In the realm of aviation, stalls are caused when lift is quickly replaced by turbulent drag. Aviation stalls are not to be confused with a mechanical problem such as a stalling aircraft engine as aircraft stalls are caused by too high of an attack angle at a slow speed. When the angle is exceeded, airflow from the upper surface of a wing separates, causing a loss of lift and thus a loss of altitude. While pilots are trained on stall situations and how to pull out of them, there are also many technologies that have been designed over the years to help prevent stalling, give warning to the pilot, as well as provide characteristics of the stall that are easier to pull out of. In this blog, we will give an overview of a few of the more common types of devices that provide favorable stall characteristics.
One popular device comes in the form of winglets which are curved ends featured at the end of aircraft wings. Many modern aircraft have them, and they work to mitigate induced drag created by air vortices. The winglets generate more lift by creating forward thrust, as well as result in lower stall speed. NASA studied the effects of winglets for stalls and found that they created more favorable characteristics and faster stall recovery than those without.
Slots are another device that serve as one of the earliest methods of reducing the effects of stalling. Slots are holes that are installed at the leading edge of the wing and move high pressure air towards the lower pressure on the upper region of the wing. This allows for aircraft to attack at higher angles, as well as delays stalls while increasing the lift. The downside to slots are that they must be initially designed with the aircraft and cannot be fitted later. They may also cause drag while cruising, which can be mitigated with a moveable cover.
Lastly, and most commonly used, is the vortex generator. Vortex generators are small plates that are installed perpendicular to the wings surface and create vortices that both delay airflow separation, as well as stalling. This type of device can be seen on a wide range of aircraft both small and large. They prove very beneficial as they can be installed during manufacturing, or be fitting later on. They also prove to be a very cheap and easy solution for creating favorable stall characteristics.
Though stalls are a problem that aircraft may face, there are many devices that can work to both prevent them, as well as give the pilot warning and easier ability to take themselves out of them. While pilots may have training to get out of stalls, devices that create favorable characteristics help to improve the safety and ease of flight.
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