Wings provide the critical force of lift that an aircraft needs to achieve flight. They do so because the shape of the wing, or airfoil, is such that as air passes over and under it, the air traveling under it is moving faster and creating more pressure, thus generating lift. This phenomenon is called Bernoulli’s principle, after the Swiss mathematician who first described the effect. The shape of the wing depends on a variety of design factors, such as the amount of lift generated, balanced, and stability, and can be straight or swept back, rounded or squared at the tips, or tapered or not.
Wings can be mounted on the fuselage at the top, mid-fuselage, or bottom, and can extend perpendicularly from the fuselage, or angled up or down. This angle is known as the wing dihedral.
Most wings are designed as full cantilever, meaning that they are built so that they do not need external bracing to be structurally sound. Other aircraft, such as biplanes of the early 1900s, require external struts or wires to assist in supporting the wing and carrying aerodynamic and landing loads.
Modern aircraft wings are built from aluminum, but wood covered in fabric and magnesium alloys have also been used. Recently, materials like carbon fiber have been used as well, as they are even stronger and lighter than aluminum.
Internally, wings consist of spars and stringers that run spanwise (from the wing’s root in the fuselage out to the tip) and ribs and formers that run chordwise, from leading edge to trailing edge. These internal structures are designed to distribute and support the weight of the wing, as well as components such as engines and landing gear.
Nacelles are often mounted on aircraft wings. A nacelle is a streamlined enclosure typically used to house an engine and its components. Single-engine aircraft mount the nacelle on the aircraft’s nose, while multi-engine aircraft mount nacelles on the wings. These nacelles contain the engine, engine mounts, structural support, firewall, and the skin and cowling to make the nacelle aerodynamic. Some nacelles also house the landing gear when it retracts after take-off.
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