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Wing Warp

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The Wright brothers used wing warping to achieve lateral "roll" control of their kites, and the Wright Flyer. Through the use of cables and pulleys, the pilot was able to physically twist the outboard trailing edge of the wings, which caused the aircraft to roll.

A few other manufacturers used wing warping in their designs, but the design of the aileron soon replaced wing warping as a means of lateral control for airplanes. Except for use in kites, wing warping became old technology, and was soon considered old technology.

In 1986 Boeing, NASA, and the Air Force began researching wing warping for use on high-speed aircraft. Testing is currently underway on a modified F/A 18 with an aeroelastic wing. Like the Wright Flyer, when the pilot attempts to roll the airplane they will physically warp the wing. But instead of warping just the outboard trailing edge, the entire trailing edge would warp asymmetrically from root to tip. The smaller changes across the entire length of the wing will help reduce drag, and help make the aircraft more controllable.

With wing warping flight control actuators are removed from the aircraft. This allows for reduced weight and a higher payload. Depending on the type and location of the flight control actuators, it is possible to increase the aspect ratio of the wing, which will help reduce drag and increase fuel efficiency.

Currently wing warping is being researched for transonic and supersonic aircraft for the military. Hopefully this technology will someday make it to the civilian market.



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