supercritical wing[¦sü·pər′krid·ə·kəl ′wiŋ]
A wing with special streamwise sections, or airfoils, which provide substantial delays in the onset of the adverse aerodynamic effects which usually occur at high subsonic flight speeds.
When the speed of an aircraft approaches the speed of sound, the local airflow about the airplane, particularly above the upper surface of the wing, may exceed the speed of sound. Such a condition is called supercritical flow. On previous aircraft, this supercritical flow resulted in the onset of a strong local shock wave above the upper surface of the wing (illustration a). This local wave caused an abrupt increase in the pressure on the surface of the wing, which may cause the surface boundary-layer flow to separate from the surface, with a resulting severe increase in the turbulence of the flow. The increased turbulence leads to a severe increase in drag and loss in lift, with a resulting decrease in flight efficiency. The severe turbulence also caused buffet or shaking of the aircraft and substantially changed its stability or flying qualities. See Aerodynamic force, Aerodynamic wave drag, Transonic flight
Supercritical airfoils are shaped to substantially reduce the strength of the shock wave and to delay the associated boundary-layer separation (illustration b). Since the airfoil shape allows efficient flight at supercritical flight speeds, a wing of such design is called a supercritical wing. See Airplane, Wing