Available Technology

Winglets for the Airlines

Originally developed as part of the Aircraft Energy Efficiency Program in the 1970's, winglets are now used by long-ranging aircraft as well as business jets and smaller planes. The winglet is an upturned wingtip, a lifting surface designed to operate in the wingtip vortex a whirlpool of air at an airplane's wingtips. It takes advantage of the turbulent vortex flow by producing forward thrust. This reduces drag and improves fuel efficiency. After McDonnell Douglas conducted wind tunnel tests of winglets in 1978-79, the technology was incorporated into the MD-11, their large payload, long range airplane. There are now more than 100 MD-11s in service.
Internal Laboratory Ref #: 
LARC-SO-178
Patent Status: 
Agency
NASA
State: 
Virginia
Phone: 
757-864-3346
Lab Representatives
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