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Half of the Austin-Bergstrom (AUS) airport lost electricity last weekend, which made the ramp pitch black – the perfect opportunity to take some time-lapse photos. I sat the camera on a wing, used the timer so I could back away and not vibrate the plane, and hoped for the best. This one is a Gulfstream landing.
These little tabs, just behind the leading edge of the wing, are vortex generators. As the name implies, they create small, high energy vortexes (imagine a tiny horizontal tornado). Without vortex generators, airflow tends to separate from the wing as the airplane slows down. With vortex generators, that little tornado tends to stay adhered to the wing, allowing the plane to have better control at slow speeds, due to more air flowing over the flight controls. Most twin engine airplanes have these so that, in the unlikely event that one engine quits during flight, the pilot can remain in control as the airplane slows down.
Continuing our talk about vortex generators (VGs)…This picture is a crop duster; his wingtip vortex is doing the same thing as our tiny VG. The high pressure under the wing spills around the tip of the wing as it is sucked into the low pressure on top of the wing, which causes the rotation and subsequent vortex.
This pic is a beautiful example of a vapor trail from flaps as well as vapor on top of the wing of the landing Boeing 737. This vortex is caused by the high pressure under the flap spilling around the edge into the low pressure on top of the flap. The vapor is caused because the inside of a vortex is very low pressure, and as pressure decreases, temperature drops. As the temperature drops, the air reaches the dew point, and we get visible moisture (i.e., a cloud). In the perfect atmospheric conditions (in theory), we could see the same thing behind each VG on our wing; the vortex would decrease the air pressure dramatically, the dew point would be reached, we would get visible moisture, and we would see a tiny vortex, just as in the landing Boeing picture. The picture also shows us the low pressure on top of the wing dropping the air temperature to the dew point, and forming visible moisture.
One of our customers, Skip, took this really cool class in a level-D simulator. The program is called ATOP. Airline Training Orientation Program. 8 Full hours of systems training and 1 hour in the Sim (1/2 PF AND 1/2 PM) Aircraft options are B737-800 or Airbus A319.