What Are High-Lift Devices on Airplanes?

When researching aerospace components, you may come across high-lift devices. All airplanes require lift. Lift is the invisible force that acts against gravity. During flight, it holds airplanes in the air. While most of the lift produced by airplanes comes from their wings, some of it may come from high-lift devices as well.

High-lift devices are aerospace components that are designed to enhance or increase the amount of lift produced by an airplane’s wings. Wings produce lift naturally. They are shaped so that air moves slower over the bottom and the top. This difference in airflow creates a pressure difference, which in turn produces lift. But many airplanes feature high-lift devices on their wings as well. High-lift devices maximize lift. They allow the wings to produce more lift.

Wing Flaps

One of the most common types of high-lift devices is wing flaps. You can typically find them on the trailing edge of an airplane’s wings. Wing flaps are hinge-like devices that can be extended to increase lift. Doing so allows airplanes to generate a sufficient amount of lift at a lower flight speed and, thus, reducing the airplane’s stall speed.

Wing flaps have been around since the 1930s. They are simple high-lift devices that resemble a hinge. Pilots can lower the wing flags to decrease the airplane’s lift, or they can extend the wing flaps to increase the airplane’s lift. Extended wing flaps will typically remain flush and aligned with the wings.

Wing Slats

In addition to wing flaps, wing slats are classified as high-lift devices. Pilots can control wing slats by lowering or extending them — just like wing flaps. With that said, wing slats and wing flaps aren’t necessarily the same.

Wing flaps are typically found on the trailing edge of an airplane’s wings. In other words, they are attached to the back of the wings. Wing slats, conversely, are typically found on the leading edge of an airplane’s wings.

With wing slats, airplanes can produce more lift. There are three types of wing slats: automatic, powered and fixed. Also known as Handley-Page slats, automatic wing slats are designed to extend automatically as the airplane slows down. Powered wing slats are those that can be electronically controlled by a pilot in the cockpit. Fixed wing slats are static slats that are permanently extended. Whether automatic, powered or fixed, all wing slats are used to increase the amount of lift produced by an airplane’s wings.

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