This Is How Winglets Work
What does a winglet do – besides make an airplane look cool? They’re known to increase performance, increasing range and decreasing fuel burn – but why?
Winglets oppose the drag wingtip vortices create by harnessing the vortices’ airflow. NASA engineer Richard Whitcomb pioneered the technology in the 1970s, and they’ve become a fixture on almost every modern jet.
So, how do they work? First, you need to understand how wingtip vortices form and why they create drag. Then, you’ll understand how winglets counter that drag with lift.
WINGTIP VORTICES – SPINNING AIR AND ADDING DRAG
What are wingtip vortices? They’re swirling tunnels of air that form on your wingtips. High pressure air from the bottom of your wing escapes around the wingtip, moving up towards the lower pressure area on the top of the wing. This movement creates a vortex or tunnel of air, rotating inwards behind the wing.