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Airfoil Design, Pressure Distribution

Pressure Distribution 

From experiments conducted on wind tunnel models and on full size airplanes, it has been determined that as air flows along the surface of a wing at different angles of attack (AOA), there are regions along the surface where the pressure is negative, or less than atmospheric, and regions where the pressure is positive, or greater than atmospheric. This negative pressure on the upper surface creates a relatively larger force on the wing than is caused by the positive pressure resulting from the air striking the lower wing surface. The average of the pressure variation for any given AOA is referred to as the center of pressure (CP). Aerodynamic force acts through this CP. At high angles of attack, the CP moves forward, while at low angles of attack the CP moves aft. In the design of wing structures, this CP travel is very important, since it affects the position of the air loads imposed on the wing structure in both low and high AOA conditions. An airplane’s aerodynamic balance and controllability are governed by changes in the CP. 

Typical airfoil section

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