Wake Vortex

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© NASA Langley Research Center (NASA-LaRC).

The path of air flowing around the wing of this agricultural aircraft is marked by colored smoke. The large spiral at the tip of the wing, called the "wake vortex," creates dangerous conditions for a plane flying too close behind. NASA researchers, in conjunction with the FAA, are trying to gain a thorough understanding of wake vortices as part of a program to increase the capacity of crowded airports. They are studying the phenomenon from the bottom up using supercomputer simulations, and from the top down using wind tunnels and flight tests in planes specially equipped for research. (Unit: 9)