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Basic Propeller Principles (Part Four) – Corkscrew Effect

in Aerodynamics

The high-speed rotation of an aircraft propeller gives a corkscrew or spiraling rotation to the slipstream. At high propeller speeds and low forward speed (as in the takeoffs and approaches to power-on stalls), this spiraling rotation is very compact and exerts a strong sideward force on the aircraft’s vertical tail surface. [Figure 4-40]

Figure 4-40. Corkscrewing slipstream.

Figure 4-40. Corkscrewing slipstream.

When this spiraling slipstream strikes the vertical fin it causes a turning moment about the aircraft’s vertical axis. The more compact the spiral, the more prominent this force is. As the forward speed increases, however, the spiral elongates and becomes less effective.The corkscrew flow of the slipstream also causes a rolling moment around the longitudinal axis.

Note that this rolling moment caused by the corkscrew flow of the slipstream is to the right, while the rolling moment caused by torque reaction is to the left—in effect one may be counteracting the other. However, these forces vary greatly and it is the pilot’s responsibility to apply proper corrective action by use of the flight controls at all times. These forces must be counteracted regardless of which is the most prominent at the time.

51UFncHi9pL._SX390_BO1,204,203,200_Learn more about airplane aerodynamics with the Illustrated Guide to Aerodynamics. This unique introductory guide, which sold more than 20,000 copies in its first edition, proves that the principles of flight can be easy to understand, even fascinating, to pilots and technicians who want to know how and why an aircraft behaves as it does.


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