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Elliptical Wing Problems
If so instructed by your teacher, print out a worksheet page for these problems.

Open the slide called Wing Geometry Definitions (with text) and read the definitions.

The Spitfire ( was renowned as a "small, graceful, elliptical-wing fighter, champion at air-to-air duals, and they were routinely dived at velocities approaching the speed of sound." An elliptically-shaped wing incurs the least drag.  

Let us assume the entire wing of the Spitfire is an ellipse with the major axis equal to the wingspan. Using a web site for the Spitfire Mk V ( , we find wingspan and area data which can be used to determine the length of the minor axis.


  1. State the lengths of the major and minor axes of the elliptical wing _______________.

  2. Use this information to write an equation of the ellipse (in standard form, assuming a center at {0,0}).


  3. Sketch the ellipse on x, y axes with the center of the ellipse at the origin. Label the coordinates of the extremities of the major axis (wing tips) and minor axis.


  4. How is the minor axis related to chord length? _____________________.


  5. Is the chord length constant? _____________________.


  6. What is the chord length 1 m from the ellipse's wing's center? ____________________.

    2.8 m from the center? ___________________.

    5 m from the center?___________.


  7. Using the chord length 2.8 m from the center, compute an aspect ratio. _____________.

Related Pages:
Lesson Index
Aerodynamics Index


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Editor: Tom Benson
NASA Official: Tom Benson
Last Updated: Thu, Jun 12 04:46:38 PM EDT 2014

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