The effect of free stream disturbances and control surface deflections on the performance of the Wortmann airfoil at low Reynolds numbers

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


A wing with a Wortmann FX-63-137-ESM airfoil section has been used to study some unique problems encountered in wing aerodynamics in the range of Reynolds numbers between 50,000 and 500,000. The wind-tunnel testing conducted in the 6'x 6' Stability tunnel included strain-gauge data, pressure data, and flow-visualization studies. The laminar separation bubble which frequently occurs on the upper surface of the wing is found to dominate its performance and gives rise to a hysteresis loop for lift and drag. Changes in airfoil performance due to positive flap or control surface deflections resemble changes witnessed at higher Reynolds numbers. Negative deflections are seen to considerably change the stall behavior and the flow over the airfoil. This is due to the considerably greater effect on the separation bubble for negative flap deflections.

The structure and mechanism of the laminar separation bubble can also be altered by the introduction of selected acoustic disturbance and increased free-stream turbulence. The wind-tunnel test-section environment is, therefore, capable of considerably altering wing performance in this regime.