Design of winglets for high-performance sailplanes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Although theoretical tools for the design of winglets for high-performance sailplanes were initially of limited value, simple methods were used to design winglets that gradually became accepted as benefiting overall sailplane performance. As understanding was gained, improved methods for winglet design were developed. The current approach incorporates a detailed component drag buildup that interpolates airfoil drag and moment data across operational lift coefficient, Reynolds number, and flap-deflection ranges. Induced drag is initially predicted using a relatively fast multiple lifting-line method. In the final stages of the design process, a full panel method, including relaxed-wake modeling, is employed. The drag predictions are used to compute speed polars for both level and turning flight. The predicted performance is in good agreement with flight-test results. The straight- and turning-flight speed polars are then used to obtain average cross-country speeds because they depend on thermal strength, size, and shape, which are used to design the winglets that provide the greatest gain in overall performance. Flight-test measurements and competition results have demonstrated that the design methods produce winglets that provide an important performance advantage over much of the operating range for both span-limited and span-unlimited high-performance sailplanes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1099-1106
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Aircraft
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aerospace Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Design of winglets for high-performance sailplanes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this