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Mirco AeroDynamics: VGs Raise the Roof

  • Jim Price flys his Long EZ
    Jim Price flew his airplane to a record altitude after installing a Micro AeroDynamics vortex generator kit on his Long EZ.

May 20, 2015 - With nearly 20,000 vortex generator (VG) kits installed on more than 700 aircraft types, Micro AeroDynamics has lots of data showing what effects VGs have on stall speed and slow flight control. The company recently learned vortex generators can increase an aircraft’s service ceiling by 15 to 18 percent.

Long EZ builder/owner Jim Price flew his airplane to a record altitude of 35,027 feet after installing VGs. Without VGs he could only reach 31,000 feet. Pilot Dick Britton topped 22,000 feet in a VG-equipped Cessna Skylane - 3,100 feet above the service ceiling listed in the pilots operating handbook.

Micro AeroDynamics believes an aircraft reaches its service ceiling when available power diminishes to the point that the ensuing angle of attack breaks up the boundary layer, preventing further lift. With vortex generators attached, the angle of attack remains below the critical point for an additional several thousand feet. This would be due to the effect the VGs have on keeping the boundary layer intact.

“It’s a benefit we hadn’t researched,” said Anni Brogan, president of Micro AeroDynamics. “However, it does appear to be valid and as we saw in the case of Mr. Britton, it could be a tremendous asset in trying to rise above bad weather systems. We are not recommending that pilots take off to challenge the service ceiling of their aircraft, but it’s useful to know you may have a little more in the bank than you thought.”

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