On the theory of wing sections with particular reference to the lift distribution

Theodorsen, Theodore

This report gives a simple and exact method of calculating the lift distribution on thin wing sections. The most essential feature of the new theory is the introduction of an "ideal angle of attack," this angle being defined as that at which the flow enters the leading edge smoothly or, more precisely, as the angle of attack at which the lift at the leading edge equals zero. The lift distribution at this particular angle is shown to be a characteristic property of the section and has been termed the "basic distribution." it is shown that the lift of a wing section may always be considered to consist of (a) the basic distribution and (b) the additional distribution, where the latter is independent of the mean camber line and thus identical for all thin sections. The specific reason for the poor aerodynamic qualities of thin wing sections is pointed out as being due to the fact that the additional lift in potential flow becomes infinite at the leading edge. It is established that the essential parameter occurring in this analysis is the radius of curvature at the leading edge. It is further established that the actual slope of the lift curve is dependent on this parameter. The theoretical lift distribution is compared with the distribution obtained by direct measurement on a number of the more conventional wing sections. The new theory is of value in calculating the strength of wing sections.

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