As a commercial aircraft generates lift, strong vortices of air are also created that can be strong enough to flip smaller aircraft that follow too closely. These vortices are created as the high pressure air from the bottom of the wing moves to the low pressure at the top of the wing. This creates turbulent air that spins around in a tunnel behind the aircraft. It can also create drag which slows down the aircraft. To combat this, some aircraft utilize winglets attached to the end of wings.
Winglets are smaller wings placed at the end of each wing to create lift that is more perpendicular to the relative wind. Vortices that are created from lift angle the lift backwards, thus creating drag. Winglets oppose the drag produced by the wingtip vortices and generate forward lift. This is highly beneficial in reducing drag during high angle attacks such as liftoff. By utilizing winglets, aircraft can also see reduced fuel consumption that is caused by the drag of vortices.
Some older models of aircraft feature winglets that are at almost 90 degrees, which can create interference drag. With any tight angle, air can become turbulent and drag. Newer materials and manufacturing technology have paved the way for more blending of winglets and the wing so that there is much less interference drag. Currently, winglets have become more standard for new airline equipment and aircraft.
Another method besides utilizing winglets is to build larger wingspans for aircraft. Larger wingspans can greatly reduce the induced drag, though create problems of space. While jumbo jets may have less size restrictions, many aircraft are constricted by storage and aircraft hangers, thus cannot take advantage of larger wingspans. To remedy this, winglets help reduce induced drag while saving space on wingspans of aircraft.
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