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Aerospace Engineering

Aerodynamics II

Lecture Notes

First Edition 2013

AERODYNAMICSII

Aerodynamics II
Course Code:

BTA 502

L-T-P (3-1-0)

Credit Units: 04

Course Objective:
The objective of this course is to make the students understand the taransformation
of cirles into aerofoils, Aerodynamic characteristics of thin aerofoil in incompressible
flow. The study of incompressible flow over finite wings and derivation of linearised
velocity potential equation in compressible flow.

Course Contents:
Module I:
Conformal Transformation
Complex potential function, Blasius theorem, principles of conformal transformation,
Kutta - Juokowski transformation of a circle into flat plate, airfoils and ellipses.
Module II:
Incompressible Flow over Airfoils
Glauerts thin airfoil theory, symmetrical airfoil, cambered airfoil, flapped airfoil,
determination of mean camber line shapes for uniform and linear distribution of
circulation. Description of flow about multi-element airfoils.
Module III:
Incompressible Flow over Finite Wings
Downwash and induced drag, Biot-Savarts law and Helmholtzs theorem, Prandtls
classical lifting line theory, fundamental equations. Elliptic lift distribution, general lift
distribution, effect of aspect ratio, Lifting Surface theory, Formation Flying, Ground
effect. Flow field of delta wing. Sample calculation of lift and drag on delta plan
forms.
Module IV:
Compressible Subsonic Flows over Airfoils
The derivation of velocity potential equation. Linearized velocity potential equation.
Prandtl-Glauert compressibility correction. Critical Mach number, Whitcombs area
rule, Super critical airfoil.
Examination Scheme:
Components

CT

S/V/Q

HA

EE

Weightage (%)

10

70

CT: Class Test, HA: Home Assignment, S/V/Q: Seminar/Viva/Quiz,


EE: End Semester Examination; A: Attendance

Text & References:


John D. Anderson, Jr., Fundamentals of Aerodynamics, 2 nd Ed. McGraw Hill, 1991.
Bertin and Smith, Aerodynamics for Engineers, Prentice Hall, 1989.
Shevel RS, Fundamentals of Flight, Prentice Hall,2 nd ed
Houghton and Brock, Aerodynamics for Engineering students, 2 nd Ed., EdwardArnold UK.
Liepmann and Rosheko, Elements of Gas Dynamics, John Wiley, 1957.

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Module I
Conformal Transformation
Complex potential function, Blasius theorem, principles of conformal transformation,
Kutta - Juokowaski transformation of a circle into flat plate, airfoils and ellipses.

Complex potential function


Flow pattern is plotted in terms of stream function and velocity potential
function . The and lines are mutually perpendicular and express
velocity distribution as

u=


=
y x

and

v=


=
x
y

w as
w ( z )=+i
is a complex variable given by
z=x +iy

We define Complex Velocity Potential


where

w ( z )=+i =f ( z )=f ( x+iy )=f 1 1 ( x , y ) +i f 2 ( x , y )


dw d (+i )
=
Complex velocity is given by
dz d ( x+ iy)
dw
= +i
dz x x
dw
=uiv
dz
dw
= u2 + v 2
Magnitude of complex velocity
dz
1 v
)
and flow direction =tan (
u
Thus, complex velocity potential

| |

Complex potential function w = + i for:


i)

Uniform stream flowing in any direction

w=+i =( ux+ vy ) +i(uyvx)


w=u ( x+iy )v ( ix y )=u ( x +iy )i v ( x+iy )=(ui v )( x +iy )
For flow with u and v components,
w=( uiv ) z
If flow is parallel to x-axis, then, w=u z
If flow is parallel to y-axis, then, w=v z
ii)

Source or sink at the origin

q
r
log e
2
ro

Then,

q
, where q is source strength.
2
q
r
w=+i =
log e +i ,
putting i=log e ei
2
ro
and

q
r
(log e ei ) , putting r e =x+ iy=z
2
ro
q
w=
log e z , when r o=1
2
w=

iii)

A source in a uniform horizontal stream.


By combining above two flows, we get

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w=

q
log e z+
2

uz

Blasius theorem
to write.

Principles of conformal transformation


Real plane
z=x +iy
transformation function
o

transformed to complex plane


=+ i .
( z ) is defined. The general transform is of the type:
is

The

B1 B 2
Bn
+ 2 ++ n
z z
z
A o , A 1 , A2 , etc , B 1 , B2 , are constants and/or vectors.
2

( z )= Ao z + A 1 z + A2 z + + A n z +
where, coefficients

The velocity ratio between the corresponding points is the inverse of the length ratio.
The length ratio is given by

|ddz|

and the velocity ratio is given by

( dwd ) /( dwdz )

Kutta-Zhukovsky Transformation of a circle into flat plate, airfoils


and ellipses
Kutta-Juokowaski transformation is used for producing airfoil shaped contours. Kutta
used this transformation to study circular arc wing sections, whereas Zhukovsky
extended the procedure to study sections with thickness and camber.
We use transformation

=z+

b2
, to transform a circle in to a straight line or an
z

airfoil, here, b is a constant.


The transformation is
=f (z )

where

z=x +i y

Therefore,

d
b
=1 2
dz
z
i
z=r e

Substitute,
2
b2
b2
i b
i
(
)
=z+ =r e + e =r cos+i sin + (cosi sin)
z
r
r
2
2
b
b
+i= r+
cos+i r
sin
r
r
2

which gives

( )

b
= r +
cos
r

( ) ( )
b
=(r ) sin
r
2

and

=+ i

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The centre of circle must be at origin (x = y = 0).


Substituting, r = a = b , we get

b2
cos=2 a cos
r

( )

= r +
Now,

b2
sin=0
r

( )

= r

d
b2
=1 2 (cos 2 i sin 2)
dz
r
2
d
b
=1 2 ( cos 2 i sin 2 )
dz
r

Velocity

| |

|d /dz|= 1

{(

b2
b2
cos
2

+
sin 2
r2
r2

)(

)}
2

b2
b 4
cos
2
+
r2
r4
Therefore, the velocity ratio in the transformed plane to the in original plane is
dw dw
dz

/
=
d dz
d

|d /dz|= 1

| || | | |
b
b
(1 cos 2 + )
r
r
2

4 1
2
4

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Incompressible Flow over Airfoils

Module II

Glauerts thin airfoil theory, symmetrical airfoil, cambered airfoil, flapped airfoil,
determination of mean camber line shapes for uniform and linear distribution of
circulation. Description of flow about multi-element airfoils.

Airfoil properties:
The mean camber line is the line formed by the points halfway between the upper
and lower surfaces of the airfoil. The most forward and rearward points of the airfoil
are the leading edge and the trailing edge, respectively. The straight line connecting
the leading and trailing edges is the chord line. The length of the chord line is dened
as the chord c.
The maximum distance between the chord line and the camber line is called the
camber. If the camber is 0, then the airfoil is called symmetric. And nally, the
thickness is the distance between the upper and lower surfaces of the airfoil.
First we consider 2-dimensional airfoils. We wish to find
unit length. At low angles of attack , the value of

CL

CL

the lift coefficient per

varies linearly with . The lift

d CL
. If gets too high, this relation
d
doesnt hold, since stall will occur. The maximum value of C L is denoted by C L
slope

max.

ao

is the ratio of them, then

ao =

This value determines the minimum velocity of an aircraft. The value of when

C L =0 , is called the zero-lift angle of attack and is denoted by

L =0 .

Glauerts Thin Airfoil Theory


To calculate the ow over a very thin airfoil by using a vortex sheet in a free stream
ow, we can put vortices on the camber. But the camber line doesnt differ much
from the chord line, so to keep things simple we place vortices on the chord line.
Since the airfoil is thin, it coincides with the streamline of the ow. So the velocity
perpendicular to the camber line is zero.
Dene z(x) to be the distance between the mean camber line and the chord line,
where x is the distance from the leading edge. The velocity perpendicular to the
camber line, caused by the free stream ow, at position x, can be shown to be

V , n=V

dz
dx

where is in radians. The velocity perpendicular to the mean camber line, due to the
vortices, is approximately equal to the velocity perpendicular to the chord. It can be
shown that this velocity component on a small part d , with distance x from the
airfoil leading edge, is

dw=

( ) d
2 ( x)

where ( x ) is local circulation per unit length at x.


Integrating along the chord gives the total velocity perpendicular to the chord at
position x due to the vortex sheet, being

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c

w ( x )=

1 ( x ) d

2 0 x

We have already derived that the velocity perpendicular to the airfoil is zero.
So, V , n+ w=0 , which results in the fundamental equation of thin airfoil
theory
c

( x ) d
1
dz
=V

2 0 x
dx

Symmetrical Airfoil
Wing section of low speed aircrafts is generally
unsymmetric and larger in area. These are referred
as NACA airfoil numbering series and each of them
have
been
thoroughly
tested
in
NACA
aerodynamics lab at USA, for example: NACA 65218 airfoil. In this nomenclature each digit have
specific meaning such as max thickness, chord
length, max gap between mean camberline and
chord line, max angle of attack, etc. If the upper
cambe line and lower camber line are equally
spaced w.r.t. mean chord line, the airfoil is
symmetric airfoil. Thin symmetric airfoils are used
in high speed aircrafts.

Cambered Airfoil
Line joining leading edge to trailing
edge is denoted as Chord and its length
is taken as chord length c. Thickness of
the airfoil is distance (perpendicular to
chord) between upper surface and
lower surface of the airfoil. Thickness
varies from leading edge to trailing
edge depending upon the type of airfoil.
Line joining middle points of thicknesses
is called the
Mean Camber line. When mean camber line does not coincide with chord line, this
curvature is called mean camber. Such airfoil sections are called cambered airfoil.

Flapped Airfoil
Airfoils are flapped to increase surface
area,
increase
camber,
increase
downwash,
delay
boundary
layer
separation, etc. The aircraft speed is low
at takeoff and landing because when
taking off it starts from zero speed and
lands to come to zero speed. These low
speeds are unavoidable. In order to get
higher lift, we have to increase surface
area of wing by attaching flaps at leading

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edge and at trailing edge.

Leading edge flap also increases angle of


attack. Lift is proportional to surface area
and angle of attack. Flow velocities are
higher on lower side of wing and through
the gaps of these flaps the air moves to
upper side from lower side, introducing
extra kinetic energy in the upper flow of
the boundary layer. Thus separation of
the boundary layer is delayed due to
flaps.

Determination of Mean Camber Line


Geometry of the airflow section is shown in
the figure. Leading edge is circular and trailing
edge is pointed. Thickness of the airfoil is
taken perpendicular to the mean camber line.
When the shape of airfoil is known, then
camber line is drawn as follows: Local
thickness varies from
LE to TE. For any point on camber line, if we draw perpendicular line which meets
upper and lower sides. The surface curvatures at upper and lower sides are different
and these are not to upper or lower surface at that position. Curvature of camber
line is different than upper and lower surfaces.
Since the thickness is drawn perpendicular to the camber line, the position of
camber line is not mean between the points of upper and lower line of profile (called
the back and face of profile). It can be easily drawn as a reverse problem: Given a
camber line, draw airfoil profile. Carefully follow the procedure and check it out for
reversing the drawing.

Shapes for Uniform and Linear Distribution of Circulation

Description of Flow about Multi-Element Airfoils

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Module III

Incompressible Flow over Finite Wings

Downwash and induced drag, Biot-Savarts law and Helmholtzs theorem, Prandtls
classical lifting line theory, fundamental equations. Elliptic lift distribution, general lift
distribution, effect of aspect ratio, Lifting Surface theory, Formation Flying, Ground
effect. Flow field of delta wing. Sample calculation of lift and drag on delta plan
forms.

Downwash
When an airplane flies in horizontal flight, the oncoming free stream of air gets
deflected downward due to curvature of the wing airfoil. This deflection of the
oncoming stream is called downwash of the aircraft. Downwaswh increases lift on
the aircraft.

Induced Drag
When an aircraft flies in air, it experiences a force. Component of this aerodynamic
force in vertical upward direction is called Lift, and other component which is along
the flight direction is called Drag. This drag is due to creation of lift. The drag is zero
if lift is zero. The lift cannot be created without production of drag. This drag is called
Induced Drag. In addition to this, there is skin friction drag, form drag, etc.

Biot-Savarts Law
Line vortex is a line consisting of large number
of vortices on the line. It is defined as vortices
per unit length. Circulation due to the vortex
is called Strength of the vortex. Consider small
length
dl of line vortex. Then, the Induced
velocity
dV at a point P at distance r from
the length element
dl is given by

dl r

dV =
4 r3
Integrate this expression over entire length to
get induced velocity due to entire length of the
line vortex. This law is called Biot-Savarts law.

Helmholtzs Theorem
Vortex tube is a tubular space whose surface
consists of vortices. It is similar to stream tube.
Helmholtzs theorems are vortex theories.
These are four theorems:
First Theorem: Circulation (i.e. strength of a
vortex tube) of a vortex tube is constant at all
cross-sections along the vortex tube.
Second Theorem: Circulation is constant along the length of a vortex tube. It is
also called vortex continuity. The strength of a vortex ( = vorticity area ) cannot
grow or diminish along its axis or length. Thus, a vortex cannot end in a fluid. In

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reality, vortex must form a closed loop. That is, a vortex cannot change its strength
between two sections, unless vortex filament of equal strength join or leave the
vortex.
Third Theorem: A vortex tube consists of same the same particles of fluid, i.e.,
there is no interchange of fluid in between the vortex tube and the surrounding fluid.
Fourth Theorem: Strength of a vortex remains constant in time.

Bound vortex:

A vortex filament of strength is somehow bound to a fixed


location in a flow. Such vortex is called bound vortex. This bound vortex experiences
Lift force L= V (from Kutta-Joukowski theorem).

Prandtls classical lifting line theory:


Prandtl assumed vortex theory to explain lift on the
aircraft. He replaced the aircraft wing by a bound
vortex in the form of a horse shoe. This vortex
configuration is called horse shoe vortex. We see that
the bound vortex which is parallel to the wing does not
induce any velocity along its length. However, the
other trailing vortices on left and right sides cause
induced velocity (by Biot-Savarts law) which causes
Lift on the aircraft.
The value of this lift force is
Lift: L= V , which is based on vortex theory.

Fundamental Equations
1
The geometric angle of attack = effective angle of attack + induced angle of
attack.
2
Lift distribution (by Kutta-Juokowski theorem) V .
3
Total lift is obtained by integration of above equation.
4
Induced drag = Lift sin , where is angle of attack.
Non-dimensional lift, i.e., Lift Coefficient:

C L=

Lift
1
V2 A
2

Elliptic lift distribution


In lifting line theory of Prandtl, the circulation varies elliptically with distance along
the span, hence this distribution of circulation is called Elliptical Circulation
Distribution. This gives an Elliptical Lift Distribution, given by
b /2

L= V

b/2

()
1

( y) 2
dy , where b is wing span and y axis is along span,
b 2
2

which can be written in equation of ellipse form as:

10

L2
y2
+
=1
.
( V )2 b 2
2

()

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General lift distribution


Let b is wing span. The y-axis is along span. Any general value of coordinate y in

b
y= cos , with varying in the range
2

terms of angle can be expressed as

y 2 , where is
( y )= o . 1
o
b /2
circulation at origin y=0. Thus at any becomes: ( )= o . sin . This expression
0 . The circulation for any value of y is

( )

can be generalized as
N

( )=2 b An sin n , for n = 0 to N. Here coefficients

An

(n = 1, , N) are

obtained from fundamental equation of Prandtls lifting-line theory. We can then


determine the Lift in terms of lift coefficient as

C L=

b /2

1
S
V
2
N

( y ) dy

b/ 2
n

b2

A n sin n sin d
S /2
1
0
A1

b2
S

, Now all A2 = A3= .AN = 0 except A1, and substituting Aspect Ratio AR =

b2/S :

C L =A 1 AR
And the drag coefficient can be written as

CD=

C L2
(1+ )
AR
An 2
= n( ) 0
A1
2
N

Where

Defining, span efficiency factor

e=

1
1+

, then the Drag can be written as

C L2
CD=
e AR
Thus the drag is associated with lift, and that is why it is called as induced drag.
That means, lift cannot be created without drag.

Effect of aspect ratio AR


C L2
. Thus induced drag coefficient for finite wing (b = constant )
e AR
with general lift distribution C L =A 1 AR
is inversely proportional to the aspect
We know:

CD=

ratio AR.
The C D is affected much stronger by AR than
to 22 for standard subsonic aircraft. The variation in

The AR typically varies from 6


is about 10% over practical

ranges of taper ratio for tapered wings. Induced drag can be minimized by adopting
lift distribution as close to elliptical and also by increasing the aspect ratio AR.

Lifting Surface theory


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Prandtls lifting line theory gives reasonable


results for straight wings at moderate to high
Aspect Ratio and is not applicable for low
aspect ratio straight wings, swept wings and
delta wings.
A simple lifting line (with associated trailing
vortices) is taken along the wing and it
swepts downward in lifting line theory. The
circulation (vortex strength) varies with
coordinate y along the lifting line. In lifting
surface theory, we replace lifting line by
Vortex Sheet consisting of large number of
lifting lines all parallel to the y-axis which is
along wing span b (closely placed vortices
forming closely placed parallel lines). Each
lifting line has a system of trailing vortices.
We apply Biot-Savart law to entire vortex
sheet to evaluate induced velocity in entire
space and hence get the induced lift due to
vortex sheet. Here, the circulation is
integrated both in x and y directions.

Formation Flying
When aircraft flies, its wings shed trailing vortices. The direction of circulation is
upward on outer side of trailing vortex line and it is downward on inner side of the
trailing vortex line. When another aircraft flies behind first aircraft, it experiences
upward force if it flies in the outer region of the trailing vortices. So, the second
aircraft has to use lesser fuel to keep itself flying. Thus, if aircrafts fly in fashion: first
row One aircraft, second row: two aircrafts, third row: four aircrafts, fourth row:
eight aircrafts, and so on. This kind of flying pattern is called formation flight.

Ground Effect
When aircraft fly close to the ground, the trailing vortices get rebounded from the
ground. These rebounded vortices interferes with the shedding trailing vortices of
the aircraft wing. This causes fall in the lift and the aircraft can crash on to the
ground if it is too close to the ground. This phenomenon is called ground effect.

Flow Field of Delta Wing


Supersonic flow and subsonic flow are totally different from
each other. Therefore, the high speed and supersonic aircrafts
have swept wings which form delta (capital delta ) shape, and
are called Delta wings. The delta wing is a common planform
for supersonic aircraft. Supersonic aircrafts initially flies at
subsonic speeds and later it comes to supersonic speeds. This
happens in landing as well. In subsonic range, the flow on the
delta wing gives rise to two vortex patterns which are vortex
cones rolling outside to inside on top of the wings. Surface
pressure on the top surface of the delta wing is reduced near
the leading edge and is higher and constant over the middle of
the wing. The suction effect of the leading edge vortices

12

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enhances the lift, but it gives rise to drag as well.


Sample calculation of lift and drag on delta plan forms:

Compressible Subsonic Flows over Airfoils

Module IV

The derivation of velocity potential equation. Linearized velocity potential equation. PrandtlGlauert compressibility correction. Critical Mach number, Whitcombs area rule, Super critical
airfoil.

Derivation of velocity potential equation


Compressibility effects starts above Mach number: M 0.3. Consider 2-dimensional (x, y),
steady (u, v), inviscid ( = 0), irrotational ( = 0), isentrtropic, subsonic compressible flow ( 0.3
< M < 1).
Unknown quantities are five : velocity components u, v, density , temperature T and pressure p.
Five unknowns cannot be determined from these 4 equations. We convert these equations in terms
of single unknown variable velocity potential , which for such flow can be defined as

=
,
u=
i^
+j
and v =
,
(in vector form: V
,
x
y
x y

V =i^ u+ ^j v .
The governing equations are:
p=RT
Gas law:
(u)
x

Continuity equation :

.. (1)
( v)
=0
y

u v
+

+v
or
=0
x y ) + u
x
y

u
u 1 p
u
+v
=
Momentum eq. (Euler eq.)
x
y x
dp=V dV
or
1
dp= d V 2
or
2
1
2
2
dp=
d ( u +v )
or
2

dp=

or
Sound speed a :

[( ) ( ) ]

or

1
2
d
+
2
x
y
a=

.. (2)

.. (3)

.. (4)

dp=a d


2 2
+
+ 2 +
= 0 .. (5)
2
x x y y
x y
Clubbing these equations in terms of single variable , we get the nonlinear equation for the
velocity potential :
Continuity eq becomes:

[ ( )] [ ( )]
1

1
a2 x

2
1
+ 1 2
2
x
a y

2 2
2

.
.
.
=0
y 2 a2 x y x y

( )( )
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This equation is in single variable and can be solved but with difficulty. Then
working backward, will lead to values of u, v, , p, T. This need to be further
linearised for simplicity.

Linearised Subsonic Flow:


Complex equations of flow are transformed to simple form by making certain
approximations in the equations. Various terms are compared to each other and
terms of lesser values are ignored as compared to other terms which are dominant.

Linearised velocity potential equation


Velocity potential equation :

[ ( )] [ ( )]
1

1
2
a x

1
+ 1 2
2
x
a y

2.
.
.
=0
2
y a x y x y
u=V + u^ and v =^v (velocity in y-direction = 0)

( )( )

Turbulent flow velocity:


where u^ (u cap)and v^ (v cap) are velocity fluctuations (called perturbations) in
x and y directions. We define velocity potential as =+ ^ where ^ ( cap) is
perturbation in . We write pressure p= p+ ^p and density = + ^ .
As above, we derive velocity potential equation for velocity potential =+ ^ .
Separate out terms with and terms with ^ .
Substitute

[ ( )] [ ( )]
1
1 2
a x

1
. 2 + 1 2
x
a y

. 2 2.
.
.
=0 , that is,
y a x y x y

( )( )

put left hand side terms equal to zero in the derived new equation. Then we will be
left with terms containing only ^
(all terms containing will vanish).
We get perturbation velocity potential ^ equation (which is still non-linear) as

[ (

)]

[ ( )]

2 ^
1 ^
2 ^ 2
^
^
2 ^
+
1
.

.
V
+
.
.
=0

x y x y
x2
a2 y
y2 a2
^
^
Introducing:
and v^ = ,
u^ =
x
y
2
2

a
1
a
1
Energy equation:
+ V 2 =
+ [ ( V + u^ )2 + v^ 2 ]
1 2
1 2

1
^
V +
2
x
a

)( )

Assuming small perturbations for slender body at small angle of attack,

u^
V
Mach number

v^
V
M =

1
V
a

2
^v 2
u^
,
1
V
V

( )( )

, therefore,

. For the range

1.2 M 5 , neglecting small terms,

^ equation (which is easier to solve):


2^
2^
(1M 2) 2 + 2 =0
x y

we get linear perturbation velocity potential

We can then get perturbation pressure coefficient as

C ^p =

p^ p
1
2
V
2

C ^p =

which becomes

2
^p
2 u^
1 =
2
p
V
M

Prandtl-Glauert compressibility correction


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AERODYNAMICSII

Consider a thin airfoil placed in high sped air stream. Let M is the free stream Mach
number. Compressibility factor is defined as = 1M 2 . Instantaneous velocity
is expressed as u=u + u' , where u is mean velocity (laminar velocity) and u '
is perturbation velocity ( fluctuations in u velocity).
Pressure coefficient

Cp

Cp=

is defined as

p p
1
p V 2
2

This can be linearised for supersonic flow. Taking approximations, the linearised
pressure coefficient for supersonic flow can be written as

Cp=

2 u '

Introducing compressibility effect into the linearised pressure coefficient for


compressible flow, the pressure coefficient with compressibility factor becomes

Cp=

C po
1 2 u'
=

V
1 M 2

( )

Where Cpo is pressure coefficient for incompressible flow.


Therefore, coefficient of lift is modified as to get Lift Coefficient for compressible flow

C L=

C Lo

M 2

This is called Prandtl-Glauert compressibility correction.

Critical Mach number


As an airfoil moves through a free stream of air, the flow expands around the top
surface of the airfoil, which causes increase in the flow velocity and reduction in the
pressure at that point. If the free stream velocity is gradually increased, then a stage
comes when local Mach number on some point of the airfoil reaches M = 1. The
corresponding velocity of free stream is called Critical Mach Number Mcr which is
lesser than 1.
By definition, the Critical Mach Number is the Mach number of that free stream at
which sonic flow (M = 1) is first observed on the airfoil.

Free stream Mach number at which sonic flow (M = 1) is first obtained on a body
(any part of the aircraft) is called critical mach number (Mcr). In other words, the
transonic regime begins when the critical Mach number is reached. For same free
stream velocity, the Mach number is different on various points on the body.
For example, the Critical Mach number for
Flow over circular cylinder Mcr = 0.404
Flow over sphere
Mcr = 0.570
i.e., transonic conditions are reached first on circular cylinder than on the sphere.

Whitcombs area rule


The air craft could be designed to fly at transonic speeds (M = 1) with the help of the
Area Rule and Supercritical Airfoil given by Richard Whitcomb while performing

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experiments on transonic speeds in the transonic wind tunnel at Langley research


centre (USA) 1960s.
Both these methods: the area rule and the supercritical airfoil reduce the drag on the
aircraft in the transonic regime (flight speeds close to M = 1).

Supercritical Airfoil:
Whitcomb conducted series of experiments on various airfoils in transonic wind
tunnel to suggest changes in the shape of the airfoil so that Mach number on the
surface of the airfoil was reduced to generate relatively weak shock on the airfoil. In
other words, aircraft is flying at supersonic speed (M >> 1) whereas the Mach
number on the aircraft wing is subsonic (M < 1) or low supersonic (1 < M < 1.2). This
reduces the drag of the wing of the aircraft. Such airfoil is called supercritical airfoil.

Area Rule:
The cross-sectional area of the body (aircraft) should have a smooth variation with
longitudinal distance along the body. That is, there should not be no rapid or
discontinuous changes in the cross-sectional area distribution.
So, when wings are attached to the body (fuselage), the cross-sectional area
suddenly increases there. To avoid this, the area rule suggests that the area of crosssection of the body (fuselage) at that location should reduce accordingly so that
cross-sectional area of the wing-body combination junction changes gradually (not
rapidly). This causes wasp-like shape (as of Coke bottle) of the fuselage at that
position. This reduces local Mach number and hence local shock wave becomes
weak, thereby reducing the drag when M reaches 1.
Aircraft cannot fly at supersonic speeds if the transonic drag is very high as it is
unable to achieve high speed due to very large consumption of fuel to cover up high
transonic drag. Area rule suggests that variation in cross sectional area distribution
should be much smoother, so that aircraft passes the transonic regime (M ~ 1) and
crosses over to supersonic speeds (M > 1).

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END

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