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Name: Avery
Status: Student
Grade: 6-8
Location: KY
Country: United States
Date: October 2007


Question:
How does the wingspan affect the flight time of a paper airplane?



Replies:
Avery -

What might be of interest to you is a aircraft design characteristic called aspect ratio. The aspect ration (AR) is equal to the wingspan divided by the mean aerodynamic chord (MAC). The greater the AR the greater the glide ratio... or said differently, the greater the distance an airplane will glide when released from a given altitude.

The MEA is the average distance from the leading edge of the wing to the trailing edge of the wing. If the wing is rectangular, it makes the calculation easier.

A high aspect ratio (and therefore the higher glide ratio) is found on wings that are long and narrow. Have you seen pictures of the high performance gliders? The wings are very long for how wide they are. (the width of the wing is properly called the chord,)

The problem in designing a glider (paper or not) is strength. Long skinny wings are not very strong and tend to flap up when released in the air. A delta wing has a very low AR... but it is strong. It does not glide very well.

You might find these web sites interesting -

http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/K-12/airplane/geom.html

http://www.centennialofflight.gov/essay/Dictionary/Aspect_Ratio/DI137.htm

http://www.shoeboxglider.20megsfree.com/

http://catalog.pitsco.com/sharedimages/resources/59616GSGuideSample.pdf

This is a fun subject. Enjoy!

Larry Krengel



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