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Why Airplane Wings angled backwards??

  • In the 1940s, most planes had straight wings. Even the Bell X-1 that broke the sound barrier for the first time had straight wings.
  • But a straight-winged aircraft can run into major stability issues when it gets flying at transonic speeds.
  • In 1941, a Lockheed test pilot named Ralph Virden lost control of his P-38 Lightning in a dive and died in a crash.
  • This prompted an engineer named John Stack to study airflow in a high speed wind tunnel using a special kind of photography.
  • Air traveling over the top of a wing accelerates, generating lift.
  • this acceleration could mean that an aircraft traveling slower than the speed of sound can generate pockets of airflow that are moving faster than the sound
  • Generated pockets of airflow moves on wings,creating shockwaves.
  • The shockwaves reduce lift and increase drag, which is what caused Virden to lose control of his P-38.
  • By angling the wings of an aircraft toward the rear of the plane, the airflow over the top of the wing is reduced.
  • The plane can then fly faster without generating shockwaves on the wings.
  • In 1951, the Bell X-5 was developed—a plane that can change the angle of its wings mid-flight, making it perfect for studying the advantages of angled wings.

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