High-lift devices also can be applied to the leading edge of the airfoil. The most common types are fixed slots, movable slats, leading edge flaps, and cuffs. [Figure 5-18]
Fixed slots direct airflow to the upper wing surface and delay airflow separation at higher angles of attack. The slot does not increase the wing camber, but allows a higher maximum CL because the stall is delayed until the wing reaches a greater AOA.
Movable slats consist of leading edge segments, which move on tracks. At low angles of attack, each slat is held flush against the wing’s leading edge by the high pressure that forms at the wing’s leading edge. As the AOA increases, the high-pressure area moves aft below the lower surface of the wing, allowing the slats to move forward. Some slats, however, are pilot operated and can be deployed at any AOA. Opening a slat allows the air below the wing to flow over the wing’s upper surface, delaying airflow separation.
Leading edge flaps, like trailing edge flaps, are used to increase both CL-MAX and the camber of the wings. This type of leading edge device is frequently used in conjunction with trailing edge flaps and can reduce the nose-down pitching movement produced by the latter. As is true with trailing edge flaps, a small increment of leading edge flaps increases lift to a much greater extent than drag. As greater amounts of flaps are extended, drag increases at a greater rate than lift.
Leading edge cuffs, like leading edge flaps and trailing edge flaps are used to increase both CL-MAX and the camber of the wings. Unlike leading edge flaps and trailing edge flaps, leading edge cuffs are fixed aerodynamic devices. In most cases leading edge cuffs extend the leading edge down and forward. This causes the airflow to attach better to the upper surface of the wing at higher angles of attack, thus lowering an aircraft’s stall speed. The fixed nature of leading edge cuffs extracts a penalty in maximum cruise airspeed, but recent advances in design and technology have reduced this penalty.