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An Unconventional Lift-Enhancing
Mechanism: Clap and Fling
December 8, 2012 at 5:28 pm

Animal and insect wings are


considerably different from those of
an airplane. As a result, it isnt
much of a surprise that they use
different mechanisms to generate
lift. One of these peculiar
mechanisms is the clap and fling.
Torkel Weis-Fogh introduced this
mechanism in order to explain the
aerodynamic forces that some
insects are able to produce.
In contrast to the conventional
methods of flapping, the animals
and insects that use the
phenomenon of the clap and
fling increase lift by removing the
Wagner effect, which is that the
ratio of instantaneous to steady
circulation grows as the trailing
edge vortex distances itself from the
A pigeon executing the "clapping" phase of the liftenhancing mechanism--the "clap and fling."
airfoil. The clap and fling
mechanism consists of two phases:
(1) the leading edges of both wings are clapped together at the end of the
upstroke and (2) the wings rotate around their trailing edges, thus flinging apart.

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vortices wing

A representation of the "Clap and Fling" mechanism.

During the fling phase, or the down stroke, air flows around the leading edge of
each wing which creates a bound vortex on each wing acting as the starting
vortex for the opposite wing. This allows a rapid buildup of circulation as well as
an increase in total lift production. Even though this method is used by most
small insects, it does have some disadvantages. For instance, constant clapping
can damage an insects wings. As a result, an incomplete clapping will be
performed by the insect for minimal damage.
Although this mechanism was first discovered in small insects, large flyers are
capable of using the clap and fling method. For example, a pigeon uses the clap
and fling method during take-off, which is usually why a sound is produced
when the pigeon claps its wings together. It is assumed that the clap and fling
method improves a birds take-off performance as it provides that extra lift.

Citations:
1.) Clap and Fling, Aero Evo, June 2012.
2.) Natures Flyers, 2002.
3.) The Biomechanics of Insect Flight, 2000.
By Melinda Le | Posted in Student post

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