News Stories

Why Don't Airplanes Flap Their Wings?

Ten years from now, when you go to the airport, you may see planes that actually FLAP THEIR WINGS.

A research team at NASA has created a futuristic plane concept of a plane that flies just like a bird. It will arch its broad wings up and then flap them down in one continuous, fluid motion. There will be no turbines, propellers, flaps or rudders in the way?just a smooth, flattened body so the wings can glide up and down.

Why fly like a bird? Researcher Anthony Colozza says energy efficiency is the main reason. His team was inspired by the albatross, a bird that can glide great distances and circle over the same area for long periods of time, flapping only to regain altitude. Another advantage is control. To maneuver, the solid-state aircraft will adjust its wings into complex shapes, much as birds do, rather than using flaps or other moving surfaces. Colozza thinks the new aircraft could become a reality within a decade or two.

The pilots who work for our airlines are aging?will they be able to deal with new technology like this? The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is considering a proposal to raise the mandatory age of retirement for commercial airline pilots to 65 from the current age of 60.

Not to worry: Older pilots performed better over time than younger pilots on flight simulator tests. Researcher Joy L. Taylor says, "These findings show the advantageous effect of prior experience and specialized expertise on older adults' skilled cognitive performances."

Art credit: gimp-savvy.com

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