What are the effects of the Boeing 787's very flexible wings?

shortstheory
  • What are the effects of the Boeing 787's very flexible wings? shortstheory

    I recently came across this picture of the Boeing 787 series aircraft's incredible wingflex:

    I suppose this is a consequence of using very light CFRP wings, but how does the wingflex itself improve the 787's flight performance? Do the benefits/drawbacks also apply to the 747-8 (which IIRC also uses CFRP wings)?

  • The amount of flex is really a product of the material. The wing requires a specified ultimate strength; with metal, that translates into a given amount of flex. This can be varied within limits, but it is really the material, its stiffness to yield point ratio, and its fatigue properties, that control how much flex you are going to end up with. CFRP is a very different material, and has much less stiffness for the same yield point, and has essentially no fatigue problems. This is beneficial in that it provides a smoother ride in turbulence; the wing acting essentially like a giant leaf spring. There is some lift lost due to the nature of the curvature, though. However, this is relatively small.

Related questions and answers
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