March 2013 Issue
Active Winglets: Bolt-on Efficiency
By reducing drag and kicking up lift, Tamarack Aerospaces active winglets appear to offer measurable range increases for high-performance aircraft.
In the imaginary world of ideal airplane design, wings would be infinite of length and short of chord, yielding lots of lift and little drag. In the real world of airplane design, thats not an option, so we resort to aerodynamic tricks to whittle away drag. One of these is winglets, a retrofit idea being aggressively pursued by Tamarack Aerospace. Although winglets may appear as stylish cosmetics implying speed and modernity, Tamarack claims theyre a lot more practical than that. Winglets mimic the characteristics of a high-aspect-ratio, low-drag wing, so on high-performance aircraft, they increase climb rate and improve efficiency by allowing equivalent cruise speeds at lower power settings. But its not as simple as that, at least for the retrofit market. Even as they add lift, winglets impose additional structural loads on the wing that can exceed its certification limits.
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