Supersonic Flight

Why are the angles of wings important for supersonic flight?

When a plane breaks the sound barrier, the shock wave in front of the plane has a difficult time moving out of the plane’s way. In order to break the sound barrier with less difficulty, aeronautical engineers have designed more aerodynamic fuselages and efficient wing designs. As mentioned above, wings on supersonic planes must remain behind the shock front to prevent structural failure and allow the plane to maneuver safely. The swept-back wing design, as found on both military and commercial airplanes, allows the airplane to accelerate easily and faster before major pressure builds up around the wings. The delta wings, as found on many jet fighters, are large and extremely thin, to keep the wings behind the shock front while increasing lift and reducing drag.

Problems can also occur when using swept-back wings. As a plane moves faster, the center of lift on the wings can move too far backward, causing unbalanced forces on the plane, which can affect the maneuverability and safety of the plane.


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