Aircraft Wings: Fixed vs. Rotary

A wing is a type of fin used to produce lift while moving through air or another type of fluid. Wings feature streamlined cross-sections that are subject to aerodynamic forces and act as airfoils. The aerodynamic efficiency of a wing is expressed through its lift-to-drag-ratio. The lift generated by a wing at a given angle of attack can be one to two orders of magnitude larger than the total drag on the wing. If a wing produces a high lift-to-drag ratio, a significantly smaller amount of thrust is required to propel the wings through the air at sufficient lift.

Generally speaking, there are two types of aircraft wings: fixed or rotary. A fixed-wing aircraft is capable of flight by using wings to generate lift via the aircraft’s forward airspeed and the shape of the wings. Fixed wings are not necessarily rigid, as kites, hang gliders, variable-sweep aircraft, and wing morphing airplanes are all considered fixed-wing aircraft. Within fixed-wing aircraft, there are two subcategories: gliding fixed-wing aircraft and powered fixed-wing aircraft. Gliding fixed-wing aircraft, such as free-flying gilders and certain types of kites, use moving air to gain altitude. Powered fixed-wing aircraft, such as airplanes, gain forward thrust from an engine. Powered fixed-wing aircraft also include powered paragliders, powered hang gliders, and certain ground effect vehicles.

Rotary-wing aircraft, also known as rotorcraft, are heavier-than-air flying machines that use rotary wings or blades to generate lift. These wings or blades are mounted on a mast, known as a rotor, which they revolve around. Rotorcraft generally include aircraft where one or more motors provide lift throughout the entire flight, including helicopters, autogyros, gyrodynes, and rotor kites. Many compound rotorcraft supplement the rotor with additional thrust engines, propellers, or static lifting surfaces.

Fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft both have distinct advantages and disadvantages. For a clearer picture of their benefits and drawbacks, it is helpful to look at air ambulances. Rotary-wing aircraft are commonly used as air ambulances, due to their ability to transport people or items over shorter distances as quickly as possible. Additionally, their ability to take off and land almost anywhere makes them highly useful in situations where it would be difficult for a ground ambulance to reach someone in need.

Fixed-wing aircraft have the advantage of being able to fly in poor weather, such as fog, or other conditions that rotary-wing aircraft cannot operate in. This leads to fewer delays in instances when a patient needs to be transferred from one facility to another. Another advantage of fixed-wing aircraft ambulances is that they have much more space in their interiors, allowing for more medical equipment and staff onboard. Furthermore, as fixed-wing aircraft are able to fly at higher altitudes, they can generally provide patients with a smoother ride and more comfortable experience.

Both fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft have been in use for years, and will continue to be used in a broad range of diverse applications. To guarantee the functionality and reliability of your aircraft, make sure you are getting parts and components from a trusted source like Aerospace Aces.

At Aerospace Aces, we can help you find all types of aircraft and airframe structural components and deliver them with short lead times and competitive prices. Additionally, our inventory of more than two billion parts comprises fixed-wing, rotary-wing, jet engine parts, and much more. We’re always available and ready to help you find all the parts and equipment you need, 24/7-365. For a quick and competitive quote, email us at sales@aerospaceaces.com or call us at +1-857-323-5480. Our team of dedicated account managers is standing by and will reach out to you in 15 minutes or less.


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