Flying on Flexible Wings; November 2003; Scientific American Magazine; by Steven Ashley; 8 Page(s)
Airplanes typically look the same whether they are in the air or on the ground. Most wings extend from the fuselage at a fixed angle, and they are sufficiently rigid that they do not move or twist much in flight-certainly a reassuring feature for pilots and passengers alike.
In years to come, however, radical wing designs for advanced aircraft may change that. So-called morphing wings will be sophisticated structures that automatically reconfigure their shapes and surface textures to adapt to monitored changes in flying conditions. Such capabilities will in some ways mimic the subtle, nearly instantaneous adjustments that birds make instinctively to their wings, tails and feathers when aloft.