Cambered Wings:

Flight Notes

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At the time of Orville and Wilbur, it was generally understood that curved wings were more efficient at generating lift.

In general, a curved wing is more efficient than a flat wing.

A flat wing is inefficient because the air becomes turbulent as it flows over the top.

Air moves cleanly over the top, which causes lower pressure to develop with less drag.

Turbulence results in more drag and ultimately, less lift.

 

What is camber? Most people think of camber as the top surface of the wing, however this is incorrect. Actually, the amount of camber is the difference between the mean camber line and the chord line. See the diagrams below. This means that a symmetrical wing has no camber.

 

Why are wings designed with camber? An efficient camber reduces the effect of drag, a force that acts against thrust. Therefore, a wing with an efficient camber does not require as much thrust to achieve lift. Thus, lift is easier to generate and maintain with an efficient camber.

In contrast, an inefficient camber results in a wing with a great deal of drag; more thrust is needed to compensate for the increased drag.

What did the Wright brothers understand about camber? Although the Wright brothers never considered the theory of Daniel Bernoulli, it was generally understood by those investigating flight in the late 19th century, that cambered wings were more efficient than flat wings. Bernoulli, whose work was based on Newton, demonstrated that the pressure of a fluid is lower when it is moving faster. Air passes faster over the top of a wing, resulting in lower pressure. Camber increases this effect. Therefore, cambered wings lift more easily than flat wings.

 

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