The Development of Landing Gears

Published: 2021-06-27 21:55:04
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On December 17, 1903, the Wright brothers made four successful flights in the first aeroplane ever created. This forefront of aeronautics utilized a sled like landing system which was suitable as the take-off and landing occurred on sand. But how have landing gears progressed from here. From this point on, wheels were the preferred point contact with the ground. Most World War I planes utilized the conventional or “taildragger” undercarriage – 2 fairly large fixed wheels at the front (to provide more space for the front exposed propeller) and the back contact with the ground was created via a tailskid – a piece of wood which could be adjustable such that the direction of the plane while taxing could be changed . Whilst this was similar to the sled like system in the Wright plane, they could be steered whilst taxying. This is because if the skid was pivoted to the left creating more drag on that side of the plane and causing it to turn to the left.
Another lesser known form of steering was similar to the prior method which was usually also a “taildragger” undercarriage, however used only wheels – at the back, a smaller unadjustable wheel was only for support whilst the 2 front larger wheels (main wheels) had brakes. This meant whilst taxying, a break could be activated, thus slowing down one of the wheels, thus the whole aeroplane would pivot around that wheel loosely, thus allowing steering. This is called differential braking and planes with tricycle undercarriage also used it – where the two main wheels are under the wings and a third smaller wheel under the nose.As time progressed, the tricycle configuration was favored over the taildragger, as they have better visibility whilst taxying, thus reducing the chance of an accident, the lack of need for clearance for the front propeller, as engines mounted on the wings were preferable, and the fact the tricycle configuration is less susceptible to ground looping (when control of the direction of an aeroplane is lost on the ground and the tail of the aircraft passes the nose). This is much more common in taildragger aeroplanes, as they steer from behind the center of gravity (rather than the tricycle configuration steers ahead of the center of mass) and thus it is unstable and wont self-correct like the tricycle configuration.
The first plane with a partially retractable undercarriage was a German racing plane (Wiencziers Renneindecker) from 1911, but only became popular in mid-1930s. Aircraft designers of the 1920s realized that reducing drag on an airplane in flight was essential for improving speed, fuel efficiency maneuverability and controllability. They identified the landing gears as a major source of drag and thus sought to reduce it.
Whilst some aeroplanes have landing gears surrounded by aerodynamically shaped material, the preferred method is to retract the entire landing gear inside the body of the pane, thus completely eliminating the drag. In modern tests it has been found that in some aircraft the landing gears double the drag on the entire plane, thus increasing fuel consumption drastically, therefore reducing the drag may not only reduce the cost of flight and its environmental effect, but also allow the plane to travel at faster speeds.

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