fuckyeahphysica: A vortex portal to another universe. This is…


A vortex portal to another universe.

This is known as wingtip vortex. It is a ramification of the design of the wing and how it works.


How does an aircraft fly? Think of it like this, due to the design of the wing, larger number of air molecules are hitting the bottom portion of the aircraft than the top.

As a result, a upward force acts on the wing, hence the wing lifts!


This works fine till we get to the wing tips.

In the wingtip, the air from a higher pressure wants to move to the region of lower pressure. And as a result, this forms vortices ( fancy name for the swirling motion of air ) known as Wingtip Vortex. ( because its formed in the wing tips!!! )


Why do birds fly in a V formation?


Migratory birds take advantage of each other’s wingtip vortices by flying in a V formation so that all but the leader are flying in the upwash from the wing of the bird ahead. ( Look at the image, each one is exactly out of phase in its wing motion ).

This upwash makes it easier for the bird to support its own weight, reducing fatigue on migration flight.

And somehow birds know about this and recalibrate themselves in flight?

Wow! There is so much more to a bird’s flight that that meets the eye. I will take up the same sometime down the line. But, If you are really curious to find out why, read this nature article.

Have a Good Day!

PC: John Benson, boldmethod,mathcareer, natgeo, NASA.

EDIT – Also do check out the Smoke Angels.

Now we now know about stalls, boundary layers and wing tip vortices. In the concluding post of this mini series we will try to apply the knowledge gathered thusfar in the context of a F1 car. Stay tuned…