One cool thing about science is that as we get new, better tools, we can go back and look again at what might have passed for years as accepted findings. And in this case, NASA scientists at the Ames Research Center fired up their supercomputer—the 34th fastest in the world—and ran a simulation of a landing gear of a Boeing 777 extended in the landing configuration. It was like we were all seeing landing gear for the first time.
Aerodynamic effects being what they are—which is really complicated and infinitely variable—the better the tools we have to explore the effects of structures in the slipstream, the more we can come to understand where we can make improvements to those structures. In the case of the 777 nose gear, one big takeaway was the powerful vortexes emanating from the leading edge of the open gear doors. In the image taken directly from the researchers simulation, the slower airflow is in green and the fastest is in the brightest red.
Why would anybody care much about the aerodynamic inefficiencies of an airliner’s nose gear in the landing configuration? After all, the whole idea is to slow down to land, right? Well, kind of. For years we’ve known that the majority of the noise from a landing airliner is generated not by its engines, which are typically at idle or nearly so, but by the structures. And since the rapidly accelerating air associated with a vortex is a chief contributor to that noise, then designers of the next generation of jets have some important knowledge to smooth out that airflow and make the operations around bigger airports quieter, which no one would complain about.
Learn more at NASA.