19 Different Types of Aircraft Wings

different types of aircraft wings
Photo by Jerry Zhang

There are different types of aircraft wings used today. Each of these wing designs serves its purpose, but they all accomplish the same thing.

They create lift to get an aircraft off the ground and into the air. Let’s look at how each design works and what advantages each offers to aircraft manufacturers and pilots.

Table of Contents

  1. What is an Aircraft Wing?
  2. Different Types of Aircraft Wings
    1. Standard Aircraft Wings
    2. Swept Forward Wings
    3. Swept Backward Wings
    4. Delta Wings 
    5. Tandem Wings  
    6. Belly Borne Wing
    7. Canard Configuration 
    8. Flap Configuration   
    9. Rectangular Wing  
    10. Elliptical Wing  
    11. Inverted Gull Wing  
    12. Gull Wing Configuration  
    13. Anhedral Wing Configuration 
    14. Dihedral Wing Configuration  
    15. Monoplane Wing Configuration
    16. High Wing Configuration                       
    17. Mid Wing Configuration   
    18. Biplane Wings
    19. Low Wing Configuration   

What is an Aircraft Wing?

An aircraft wing is a component of an airplane that produces lift. The shape and size of an aircraft wing affect the amount of lift it can generate.  

Different Types of Aircraft Wings

Here are the different types of aircraft wings

Standard Aircraft Wings

Most airplanes have what are called standard aircraft wings. The top of the wing is curved, and the bottom is flat. 

The air flows over the top of the wing faster than it flows under the bottom, which creates lift. The amount of lift created depends on the shape of the wing, how big it is, and how fast it is moving through the air.  

Swept Forward Wings

These are perhaps the most common among the different types of aircraft wings you’ll see on commercial airliners. The forward sweep reduces drag and improves lift, making it ideal for high-speed flight. 

The downside is that it can make the aircraft more difficult to control, particularly at lower speeds. On many jets, including Boeing’s 777X and Airbus’ new A380s, the engine nacelles are tilted slightly upwards to help counter this effect.

Swept Backward Wings

Swept-backward wings are most often seen on high-speed jets. The main reason for this design is to reduce drag. When an airplane is flying at high speeds, the air pressure on the wing’s leading edge increases dramatically. 

This can cause the wing to stall or lose lift. To prevent this, designers sweep the wings back so that the air pressure has a chance to equalize along the length of the wing. 

There’s also a significant reduction in parasitic drag. Parasitic drag is the energy created by airflow around and over the fuselage of an aircraft. Also, any other surface that moves through the air, such as flaps and tail surfaces.

Delta Wings

Delta wings are named for their triangular shape, similar to the Greek letter delta. These different types of aircraft wings are characterized by a wide chord, a leading edge, and a relatively narrow trailing edge.

Delta wings are often used on supersonic aircraft, providing good aerodynamic efficiency and stability at high speeds. One disadvantage of delta wings is that they can be more challenging to control at lower rates. This makes them less popular on smaller aircraft.

They are also less sensitive to gusts from the wind when flying at low speeds. This makes them well suited for airliners that need to maintain their cruising altitude in inclement weather conditions such as rain or snowstorms.

Tandem Wings

Tandem Wings are two main wings placed one in front of the other. The idea is to have one branch create most of the lift while the other provides stability.

This configuration is often used on gliders because it makes a very efficient design. The downside to tandem wings is that they produce more drag than other types of wings.

Also, they are less maneuverable. They are usually mounted with an underwing engine. This helps with weight distribution but also causes some safety concerns for pilots. 

Belly Borne Wing

Belly-borne wings (also called Winging Under) offer the best compromise between speed and maneuverability.

They sit flat against the underside of the fuselage instead of extending out to form traditional wings like those found on fighter jets or bomber planes. 

The downside to belly-borne wings is that they create drag due to their flat shape. So these designs don’t perform well in turbulent air.

Canard Configuration

The canard configuration is among the different types of aircraft wings that use a small forewing to control the plane. The main wings are behind the canard and provide most of the lift. 

This configuration is used on some fighter jets and experimental planes. It can be unstable and challenging to fly, but it can be very maneuverable. 

Flap Configuration

The flap configuration has two sets of flaps or slats, one mounted near the front edge of each wing. Flaps or slats allow for an increased area without increasing length. 

They also reduce drag by changing airflow over the surface as they open up. And also increases speed and reduces fuel consumption.

Rectangular Wing

The rectangular wing is one of the different types of aircraft wings. It is characterized by its straight, rectangular shape and sharp leading edge. This wing type is often used on smaller aircraft, providing good lift and relatively simple construction. 

However, the rectangular wing can also be found on larger planes, such as the Boeing 747. The rectangular wing has several advantages. First, it is very aerodynamic and produces little drag.

This allows the aircraft to fly faster and use less fuel. Second, the straight leading edge helps the wing cut through the air more easily. This makes it easier to control turbulence.

Elliptical Wing

The elliptical wing is also one of the different types of aircraft wings that are popular. This is due to its aerodynamic properties. The wing’s shape allows for smooth airflow and reduced drag, making it ideal for high-speed flight. 

The elliptical wing also has a higher lifting capacity than other wing shapes, making it well-suited for large aircraft. There are several disadvantages to the elliptical wing.

However, including its complex construction and high weight. It is often found on military aircraft or high-performance civilian jets because of these qualities. 

Inverted Gull Wing

The inverted gull wing is a type of aircraft wing characterized by its downward curved shape. This wing type is often used on smaller aircraft, providing a good deal of lift and stability. The inverted gull wing also has a lower profile than other types of wings, making it more aerodynamic. 

However, one downside to this type of wing is that it can be more difficult to control in crosswinds. It also needs to be high off the ground, so air will flow over it correctly. 

One thing to remember when flying an airplane with an inverted gull wing is that these planes are not very stable when taking off or landing. So pilots need to maintain altitude during takeoff and landings.

They are typically only found on smaller aircraft because they have less lifting power than larger wings like those found on commercial airplanes. 

Due to their low profile, they are generally more aerodynamic. However, one disadvantage is that there’s more risk of the plane being pushed around by wind while hovering due to its unstable nature.

Gull Wing Configuration

The gull-wing configuration is perhaps the most distinctive among the different types of wings design. It is characterized by its curved shape, which rises up and outwards from the fuselage.

This design was first used on the Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter plane during World War II. It has since been used on several other aircraft, including the Gulfstream II business jet and Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit bomber.

Gull wings offer several advantages, including improved aerodynamics, increased fuel efficiency, and greater range. 

However, they also have disadvantages, such as greater weight and complexity. Theoretically, a straight-winged aircraft could carry the same payload as an equivalent gull-winged.

One for about half the cost in terms of power plant size and fuel consumption. However, this is rarely achieved in practice because many factors besides wing design are involved.

With increasing sweep angles, the wing sweep angle can significantly affect an aircraft’s efficiency. There is often an accompanying reduction in total drag with only slight increases in induced drag. 

The enormous wingspan provides reduced spanwise flow separation at high alpha. This results in less skin friction drag than would be experienced with short swept wings (i.e., when flying near stall speed). The bottom line: There are no perfect wings!

Anhedral Wing Configuration

The anhedral wing configuration is counted among the different types of aircraft wings. This is because they have a negative dihedral angle. This means that the tips of the wings are lower than the root, or base, of the wing. 

The anhedral configuration is used on some low-wing aircraft, like gliders, to increase stability. It’s also used on military fighter jets and bombers, like the F-14 Tomcat and B-1 Lancer, for better aerodynamic performance at high speeds and altitudes. 

However, Anhedral configurations have drawbacks as well. They make it more challenging to take off from rough surfaces.

This is because the center of gravity will shift toward the higher end of the wing when landing on uneven ground. It is called the pitch-up problem. 

Alphonse Pénaud first developed a flat-bottomed monoplane in 1871. It can be seen as one configuration of an aircraft with a positive dihedral angle.

Dihedral Wing Configuration

The dihedral wing configuration is an aircraft wing with a slight upward angle. This upward angle helps to increase lift and stability. The dihedral wing configuration is often used on small private planes and gliders. 

The main advantage of this configuration is that it is very stable in flight. However, the dihedral angle also creates drag, which can decrease performance. Due to this issue, many modern aircraft have eliminated the dihedral wing design for better performance.

Monoplane Wing Configuration

Another common one among the different types of aircraft wings is the monoplane design. Planes with this configuration typically have two sets of wings, one above the other. 

They are sometimes called tandem wings. This is because they are positioned one behind another on top of each other like twins in a line.

High Wing Configuration

The high wing configuration is the most common type of wing found on general aviation aircraft. The majority of light single-engine and twin-engine airplanes have high wings. 

One advantage of this design is that the engine and propeller are above the ground. This keeps them away from dirt and debris kicked up by the wheels during takeoff and landing. This configuration also provides good cockpit visibility for takeoffs and landings. 

Another advantage is that high wing designs tend to be more stable in flight than other different types of aircraft wings. Finally, these wings provide easy engine access for maintenance checks and repairs.

Mid Wing Configuration

The mid-wing configuration is one of the most popular designs among the different types of aircraft wings for small general aviation aircraft. The wing is mounted midway up the fuselage, with the engine and propeller located below. 

This design offers several advantages, including good visibility from the cockpit and a low center of gravity that helps Improve handling characteristics. One downside of this design is that it can be more difficult to access the engine for maintenance. 

Additionally, in some cases having the propeller behind the wing reduces performance. This is because it creates additional drag as air passes over the top of the wing. 

Biplane Wings

biplane wings are arranged side-by-side: Biplanes use two sets of three or four interconnected wings. One group directly above the other – is typically joined by struts forming an X-shape.

These planes are generally slower than monoplanes and have reduced maneuverability due to their inherent stability. 

Biplanes were initially designed for military purposes but have now become popular in air racing events. Events like Reno Air Races, where speed is unimportant, but style and maneuverability count heavily.

Low Wing Configuration

The low wing configuration is the most common type of wing seen on general aviation and light commercial aircraft. The wing’s main spar runs along the bottom of the fuselage, and the wing root is attached to the fuselage just above it. 

The low wing configuration has several advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is that it allows for a lower profile, which can be essential for aerodynamic efficiency.

Another advantage is that it makes it easier to install engines and other systems on the underside of the wing. Easier when they are out of sight and less vulnerable to damage from debris kicked up by the tires during takeoff and landing. 

As with any design, there are also disadvantages. One is the complexity of an underwing engine installation. Another is that structural loads must be carried further outboard than higher-wing configurations. This is because there is no support from below. 

However, the main disadvantage of the low wing configuration has been demonstrated by many accidents over time.

In these accidents, airplanes struck obstacles such as hills or trees while flying too close to them because pilots could not see them due to their proximity. 

As a result, some countries have imposed restrictions on when pilots may fly below certain heights. Or within certain distances of terrain features.  

Conclusion

There are many different types of aircraft wings, each with its own purpose and design. These types of wings are solid and simple and can support much weight. 

The most common type is the biplane wing, which has two main parts. This design is lighter and more aerodynamic and is often used on smaller planes. Most of them are used for the military.

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