I'm considering flying wings as well as airplanes with only vertical stabilizer.

As I can't find a working example of such scheme, theoretical explanation is very welcome.
To compensate for rear end additional lift, thrust output will probably be placed closer the nose. There are multiple options for this rather unconventional placement:
- ducts from the engine output
- additional engine at the front
- fan driven by the front shaft of the engine (as in Harrier Jump Jet)
- tilted prop rotor
- collective pitch thrust vectoring (swashplate driven)
- other options, please suggest

There will be a destabilizing effect due to uneven wing lengthwise distribution of lift with changing angle of attack. Will it be unmanageable for human and if so for a computer, provided enough thrust agility?

Combustion turbojets are sluggish for stability control, so may be converging-diverging nozzle may help.

So, is it viable to add enough nose-up moment and stability by vectoring thrust to counter the nose-down moment produced by flap extension, thus allowing the use of flaps to decrease speed and angle of attack at landing?


No, for several reasons

What you want is to compensate for the additional lift from downward deflected flaps at the back of a flying wing with vectored thrust. As @Sean points out this will not bring a noticeable net benefit if the lengthwise location of both forces is similar.

But that is not all.

Besides the force equilibrium around the flying wing you also need to consider how it behaves when flight parameters change, say by gusts. Will it return to the old state? How will the dynamic behavior be?

More camber means that the zero lift angle of attack becomes more negative. A deflected flap adds camber near the trailing edge. If the wing now assumes a higher angle of attack due to a gust, the change in local lift over chord will make the wing pitch up more. The forward region of the airfoil will add more lift relative to the initial state than the rear region because the zero lift angle of attack has been shifted downwards, adding a pitch-up moment. The whole aircraft will become unstable from the added camber of the flap.

Flying wings don't need computer control. All the Hortens and Fauvels of this world flew just fine with a human pilot and mechanical controls. That is because they use reflex airfoils and wing twist so the rear part of the wing creates less lift relative to its area. This is the condition for static stability and it gets removed with a positive flap deflection.

Adding that flap will add so much instability that computer control would have a hard time to keep the aircraft stable. If the flap produces substantial additional lift, the thrust vector control would need to effect large changes in pitching moment. Now consider you fly into an airport along the glide slope, with the engine close to idle. Where would the required pitching moment come from? Thrust is insufficient and reducing your flap setting will stall the aircraft. The best solution is to not deflect the flap in the first place and to add more wing area relative to a conventional aircraft.

  • $\begingroup$ if by "stability" here you mean even lengthwise lift distribution in all conditions (with extended flaps), than this is exactly what I'm trying to cope with computer. Regarding the glide slope: just point the thrust vector down, so it would produce no horizontal force. Why do you think it is not possible with sufficiently responsive thrust vectoring? $\endgroup$ – Anbu Agarwal Nov 16 at 19:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Anbu It takes time for thrust to ramp up, especially for jet engines near approach idle. Even then, it messes up the glideslope control due to rapid thrust changes. $\endgroup$ – JZYL Nov 17 at 17:25
  • $\begingroup$ most jet engines are sluggish, but there are other options like: tilted rotor or collective pitch thrust vectoring. Even jet thrust may be controlled rapidly by converging-diverging nozzle. $\endgroup$ – Anbu Agarwal Nov 17 at 17:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Anbu Most jets are sluggish. They are even more sluggish near approach idle, that's what we are trying to say here. I don't see how converging-diverging nozzles help; if your N1 is spinning slowly, it takes time to ramp up. $\endgroup$ – JZYL Nov 21 at 15:32
  • $\begingroup$ Nozzles of variable area can control the gases exhaust speed by changing shape. Not sure about the range, though. Keeping higher rpm the engine will produce less thrust, while quick nozzle response will substitute the slow change of engine rpm. Besides, while the engine is working partially to lift the nose up it will already be under some load. $\endgroup$ – Anbu Agarwal Nov 21 at 16:37


Thrust vectoring produces a nose-up pitching moment by pointing the engine nozzle upwards, which pushes the aircraft's tail down and its nose up. Extended flaps increase total lift, and produce a nose-down pitching moment, by deflecting air downwards at the trailing edges of the wings, pushing the aircraft's tail up and its nose down.

As the engine nozzle(s) of most delta-winged aircraft are at about the same distance from the aircraft's center of mass as its elevons (flapevons?) are (both being either at, or very near, the rear end of the aircraft), the use of thrust vectoring to cancel out the nose-down pitching moment created by flap extension would require that the deflected engine nozzle apply a downforce (anti-lift) with approximately the same magnitude as the upforce (lift) applied by the extended flaps - completely (or almost completely) cancelling out the increase in lift produced by said flaps!1

Aircraft with a horizontal tail (including most non-delta-winged aircraft as well as a number of delta-winged aircraft) don't have this problem, as the elevators are at the far posterior end of the aircraft, far from its center of mass, while the flaps are mounted on the wings, very close to the aircraft's center of mass; thus, a small amount of downforce from the elevators produces enough nose-up pitching moment to completely compensate for the nose-down pitching moment produced by even a very large amount of flap-extension-produced lift.2 Canard aircraft (including some non-delta-winged aircraft, and also some delta-winged aircraft) don't have this problem, as the nose-down pitching moment from extending flaps on the main wing can be cancelled out by the nose-up pitching moment from extending flaps on the canard, which has the additional advantage of increasing the aircraft's lift coefficient yet further (instead of slightly decreasing it, as the nose-up elevator deflection required when the flaps are extended on most horizontal-tailed aircraft does).

1: If the nozzle(s) extend rearwards beyond the trailing edge of the wing, then they would have a slightly longer lever arm than the flapevons, allowing a slightly lower amount of vectored-thrust downforce and a small increase in lift with flap extension, but the additional lift gained thereby would likely not be enough to be worth the trouble.

2: In practice, this is an oversimplification; for some horizontal-tailed aircraft, extending the flaps actually produces a nose-up pitching moment. However, this is due to the interaction of the wing's downwash with the horizontal tail (and, thus, would not be the case for a tailless-delta-configuration aircraft), and the point about the elevators' much longer lever arm compared to the flaps is still valid.

  • $\begingroup$ having thrust output near the flaps will obviously not work, but what about having it near the nose? $\endgroup$ – Anbu Agarwal Nov 16 at 19:29
  • $\begingroup$ @AnbuAgarwal: No, because the engines are in the back, near the flaps. $\endgroup$ – Sean Nov 16 at 21:45
  • $\begingroup$ I understand that your refer to the majority of jet delta-winged aircraft but there are other options: nozzles placed away from the rear end, tilted rotor or collective pitch thrust vectoring and probably some other I'm not aware of. I'm asking about the viability of proposed scheme even if it was never tried. $\endgroup$ – Anbu Agarwal Nov 17 at 10:58

I'm not sure why we're assuming that flap deployment will cause pitch instability. As far as I'm aware, flap deployment moves the CoP rearward, which should make the aircraft more stable. I may be missing something here, though, I'm still working my way through Perkins&Hage. I'm not quite following Peter's argument about gusts.

For now we'll work under the assumption that extended flaps will cause a rearward shift of CoP in the pitch plane and thus increased pitch stability. However, this same rearward shift will intuitively, as you noted, cause a nose down moment, which would be aggravated if you did some kind of Fowler flap setup. This is corroborated by the above linked articles and pg.29 (pdf pg.33) of this NACA data.

Regarding your ideas to cancel this moment out to allow yourself to actually use the high cL you get from these flaps:

  • Ducting the jet exhaust to the front of the craft: While within the realm of physical possibility, this would likely be a highly inefficient design due to the number of sharp turns the exhaust would have to take, and the amount of heat energy it would lose while doing so. Overall, it wouldn't likely be implementable.
  • Additional engine: likely weight prohibitive.
  • Fan driven by shaft: The most reasonable of your concepts in my mind. As you noted, it's been done before. However, as far as I'm aware, the Harrier uses ducted jet flow rather than a fan. I think you're thinking of the F-35B.
  • Tilted prop rotor: A statically tilted rotor wouldn't do a ton at low angles, and at high angles would be extremely inefficient in forward flight.
  • Thrust vectoring: As others have noted, this would likely only cancel out lift gains from the flaps.
  • Other options: See below

Other options:

  • Dynamically tilting prop rotor: perhaps, But this would seem more mechanically complex to me (rotational drives, shaft bearings and CV joints, morphing ducts, keeping a healthy flow to turbine, etc.) than a seperate shaft driven fan and likely wouldn't end up saving you weight. Not worth pursuing in my mind.
  • Aggressive leading edge slats: It seems that leading edge slats don't have too significant of an effect on the moment of an airfoil. I haven't seen anything listed in any NACA testing I've seen, it seems like they treat it as a given that there isn't too much of an effect. This design compendium seems to agree on pg.256 (pdf pg.277).

This is all, of course, addressing your interest in using flaps as a high-lift device. You might want to think about other high-lift devices, either in their place or to mitigate their use in your design so you don't have as much of a moment increase to deal with in whichever method (shaft-driven fan, please) you might decide on if you go that route.

The first, in my mind, would be blown airfoils and related high-lift devices. You're already looking at "ducts from the engine output," you could instead throttle the exhaust of the engine and route the exhaust to slots placed midway along the wing to increase boundary layer energy, thus increasing lift. If you want to get really funky, you could look into reverse flow slots(see 4th paragraph of "mechanism" section). The paper by Wake, Tillman, Ochs and Kearny on the matter is fascinating and worth getting your hands on. I'm worried what effect swept wings (inc. delta wings) or even the lack of an high aspect ratio would have on its effectiveness, though.

Alternatively, you could look into making the exhaust a venturi vacuum generator and play with boundary layer suction. This is apparently very attractive on highly swept wings, so it might be pertinent to your design.

The Shinmaywa US-1 and US-2 flying boats use a dedicated turboshaft engine inside the hull purely to provide high-pressure air to their boundary layer control system, and the resulting STOL capabilities are mind-bending, go find some videos on it. You wouldn't be able to get that much benefit from harnessed exhaust exhaust, as the Shinmaywa uses it in conjunction with some nuts flap configurations that would be far too aggressive for your planform, but it can give an idea as to the potential of boundary layer control.

Note: sorry for the lack of sources near the end. Limited on #links until I get more rep I guess.

  • $\begingroup$ thanks for new ideas, @h-ramsey. You mentioned statically tilted prop, which I agree, wouldn't help a lot, but what about dynamics, like on AgustaWestland AW609? $\endgroup$ – Anbu Agarwal Dec 6 at 10:03
  • $\begingroup$ I actually addressed that with the first of my "other options". I feel a separate fan would likely be far more weight efficient and mechanically simple. $\endgroup$ – H.Ramsey Dec 6 at 22:11
  • $\begingroup$ sorry, I should have been more specific. You say that jet engine with tilted engine / prop would be a complex endeavor due to this engine particularity. But what about electric / piston engine with tilted prop? $\endgroup$ – Anbu Agarwal 2 days ago
  • $\begingroup$ Hm, I wrote my initial response assuming that you were considering a purely turbine powered aircraft, looks like that was an incorrect assumption. $\endgroup$ – H.Ramsey 7 hours ago
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, unused to "enter" finalizing a text entry. Back to the point at hand, though. Are you talking about a tractor tiltrotor configuration? I can't think of any deltawinged or flying wing planes with a tractor propulsion setup off the top of my head. It might work, but you have to keep in mind that when you're tilting the rotor, the body of a flying wing would essentially work as a reverse airfoil on the propwash. I'm not sure how realistic that is. Your mention of an electric motor does bring up an interesting idea, though. If, on your main propulsion engine(s) (I'm going to keep assuming $\endgroup$ – H.Ramsey 7 hours ago

One very strong reason thrust vectoring is of little or no use to offset flap-induced pitch moment: you reduce thrust to idle or near idle during landing, which would make the thrust vectoring ineffective.

The Harrier lands at higher throttle (it takes much more than 50% power just to hover with no stores aboard). If you were using fans at the nose, driven directly by the engine (like the front nozzles on a Harrier) you'd have high tailpipe thrust exactly when you want none.

Thrust vectoring from a jet is an unnecessary complication unless you need it either to hover or for extreme maneuverability.

  • $\begingroup$ Harrier uses 90% of thrust to hover being 50% under-loaded compared to rolling takeoff. Big flaps will do the half of the lift increase at the rear end of aircraft, while another equivalent part will substantially load the engine. So, idle engine should not be an issue. $\endgroup$ – Anbu Agarwal Nov 21 at 17:25
  • $\begingroup$ You can't run the front "pump" like the Harrier uses for significant thrust without getting similarly high thrust from the tailpipe -- unless you use a completely separate forward engine, electric or hydraulic lift fan, or similar. Overall, there's no advantage in this vs. putting a canard on for pitch control to let you use flaps the conventional way. A canard+wing is also more efficient than a tailless wing. $\endgroup$ – Zeiss Ikon Nov 21 at 17:43

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