NASA Humor: “That wing sure is critical”

I found this image on reddit and realized that since criticism and CRM are topics of interest, this would be a nice post to prime the pump for an upcoming article I’ll be doing on the supercritical wing.

The interesting thing about the supercritical wing is its age, ubiquity and connection to the area rule, which I wrote about here for the pilot and aviation buff community.  It was timely for me since so many of us offer blank stares when quizzed on the “why” of shapes that fly.  Whether we are asked about the hump on top of a 747 or the big blobs behind the wing where the flaps are (what is in those things?) most of us pilots know surprisingly little about design.

Some aircraft even appear to be wearing a corset.

One of the coolest ways to learn about aviation, design, engineering and science in general is just to follow the line of questioning: Why does it look like that? Who decided to put these things on this bomber:

Believe it or not those bulges aft of the wing aren’t fuel, gear or weapons bays, though they could be.  Their primary purpose is to satisfy the area rule.

If you look at the image to the left you’ll see “waisting” or “scooping” that is there to offset that big engine that must now also push through the airstream.  Believe it or not, that scooped out / concave area makes the airplane fly better.

Walking around the Phenom 300 one day, I asked the director of maintenance I was with at the time whether they knew why it was shaped that way.  “Never thought about it,” they offered.

Turns out, it was worth researching, since the area rule drives much of what matters in aircraft design since the 1950s.  (Amongst a host of other things.)

If this sort of rambling and drivel about airplanes is of interest, be sure to sign up for

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Aviation, technology, trends, society and the economic drivers that make it all happen is what makes me tick.

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