
    • Requires stronger and heavier spars
    • Time-consuming maintenance due to its internal load support
  • Example of Aircraft with of Cantilever Monoplane Wing Configuration
    • King Air 350i
      • Wing: Mid-wing cantilever monoplane
      • Fuselage: Semi-monocoque
      • Empennage: Conventional type
      • Landing gear: Retractable tricycle landing gear
      • Powerplant: PT6A60A turboprop engine 
    • Airbus A380
      • Wing: Low-wing cantilever monoplane
      • Fuselage: Semi-monocoque
      • Empennage: Conventional type
      • Landing gear: Multi-bogey
      • Powerplant: GP700 turbofan jet engine 
    • Boeing E-4B
      • Wing: Low-wing cantilever monoplane
      • Fuselage: Semi-monocoque
      • Empennage: Conventional type
      • Landing gear: Multi-bogey
      • Powerplant: Four P&WJY9D engine

Aircraft Wing Configuration

There are reasons my most transport aircraft have low wing cantilever construction. The position of the wings on the aircraft depends on its purpose and usage. 

Low Wing Configuration

  • Advantages of Low Wing Configuration
    • No need for wing struts
    • Easier to access for maintenance and refueling
    • Easier to connect the main gear
    • Doesn’t block the cabin and offers bigger space
    • Better flexibility on wingspan
    • Offers better visibility above the aircraft
    • Excellent for upward and sideward movement
    • Improves lateral stability and reduces the risk of foreign object debris ingestion
        
  • Disadvantages of Low Wing Configuration
    • Greater drag
    • The Center lift is below the center of mass
    • Adverse airflow
    • Hard to taxi due to its wings proximity to the ground
    • Prone to damage when on the ground
    • Wings block a pilot’s view of the ground
    • Takes more effort to inspect the underside of the wings
    • Fuel pumps are needed to transport fuel From the tank to the engine
    • Wings blocks airflow to tail during take-off
  • Aircraft with a Low Wing Configuration
    • ATEC 322 Faeta Light-Sport Aircraft
      • Wing: Low wing cantilever; tapered
      • Fuselage: Monocoque
      • Empennage: T-tail
      • Landing gear: Non-retractable tricycle
      • Powerplant: Rotax 912iS sport engine 
    • Piper Warrior PA 28-161
      • Wing: Low wing cantilever; tapered
      • Fuselage: Semi-monocoque
      • Empennage: Conventional type
      • Landing gear: Non-retractable tricycle
      • Powerplant: Lycoming 0–320-D3G engine 
    • Cessna 350
      • Wing: Low wing cantilever
      • Fuselage: Semi-monocoque
      • Empennage: Conventional type
      • Landing gear: Non-retractable tricycle
      • Powerplant: Teledyne continental motors
         

Mid Wing Configuration

High-performance aircraft often have a mid-wing configuration because it offers the lowest drag compared to other wing positions. 

  • Advantages of Mid Wing Configuration
    • Offers the lowest drag
    • Small speed cost
    • Better yield performance
    • Limited cabin space
    • Eliminates the need to raise the fuselage higher off the ground
    • Minimizes the impact on the capacity and layout of the aircraft
    • Gives spaces inside the fuselage that could be used for additional facilities and extra cargo
    • Accommodates larger fans of efficient super-high bypass ratio engines
    • Sufficient ground clearance beneath the mounted engines
  • Disadvantages of Mid Wing Configuration
    • Prone to structural complication
    • Shifting of center of mass at the rear side of the fuselage
    • Occupies lots of useful fuselage space
    • If landing gears are wing-mounted, they should be bigger in length
    • The structure has to be strengthened more to withstand the loads
  • Aircraft with a Mid Wing Configuration
    • Dassault Rafale
      • Wing: Mid-wing cantilever
      • Fuselage: Semi-monocoque
      • Empennage: cruciform tail
      • Landing gear: Retractable tricycle wheels
      • Powerplant: 2 x Snecma 1488-4e turbofans
    • De Haviland Vampire TII
      • Wing: Mid-wing tapered cantilever
      • Fuselage: Monocoque
      • Empennage: Conventional type
      • Landing gear: Retractable tricycle wheels
      • Powerplant: Goblin III piston engine

High Wing Configuration

Most aircraft with high wing configuration has external struts and bracing. 

  • Advantages of High Wing Configuration
    • Can carry weapons like missiles and bombs
    • Provides pilot good visibility to the ground
    • For high lift requirement
    • Direct access to the fuselage
    • Lateral stability and more debris protection
    • Sufficient ground clearance beneath the mounted engines
  • Disadvantages of High Wing Configuration
    • Hard landing gear retraction
    • Restrict the visibility of the pilot to the top part of the aircraft
    • Time-consuming wing maintenance
    • Fuel tank checks require special ladders and training of the personnel
    • Requires longer and heavier landing gear
    • More susceptible to crosswind and turbulence near the ground
    • Fuselage absorbs major forces during hard landings
  • Aircraft with a High Wing Configuration
    • Comp Air 8
      • Wing: Semi-cantilever high wing
      • Fuselage: Truss type
      • Empennage: Conventional type
      • Landing gear: Non-retractable tail wheel
      • Powerplant: Walter M601D turboprop, 6657 shp 
    • Cessna 172 Skyhawk
      • Wing: Semi-cantilever high wing
      • Fuselage: Truss type
      • Empennage: Conventional type
      • Landing gear: Non-retractable tricycle wheels
      • Powerplant: 150 hp Lycoming 0-320-E2D engine

Parts of an Aircraft Wing

SPARS

  • Main load bearing member of the wing
  • Absorbs stresses (bending and twisting)
  • Aircraft can be single, twin, or multi-spar construction
  • Part of the torsion box
     

WING ROOT

  • The external part of the wing that is connected to the fuselage
  • Where the maximum bending moment occurs 

SKIN

  • Absorbs the load and distribute it to other structures
  • Outer cover of the wing 

STRINGERS

  • Longitudinal structural members that assist the longerons
  • Also known as stiffeners – stiffens the skin
  • More numerous and lighter in weight than longerons 

RIBS

  • Support the structural members such as the spar, stringers, and longerons
  • Maintains the shape of the wing
  • Makes up the framework of the wing
  • Useful to distribute the loads being experienced by the aircraft 

FORMERS

  • Reinforces the skin to maintain the aircraft’s circumferential shape.

Note that the torsion box consists of stringers, ribs, skin and spars. 

Wing flutter

Wing uncontrolled oscillations are the result of the unbalance weight and forces being experienced by the aircraft. To reduce the wing flutter or excessive vibration on the wings, the following design is recommended:

  • Mount the engines on the wing where the fuel tanks are inside the wing
  • Engine position as a mass balance

The flutter of the control surfaces can be avoided by mass balances, the position of the engines, and moving the control surface closer to the hinge line.

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