How Do Leading Edge Slats Work?

Since the advent of aviation and aircraft, a number of developments have increased the ability to manipulate the aerodynamic forces that aircraft are subject to during flight. Whether for lifting off, turning, or slowing down, flight surfaces ease the ability of control for pilots, enabling more safe and efficient flight operations for a multitude of applications. When travelling at lower airspeeds, having increased lift can greatly affect the performance of aircraft. To achieve such lift, many designers utilize leading edge flaps and slats that are placed on wings.

Generally, flaps are implemented on aircraft in order to dictate the amount of lift that is produced as deploying flaps will increase lift so that higher speed aircraft may still operate efficiently at lower speeds. Flaps may be controlled by the pilot and adjusted in increments, allowing for full governing of deployment for various speeds. As takeoff and landing procedures are typically conducted at lower speeds, flaps are most often deployed during these times and retracted during cruise speed at high altitudes.

Depending on the aircraft and its design, a number of flap types may be used, each providing their own benefits and capabilities. On light aircraft, trailing-edge flaps are typically used, and they move downward from the inboard wing. On transport aircraft, however, more lift may be needed for efficiency, and thus they may use several trailing edge flap sets and leading-edge slats. If the aircraft is smaller and moves slower, such as some training aircraft, there may be no need for flaps.

While slats are very similar to flaps in their design, slats are typically placed on the front of each wing and increase the wing camber when deployed. The camber of a wing refers to the curve of the upper part of the wing, and this value has dramatic effects on lift production. This is due to the fact that higher cambers result in a greater difference between the air pressure above and below the wing, and deployment causes pressure to push the wing upwards for lift. Slats are most often deployed electrically with cockpit controls, though some may be aerodynamically activated in order to automatically accommodate for changes of relative wind.

When discussing leading edge flaps, the term includes any adjustable, high-lift device that is implemented on the front edge of an aircraft wing. For devices that are placed in the area but are unable to move, they are simply referred to as leading-edge devices. Due to this distinction, devices such as Krueger flaps may also be considered leading-edge flaps because of their functionality as a downward extending, hinged flap. While such flaps are not common on many modern aircraft, they may still be found on a number of Boeing aircraft between the engine nacelle and fuselage.

Beyond devices such as slats and flaps, there are also other leading-edge devices found on a number of aircraft such as cuffs and vortex generators. Cuffs are similar to slats, though they are a fixed protrusion that extends from the wing’s leading edge. While they also provide similar functionality to slats, cuffs are unable to be adjusted and thus remain in the airflow for the entire flight. The vortex generator comes in the form of metal points that are placed on the wing’s upper edge, and they generate laminar flow as air smoothly travels over the wing. When drag occurs due to a separation of flow, the vortex generator allows for the continuation of optimal wing aerodynamics. While such components are typically placed on the wings, they may also be found on various control surfaces and on the aircraft fuselage.

At ASAP Components Services, we can help you secure the flaps, cuffs, and leading edge devices that you need to carry out your operations with ease. As a leading independent distributor of aviation parts, we provide customers with rapid lead-times and competitive pricing on all that we carry for their benefit. Get started on the purchasing process today and receive a competitive quote in 15 minutes or less when you submit an Instant RFQ form through our website.


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