Aerodynamics: Slotted for Smoothness

To the casual eye, Northrop Corp.'s brand-new X-21A airplane has the look of an already obsolescent bomber. It is a familiar twin-jet Douglas B66 fitted out with oversize, swept-back wings. But a close look shows a more significant change. There are hundreds of paper-thin slots slicing through the wings' metal skin. And those slots, if the calculations of Northrop's Norair Division scientists prove correct, may well revolutionize the aircraft industry.

Designed by Swiss-born Aerodynamicist Werner Pfenninger, the intricate tracery promises to be the first practical answer to a problem that is...

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