Wingspan
Overview
 
The wingspan of an airplane
Fixed-wing aircraft
A fixed-wing aircraft is an aircraft capable of flight using wings that generate lift due to the vehicle's forward airspeed. Fixed-wing aircraft are distinct from rotary-wing aircraft in which wings rotate about a fixed mast and ornithopters in which lift is generated by flapping wings.A powered...

 or a bird
Bird
Birds are feathered, winged, bipedal, endothermic , egg-laying, vertebrate animals. Around 10,000 living species and 188 families makes them the most speciose class of tetrapod vertebrates. They inhabit ecosystems across the globe, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Extant birds range in size from...

, is the distance from one wingtip to the other wingtip. For example, the Boeing 777
Boeing 777
The Boeing 777 is a long-range, wide-body twin-engine jet airliner manufactured by Boeing Commercial Airplanes. It is the world's largest twinjet and is commonly referred to as the "Triple Seven". The aircraft has seating for over 300 passengers and has a range from , depending on model...

 has a wingspan of about 60 metres (197 ft); and a Wandering Albatross
Wandering Albatross
The Wandering Albatross, Snowy Albatross or White-winged Albatross, Diomedea exulans, is a large seabird from the family Diomedeidae, which has a circumpolar range in the Southern Ocean. It was the first species of albatross to be described, and was long considered the same species as the Tristan...

 (Diomedea exulans) caught in 1965 had a wingspan of 3.63 metre, the official record for a living bird.

The term wingspan, more technically extent, is also used for other winged animals such as pterosaur
Pterosaur
Pterosaurs were flying reptiles of the clade or order Pterosauria. They existed from the late Triassic to the end of the Cretaceous Period . Pterosaurs are the earliest vertebrates known to have evolved powered flight...

s, bat
Bat
Bats are mammals of the order Chiroptera "hand" and pteron "wing") whose forelimbs form webbed wings, making them the only mammals naturally capable of true and sustained flight. By contrast, other mammals said to fly, such as flying squirrels, gliding possums, and colugos, glide rather than fly,...

s, insect
Insect
Insects are a class of living creatures within the arthropods that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body , three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes, and two antennae...

s, etc., and other winged aircraft
Aircraft
An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to fly by gaining support from the air, or, in general, the atmosphere of a planet. An aircraft counters the force of gravity by using either static lift or by using the dynamic lift of an airfoil, or in a few cases the downward thrust from jet engines.Although...

 such as ornithopter
Ornithopter
An ornithopter is an aircraft that flies by flapping its wings. Designers seek to imitate the flapping-wing flight of birds, bats, and insects. Though machines may differ in form, they are usually built on the same scale as these flying creatures. Manned ornithopters have also been built, and some...

s.
The wingspan of an aircraft is always measured in a straight line, from wingtip to wingtip, independently of wing shape or sweep
Swept wing
A swept wing is a wing planform favored for high subsonic jet speeds first investigated by Germany during the Second World War. Since the introduction of the MiG-15 and North American F-86 which demonstrated a decisive superiority over the slower first generation of straight-wing jet fighters...

.
The lift from wings is proportional to their area, so the heavier the animal or aircraft the bigger that area must be.
Encyclopedia
The wingspan of an airplane
Fixed-wing aircraft
A fixed-wing aircraft is an aircraft capable of flight using wings that generate lift due to the vehicle's forward airspeed. Fixed-wing aircraft are distinct from rotary-wing aircraft in which wings rotate about a fixed mast and ornithopters in which lift is generated by flapping wings.A powered...

 or a bird
Bird
Birds are feathered, winged, bipedal, endothermic , egg-laying, vertebrate animals. Around 10,000 living species and 188 families makes them the most speciose class of tetrapod vertebrates. They inhabit ecosystems across the globe, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Extant birds range in size from...

, is the distance from one wingtip to the other wingtip. For example, the Boeing 777
Boeing 777
The Boeing 777 is a long-range, wide-body twin-engine jet airliner manufactured by Boeing Commercial Airplanes. It is the world's largest twinjet and is commonly referred to as the "Triple Seven". The aircraft has seating for over 300 passengers and has a range from , depending on model...

 has a wingspan of about 60 metres (197 ft); and a Wandering Albatross
Wandering Albatross
The Wandering Albatross, Snowy Albatross or White-winged Albatross, Diomedea exulans, is a large seabird from the family Diomedeidae, which has a circumpolar range in the Southern Ocean. It was the first species of albatross to be described, and was long considered the same species as the Tristan...

 (Diomedea exulans) caught in 1965 had a wingspan of 3.63 metre, the official record for a living bird.

The term wingspan, more technically extent, is also used for other winged animals such as pterosaur
Pterosaur
Pterosaurs were flying reptiles of the clade or order Pterosauria. They existed from the late Triassic to the end of the Cretaceous Period . Pterosaurs are the earliest vertebrates known to have evolved powered flight...

s, bat
Bat
Bats are mammals of the order Chiroptera "hand" and pteron "wing") whose forelimbs form webbed wings, making them the only mammals naturally capable of true and sustained flight. By contrast, other mammals said to fly, such as flying squirrels, gliding possums, and colugos, glide rather than fly,...

s, insect
Insect
Insects are a class of living creatures within the arthropods that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body , three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes, and two antennae...

s, etc., and other winged aircraft
Aircraft
An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to fly by gaining support from the air, or, in general, the atmosphere of a planet. An aircraft counters the force of gravity by using either static lift or by using the dynamic lift of an airfoil, or in a few cases the downward thrust from jet engines.Although...

 such as ornithopter
Ornithopter
An ornithopter is an aircraft that flies by flapping its wings. Designers seek to imitate the flapping-wing flight of birds, bats, and insects. Though machines may differ in form, they are usually built on the same scale as these flying creatures. Manned ornithopters have also been built, and some...

s.

Wingspan of aircraft

The wingspan of an aircraft is always measured in a straight line, from wingtip to wingtip, independently of wing shape or sweep
Swept wing
A swept wing is a wing planform favored for high subsonic jet speeds first investigated by Germany during the Second World War. Since the introduction of the MiG-15 and North American F-86 which demonstrated a decisive superiority over the slower first generation of straight-wing jet fighters...

.

Implications for aircraft design and animal evolution

The lift from wings is proportional to their area, so the heavier the animal or aircraft the bigger that area must be. The area is the product of the span times the width (mean chord
Chord (aircraft)
In aeronautics, 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...

) of the wing, so either a long, narrow wing or a shorter, broader wing will support the same mass. For efficient steady flight the ratio of span to chord, 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....

, should be as high as possible (the constraints are usually structural) because this lowers the lift-induced drag associated with the inevitable wingtip vortices
Wingtip vortices
Wingtip vortices are tubes of circulating air that are left behind a wing as it generates lift. One wingtip vortex trails from the tip of each wing. The cores of vortices spin at very high speed and are regions of very low pressure...

. Long-ranging birds, like albatrosses, and most commercial aircraft maximize aspect ratio. Alternatively, animals and aircraft which depend on maneuverability (fighters, predators, the predated and those who live amongst trees and bushes, insect catchers, etc.) need to be able to roll fast to turn, and the high moment of inertia
Moment of inertia
In classical mechanics, moment of inertia, also called mass moment of inertia, rotational inertia, polar moment of inertia of mass, or the angular mass, is a measure of an object's resistance to changes to its rotation. It is the inertia of a rotating body with respect to its rotation...

 of long narrow wings produces lower roll rates. For them, short-span, broad wings are preferred.

The highest aspect ratio man-made wings are aircraft propellers, in their most extreme form as helicopter rotors.

Wingspan of flying animals

To measure the wingspan of a bird, a live or freshly dead specimen is placed flat on its back, the wings are grasped at the wrist
Wrist
In human anatomy, the wrist is variously defined as 1) the carpus or carpal bones, the complex of eight bones forming the proximal skeletal segment of the hand;...

 joints, ankles and the distance is measured between the tips of the longest primary feathers on each wing.

Armspan in sports

In basketball
Basketball
Basketball is a team sport in which two teams of five players try to score points by throwing or "shooting" a ball through the top of a basketball hoop while following a set of rules...

, a fingertip to fingertip measurement is used to determine the player's armspan. This is called reach
Reach (physical measurement)
Arm span or reach is the physical measurement of the length from one end of an individual's arms to the other when raised parallel to the ground at shoulder height at a one-hundred eighty degree angle. The average reach correlates to the person's height...

 in boxing terminology.

Largest wingspan

  • Aircraft: Hughes H-4 Hercules
    Hughes H-4 Hercules
    The Hughes H-4 Hercules is a prototype heavy transport aircraft designed and built by the Hughes Aircraft company. The aircraft made its only flight on November 2, 1947 and the project was never advanced beyond the single example produced...

     "Spruce Goose" - 319 ft 11 in = 97.54 m
  • Bat: Flying fox
    Pteropus
    Bats of the genus Pteropus, belonging to the megabat or Megachiroptera sub-order, are the largest bats in the world. They are commonly known as the fruit bats or flying foxes among other colloquial names...

     - 2 metres (6.6 ft)
  • Bird: Wandering albatross
    Wandering Albatross
    The Wandering Albatross, Snowy Albatross or White-winged Albatross, Diomedea exulans, is a large seabird from the family Diomedeidae, which has a circumpolar range in the Southern Ocean. It was the first species of albatross to be described, and was long considered the same species as the Tristan...

     - 3.63 metre
  • Bird (extinct): Giant Teratorn - 8.3 metres (27.2 ft)
  • Reptile (extinct): Quetzalcoatlus
    Quetzalcoatlus
    Quetzalcoatlus was a pterodactyloid pterosaur known from the Late Cretaceous of North America , and one of the largest known flying animals of all time. It was a member of the Azhdarchidae, a family of advanced toothless pterosaurs with unusually long, stiffened necks...

     pterosaur - 10-11 m
  • Insect: White Witch moth - 28 centimetres (11 in)
  • Insect (extinct): Meganeura
    Meganeura
    Meganeura is a genus of extinct insects from the Carboniferous period approximately 300 million years ago, which resembled and are related to the present-day dragonflies. With wingspans of more than 75 cm , M. monyi is one of the largest known flying insect species; the Permian Meganeuropsis...

    "griffinfly" (relative of dragonflies) - 80 centimeters

Smallest wingspan

  • Aircraft (Biplane): Bumble Bee II
    Bumble Bee II
    Bumble Bee II is the world's smallest piloted airplane. It was built by Robert H. Starr. Its first flight was on 8 May 1988.-Specifications :-External links:* * *...

     - 1.68 metres (5.5 ft)
  • Aircraft (Jet): Bede BD-5 - 4.27 metres (14 ft)
  • Aircraft (cri cri ) 12'.8"
  • Bat: Bumblebee bat
    Bumblebee Bat
    Kitti's Hog-nosed Bat , also known as the bumblebee bat, is a vulnerable species of bat and the only extant member of the family Craseonycteridae. It occurs in western Thailand and southeast Burma, where it occupies limestone caves along rivers.Kitti's Hog-nosed Bat is the smallest species of bat...

     - 16 centimetres (6.3 in)
  • Bird: Bee hummingbird
    Bee Hummingbird
    The Bee Hummingbird or Zunzuncito is a species of hummingbird that is endemic to Cuba and Isla de la Juventud...

     - 6.5 centimetres (2.6 in)
  • Insect: Tanzanian parasitic wasp
    Parasitic wasp
    The term parasitoid wasp refers to a large evolutionary grade of hymenopteran superfamilies, mainly in the Apocrita. They are primarily parasitoids of other animals, mostly other arthropods...

    - 0.2 millimetre (0.0078740157480315 in)
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