Common Types of Wing Flaps

There are various wing flaps on the market that are necessary for flight and other aerobatic features for aircraft. In addition, engineers work to take advantage of wing flaps to efficiently increase the movement capabilities of an airplane, whether it be a jet or propeller-driven aircraft. Affixed to a majority of aircraft to make their flight more efficient, flaps help aircraft produce more lift and drag, directly affecting the landing and taking off roll. Although some airplanes can fly without wing flaps, such as light sport or training aircraft, they are still responsible for the efficient flying of most planes. In this blog, to better understand flaps, we will be going over their most common types.

Plain or Conventional Flaps

Conventional or plain flaps are considered the most simple and basic of all flaps. Originally tested in 1914 in the United Kingdom, conventional flaps were first used on warplanes in 1917. As plain flaps are one of the most basic options available, they are primarily used on simpler airplanes like older Piper, Cirrus, and Diamond aircraft. These plain flaps are connected at the back of the airplane's wing with a hinge, and the pilot can turn them down as much as they want.

Split Flaps

Split flaps were first invented by Orville Wright in 1920 with the help of James M.H. Jacobs. Created well after the Wright brothers’ first flight, Orville made split flaps by combining two parts which were affixed to the back of the airfoils beneath an aircraft's wings. As these flaps produce more lift and drag than plain flaps, if a pilot wanted to boost an aircraft's glide path angle, split flaps should be considered. While these flaps are not utilized on modern aircraft, they can be easily located on warbirds like the Grumman Wildcat, alongside DC-1 commercial aircraft.

Slotted Flaps

Invented in the 1920s, slotted flaps are currently the most popular flap on modern aircraft. These flaps are used on most aircraft, making them a familiar sight when flying on many commercial airliners. However, they became widely used for being the most efficient type of flaps in the market, producing the best combination of lift and drag. Moreover, slotted flaps are responsible for increasing the surface area of wings. As high pressure air escapes through an opening along the wings, it results in the delay of air turbulence forming behind the wing, especially at higher angles of attack.

Fowler Flaps

Fowler flaps were invented around 1910-1920 by an aeronautical engineer named Harlan D. Fowler. First attached to an aircraft in 1935, they bolstered lift by extending the wing's surface area. Additionally, the more Fowler flaps extend, the more air will descend downstream of the wing. As a result, these flaps produce smaller rolls during landing and takeoff. Moreover, Fowler flaps and slotted flaps can be combined on an aircraft to increase its airflow while in flight. These component are featured on several aircraft, namely the B-17, the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, and the Boeing B-29 Bomber.


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