Why Are Aircraft Engines Mounted Under the Wing?

Posted on September 26, 2022 linda strong aircraft engines

While years of research and innovation went into making the first aircraft, early designs, and still current designs, are far from perfect. The aviation industry continues to evolve, making constantly better designs. One major shift in aircraft design was the change in the location of the engine. Aircraft once had engines attached to the nose, above the wings, blended into the wings, and the rear fuselage. Today, most aircraft engines are stored under the wings for better overall performance. Many factors contributed to this shift in design, so this blog will explore the reasoning behind the engine’s new location for your better understanding.

There are five main advantages that pushed the shift to positioning the engine under the wings. For one, it is easier to perform maintenance on engines that are located under the wing, as it is closer to the ground and requires no extra machinery for height access. An engine inspector or engineer can conduct their business in a more timely and hassle-free manner. In addition to being convenient for workers, the under-wing location is also more desirable for passengers as it reduces the amount of engine noise they will experience in flight. With other locations, such as in the rear of the airplane, passengers with seats located near the engine experience noise that is otherwise shielded by the wing. While convenience and comfort are always ideal, there are also a few practical reasons that make the under-wing location ideal for flight.

By positioning engines under the wings, the weight prevents the wing from bending upward during take offs and increases in lift. In addition to reducing high-frequency vibration, this also enables the use of bigger and heavier engines without causing structural issues. While the added weight might seem to raise the concern of a wing breaking, airplane wings are actually very flexible and are designed with wing spars to bend rather than snap. Aerodynamically, this structure is also beneficial, as the increased weight below the wing allows for more lift and less drag. Finally, this location increases safety, as any fires that potentially start in the engine will not easily spread because the cabin and fuel tanks are far apart. 

Despite the many advantages of an under-wing engine location, not all aircraft today have adopted this innovative design. In fact, it is mainly large passenger jets that have benefited from this design while fighter jets continue to store their engines in the rear and other models maintain various other engine positions. With advantages in safety, strength, and convenience, storing the aircraft engine under its wings has become a widely adopted design for most modern-day passenger aircraft. With regulations calling for a specific degree of flex in the wings, the change in design appeals to passengers, crew, and maintenance staff alike. 

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