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8 Swept Wing Airplanes That Changed The World

A swept wing has the effect of delaying the aerodynamic drag rise caused by fluid compressibility near the speed of sound, increasing performance. You'll find swept wings on many jets around the world, and on a few high performance propellor aircraft. Here are 8 swept wing airplanes that changed the world:

1) Messerschmitt Me 262

Although the Me 262 is often referred to as a "swept wing" design, the production Me 262 had a leading edge sweep of only 18.5 degrees, too slight to achieve any significant advantage in increasing the critical Mach number. After production, scientists continued researching how the new swept wing positively affected top airspeed. Nazi scientific breakthroughs during WWII influenced future aircraft designs around the world.

Wikimedia

2) Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15

The MiG-15 was one of the first successful swept-wing jet fighters, and achieved fame in the skies over Korea, where early in the war, it outclassed all straight-winged enemy fighters in most instances.

Dmitry Terekhov

3) North American F-86 Sabre

The Sabre is best known as the United States' first swept wing fighter which could counter the similarly-winged Soviet MiG-15 in high-speed dogfights over the skies of the Korean War.

Airwolfhound

4) North American F-100 Super Sabre

Due to its swept wing design, at high angles of attack as the aircraft approached stall speeds, loss of lift on the tips of the wings caused a violent pitch-up. This particular phenomenon (which could easily be fatal at low altitude where there was insufficient time to recover) became known as the "Sabre dance."

Wikimedia

5) Boeing 707

Developed as Boeing's first jet airliner, the 707 is a swept-wing design with podded engines. Although it was not the first jetliner in service, the 707 was the first to be commercially successful. Dominating passenger air transport in the 1960s and remaining common through the 1970s, the 707 is generally credited with ushering in the Jet Age.

Wikimedia

6) Boeing 747

The 747 has a wing sweep of 37.5 degrees - more than any other commercial aircraft in the world. Complex high-lift devices were used so the 747 could operate out of existing airports. Leading edge slats and three-part fowler flaps increase the wing area by 21%, and increase lift by up to 90%.

Colin Brown

7) Grumman X-29

The X-29 is described as a three surface aircraft, with canards, forward-swept wings, and aft strake control surfaces, using three-surface longitudinal control. The configuration, combined with a center of gravity well aft of the aerodynamic center, made the craft inherently unstable. The wings of the X-29, made partially of graphite epoxy, were swept forward at more than 33 degrees.

Wikimedia

8) Grumman F-14 Tomcat

The F-14's wing sweep could be varied between 20 degrees and 68 degrees in flight, and could be automatically controlled by the Central Air Data Computer, which maintained wing sweep at the optimum lift-to-drag ratio as the Mach number varied; pilots could manually override the system if desired. For high-speed intercept, the wings were swept back and they swung forward for lower speed flight.

Wikimedia

Want to learn more about swept wing aircraft? Check this out:

Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and an Embraer 145 First Officer for a regional airline. He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018, holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525), and is a former pilot for Mokulele Airlines. He's the author of articles, quizzes and lists on Boldmethod every week. You can reach Swayne at swayne@boldmethod.com, and follow his flying adventures on his YouTube Channel.

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