When designing aircraft, there are many factors that are taken into consideration depending on the desired application that it will fulfill. For instance, an engineer may implement a more powerful engine to increase speeds, or install hardpoints to help the aircraft in its ability to establish air-superiority. Nevertheless, one of the most important factors that affect aircraft ability, and classification, is the wing planform. Wing planform refers to the shape of an aircraft's wing structure when viewed from above. This design has major effects on the performance and capabilities of an aircraft, and such aspects may be influenced by a wing’s aspect ratio, taper ratio, and sweepback.
When discussing the aspect ratio of a wing in terms of aeronautics, it is in reference to the ratio of the wing span to the mean wing chord. In more mathematical terms, aspect ratio of wing planform may be found by squaring the wingspan, and then dividing the result by the wing area. With this equation, we can conclude that longer and more narrow wings have a high aspect ratio, while short and wide wings have a low aspect ratio. In general, higher aspect ratio wings are often present on aircraft such as high-altitude subsonic aircraft, while lower aspect ratios benefit aircraft such as fighters. For wing planform, aspect ratio is critical as it affects lift-to-drag ratio and the fuel of an aircraft. By increasing an aircraft’s aspect ratio while keeping the same velocity, the wings will have a decreased amount of drag while at higher angles of attack. Because of this, higher aspect ratios of wing structures allow for an aircraft to have better climbing performance.
Wing taper ratio is similar to aspect ratio, and it is defined as the ratio of the length of the tip chord to the length of the root cord. By adjusting the taper ratio of a wing structure, lift distribution may be heavily affected. Taper ratio may come into effect when discussing the shape of a wing. Elliptical wing shapes are considered the best shape for mitigating lift induced drag, but they may often be costly to manufacture. Rectangular and tapered wings, on the other hand, are much easier to produce, but they suffer from increased lift-induced drag due to their taper ratio.
Sweepback, or wing sweep, refers to the degree of sweeping that an aircraft wing features, and its direction can have many effects on aerodynamics. Sometimes, adjusting the sweep of a wing structure may be done to affect the center of lift, or to adjust the pilot’s visibility. Typically, heavily swept back wings in which the swing faces rearwards is implemented on aircraft that travel at transonic speeds to produce lower drag. Meanwhile, straight wings are the most common for aircraft that travel at low-speeds and are the most structurally efficient. Some aircraft may feature wings that sweep forward, providing similar benefits to rearwards swept rings while also avoiding stalling issues.
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