Mainland High School
Operation WingChange: ISTF #02-0433








Airfoils are devices such as wings, propeller blades, rudders, spoilers, and turbines whose shape and orientation control stability, direction, lift, thrust, and/or propulsion. Airfoils used on cars help to keep them from lifting off the ground at high speeds; airfoils used on planes help put them take off and maintain fight. When it comes to planes, airfoils are just as important as the engine.

The N-1lM was the first pure all-wing airplane to be produced in the United States.
Image courtesy of the Smithsonian.

Without the lift, created by airfoils, planes would not be able to defy gravity and fly through the air. NASCAR and Formula One racing uses airfoils to maintain traction while driving. 200 miles an hour a typical formula one car has enough down force to drive inverted on the ceiling of a tunnel.

Image courtesy of

A type of airfoil called a hydrofoil is used on hydroplanes to keep the boats on the top of the water. Hydrofoils are on the bottom of the boat and push the water down, displacing the boat above the water. Hydrofoils increase fuel efficiency and speeds in watercraft by reducing the surface area of the boat in the water, which reduces the amount of drag.

The following picture shows a hydroplane that is being held out of the water by the submerged hydrofoil connected to the body by struts.

Image courtesy of

Image used courtesy of ALLSTAR

There is, however, one flaw in airfoils, drag. Induced drag is the force fighting thrust. Thrust is the forward power created by the engines, the more thrust needed the more fuel needed. The more lift a foil has the more drag it creates. If there is too much lift (too much drag) too much thrust will have to be used, therefore making the foil ineffective. The idea is the minimize drag while producing enough lift. If the airfoil could change shape it would create ideal lift, minimum drag under all speed and wind conditions. Our product will do this. By changing shape the operator could control just how much lift they need. The airfoil will also be automatic in knowing how to interpret the operatorís commands. This will allow for ideal lift at all speeds.
How Stuff Works
Aeronautics Learning Laboratory for Science Technology and Research

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