Aircraft Wingtips revisited

an airplane wing and blue sky
787 Wingtip

Back in 2011 I had written a blog post on aircraft wingtips comparing those of Boeing and Airbus aircraft. Well, a lot has happened in the aircraft industry since then, resulting in many new wingtip types. The two new ones have been the ones for the two very new aircraft in the air – Boeing’s 787 and Airbus’ A350.

The 787 has a curving wingtip that is now very elaborate and seems to curve back in a very unremarkable way. See the picture.

The A350 on the other hand has a very pronounced curved structure. In fact, I had to take multiple pictures of the wingtip from different angles to fully capture the double curved wingtip. From one angle, it seems to curve back upon itself (see below).

an wing of an airplane
A350 wingtip

From another angle, it seems to curve backwards (see below again). Both these pictures are of the same Singapore Airlines A350 I flew from Singapore to Jakarta (SIN-CGK).

a plane wing in the rain
A350 wingtip

With the winglets and ‘scimitars’ one sees commonly on Boeings 737, 757 and 767 planes, the world of wingtips of getting more and more interesting. All this focus on wingtips is to reduce the drag caused by the wind as the tips of the aircraft wings slice thru the air at a high speed – think the spoiler of a sports car. This Air and Space Magazine article is the best explanation I have seen on the role wingtip design has in reducing this drag and improving aircraft efficiency.

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