Comparing two bodies with the same streamlined longitudinal shape, and the same cross-sectional area, one with a circular cross-sectional shape, the other with a quadratic cross-sectional shape, which one of these two bodies would create more aerodynamic drag?

My prediction would be that it is the one with quadratic cross-sectional shape. As around the sharp edges where the two straight surfaces meet, flow interference would occur, which increases the total aerodynamic drag.

Note that these two bodies have 0 angle of attack relative to the incoming flow.

Related question: Why is the fuselage on an airliner circular-shaped?


1 Answer 1


The quadratic body has more surface area compared to the round body, so this alone will guarantee a higher friction drag.

If the angles of attack and sideslip were always zero and no lift is created, the edges would not cause trouble. But as soon as a lift-producing wing is attached, the interference will create crossflow which will result in a higher drag of the rectangular fuselage.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @MichaelHall Yes, a circle has the minimum perimeter for a given area. Any non-circular shape (with the same cross sectional area) will therefore have more wetted area than a circular shape. $\endgroup$ Jun 30, 2023 at 16:31
  • $\begingroup$ I had a momentary doubt, but mathed it out to confirm for myself. Thanks! $\endgroup$ Jun 30, 2023 at 18:22
  • $\begingroup$ Lengthwise, I was surprised to learn that the optimum fineness ratio was surprisingly stubby; 3:1 or something? The Questair Venture, the stubby little high perf kit plane, was close to egg shaped and it is supposed to have close to the ideal min drag profile. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Jun 30, 2023 at 20:26
  • $\begingroup$ Hi. Can you please explain how the "crossflow" would increase drag? I'm having a hard time visualizing it, thanks. $\endgroup$
    – Frank
    Jan 22 at 15:02
  • $\begingroup$ @Frank With sideslip the flow has a sideways component that must now negotiate the sharp corners of the rectangular fuselage. This will lead to separated flow on the leeward side and lower local pressure, which has a rearward component, adding to drag. $\endgroup$ Jan 22 at 15:18

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