Overview of the 4 Types of Airplane Wing Flaps

The wings on a typical airplane aren’t completely flat and smooth. Whether it’s a private or commercial airplane, most airplane wings have flags. Wing flaps are designed to minimize both take-off and landing distances. Located on the trailing edge of an airplane’s wings, they are adjustable. Pilots can adjust the wing flaps to increase or decrease drag. There are several different types of wing flaps, however. Below is a comparison of the four primary types of wing flaps found in airplanes.

#1) Plain Wing Flaps

The most common type of wing flap is plain. Plain wing flaps are characterized by a basic hinge-like design. In their default state, plain wing flaps remain parallel to the surface of the wings with which they used. Pilots, of course, can adjust them. Plain wing flaps can be lowered to increase drag. Lowering plain wing flaps will result in more drag and, therefore, a slower airspeed.

#2) Fowler Wing Flaps

Some airplanes have fowler wing flaps. Fowler wing flaps are distinguished from plain wing flaps by their slotted design. All slotted wing flaps have multiple slots through which the air can flow. This slotted design allows the wings to produce more lift. Air can flow through fowler wing flaps more easily so that the wings produce more lift. You’ll often find fowler wing flaps on commercial jets and other wide-body airplanes.

#3) Split Wing Flaps

In addition to plain and fowler, there are split wing flaps. Split wing flaps aren’t as common as plain or fowler wing flaps. In the past, though, they were often used on military airplanes. And you can still find some military airplanes with split wing flaps. Split wing flaps feature a hinge at the bottom, which allows them to pivot. They can pivot up or down on this hinge.

#4) Slotted Wing Flaps

Lastly, there are slotted wing flaps. Like fowler wing flaps, slotted wing flaps are slots. With that said, they aren’t exactly the same. The main difference lies in the number of slots they have. While fowler wing flags have multiple slots, slotted wing flaps have a single slot. This single slot is found at the hinge. When a slotted wing flap is extended, the slot opens. This open slot offers a passage through which air can flow.

All airplanes have wing flaps. Some of them have plain or fowler wing flaps, whereas others have split or slotted wing flaps. Wing flaps are simply the adjustable flaps on an airplane’s wings.