The Importance of Stall Strips in Aviation

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, nearly 25% of all fatal aviation accidents occur due to dangerous maneuvering attempts made by pilots during aircraft stalling scenarios. Such statistics call for the implementation of adequate safety components on aircraft with consideration of the angles of attack that cause stalls for supplementing existing stall warning mechanisms. 

Airfoil design revolves around reaching an optimum lift-to-drag ratio, and failing to maintain such conditions may result in aircraft imbalances during flight due to the onset of stalling effects during certain angles of attack. Thus, stall strips are riveted to the leading edge of the airfoil or a wind turbine blade, usually near the blade root, to combat such issues. Stall strips modify the lift to drag ratio, acting as a warning device due to their ability to create an early stall before the airfoil enters the complete stall stage. Stall strips are usually made of a small piece of metal such as aluminum with a 6-12 inch length and a triangular or dome-shaped cross-section. Stall strips are effective warning devices installed on aircraft that face undesirable stalling actions during flight, and this is why learning about their function is important.

What Is an Aircraft Stall?

Aircraft stalling is defined as the rapid decrease of the plane's lift due to the sharp increase in its angle of attack during flight. Aircraft stalling can be best described as the complete loss or absence of lift needed to hold a plane up and occurs when no air layer is present above the wings. Pilots are trained to discern the beginning signs of a possible stall so that they can maneuver the aircraft and avoid a crash through quick recovery. Stalling is most commonly observed during takeoff and landing when the aircraft's speed is relatively low. In response to stalling, stall strips are installed and fabricated on airplanes to serve as warning devices for an impending stall where they contribute by altering the plane's aerodynamics. Furthermore, they are inexpensive and easy to install, making them ideal aircraft protection devices. 

How Do Stall Strips Help?

According to fluid dynamics, a stagnation point is a point within the flow field where the velocity of the fluid is zero. In other words, a stagnation point is a chord position rather than a lateral position on the airfoil where airflow is entirely absent. Furthermore, according to Bernoulli's theorem, the static pressure is the highest at zero local velocity and is the greatest at the stagnation point. At this point the static pressure becomes equal to the stagnation pressure, and dynamic pressure is eliminated. In the case of a fully streamlined body immersed within a compressible or incompressible flow, two stagnation points develop at both the leading and trailing edges of airfoils, where a stagnation point divides the incoming air stream across the top and bottom of the airfoil.

The question then arises about the purpose of stall strips in regard to stagnation points. When airfoils are positioned with a high angle of attack, stagnation points develop on each airfoil's underside. This gives rise to a layer of air getting attached to the wing's upper surface, impeding flight performance. However, the sharp edges of the stall strips disrupt the attachment of the air layer on the airfoil's upper surface, initiating its separation from the wing before reaching a critical angle of attack to provide an early stall directly behind the strip.

Where Should Stall Strips Be Placed?

The exact placement of a stall strip on an airfoil for improved aircraft performance is subject to extensive research, though the consensus is that stall strips should be placed close to the base wing, right next to the fuselage. Moreover, stall strips should be installed where they can buffet on the inside edge of an aileron to provide an early stall warning capability, considering stagnation points are not steady and change their location with the airfoil's movement. Some airplanes, such as the American Aviation AA-1 Yankee, are manufactured with stall strips already fixed at specific locations. However, since these planes' right and left wings are interchangeable and identical, the more traditional use of wing washout (a characteristic wing design meant to reduce lift across the wing's span) is impossible. Thus, stall strips were added to improve the washout requirement by enhancing stalling performance.

The cross-sectional shape and the exact position of the strip contribute to its stalling effects. For example, when strips are placed at low angles of attack (i.e. six degrees or less) there is no noticeable difference in lift performance; however, maximum lift is observed at angles of 13, 12, and 10 degrees for clean, dome, and triangular stall strips respectively. Moreover, an increase in the stall strip size leads to a decrease in the maximum lift and stalling effect faced by airfoils.

Wrapping Up

There is no doubt that high-quality stall strips are often mandatory components to ensure the safety of modern aircraft, and as such, they should only be sourced from reliable suppliers. This is where Limitless Purchasing comes into the picture as we are the leading supplier of all aviation, NSN, and electronic parts. Furthermore, with our expansive delivery network, unrivaled inventory, and dedicated 24/7x365 customer assistance services, you are guaranteed to have a thoroughly fulfilling parts purchasing journey with us. Get started with the Instant RFQ service on our website so that a dedicated account manager can respond to your quote request within 15 minutes or less to help you with your order.


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