Saturday, September 5, 2015

Folding Wings

Short Brothers, the first company to manufacture aircraft, was also the first one to patent fold-able wings in 1913. Folding wings was kind of a necessity because of the constraints in the space and to be frank, we hadn't achieved reliable building techniques to create large hangers. 

Aircraft design is agreement of compromise. You can have a faster aircraft but it won't be efficient. Each aircraft are designed based on very basic purpose. The designers will know what they want before even they start to design it. (It is also a life principal. Know what you want from your life and then do it. Stuff that aviation teach us :D ).

So in the pursuit of fulfilling the purpose, the aircraft gets big. Maybe it is the wing, or its tail. In an environment where space isn't a luxury, designers has to improvise. They cannot reduce the length of wing because it will effect the aerodynamics of the aircraft. But what they can do is to fold the wings.

Folding wings are quite complex in mechanics. It effects the electrical, fuel,mechanical, aerodynamic and structural systems. (Ref: Wikipedia)

Folding wings are quite common with carrier based aircraft. It is because of the carrier operations. The free vertical space is used by folding the horizontal wing as shown below. Even F-35 has folding wings.

Many world war aircraft that was carrier based  had this technology implemented in them. 

This technology is rare with land aircraft. One notable example is B-50 Superfortress. This aircraft had huge rudders and tails to stabilize the whooping 30.18 meters fuselage. The tails were fold-able with this Boeing aircraft to fit in hangers.

The latest Boeing 777 9X also uses this technology. Liebherr-Aerospace is the company that is building and integrating this technology deep into the new 777's wing. The requirement from Boeing was to make it flawless,  shouldn't make any cranky sound, reliable, safe and fast. 

Liebherr-Aerospace designed this in such a way that it takes just 20 seconds to fold the wing from taxiway to runaway and vice versa. The operational requirement of having a sizable wing starts from taxiway. Check out my article about the new 777 9X here.

Although we aviators strive to make everything streamline, there are indeed times where we step into raw mechanical elements. 

Aviation is about finding the right spot where efficiency and effective is intertwined. 

Thank You for reading guys.


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