Take the 2-minute tour ×
Aviation Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for aircraft pilots, mechanics, and enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Winglets are used to reduce induced drag on the main wings of an aircraft as per explanations on wikipedia. Since they are very effective I was wondering why they are not installed also on horizontal stabilizers. For sure there must be some sort of induced drag being generated on horizontal stabilizers too as they are cutting through the air just as the main wings do. So why aren't there any sort of "minified" winglets available as an aftermarket installation (or, at least, I haven't ever seen some myself)?

share|improve this question
5  
Induced drag is caused by the pressure difference over and under the wing meeting at the tip generating a vortex, not by "cutting through the air" (that's straight up drag, not the 'induced' kind) –  falstro Apr 15 '14 at 10:01
1  
Or in other words, induced drag is induced by producing lift. –  Jan Hudec Apr 15 '14 at 19:34

4 Answers 4

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Horizontal stabilizers don't generate as much pressure difference as the wings. Generally the stab deflections are very small in flight, and there's so much other drag during landing -- when the stab gets the most use -- that wing vortices from the tail are probably the least of your problems. Stabilizer winglets on their own, when there's no pressure difference, would simply result in drag, whereas the main wing winglets are constantly effective while flying.

Furthermore, the weight and trouble of adding little winglets to the horizontal stabilizers with larger actuators and hinges, for example, would probably outweigh the very slight aerodynamic benefit. I could also imagine that since the airflow over latter part of the wing is complex and varied, find a good design solution would be difficult.

As @Federico points out, the DA42 has them, but that's a composite airframe rather than the metal construction you see in most Cessnas, for instance, where you have to be more conservative in construction.

share|improve this answer

So why aren't there any sort of "minified" winglets available as an aftermarket installation?

Actually the DA42 has them enter image description here

and in the MPP version they are even more pronounced enter image description here

share|improve this answer
2  
i'm not sure these are the pressure difference purpose like classic winglets. IMHO just from appearance it looks like the DA42 has a very short rudder, so these might be for stability purposes :) –  MikeFoxtrot Apr 15 '14 at 11:16
    
@Manfred actually pilots I have spoken to report that these worsen the stability, not improve it. –  Federico Apr 15 '14 at 11:17
1  
Look at the camera platform of the DA42 MPP: This decreases lateral stability, and the so-called "winglets" are simply additional fins to bring lateral stability back to normal. These are no winglets at all, but fins –  Peter Kämpf Jan 17 at 11:33
    
@PeterKämpf call them the way you want, the pilots report a loss, not a gain, of stability with them installed (and no camera platform) –  Federico Jan 17 at 22:14
    
@Federico: What stability? Lateral or longitudinal? Dynamic or static? Not even some test pilots get that sorted out correctly. –  Peter Kämpf Jan 17 at 23:08

The induced drag from wingtip vortexes is mostly on lift generating surfaces, horizontal stabilizers don't generate that much lift.

That said there is a twintail design with double vertical stabilizer at the ends of the horizontal one; but that is not for reducing vortexes but for improving rudder response.

share|improve this answer

Short answer: In all cases these are no winglets, but fins.

Winglets are worse than an equal span extension and are only used if span should not increase:

  • for limiting the wing's root bending moment, or
  • for size limitations

Putting them on the tail surface would not help to limit the wingspan: The horizontal tail can easily grow and still be much smaller than the wing. There is no single case where winglets on a horizontal tail would have made sense.

What you see and might interpret as winglets are actually additional fins. They stay in the general area of the vertical tail, so they do not increase the sideslip-induced rolling moment, and they do not increase aircraft height. But they help to improve lateral stability, which had been worsened by a configuration change. Example pictured below: The Beech 1900, a derivative of the Beech Super King Air. The fins below the fuselage could not grow any bigger without risking ground contact during rotation, and the small stability deficit did not justify the development of a new tail section. So the fins were added where they would cause the least amount of trouble. Obviously, aesthetics were not considered.

enter image description here

Note the small planes at the bottom of the vertical tail: The same trick was used to avoid increasing the size of the horizontal tail. It could be argued that the horizontal tail of the Beech 1900 is a double decker.

And no, those horizontal fins are not "fuselage winglets".

So-called "winglets" on the tail of the DA42

That is also the reason why the "winglets" are so much bigger on the MPP version of the DA42: They offset the destabilizing effect of the camera pod. The canted tips of the original DA42 are working like an anhedral and create a compensating positive rolling moment for the vertical tail's negative sideslip-induced rolling moment. Ideally, the whole horizontal tail would have anhedral, but it was preferred to keep the elevator hinge line straight.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.