The swept wing on a typical airliner consists of multiple airfoil sections. Are these sections oriented perpendicular to the wing leading edge, or parallel to the longitudinal axis of the fuselage?

Thanks in advance for any thoughts...

  • $\begingroup$ In reality for them to perform as indicated on the airfoil data sheet they need to be aligned to the relative wind at that point on the wing. $\endgroup$
    – Jim
    Apr 28, 2022 at 5:15
  • $\begingroup$ Obviously for any given aircraft you could sketch the airfoil sections you'd get if you sliced the wing chord-wise (parallel to the longitudinal axis of the fuselage), or the airfoil sections you'd get if you sliced the wing perpendicular to the leading edge. So, trying to pin down exactly what this question is asking. Are you asking which of these two sets of airfoils matches the airfoils specified by the naming system as shown on the plans / design specifications? Or are you asking which of these sets of airfoils is more representative of what the airflow actually "sees"? Or --? $\endgroup$ Apr 28, 2022 at 12:10
  • $\begingroup$ You need to clarify for which purpose you intend. You can cut a wing in any direction and see an airfoil section. Structure has a different answer than aero, and they are both correct. $\endgroup$
    – Pilothead
    May 31, 2022 at 18:22

1 Answer 1


In terms of the ribs used to construct the wing, often both, as in the case of the Boeing 737. The inner ribs are parallel to the fuselage while the other ribs are for the most part orthogonal to the leading edge.

  • $\begingroup$ In wing diagrams, airfoil shapes for each different wing sections are drawn and their location on the wing described or indicated with an arrow pointing at a line drawing of the wing. This doesn't indicate its orientation relative to the leading edge. If you sectioned (sliced) one of these wing section perpendicular to the leading edge and again sliced it parallel to the longitudinal access you would have two different airfoil shapes-only one would be the designed airfoil shape. Would an aerodynamicist design the airfoil shape to be orientated perpendicular to the wing leading edge? $\endgroup$
    – T.A. Neal
    Apr 28, 2022 at 21:30
  • $\begingroup$ For conventional aircraft designs, the aerodynamicist selects or designs airfoil sections parallel to the x-axis independent of wing sweep. $\endgroup$ May 8, 2022 at 2:01

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .