All design in aviation is relatively simple and clean, without some fancy stuff, compare to others aero-applications.

What is reason for this, because every aero application has same goal, get lift with minimum drag?

Let see this wing tip for example, this looks more like some art picture than real stuff, but four sure it has some function behind this. Can CFD solve such a complex flow around this "creation"?

enter image description here
This is the front wing off of the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team's Formula 1 car.

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec
    Dec 15, 2021 at 8:48
  • $\begingroup$ @mins Dont agree. Subsonic is more complicated than supersonic, listen professor at 30;52 youtube.com/… $\endgroup$
    – user707264
    Dec 15, 2021 at 17:51
  • $\begingroup$ Designing an aircraft lasts dozens of months and needs the work of thousands of committed engineers, definitely it is not a simple matter. And hopefully no helicopter engineer has read you question 😂 $\endgroup$
    – sophit
    Aug 16, 2022 at 13:53

2 Answers 2


Of all technology, aviation has perhaps the greatest possible range of complexity. You can fold an airplane from a sheet of paper, and it will fly. At the same time, some aircraft are amongst the most complicated machines humans created.

Unlike the pictured F1 cars, aircraft have more competing goals. For example, cost (including the cost of maintenance), which is almost not a factor in F1. Also, traditionally, airplanes work longer than one season: in fact, typically longer than most consumer cars. And above all, they must work reliably.

All this limits the complexity of machinery and refinement of most designs. There are super-efficient wing designs, for example; but they may require thorough cleaning before each flight and will not tolerate any icing or other contamination. For many practical applications, this is a show stopper.

That said, the actual aerodynamic complexity of aircraft, even simple ones, is far greater than that of an F1 car. Let the intricate shape not fool you: this is the result of a single-goal optimisation of a single-mode application chasing the last 0.1% under tight (artificial) constraints. Like with natural evolution, this often produces bizarre results.

By contrast, aircraft experience orders of magnitude greater variety of aerodynamic effects and greater range of aerodynamic values. A great efficient design may fail if the airplane, say, spins unrecoverably (even though spin may/should never occur in practice!) or wobbles on landing in ground effect when the crosswind exceeds 15 knots, or some such. And then the engineers will chase this with sometimes hundreds of hours of wind tunnel and flight testing, design work, etc. And all it may result in is the tailplane being placed 100 mm higher. Is this complexity? Yes, you just don't see it.

  • $\begingroup$ I would argue that F1 cars are far more complex aerodynamically purely due to the constraints put on them, they simply have to work harder within their artificial constraints to achieve the goals they want. $\endgroup$
    – bruh_weed
    Dec 15, 2021 at 2:11
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @bruh_weed, they are not more complex, they are more refined. The complexity and variety of aerodynamic phenomena that an aircraft has to deal with far exceeds anything car designers ever considered. $\endgroup$
    – Zeus
    Dec 15, 2021 at 5:13
  • $\begingroup$ @Zeus They are not car designers, all Chief Technical directors are aerospace engineers, google genius like Adrain Newey, etc.. Aerodynamics is the most important part of F1 car, car with best aero-package win the races. So this dudes boost aerodynamics to different level. They can try every single idea, in aviation this is impossible because there is no place to mistake,so aviation is very conservative in R&D. $\endgroup$
    – user707264
    Dec 17, 2021 at 15:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Jurgen, this is all true, but it's again all about refinement. They don't need to care even about such mundane things like roll-yaw coupling: a thing that's important for paper airplanes just as for A380, but not for F1 cars. $\endgroup$
    – Zeus
    Dec 20, 2021 at 0:21

It's not that aircraft design is simple. It's that automotive aerodynamics result in complicated-looking designs because of competing demands combined with high tolerance for drag.

Aircraft aerodynamics are, first of all, about efficiency. Efficiency favors simple-looking designs, which actually take a lot of effort to get just right.

There's been quite a few complex wing designs in older aircraft. For example: Wing fences, variable sweep

  • $\begingroup$ For the curious, this is a Sukhoi SU-22, a variant of the Sukhoi SU-17 $\endgroup$ Dec 16, 2021 at 10:19

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