Fuck Yeah Fluid Dynamics

Celebrating the physics of all that flows. Ask a question, submit a post idea or send an email. You can also follow FYFD on Twitter and Google+. FYFD is written by Nicole Sharp, PhD.

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Wingtip vortices form on airplanes due to the finite length of their wings. In general, lift on the wings results from low-pressure, high-velocity air moving over the top of the wing and high-pressure, low-velocity air moving below the wing. Near the wingtips, the high-pressure air is able to slip around the edge to the top of the wing, generating a vortex that then trails behind the airplane. The same thing is occurring in the video above, except the edges of the wing’s control surfaces are serving as the tip of the wing. Similar vortices also exist at the wingtips, but they are not made visible by condensation as the aileron vortices are.

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