On the wing density and the inflation factor of aircraft

R. J. Huyssen, E. H. Mathews, L. Liebenberg, G. R. Spedding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The aviation industry is dominated by the domain of heavier-than-air, fixed-wing, subsonic flight, and central to any design in this domain is the wing itself. One of the earliest debates in aviation still centres around the usefulness of the wing volume. On the one hand it is held that the wing, as an inevitable necessity, should provide the volume also for the payload. On the other, it is argued that more efficient wings do not even have sufficient volume for the entire wing structure. This work proposes precise definitions of the Wing Density and the Inflation Factor, two parameters that can quantitatively reflect the economic and technological trends in aviation. The wing volume of a hypothetical Ideal Wing is derived from the Operational Parameters of any given Flight Objective and compared to the volume requirement of that flight objective. We conclude that the dominant aircraft configuration of the future is likely to remain within the same family of the current dominant configuration, in conflict with some older predictions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)291-312
Number of pages22
JournalAeronautical Journal
Issue number1224
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Aircraft Configuration
  • Aircraft Design
  • Flight Objective
  • Flying Wing
  • Ideal Wing
  • Inflation Factor
  • Wing Density

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering


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