Wing Loading: More Important Than You Think

Semper Apollo

In 2011 I said “We’ll continue soon with more on wing loading…”.

It’s 2015. I think you can see that I get distracted easily and persistently. In any case, the information I’m about to present to you has not and will not change. Use it to help understand why your airplane does what it does when you leave the boring confines of straight and level, or use it to help you design that superplane you’ve always wanted to build. Off we go into the underrated world of wing loading!

Wing loading and power/thrust loading are the two most telling specifications about an airplane. Most pilots go right to horsepower and start swelling with pride when numbers north of 300hp start appearing. The assumption is that a lot of horsepower equates to a lot of performance. This is a huge misconception. The total horsepower of an airplane is irrelevant unless you…

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3 replies

  1. When it comes to Aerodynamic design it seems that every advantage comes at a price. Even thrust has a price of likely bigger heavier engine and higher fuel needs.

    Nonetheless, seems most agree that low wing loading is good and higher thrust/weight also is good. Drag seems to be a more complicated issue as it seems drag charecteristics of design vary depending on flight envelope and also effect lift and wing loading capabilities not to mention Stealth capabilities.

  2. There is also the matter that a big wing offers:

    – Potential for more fuel and therefore a higher fuel fraction
    – Lower wing loading can translate into better transient performance indirectly
    – Even absent from that it makes an airplane more agile in general

    The other side of the equation though is that the aircraft needs to avoid heavy electronics with little to do with air superiority. Most airforces design aircraft with too much electronics and other gadgets.

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