Boeing 767 Raked Wingtips


You ask an excellent question, and to tell you the truth, we're not entirely sure what to make of the new raked wingtips. For those unfamiliar with these wings, the picture below compares the wings of earlier Boeing 767 models like the -200 with those used on the new 767-400.

Comparison of 767-200 and 767-400
Comparison of 767-200 and 767-400

More detail on these new wingtips can be seen in the following Boeing photos.

Boeing 767 raked wingtips
Boeing 767 raked wingtips

Raked wingtip being attached to a Boeing 767
Raked wingtip being attached to a Boeing 767

Now to get to your question. First of all, though you use the term "winglets," that isn't really a proper term to be applied in this case. Winglets are a special class of vertical surfaces that project upwards from a plane's wingtip, as exemplified by the experimental version of the KC-135 pictured below.

Winglets on an experimental KC-135
Winglets on an experimental KC-135

What Boeing has applied to the 767-400 are more accurately desribed as wingtip extensions since they are horizontal additions to the existing wing. While wingtip extensions are not all that unusual, what makes this particular example unique is the "raked," or swept back shape. Here's what the Boeing website has to say about them:

Despite the mutually exclusive statements "...gives more lift without lengthening wing" and "...increase the 767's 156-foot wingspan to 170 feet, 4 inches..." this paragraph boils down to increased aerodynamic efficiency. For all intents and purposes, that means decreased drag. This factor we can understand simply because the extensions increase the wingspan. In previous questions, we have discussed some of the types of drag that an aircraft experiences, and most important of these is induced drag, or the drag that is caused by the process of generating lift. Without going into too much detail, any finite surface that has tips and produces lift will also produce drag. This drag is created by turbulent vortices, called trailing vortices, that are generated at the tips of a lifting surface like a wing.

Creation of trailing vortices due to a difference in pressure above and below a lifting surface
Creation of trailing vortices due to a difference in pressure above and below a lifting surface

These trailing vortices create a "downwash" that increases the drag on an aircraft, and it is this portion of drag that is called induced drag.

Effect of downwash in decreasing lift and increasing drag
Effect of downwash in decreasing lift and increasing drag

As wingspan increases, the wingtips move farther apart from each other. This has the effect of weakening the relative impact of trailing vortices on the wing and decreases the induced drag experienced by the aircraft. So the most obvious advantage of the 767-400's wingtip extensions is simply the increase in wingspan that reduces drag and improves the aerodynamic efficiency of the wing. We say that reducing drag increases efficiency because less drag means the aircraft can fly farther using the same amount of fuel.

However, this effect doesn't explain the unique "raked" shape of the tips. Tips of this type are not often seen because of structural issues. Since the tips are so highly swept, the lift force generated by the extensions will act further back than the lift generated by the rest of the wing. This disparity creates a torsion motion causing the extensions to twist nose down. While this sort of wing "warping" is usually not desirable for structural reasons, perhaps Boeing engineers have used this torsional effect to create an aerodynamic washout.

Nonetheless, I'm still not entirely sure what aerodynamic advantages this sort of shape would offer over a more traditional wing extension or a winglet. The only other possibility I can think of is that Boeing mentions how simple it was to integrate these new extentions into the wing. These are essentially just bolted on to the existing structure and require no additional modifications to the 767 wing. A winglet, on the other hand, would likely require more extensive design work to strengthen the structure of the outboard wing. Such strengthening would likely increase the overall weight in comparison with the new raked wingtip. Perhaps that is why Boeing says, "The raked wing tip balances cruise efficiency and airplane weight to achieve improved range."
- answer by Joe Yoon, 2 November 2003

Related Topics:


Read More Articles:






Back Aircraft | Design | Ask Us | Shop | Search Home
About Us | Contact Us | Copyright 1997-2012