Friday, September 14, 2007


Secondary flight control systems may consist of the flaps, leading edge devices, spoilers, and trim devices.

Flaps are the most common high-lift devices used on practically all airplanes. These surfaces, which are attached to the trailing edge of the wing, increase both lift and induced drag for any given angle of attack. Flaps allow a compromise between high cruising speed and low landing speed, because they may be extended when needed, and retracted into the wing's structure when not needed. There are four common types of flaps: plain, split, slotted, and Fowler flaps.

The plain flap is the simplest of the four types. It increases the airfoil camber, resulting in a significant increase in the coefficient of lift at a given angle of attack. At the same time, it greatly increases drag and moves the center of pressure aft on the airfoil, resulting in a nose-down pitching moment.

The split flap is deflected from the lower surface of the airfoil and produces a slightly greater increase in lift than does the plain flap. However, more drag is created because of the turbulent air pattern produced behind the airfoil. When fully extended, both plain and split flaps produce high drag with little additional lift.

The most popular flap on airplanes today is the slotted flap. Variations of this design are used for small airplanes as well as for large ones. Slotted flaps increase the lift coefficient significantly more than plain or spilt flaps. On small airplanes, the hinge is located below the lower surface of the flap, and when the flap is lowered, it forms a duct between the flap well in the wing and the leading edge of the flap.

When the slotted flap is lowered, high-energy air from the lower surface is ducted to the flap's upper surface. The high-energy air from the slot accelerates the upper surface boundary layer and delays airflow separation, providing a higher coefficient of lift. Thus, the slotted flap produces much greater increases in CLmax than the plain or split flap. While there are many types of slotted flaps, large airplanes often have double- and even triple-slotted flaps. These allow the maximum increase in drag without the airflow over the flaps separating and destroying the lift they produce.

Fowler flaps are a type of slotted flap. This flap design not only changes the camber of the wing, it also increases the wing area. Instead of rotating down on a hinge, it slides backwards on tracks. In the first portion of its extension, it increases the drag very little, but increases the lift a great deal as it increases both the area and camber. As the extension continues, the flap deflects downward, and during the last portion of its travel, it increases the drag with little additional increase in lift.

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