The following two graphs depict improvements in transonic wing technology that have occurred over the past 20-25 years. Both are sourced from Boeing Commercial Aircraft.

In essence, both note that over time, engineers have managed to improve the "airfoil technology level", allowing designers to make wings thicker and fly at the same speed or fly faster. This has been accomplished by pushing back the drag-divergence Mach number for airfoils.

However, I'm confused as to how this improvement occurred, which I think can be broken down into 2 sub-questions:

  1. What new tools/methodologies were used in the design of each generation of wings?
  2. What changes in the airfoil/wing geometry & pressure distribution changed to allow the higher performance?

Graph #1: Source: enter image description here Graph #2: Source: https://nap.nationalacademies.org/read/2035/chapter/9 enter image description here

Note - I posted a similar question to this earlier, but did not phrase it well. So this is partly an attempt to correct that.

  • $\begingroup$ "I posted a similar question to this earlier..." pretty much all your questions have been similar! $\endgroup$ Jun 22, 2022 at 0:54
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelHall not sure if this is a criticism or not, but I'm happy to take the question down if you feel it doesn't add to the forum. But yes, all my questions have been targeted to understanding how wing aerodynamic performance improved between the years 1975 - 2010. That is the aspect of the aviation industry I'm interested by at the moment. $\endgroup$ Jun 22, 2022 at 5:22
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    $\begingroup$ And I think you'll find that as time has gone on, I've used the answers from awesome folks in this community to learn and ask progressively more detailed questions. So for example, I started off by asking about how sweep angles in late-1980s aircraft were reduced compared to earlier designs, which I was told was due supercritical airfoils. This question builds on that answer by intendeding to be a deep-dive into exactly how supercritical airfoils themselves have been refined. $\endgroup$ Jun 22, 2022 at 5:24
  • $\begingroup$ Just a casual observation, it’s all good. Equally happy to simply delete my comment. $\endgroup$ Jun 22, 2022 at 5:27


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