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Wing Area


Scale Models and their Actual Aircraft

The following outline is a suggested activity for teachers to use with their students.

LIFT of an airplane is a function of several variables, among them wing area. This activity allows students to use measurement, simple ratios, and simple geometry to find the wing area for any plane chosen from the Plane Gallery. The twelve aircraft in this Gallery were all photographed from scale models with the scale 1:72. Given the scale in the picture, the scale of the model, and the actual wingspan, the challenge for the student is to find to wing area of the model and the wing area of the actual plane. (Groups can be assigned to work on different planes.)

  1. Choose an airplane from the Plane Gallery.

  2. Find the Area of the model's wing by finding its dimensions. Use the cm scale in the photo. It ranges from 0 to 25 cm. You will find it easiest to print out the page to work on. (A way to find the area of a polygon that is not a basic shape, such as a rectangle or triangle, partition the complex polygon into shapes that are rectangles or triangles. Find the area of each partition. To find the area of the entire wing, add the individual areas for each partition. EXAMPLE)

  3. Find the area of the actual wing using the ratio (model to actual ) of 1 : 72. The model's dimensions were calculated in step 2.

Double the result for the total wing area. This is the area used in the "FoilSim" program that calculates the LIFT for that chosen aircraft. Compare the results of your calculations with the Linear Data Sheet. Check units of measure.

Related Pages:
LIFT Home Page
Aeronautics Activities
Aerospace Activities Page
Aerodynamics Index


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Editor: Tom Benson
NASA Official: Tom Benson
Last Updated: Jun 12 2014

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