What Are Strakes on Airplanes?

Fixed-wing airplane flying

Airplanes feature many different aerodynamic devices. While some of these devices are large, such as the wings, others are smaller and less noticeable. Strakes, for instance, fall under the latter category. Even if you regularly travel via a commercial airliner, you not have noticed them. But strakes still play an important role in the performance of airplanes.

Overview of Strakes

Strakes are small, wing-like aerodynamic devices that are designed to regulate airflow. They are typically used for one of two purposes: vortex creation or stabilization. Strakes can create a vortex by tunneling air in a specific direction, or they can stabilize airplanes. Regardless, strakes are small aerodynamic devices that look fins.

Different Types of Strakes

Many airplanes have nose strakes. Nose strakes, of course, are characterized by their nose placement. They are found on the sides of an airplane’s nose. Nose strakes are typically used to stabilize airplanes.

There are also wing strakes. While nose strakes are placed on the nose, wing strakes are placed on the wings. You can find them on the leading edge of an airplane’s wings. Wing strakes essentially join the wings to the fuselage.

Some airplanes have nacelle strakes. They aren’t placed on the nose, wings or fuselages. Rather, nacelle strakes are placed on the nacelles of jet engines. Jet engines are typically encased in a nacelle, which is located under the airplane’s wings. Nacelle strakes are aerodynamic fins that are placed on these nacelles.

Strakes vs Winglets: What’s the Difference?

They may look similar, but strakes and winglets aren’t the same. Winglets are exclusive to wings. While they are used to regulate airflow — just like strakes — they are only placed on the wings. Strakes, on the other hand, are often found in multiple places, including the nose, wings and nacelles.

Strakes and winglets are also shaped differently. Strakes are usually longer than they are wide, whereas winglets are usually wider than they are long. As a result, you can distinguish between these aerodynamic devices by comparing their shape.

Strakes are essentially horizontal fins. Winglets, in comparison, are vertical fins. Many airplanes have both strakes and winglets, which you can identify based on their shape.

In Conclusion

The small, fin-shaped surfaces on airplanes are strakes. They are aerodynamic devices that regulate airflow by either creating vortexes or stabilizing airplanes. You can find strakes on the nose, wings and nacelles. Unlike winglets, strakes are typically longer than they are wide.

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