The Four Main Aircraft Flaps

Aircraft flaps are the part of the aircraft that helps create extra lift during a flight takeoff. By increasing the camber of the wing, the upper limit of lift of a wing increases and enables the aircraft to safely maintain flight at lower speeds. The deployment of flaps also differs on the type of flap that an aircraft has. The four basic types of flaps include plain, split, fowler, and slotted.

The plain flap is one that is a hinged portion mounted on the front of the flap. Plain flaps help lower the trailing edge of a wing and raise the curvature, leading to increased lift. Plain flaps are the more simplistic of the differing flaps. Split flaps, on the other hand, are attached to the bottom of the wing where a portion hinges downward and the upper portion remains in place. This leads to increased drag as compared to the plain flap as the airflow on the wing’s underside is distrubed.

Slotted flaps are comparable to a plain flap in that the rear portion of the flap lowers downward. Unlike plain flaps however, slotted flaps have a gap in between the trailing edge and flap that leads to a greater increase in lift. Airflow separation is prevented in these types by allowing streams of air to move from underneath the wing and over the flap. Slotted flaps have a smaller amount of drag increase as compared to both plain and split flaps.

The last basic type of flap, the fowler, increase the wing’s surface area and curvature to provide large amounts of lift with minimal drag as compared to the other types of flaps. Due to their large increase of lift, fowler flaps are a very ideal type for larger aircraft.

When deploying the flaps, an aircraft will begin pitching up or down and will cause twisting action, so elevators are used to keep the plane on the set approach path. As flaps represent a great structural load on aircraft, they are only used for lower airspeeds and often aircraft that are full sized will have indicators to aid with safe flap operating ranges.


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