Singing Wings

Just because I did nothing with my aerospace engineering degree doesn't mean I ignore the cool stuff from that field: 'Singing' wings help prevent small-plane stalls

In wind tunnel tests, Salmon stuck sections of plastic piezo-electric film to wing segments. This film vibrates when an electrical signal is applied, producing sound.

Tests using a barely audible sinusoidal tone of about 400 hertz showed a 22% increase in lift, compared with a standard wing. This could translate into a few extra seconds of time for a pilot to boost a plane’s speed before it stalls, says Salmon. The simple tones worked best, though Salmon did experiment: “I can say that songs by the band Spiderbait are more effective than Radiohead’s.�

Spiderbait?! Way to plug the virtually unknown (in the US, at least) Aussie band, Qantas dude! Truth be told I went through a huge unknown Aussie music phase in college. Can't say I stuck with any of the artists I got into back then, but at the time some of my favorite tracks were on those freebie tapes I got a CollegeFest in the Hynes Convention Center.

Back to the airplane stuff... Once, while hiking on Mt. Washington, I saw a couple gliders buzzing around the summit. Literally: their wings were vibrating in the updraft (I assume), causing a high-pitched hum. No piezo-electric plastic involved with that, but it was really cool to me.