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Airplane trailing vortices
Spalart, Philippe R. Boeing Commercial Aiprlane Group, Seattle, Washington.
- Motion and evolution
- Detection and control
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
The production of lift results in the generation of vortices trailing an aircraft. The airplane wing applies pressure to the band of air through which it sweeps. The natural tendency of the fluid to escape sideways creates an overturning motion on each side of the aircraft, and therefore the wake consists primarily of a pair of large, powerful counterrotating vortices (Fig. 1). Until these vortices have sufficiently weakened or broken up, they present a hazard and must be avoided by following aircraft. This sets limits on airport operations and requires detailed regulations for the spacing and relative flight paths of aircraft. Air-traffic controllers frequently warn pilots of wake turbulence. There is great interest in locating, predicting, and, if possible, controlling the trailing vortices in order to maintain safety and potentially increase the capacity of the airports without adding runways.
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