Chord (aircraft)
In aeronautics
Aeronautics is the science involved with the study, design, and manufacturing of airflight-capable machines, or the techniques of operating aircraft and rocketry within the atmosphere...

, chord refers to the imaginary straight line joining the trailing edge and the center of curvature of the leading edge of the cross-section of an airfoil
An airfoil or aerofoil is the shape of a wing or blade or sail as seen in cross-section....

. The chord length is the distance between the trailing edge and the point on the leading edge where the chord intersects the leading edge.

The wing
A wing is an appendage with a surface that produces lift for flight or propulsion through the atmosphere, or through another gaseous or liquid fluid...

, horizontal stabilizer, vertical stabilizer
Vertical stabilizer
The vertical stabilizers, vertical stabilisers, or fins, of aircraft, missiles or bombs are typically found on the aft end of the fuselage or body, and are intended to reduce aerodynamic side slip. It is analogical to a skeg on boats and ships.On aircraft, vertical stabilizers generally point upwards...

 and propeller
Propeller (aircraft)
Aircraft propellers or airscrews convert rotary motion from piston engines or turboprops to provide propulsive force. They may be fixed or variable pitch. Early aircraft propellers were carved by hand from solid or laminated wood with later propellers being constructed from metal...

 of an aircraft are all based on airfoil sections, and the term chord or chord length is also used to describe their width. The chord of a wing, stabilizer and propeller is determined by examining the planform
In aviation, a planform is the shape and layout of a fixed-wing aircraft's fuselage and wing. Of all the myriad planforms used, they can typically be grouped into those used for low-speed flight, found on general aviation aircraft, and those used for high-speed flight, found on many military...

 and measuring the distance between leading and trailing edges in the direction of the airflow. (If a wing has a rectangular planform, rather than tapered or swept, then the chord is simply the width of the wing measured in the direction of airflow.) The term chord is also applied to the width of wing flaps
Flap (aircraft)
Flaps are normally hinged surfaces mounted on the trailing edges of the wings of a fixed-wing aircraft to reduce the speed an aircraft can be safely flown at and to increase the angle of descent for landing without increasing air speed. They shorten takeoff and landing distances as well as...

, ailerons and rudder
A rudder is a device used to steer a ship, boat, submarine, hovercraft, aircraft or other conveyance that moves through a medium . On an aircraft the rudder is used primarily to counter adverse yaw and p-factor and is not the primary control used to turn the airplane...

 on an aircraft.

The term is also applied to airfoils in gas turbine
Gas turbine
A gas turbine, also called a combustion turbine, is a type of internal combustion engine. It has an upstream rotating compressor coupled to a downstream turbine, and a combustion chamber in-between....

 engines such as turbojet, turboprop, or turbofan engines for aircraft propulsion.

Most wings do not have a rectangular planform
In aviation, a planform is the shape and layout of a fixed-wing aircraft's fuselage and wing. Of all the myriad planforms used, they can typically be grouped into those used for low-speed flight, found on general aviation aircraft, and those used for high-speed flight, found on many military...

 so they have a different chord at different positions along their span
The wingspan of an airplane or a bird, is the distance from one wingtip to the other wingtip. For example, the Boeing 777 has a wingspan of about ; and a Wandering Albatross caught in 1965 had a wingspan of , the official record for a living bird.The term wingspan, more technically extent, is...

. To give a characteristic figure which can be compared among various wing shapes, the mean aerodynamic chord, or MAC, is used. The MAC is somewhat more complex to calculate, because most wings vary in chord over the span, growing narrower towards the outer tips. This means that more lift
Lift (force)
A fluid flowing past the surface of a body exerts a surface force on it. Lift is the component of this force that is perpendicular to the oncoming flow direction. It contrasts with the drag force, which is the component of the surface force parallel to the flow direction...

 is generated on the wider inner portions, and the MAC moves the point to measure the chord to take this into account.

Standard mean chord

Standard mean chord (SMC) is defined as wing area divided by wing span:


where S is the wing area and b is the span of the wing. Thus, the SMC is the chord of a rectangular wing with the same area and span as those of the given wing. This is a purely geometric figure and is rarely used in aerodynamics
Aerodynamics is a branch of dynamics concerned with studying the motion of air, particularly when it interacts with a moving object. Aerodynamics is a subfield of fluid dynamics and gas dynamics, with much theory shared between them. Aerodynamics is often used synonymously with gas dynamics, with...


Mean aerodynamic chord

Mean aerodynamic chord (MAC) is defined as:


where y is the coordinate along the wing span and c is the chord at the coordinate y. Other terms are as for SMC.

Physically, MAC is the chord of a rectangular wing, which has the same area, aerodynamic force and position of the center of pressure
Center of pressure
The center of pressure is the point on a body where the total sum of a pressure field acts, causing a force and no moment about that point. The total force vector acting at the center of pressure is the value of the integrated vectorial pressure field. The resultant force and center of pressure...

 at a given angle of attack
Angle of attack
Angle of attack is a term used in fluid dynamics to describe the angle between a reference line on a lifting body and the vector representing the relative motion between the lifting body and the fluid through which it is moving...

 as the given wing has. Simply stated, MAC is the width of an equivalent rectangular wing in given conditions. Therefore, not only the measure but also the position of MAC is often important. In particular, the position of center of mass
Center of mass
In physics, the center of mass or barycenter of a system is the average location of all of its mass. In the case of a rigid body, the position of the center of mass is fixed in relation to the body...

 (CoM) of an aircraft is usually measured relative to the MAC, as the percentage of the distance from the leading edge of MAC to CoM with respect to MAC itself.

Note that the figure to the right implies that the MAC occurs at a point where leading or trailing edge sweep changes. In general, this is not the case. Any shape other than a simple trapezoid requires evaluation of the above integral.

The ratio of the length (or span) of a wing to its chord is known as the aspect ratio
Aspect ratio (wing)
In aerodynamics, the aspect ratio of a wing is essentially the ratio of its length to its breadth . A high aspect ratio indicates long, narrow wings, whereas a low aspect ratio indicates short, stubby wings....

, an important indicator of the lift-induced drag
Lift-induced drag
In aerodynamics, lift-induced drag, induced drag, vortex drag, or sometimes drag due to lift, is a drag force that occurs whenever a moving object redirects the airflow coming at it. This drag force occurs in airplanes due to wings or a lifting body redirecting air to cause lift and also in cars...

 the wing will create. In general, planes with higher aspect ratios — long, skinny wings — will have less induced drag, which dominates at low airspeeds. This is why glider
Glider aircraft
Glider aircraft are heavier-than-air craft that are supported in flight by the dynamic reaction of the air against their lifting surfaces, and whose free flight does not depend on an engine. Mostly these types of aircraft are intended for routine operation without engines, though engine failure can...

s have long wings.

Tapered wing

Knowing the area (Sw), taper ratio () and the span (b) of the wing, and whether the wing has sweep or not, the chord at any position on the span can be calculated by the formula:

External links

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