What Is the Difference Between Fixed-Wing and Rotary-Wing Aircraft?

Fixed-wing aircraft and rotary-wing aircraft are two forms of planes that differ in their wing design. Whereas fixed-wing aircraft have wings that stay in the exact same place on the vessel throughout flight, rotary aircraft have a set of rotating wings. Though these two types of planes rely on specially designed airfoils to generate lift, rotary aircraft have the advantage of not needing to move forward in order to fly. Instead, they may fly forward, backward, and side to side, in addition to being able to take off and land from a small space.

What Are Fixed Wing Aircraft?

Fixed-wing aircraft are those that use a set of airfoils which orient airflow in a way that generates lift, and in order for this to happen, the vehicle must propeled forward at high speeds. As such, they can only fly forward and must achieve rapid on-ground speeds in order to take off. Moreover, some fixed-wing aircraft even rely on one or more jet engines to push them forward fast enough to achieve flight, while others combine a jet engine with a propeller. However, because turboprop vessels rely on stationary wings, they are still categorized as fixed-wing aircraft.

As a result of their consolidated thrust which only needs to move in one direction, fixed-wing aircraft can cover longer distances with less fuel intake than a rotary-wing aircraft. Additionally, because they fly forward consistently and for long distances, there is a lot of time during a flight in which the pilot can make adjustments to their navigation plan to maintain proper heading. For these reasons, fixed-wing aircraft have continued to be the popular choice for most flight operations.

What Are Rotary-Wing Aircraft?

Rotary-wing aircraft feature a set of rotating blades that generate lift and orient airflow in different directions. By tilting the rotating blades, rotary-aircraft can fly forward, backwards, side-to-side, and up and down with relative ease. Aside from allowing for a range of directional movement, rotary wings also enable the aircraft to take off and land from various kinds of surfaces, including smooth runways, harsh terrain, water, ice, and snow. Additionally, rotary-wing aircraft are able to fly slowly and hover in the air. This capability makes them well-suited for capturing aerial footage and assisting in emergency situations where there may not be a smooth runway to land on.


Overall, fixed-wing aircraft are better suited for long distance applications that require steady forward movement, while rotary-wing aircraft offer more precise directional movement. NSN Purchasing is a leading distributor of wings and other aircraft components that have been evaluated for their use in harsh working conditions. If you are in need of parts for your aircraft assembly, you can rely on NSN Purchasing for strategic sourcing solutions that keep time and cost savings in mind. Begin the purchasing process today when you submit a completed Request for Quote (RFQ) form for any item of interest, and a dedicated representative will respond in just 15 minutes or less with a competitive quote that is customized to your specific needs.

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