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AERONAUTICS

PRINCIPLES OF FLIGHT
What is Aeronautics?
Aeronautics is the science of flight. Aeronautics is the method of designing an
airplane or other flying machine. There are four basic areas that aeronautical
engineers must understand in order to be able to design planes.
1. Aerodynamics is the study of how air flows around the airplane. By studying the
way air flows around the plane the engineers can define the shape of the plane. The
wings, the tail and the main body (fuselage) of the plane all affect the way the air will
move around the plane.
2. Propulsion is the study of how to design an engine that will provide the thrust that
is needed for a plane to take off and fly through the air. The engine provides the
power for the airplane. The study of propulsion is how the engineers determine the
right kinds of engine and the right amount of power that a plane will need.
3. Materials and Structures is the study of what materials are to be used on the plane
and in the engine and how those materials make the plane strong enough to fly
effectively. The choice of materials that are used to make the fuselage wings, tail and
engine will affect the strength and stability of the plane. Most airplane materials are
now made out of composites, materials that are stronger and more lightweight than
most metals.
4. Stability and Control is the study of how to control the speed, direction, altitude
and other conditions that affect how a plane flies. The engineers' design the controls
that are needed in order to fly and instruments are provided for the pilot in the cockpit
of the plane. The pilot uses these instruments to control the stability of the plane
during flight.
HOW FLUIDS MOVE
Every object on earth or in space can be classified as a solid, a liquid or a gas.
Dynamics is the study of how these objects behave when there is a force (a push or a
pull) acting on it.
Solid objects have well-behaved molecules and atoms. These molecules line up in an
even pattern that gives the object a specific shape. A block of wood is a solid, so is a
crystal of salt. The primary characteristic of a solid is that the shape stays fixed. If a
round piece of wood is placed in a square container, its shape does not change to
match the container. In dynamics, this is called a non-deformable body (no automatic
shape changing). A secondary characteristic of a solid is that no matter how hard it is
squeezed or pulled, the molecules do not move closer together or further apart. The
object may break, but the molecules don't move. This is called an incompressible
object.
The molecules in a liquid, however, are not so well-organized. An amount of fluid,
when poured from a square container into a round one, will not retain its square
shape. It will take the shape of the round container. A primary characterization of a
liquid is that it will deform, or take the shape of its container. The liquid will not,
however, expand to fill a larger space. It cannot be made smaller by squeezing or
pulling. The molecules do not move closer or further apart. Liquid is incompressible.
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Gases, like air, have even less-organized molecules. Gases not only will take the
shape of their containers, but also will expand or contract to fill the container. When a
person takes a breath of air, for example, the air rushes down the bronchial tubes and
tries to fill all the spaces in the lungs. A big breath makes it easier to feel the lungs
expand, but a small breath fills all of the lungs, too. A gas can be expanded or
compressed. Another example is compressed air in a cylinder used by a diver. Another
name for liquids and gases is "fluid". A fluid is deformable.
The study of dynamics, then, can be split into four specialties: Dynamics of solids,
which will be discussed more in the structures chapter; how liquids behave
(hydrodynamics); how air and other gases move (aerodynamics), and how high speed
gases change (gas dynamics). Hydrodynamics, aerodynamics, and gas dynamics are
all part of fluid dynamics, and each will be discussed in the next few pages.
HOW LIQUIDS BEHAVE - HYDRODYNAMICS MOVE
Hydrodynamics is the study of how forces (pushes and pulls) affect liquids.
Something, like a boat or submarine, may be in a liquid, like water. Liquids could also
be moving through something like a pipe or hose, such as water or oil. Or they might
be contained, like water behind a dam. In each case there are rules and laws for the
behavior (actions, reactions) of the fluid or liquid. Engineers study and apply these
rules and laws when they design boats, pipes, dams, or anything that uses a liquid.
The study of hydrodynamics is sometimes confused with aerodynamics, especially
when people are designing boats. The behaviors, rules, and laws are very similar in
both fields. That's why some design engineers call themselves aerodynamicists, even
though they are working with liquids, rather than gases
HOW AIR MOVES AERODYNAMICS
How Air and other Gases Move - Aerodynamics
Aerodynamics is the study of forces acting on an object. These forces become active
when an object moves through the air (or gases). It is important to understand these
forces for the design of airplanes, sailboats, cars, and other objects moving quickly
through the air. Buildings, bridges, and windmills are also affected by wind moving
past them.
Most of the sections in this chapter are about the motions of air around objects, rather
than other gases. When the motions and shape of an object are understood the
aerodynamic forces can be figured. The flight possibilities of the object can, then, be
discussed.
How High Speed Gases Change - Gas Dynamics
When air flows over an object at very high speeds, like over fighter aircraft, or goes
through jet engines with very high temperatures, the normal rules of aerodynamics
sometimes don't apply. For these special cases another area of study, gas dynamics,
has been developed. Gas dynamics expands the rules and laws of aerodynamics to
include high speed flows and high temperature flows.
Sometimes, if an aircraft flies so high up and so fast, even the rules of gas dynamics
break down. At high altitudes the air molecules are very far apart. Also, the
temperatures around the plane can be so high that they cause chemical reactions
among the air molecules. This is often called the hypersonic region. Hypersonic is the
study of the air motion in these conditions.
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MEASUREMENTS
Measurements
We know that an object moving through the air creates certain forces. We are most
interested in aerodynamic forces sufficient to allow flight. Both the object and the
forces created must be measured. We can measure mass, time, length, and
temperature.
Units
Units are used to define measurements so that everyone knows exactly how much.
Some examples of units are meter, foot, inch, centimeter or a mile. If a planner draws
a bridge and says it is 1000 long and the builder looks at the plans and says it is one
short, this is a problem! Are they talking about a meter, a foot or an inch?
So, units are very important! A measurement should always include 2 things: a
number and a unit. Some examples everyone may know include things like: there are
20 minutes until recess; it takes 10 days to drive across the country; a desk top is 20
inches wide and 25 inches long; a recipe uses 2 cups of flour; it is 85 degrees outside
today. Each of these measurements includes a number and a unit.
Mass
Everything, whether it is a solid, liquid, or a gas has mass. It is a measure of how
much of the substance is there - how many molecules. Sometimes mass is expressed
as weight, even though they are not the same. In the metric system, the units for mass
are grams, kilograms (1000 grams) or milligrams (1/1000 grams). In the American
unit (called the English system), the weight of the substance is used, in pounds or
ounces. A pound is 16 ounces. Often abbreviations are used for the units: a gram is g,
a kilogram is kg, a milligram is mg, a pound is lb. and an ounce is oz.
Time
The easiest way to think of time is how long it takes something to happen. It may take
10 minutes to drive to school; it may take an hour to eat dinner. The units for time are
the same around the world: seconds, hours, days, years. In aerodynamics, a common
time measurement is how long it takes an object to go from one point to another or
from point A to point B.
Length
How long is it? How far is it? These are questions heard every day. Length is a quality
used by many people to define an object. A pencil is 7 inches long. A student is 4 feet
tall. A swimming pool is 2 meters deep. The most common units for the metric system
are a centimeter, a meter (100 centimeters) and a kilometer (1000 meters). In the
English system, that most Americans use, common units are the inch, a foot (12
inches), or a mile (5280 feet). These units may be abbreviated: centimeter as cm,
meter as m, kilometer as km, inch as in, foot or feet as ft, and a mile as mi.
In addition to the length of an object, it is often useful to know the area or volume of
the object in question. The area is how much room is on a surface like the floor of the
classroom or the surface of a wing. Area is found by multiplying one length by
another length. The result is called "square units". For example, if a room was 20 feet
by 25 feet long you would multiply 20 X 25 = 500 square feet. Many common
measurements in science and engineering include square feet or square meters.
Another common measurement is an acre, 40,000 square feet.
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The volume of an object can either be how much space is available inside an object,
like a fuel tank or how much actual material is inside a specific place. Volume has
three measurements, length, height and width (all of these can be called lengths).
Multiplying these together equal volume. The result is cubed. For example, a 12 inch
long section of a 2 by 4 board (2 X 4 X 12 inches) would have a volume of 96 cubic
inches. Cubic feet, cubic meters, gallons, liters, and cubic centimeters (cc for short)
are all common units for volume.
Temperature
The quality of temperature is a measure of how hot or cold something is. A
thermometer is commonly used to determine the temperature of an object. Everything
has a temperature - the rocks, trees, people, air. The weather report in the newspaper
usually gives the high and low temperatures of the air each day. The common units for
temperature are degrees Fahrenheit or degrees Celsius (what used to be Centigrade).
In America, almost everyone uses the Fahrenheit scale. In science and engineering,
however, temperatures can be reported using either scale. The way this is shown is
either 85 F or 85 C.
PROPERTIES
Properties
The aerodynamic forces for flight occur in a fluid. The fluid is usually either air or
water, although there are other fluids. Before flight can occur the fluid must be
measured to understand the forces generated by a moving object. In the
Measurements section, units were introduced to help understand the qualities of a
fluid. In this section, these qualities, or properties, of a fluid are defined. The units
(inches, pounds, grams, meters) will be used in the following definitions. In addition,
several other factors (facts or parts) are defined to help further understanding of
aerodynamics. These include weight and gravity, velocity and acceleration.
Temperature
The temperature of the fluid is an important part of how the fluid behaves. Hot oil, for
example, flows faster than cold oil. Warm air rises and cold air drops in a room; house
designers often place heat vents at the floor level because of this. Very cold water is
lighter than cool water, so it rises to the top of a lake. That's why lakes freeze from the
surface down. Sound travels farther on cold days than hot days. It is crucial
(important) then, to know the temperature of the fluid when computing aerodynamic
quantities. As mentioned in the Measurements section, temperature has units of
degrees Fahrenheit or degrees Celsius.
Pressure
The pressure of a fluid is another important consideration in aerodynamic forces.
When a fluid moves over or through an object, it gives small pushes on the surface of
the object. These pushes, over the entire surface, are defined as pressure. Pressure is
measured as force per unit area (square inches, square meters). In metric units,
pressure is measured in Newtons per square meter. In the English system, pressure is
usually measured in pounds per square inch. Example: The atmosphere (air) presses
on your skin at 14.7 pounds per square inch (psi).
Pressure can be powerful. A small pressure, spread over a very large area, can add up
to be a very large force. Air pressure decreases as the altitude increases; pressure also
decreases when the speed of the fluid (air, water) increases. When the temperature of
a fluid increases, so does the pressure. The pressures on an airplane directly affects its
flight capabilities!
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Density
Density is a measure of how much mass (the amount of molecules) is included in a
given object or volume. Another way to think about it is how tightly the molecules are
packed in a volume or object. When we talk about the density of fluid (volume), we
often refer to a specific volume, such as a cubic meter, a cubic foot or a slug. A slug is
equal to 32.174 pounds mass.
A fluid with a lot of molecules tightly packed together has a high density; one that has
fewer molecules would have a lower density. Water, for example, has a much higher
density than air. A 10 gallon fish tank with water in it has much more mass in it than a
10 gallon tank with air in it. Since it has more mass, it will weigh more (more on that
in a later section.) In addition, the density is used to define whether a fluid is
incompressible or compressible. If the density of the fluid is fixed (constant), the fluid
is incompressible; neither the mass or the volume can change. Water is an
incompressible fluid. The amount of volume and mass will stay the same, even under
pressure.
Gases (like air), are compressible, they will expand to fill a new volume. The mass
doesn't change, but the volume increases, so the density of the gas decreases in the
new volume.
An aerodynamicist must pay attention to all of the properties of a fluid (air, water) to
define flow conditions. This is because all of the properties are linked together. If the
pressure or the temperature of a fluid changes, its density will usually change, too.
The density of air on a hot day is lower than the density of air on a cold day. At high
altitudes, where the pressure is lower, the density is also lower.
Viscosity
This is one of the most difficult properties on this list to define. Viscosity is a measure
of how much a fluid will resist flowing. If you spill water on an inclined board, it will
run quickly down the board. However, if you spill honey on the same board, it will
travel down the board much more slowly. Honey has a much higher viscosity than
water. It is said that honey is a more viscous fluid than water.
When a fluid flows over a surface, it exerts a force (measured in Newton, for
example) on it. Scientists and engineers define viscosity by using units of
mass/length/time. The more commonly used units are kilogram per meter second
(kg/m s) for the metric system, and pounds mass per foot second (lbm/ft s) in the
English system.
The resistance to flow (viscosity) is important information when designing an object
(like a wing or boat hull) to move through air or water. Several math formulas are
used to get the viscosity reading needed to design surfaces that will reduce
aerodynamic drag.
Force
Forces have been defined as pushes or pulls on an object. To determine the units of
force, scientists and engineers use Newton's second law of motion. The second law
states that a force on a moving object is equal to the mass of the object times the
acceleration (a measure of its motion) of the object. Various mathematical formulas
are used to measure force.

An interesting point about the force is that in addition to a value and units, it also has
a direction associated with it. In the figure above, the force is applied to the box to the
right, therefore the motion is to the right. If the force were applied down on the top of
the box, no motion would occur; since the box is already on the ground, it can't move
any further. No matter how large the force was, there would be no motion. So,
defining a direction for a force is very important.
Weight and Gravity
In other countries, objects are measured in terms of their mass, in grams or kilograms.
In the United States, however, people use the terms for weight to also mean mass.
This works okay near the earth's surface because gravity is constant, so the units of
"weight and mass" stay the same. (the acceleration due to gravity is equal to 32.174
feet per second, at sea level) Because of gravity, weight is actually a force and not the
true mass of an object. If an object is taken up high in the atmosphere, the force of
gravity is less. Therefore, the "force" of weight is less. An object will weigh less, at
high altitude, but the mass will remain the same.
Scientists must be able to separate weight and mass. Therefore, the units are: pounds
mass or pounds force. Mass will not change. Pounds force will change with altitude.
Acceleration of an object at high altitudes is less, due to gravity, therefore the weight
of the object is less.
This is why an object on the moon weighs less than the same object on the earth. The
gravitational attraction on the moon is less than that of earth, so the acceleration due
to gravity is less (about 1/6th that of the earth). When an object is weighed on the
moon, it will weigh about 1/6th as much as the same object on earth. Example: A 60
pound child would weigh 10 pounds on the moon!
Velocity
How fast an object moves is measured by its velocity. Velocity is calculated by
dividing the distance traveled (a length) by the time it takes to travel the distance. The
units of velocity are, for example, meters per second (m/s) or feet per minute (ft/min).
If a person runs 10 kilometers in 1 hour, his or her velocity is 10 kilometers per hour
(km/hr). If a car travels from Los Angeles, CA, to San Diego, CA , a distance of 120
miles, in 2 hours, its velocity is 60 miles per hour (mph)(120/2hrs=60 mph). One
exception to these units is a term held over from sailing days, the knot. In aeronautics,
the velocity of the air is often measured in knots. One knot is equal to about 1.7 feet
per second (ft/s).
Rate and speed are two of the many terms used interchangeably with velocity. When
engineers work with velocities, they must know the direction of the motion as well as
the numerical value. They will sometimes call the numerical value the rate or speed,
and then define a direction: the box was moved at a rate of 3 ft/s to the right, or the
rocket traveled upwards at a speed of 120 m/s.
Acceleration
Acceleration is a measure of how the velocity of an object is changing over time. It
can be found by computing the difference in velocities at first one time, then some
time later, and dividing that by the difference in time. Example: A car is traveling at
60 mph at the first mile post. One mile (and one minute) later the car is traveling at 70
mph. 70 - 60=10 divided by 1/60 hr. = 600 mph (if acceleration continued at the same
rate for the next 59 minutes).
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HOW AIR MOVES OVER OBJECTS


Different Ways Air Moves
The following terms and definitions are used by aerodynamicists to define the way a
fluid moves in or around an object. In order to get a good picture of what is happening
about a wing, for example, the aerodynamicist must know the velocity of the plane,
the altitude of the plane, the size and shape of the wing, and the properties of the air.
He or she will use the terms and concepts discussed in this list to define fluid flow.
Speed of Sound
If a person is standing very far from an explosion, he or she will not hear it right
away. It takes time for the sound waves to travel. This is because sound travels in
invisible waves of changing pressure through a fluid (usually air, but sometimes
liquid). A person standing closer to the explosion will hear it sooner. At sea level, on a
typical day (not too hot, not too cold), the speed of sound (how fast the sound waves
travel) is about 760 miles per hour (mph).
The speed of sound depends on the pressure and density of the fluid in question. Since
the pressure and the density can change with temperature or altitude, the
aerodynamicist must compute the speed of sound at the altitude, pressure, and density
where the plane is flying. This means the speed of sound could be more or less than
760 mph under different conditions.
Mach Number
The numbers Mach 1, Mach 2, Mach 3...etc. are used to show the pilot's speed in
comparison to the speed of sound. Mach 2 is two times the speed of sound, for
example. Remember, the speed of sound can change according to conditions in the
atmosphere. An airplane at a low altitude flying at Mach 0.8 will have the same
airflow behavior over the wing as the same airplane flying at a high altitude at Mach
0.8. The speed of sound decreases as the altitude increases, so in order for the airplane
at the higher altitude to be flying at Mach 0.8, its velocity will be slower than that of
the plane flying at the lower altitude! The behavior of airflow over the wing, however,
will be the same on both planes.
The Mach number is named for Ernst Mach (1838 -1916), who conducted the first
meaningful experiments in supersonic flight at the University of Prague, Germany.
Air flow, over a wing, changes around Mach 1.0. Different mathematical procedures
are used to compute flow behavior. Air flow under Mach 1.0 is called subsonic flow.
Air flow over Mach 1.0 is called supersonic flow. If the Mach number is greater than
5.0, that regime (pattern) is called hypersonic flow. However, an airplane traveling
between Mach 0.75 and Mach 1.20 will have surface areas that are experiencing both
subsonic and supersonic airflow; aerodynamicists have named it the transonic regime.
Airflow calculations must be done carefully in this area.
It is interesting to see what happens to air flow regimes (patterns) as an airplane
approaches Mach 1.0. At subsonic speeds the waves of changing pressure about the
plane travel out in all directions at the speed of sound for that altitude.
As the plane flies faster and approaches the transonic regime (still below Mach 1.0),
the waves in front of the plane don't travel that much faster than the plane itself.
At the sonic barrier, Mach = 1.0, the front of the sound waves and the plane are
traveling at the same speed.
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As the plane flies faster than the speed of sound (Mach number greater than 1.0), the
waves compress into a cone-shaped envelope around the plane. The flow conditions
of the air ahead of the plane remain unchanged until the plane flies past. Only the
region inside the cone is affected by the plane. This conical compression is called a
shock wave, and it will be discussed in greater detail in a later section.
Friction
Anything that moves against another object causes friction or resistance to motion
between the two objects. If a person tries to push a box across the floor, he or she
must push hard to overcome the resistance. If the person applies a push, or force that
is stronger (larger) than the frictional force, the box will move. If the push isn't strong
enough the box won't move.
The friction between two moving objects can be affected by the surfaces of the
objects. For example, it is easier to push a heavy box across a smooth wood floor, or a
sheet of ice, than it is to push it across thick, bumpy carpet. That means the frictional
force between the box and the smooth floor or ice sheet is less than the frictional force
between the box and the thick carpet, so it takes less of a push to get it moving.
When a fluid like air flows across a surface such as a wing, there is friction resisting
the motion. How much friction is dependent on two factors, the viscosity of the fluid
and the smoothness of the surface?. A very viscous fluid like honey (a fluid with high
viscosity) will resist flowing, even down a smooth surface. The friction force is very
strong at the surface. As fluid like water with much lower viscosity will travel much
faster down a smooth surface; the frictional force between the water and the surface is
much smaller. However, if water flows across a very rough surface, like carpet, it will
travel down more slowly than on the smooth surface. Because the surface is rougher,
the friction force is stronger, the velocity is slower.
Boundary Layer
Because of this friction force, when a fluid flows over a surface, an interesting pattern
develops. The fluid actually stops; there is no velocity or movement at the surface. A
new layer develops on top of the stopped flow. There is less friction on this new
surface so there is some movement of the flow. New layers develop, each with less
friction, until some distance away from the original surface, there is no effect of the
slowed flow, and the remaining layers of the fluid travel at the original velocity. The
distance from the original surface to the layer of the flow traveling at the original
velocity is called the boundary layer thickness.
In general, the boundary layer gets thicker as the flow moves along the surface. How
fast and how big the boundary layer grows is a function of the smoothness of the
surface, the shape of the surface, and how fast the flow is traveling.
Laminar Boundary Layer
For lower velocities, fluid flowing over a smooth surface that is relatively short and
flat will only develop a very thin boundary layer. The flow inside the boundary layer
will be smooth and orderly, meaning that the layers will basically stay in layers,
without mixing. This condition is called laminar boundary layer.
Unfortunately, nature tends towards disorder, so it is rare to be able to maintain a
laminar boundary layer for very long.

Turbulent Boundary Layer


As a fluid moves over a long, relatively flat surface, the boundary layer will get
thicker, and the layers will start to mix and swirl around each other.. This swirling,
rolling layer is called a turbulent boundary layer. The mixing and swirling is called
turbulence; if the swirling is regular and repeatable, it is called a vortex or an eddy.
Since most of the boundary layers over an airplane will be turbulent, aerodynamicist
will try to design the surfaces to minimize the amount of turbulence or disorder.
Transition
The region in the boundary layer where the orderly laminar layers start to mix
together, but before they really start swirling, is called the transition region. Most of
the time it is a fairly small region. The aerodynamicist will design the surface to keep
the turbulent region small.
Flow Separation
Sometimes a boundary layer will be forced to move away from the surface. When this
happens the flow inside the boundary layer gets so mixed up it starts to circulate and
flow back towards the front of the surface! The outside, original fluid will move over
a large bubble created by the circulating layer. This is called flow separation. The
front of the bubble, where the outside fluid turns sharply away from the surface, is
called the point of separation; the back of the bubble, where the outside fluid turns
back to follow the surface again, is called the point of reattachment. If the region of
flow separation extends past the surface, this region is called a wake.
Pilots and engineers usually don't like it when the flow separates on a wing. This is a
condition known as stall. When a wing stalls, the lift (a force that helps a plane to fly;
see later section) decreases sharply. The plane loses altitude, and if the stall is not
corrected, the plane will crash. To land a plane however, a pilot will wait until the
plane is close to the ground, then initiate a slight, controlled stall to gently drop the
plane to the runway.
Buoyancy
Buoyancy is a force that is directed upward, or opposite of weight (which is
considered a downward force). There is always buoyancy in a fluid. The fluid may be
moving or stationary. The Greek scientist Archimedes (287 - 212 B.C.) deduced that
the buoyancy force was equal to the weight of the fluid displaced by the body.
If an object, dropped in water, weighs less than the water displaced (pushed away)
then it will float; if it weighs more then it will sink.
The density of liquids is much higher than for gases, like air. Therefore the buoyancy
force of a liquid is much higher than in a gas. Naval architects and ship designers
must use the buoyancy forces in their calculations. The buoyancy forces for airplanes
are so small that they are usually ignored (not used). Hot air balloons and blimps do
use the buoyancy force to get afloat, but they displace such an extremely large volume
of air that the computed buoyancy force exceeds their weight so that they can fly.
Streamlines and Flow Patterns
Aerodynamicists and other engineers like to know where the flow is going. A
streamline traces out the path of an element or piece of fluid as it travels in space and
time around or through an object. Streamlines are computed mathematically from the
velocities in the flow region. Streamlines are usually plotted as smooth lines, and they
sometimes have arrows on them to show the direction of the flow. They can be used
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to show how the air travels around an airfoil (the cross-section or slice of a wing),
with some of the air flowing over the top of the airfoil, and the rest flowing below the
airfoil. In a previous section, for example, streamlines were used to show how flow
separation appears on a wing.
Shocks
As discussed in the Mach number section, when a plane flies faster than the speed of
sound, a shock wave is created. This is the conical-shaped envelope formed around
the plane as it flies at supersonic speed. When a shock wave is formed, fluid
properties such as pressure, density, temperature, and velocity change drastically and
instantaneously through a shock wave.
Theoretically, once a shock wave is formed it will travel on to infinity. In nature,
however, atmospheric winds cause the shock to weaken and disperse. When an
aircraft flying at supersonic speeds is at a high altitude, the shock wave is diffused
(scattered) long before it reaches the earth's surface. If a plane, flying at supersonic
speed, flies too close to the ground, however, the shock will hit the earth's surface. It
will be heard and felt by observers on the ground (it's called a sonic boom). If the
shock is strong enough, it will cause buildings to shake and windows to break!
The space shuttle has a shock wave around it as it returns to earth through the
atmosphere. There is a section of southwestern Georgia that is along the flight path of
the returning shuttle when it lands at Cape Canaveral. when the shuttle travels along
this path, it is still slightly supersonic, and it is close enough that the people on the
ground hear the sonic boom as it travels over head. The shuttle can't be seen, but it
can be heard! Before the shuttle flies low enough for the shock wave to cause any
damage, however, it has dropped its speed below Mach 1.0 and the shock is gone.
In the early days of flight, the aerodynamics of transonic and supersonic flight were
not well understood. As pilots went faster and approached the sonic region (called the
sound barrier, back then) their airplanes would begin to shake and even fall apart!
Some people were sure that there was an invisible barrier and that humans were not
intended to go faster than the speed of sound.
In the late 1940's, designers started to understand high speed aerodynamics and began
to design aircraft to fly in the supersonic regime. On October 14, 1947, Captain
Charles Yeager, flying the experimental aircraft Bell XS-1, flew the first successful
supersonic flight. Today many pilots regularly fly faster than the speed of sound.
Perfect Gas Law
The perfect gas law establishes the relationship between the pressure, density, and
temperature of a gas at any instant in time or space. Air is treated as a perfect gas,
even though it is a mixture of gases; it is mostly nitrogen. Engineers regularly use the
perfect gas law to compute air flow properties.
Bernoulli's Theorem
Daniel Bernoulli (1700 -1782) was the first to develop a mathematical formula and
theory that showed the relationship between fluid velocity and pressure: when the
velocity in the flow increases, the pressure decreases, and when the velocity
decreases, the pressure increases. This was an important discovery. As more people
began to experiment with flying they were able to use Bernoulli's theorem to design
airfoils. The theorem shows how lift is created when an air stream goes over a
wing. This was the vital information needed to make flight possible.
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FORCES IN FLIGHT
FOUR FORCES ON AN AIRPLANE

A force may be thought of as a push or pull in a specific direction. This slide shows
the forces that act on an airplane in flight.
Weight
Weight is a force that is always directed toward the center of the earth. The
magnitude of the force depends on the mass of all the airplane parts, plus the
amount of fuel, plus any payload on board (people, baggage, freight, etc.). The
weight is distributed throughout the airplane. But we can often think of it as
collected and acting through a single point called the center of gravity. In flight, the
airplane rotates about the center of gravity, and the direction of the weight force
always remains toward the center of the earth. During a flight, the airplane's weight
constantly changes as the aircraft consumes fuel. The distribution of the weight and
the center of gravity can also change, so the pilot must constantly adjust the controls
to keep the airplane balanced.
Lift

To make an airplane fly, we must generate a force to overcome the weight. This
force is called the lift and is generated by the motion of the airplane through the air.
Lift is an aerodynamic force ("aero" stands for the air, and "dynamic" denotes
motion). Lift is directed perpendicular (at right angle) to the flight direction. As
with weight, each part of the aircraft contributes to a single aircraft lift force. But
most aircraft lift is generated by the wings. Aircraft lift acts through a single point
called the center of pressure. The center of pressure is defined just like the center
of gravity, but using the pressure distribution around the body instead of the weight
distribution.
11

Drag
As the airplane moves through the air, there is another aerodynamic force present.
The air resists the motion of the aircraft; this resistance force is called the drag of the
airplane. Like lift, there are many factors that affect the magnitude of the drag force
including:
the shape of the airplane
the "stickiness" of the air
the speed.
And like lift, we often collect all of the individual components' drags and combine
them into a single aircraft drag magnitude. The direction of the drag force is always
opposed to the flight direction, and drag acts through the center of pressure.
Thrust
To overcome drag, most airplanes have some kind of propulsion system to generate
a force called thrust. The magnitude of the thrust depends on many factors
associated with the propulsion system:

type of engine
number of engines
throttle setting
speed.
The direction of the force depends on how the engines are attached to the aircraft. In
the figure shown above, two jet engines are located under the wings, parallel to the
body, with thrust acting along the body centerline. On some aircraft (such as the
Harrier), the thrust direction can be varied to help the airplane take off in a very
short distance. For jet engines, it is often confusing to remember that aircraft thrust
is a reaction to the hot gas rushing out of the nozzle. The hot gas goes out the back,
but the thrust pushes towards the front. Action <--> reaction is explained by
Newton's Third Law of Motion.
A glider is a special kind of aircraft that has no engine. Some external source of
power has to be applied to initiate the motion. During flight, the weight is opposed
by both lift and drag, as shown on Vector Balance of Forces for a Glider. Paper
airplanes are the most obvious example, but there are many kinds of gliders. Some
gliders are piloted and are towed aloft by a powered aircraft, then cut free to glide
for long distances before landing. During reentry and landing, the Space Shuttle is a
glider; the rocket engines are used only to loft the Shuttle into space.
The motion of the airplane through the air depends on the relative strength and
direction of the forces shown above. If the forces are balanced, the aircraft cruises at
constant velocity. If the forces are unbalanced, the aircraft accelerates in the
direction of the largest force.

12

FUSELAGE

The fuselage, or body of the airplane, is a long hollow tube which holds all the pieces
of an airplane together. The fuselage is hollow to reduce weight. As with most other
parts of the airplane, the shape of the fuselage is normally determined by the mission
of the aircraft.
A supersonic fighter plane has a very slender, streamlined fuselage to reduce the drag
associated with high speed flight. For a fighter plane, the cockpit is normally on top of
the fuselage, weapons are carried on the wings, and the engines and fuel are placed at
the rear of the fuselage.
An airliner has a wider fuselage to carry the maximum number of passengers. On an
airliner, the pilots sit in a cockpit at the front of the fuselage. Passengers and cargo are
carried in the rear of the fuselage and the fuel is usually stored in the wings.
The weight of an aircraft is distributed all along the aircraft. The fuselage, along with
the passengers and cargo, contribute a significant portion of the weight of an aircraft.
The center of gravity of the aircraft is the average location of the weight and it is
usually located inside the fuselage. In flight, the aircraft rotates around the center of
gravity because of torques generated by the elevator, rudder, and ailerons. The
fuselage must be designed with enough strength to withstand these torques.
UNDERCARRIAGE (Landing Gear)
The part of an aircraft that provides support while the aircraft is on the ground. It
includes wheels, shock absorbers and support struts. There is an undercarriage unit
under the nose of the aircraft as well as approximately midway back, under the
fuselage. Undercarriage normally includes rubber tires, but may have skis for landing
on snow or floats for landing on water. The landing gear is often retractable - it can be
pulled into the fuselage of the aircraft to reduce drag(while flying).

13

WING GEOMETRY DEFINITIONS

OR

This slide gives technical definitions of a wing's geometry, which is one of the main
factors affecting airplane lift and drag. Actual aircraft wings are complex threedimensional objects. The figure shows the wing viewed from three directions; the
upper left shows the view from the top looking down on the wing, the lower left shows
the view from the front looking at the wing leading edge, and the right shows a side
view from the left looking in towards the centerline. The side view shows an airfoil
shape with the leading edge to the left.

14

Top View
The top view shows a simple wing geometry, like that found on a light general
aviation aircraft. The front of the wing (at the bottom) is called the leading edge; the
back of the wing (at the top) is called the trailing edge. The distance from the leading
to trailing edges is called the chord. The ends of the wing are called the wing tips, and
the distance from one wing tip to the other is called the span. The shape of the wing,
when viewed from above looking down onto the wing, is called a planform. In this
figure, the planform is a rectangle. For a rectangular wing, the chord length at every
location along the span is the same. For most other planforms, the chord length varies
along the span. The wing area is the projected area of the planform and is bounded by
the leading and trailing edges and the wing tips.
Note: The wing area is NOT the total surface area of the wing. The total surface area
includes both upper and lower surfaces. The wing area is a projected area and is
almost half of the total surface area.
The aspect ratio of a wing is defined to be the square of the span divided by the wing
area. Aspect ratio is a measure of how long and slender a wing is from tip to tip. For a
rectangular wing, this reduces to the ratio of the span to the chord length.
High aspect ratio wings have long spans (like high performance gliders), while low
aspect ratio wings have either short spans or thick chords (like the Space Shuttle).
Gliders have a high aspect ratio because the drag of the aircraft depends on this
parameter. A higher aspect ratio gives a lower drag and a better glide angle. The Space
Shuttle has a low aspect ratio because of high speed effects.
Front View
The front view of this wing shows that the left and right wing do not lie in the same
plane but meet at an angle. The angle that the wing makes with the local horizontal is
called the dihedral angle. Dihedral is added to the wings for roll stability; a wing with
some dihedral will naturally return to its original position if it encounters a slight roll
displacement. You may have noticed that most large airliner wings are designed with
dihedral. The wing tips are farther off the ground than the wing root. Highly
maneuverable fighter planes, on the other hand do not have dihedral. In fact, some
fighter aircraft have the wing tips lower than the roots giving the aircraft a high roll
rate. A negative dihedral angle is called anhedral . Historical Note: The Wright
brothers designed their 1903 flyer with a slight anhedral to improve the aircraft roll
performance.
Airfoil Geometry
A cut through the wing perpendicular to the leading and trailing edges will show the
cross-section of the wing. This cross-section is called an airfoil, and it has some
geometry definitions of its own as shown at the lower right. The straight line drawn
from the leading to trailing edges of the airfoil is called the chord line. The chord line
cuts the airfoil into an upper surface and a lower surface. If we plot the points that lie
halfway between the upper and lower surfaces, we obtain a curve called the mean
camber line. For a symmetric airfoil (upper surface the same shape as the lower
surface) the mean camber line will fall on top of the chord line. But in most cases,
these are two separate lines. The maximum distance between the two lines is called the
camber, which is a measure of the curvature of the airfoil (high camber means high
curvature). The maximum distance between the upper and lower surfaces is called the
thickness.

15

WING AREA

This slide shows the wing shapes for a variety of aircraft as viewed from above while
looking down on the wing--a view called the planform of the wing. For all of the
wings shown above, we are looking at only one of the two wings. The Wright Brothers
stacked their two wings one on top of the other, while modern aircraft typically have
wings on either side of the fuselage.
You can see that wings come in many different planforms: rectangular, triangular,
trapezoidal, or even in complex combinations like the Space Shuttle. To figure out
how much lift a wing will generate, you must be able to calculate the area of any of
these shapes--a skill learned in high school and used every day by design engineers.
For the rectangular wing the area is equal to the span (s) times the chord (c); A = s * c
For a trapezoidal wing, we need to know the semi-span (s), which is the distance from
the root to the wing tip, and the chord length at the root (cr) and at the tip (ct). Then
from the equation for a trapezoid, the area is one half the sum of the tip and root
chords times the semi-span; A = .5 * [ ct + cr ] * s
For the triangular planform the area is equal to one half of the root chord times the
semi-span;
A = .5 * cr * s
For a compound configuration like the Space Shuttle, you have to break up the wing
into simple shapes which you can compute.

16

AILERONS

Ailerons can be used to generate a rolling motion for an aircraft. Ailerons are small
hinged sections on the outboard portion of a wing. Ailerons usually work in
opposition: as the right aileron is deflected upward, the left is deflected downward,
and vice versa. This slide shows what happens when the pilot deflects the right aileron
upwards and the left aileron downwards.
The ailerons are used to bank the aircraft; to cause one wing tip to move up and the
other wing tip to move down. The banking creates an unbalanced side force
component of the large wing lift force which causes the aircraft's flight path to curve.
(Airplanes turn because of banking created by the ailerons, not because of a rudder
input).
Notice on this slide that the aileron on the left wing, as viewed from the rear of the
aircraft, is deflected down. The aileron on the right wing is deflected up. Therefore,
the lift on the left wing is increased, while the lift on the right wing is decreased. For
both wings, the lift force (Fr or Fl) is applied at some distance (L) from the aircraft
center of gravity.
T=F*L
This creates a torque about the center of gravity. If the forces (and distances) are equal
there is no net torque on the aircraft. But if the forces are unequal, there is a net torque
and the aircraft rotates about its center of gravity. For the conditions shown in the
figure, the resulting motion will roll the aircraft to the right (clockwise) as viewed
from the rear. If the pilot reverses the aileron deflections (right aileron down, left
aileron up) the aircraft will roll in the opposite direction. We have chosen to name the
left wing and right wing based on a view from the back of the aircraft towards the
nose, because that is the direction in which the pilot is looking.

17

FLAPS AND SLATS

The amount of lift generated by a wing depends on the shape of the airfoil, the wing
area, and the aircraft velocity.
During takeoff and landing the airplane's velocity is relatively low. To keep the lift high,
airplane designers try to increase the wing area and change the airfoil shape by putting
some moving parts on the wings' leading and trailing edges. The part on the leading
edge is called a slat, while the part on the trailing edge is called a flap. The flaps and
slats move along metal tracks built into the wings. Moving the flaps aft (toward the tail)
and the slats forward increases the wing area. Pivoting the leading edge of the slat and
the trailing edge of the flap downward increases the effective camber of the airfoil,
which increases the lift. In addition, the large aft-projected area of the flap increases the
drag of the aircraft. This helps the airplane slow down for landing.
On takeoff, we want high lift and low drag, so the flaps will be set downward at a
moderate setting. During landing we want high lift and high drag, so the flaps and slats
will be fully deployed. When the wheels touch down, we want to decrease the lift (to
keep the plane on the ground!), so you will often see spoilers deployed on the top of the
wing to kill the lift. Spoilers create additional drag to slow down the plane.

SPOILERS

18

Spoilers are small, hinged plates on the top portion of wings. Spoilers can be used to
slow an aircraft, or to make an aircraft descend, if they are deployed on both wings.
Spoilers can also be used to generate a rolling motion for an aircraft, if they are
deployed on only one wing. This slide shows what happens when the pilot only
deflects the spoiler on the right wing.
Spoilers Deployed on Both Wings
When the pilot activates the spoilers, the plates flip up into the air stream. The flow
over the wing is disturbed by the spoiler, the drag of the wing is increased, and the lift
is decreased. Spoilers can be used to "dump" lift and make the airplane descend; or
they can be used to slow the airplane down as it prepares to land. When the airplane
lands on the runway, the pilot usually brings up the spoilers to kill the lift, keep the
plane on the ground, and make the brakes work more efficiently. The friction force
between the tires and the runway depends on the "normal" force, which is the weight
minus the lift. The lower the lift, the better the brakes work. The additional drag of the
spoilers also slows the plane down.
Spoiler Deployed on Only One Wing
A single spoiler is used to bank the aircraft; to cause one wing tip to move up and the
other wing tip to move down. The banking creates an unbalanced side force
component of the large wing lift force which causes the aircraft's flight path to curve.
(Airplanes turn because of banking, not because of the force generated by the rudder.
On the figure, the airplane's right wing spoiler is deployed, while the left wing spoiler
is stored flat against the wing surface (as viewed from the rear of the airplane). The
flow over the right wing will be disturbed by the spoiler, the drag of this wing will be
increased, and the lift will decrease relative to the left wing. The lift force (F) is
applied at some distance (L) from the aircraft center of gravity. This creates a torque
(T = F * L) about the center of gravity. The net torque causes the aircraft to rotate
about its center of gravity. The resulting motion will roll the aircraft to the right
(clockwise) as viewed from the rear. If the pilot reverses the spoiler deflections (right
spoiler flat and left spoiler up) the aircraft will roll in the opposite direction. We have
chosen to name the left wing and right wing based on a view from the back of the
aircraft towards the nose, because that is the direction in which the pilot is looking.
When you travel on an airliner, watch the wings during turns. The pilot rolls the
aircraft in the direction of the turn. You will probably be surprised at how little
deflection is necessary to bank (roll) a large airliner. But be warned that there is a
possible source of confusion on some airliners. We have been talking about rolling the
aircraft by using a spoiler near the center of the wing chord to decrease the lift of one
wing. On most airliners, the aircraft is rolled by using ailerons to increase the lift on
one wing and decrease the lift on the other wing. This produces an unbalanced force,
which causes the roll. You can tell whether an airliner is using spoilers or ailerons by
noticing where the moving part is located. At the trailing edge, it's an aileron; between
the leading and trailing edges, it's a spoiler.
The friction force between the tires and the runway depends on the "normal" force,
which is the weight minus the lift.

19

HORIZONTAL STABILIZER ELEVATOR

At the rear of the fuselage of most aircraft one finds a horizontal stabilizer and an
elevator. The stabilizer is a fixed wing section whose job is to provide stability for the
aircraft, to keep it flying straight. The horizontal stabilizer prevents up-and-down, or
pitching, motion of the aircraft nose. The elevator is the small moving section at the rear
of the stabilizer that is attached to the fixed sections by hinges. Because the elevator
moves, it varies the amount of force generated by the tail surface and is used to generate
and control the pitching motion of the aircraft. There is an elevator attached to each side
of the fuselage. The elevators work in pairs; when the right elevator goes up, the left
elevator also goes up. This slide shows what happens when the pilot deflects the elevator.
The elevator is used to control the position of the nose of the aircraft and the angle of
attack of the wing. Changing the inclination of the wing to the local flight path changes
the amount of lift which the wing generates. This, in turn, causes the aircraft to climb or
dive. During take off the elevators are used to bring the nose of the aircraft up to begin the
climb out. During a banked turn, elevator inputs can increase the lift and cause a tighter
turn. That is why elevator performance is so important for fighter aircraft.
The elevators work by changing the effective shape of the airfoil of the horizontal
stabilizer. As described on the shape effects slide, changing the angle of deflection at the
rear of an airfoil changes the amount of lift generated by the foil. With greater downward
deflection of the trailing edge, lift increases. With greater upward deflection of the trailing
edge, lift decreases and can even become negative as shown on this slide. The lift force
(F) is applied at some distance (L) from the aircraft center of gravity.
T=F*L
This creates a torque on the aircraft and the aircraft rotates about its center of gravity. The
pilot can use this ability to make the airplane loop. Or, since many aircraft loop naturally,
the deflection can be used to trim or balance the aircraft, thus preventing a loop. If the
pilot reverses the elevator deflection to down, the aircraft pitches in the opposite
direction.
On many fighter planes, in order to meet their high maneuvering requirements, the
stabilizer and elevator are combined into one large moving surface called a stabilator. The
change in force is then created by changing the inclination of the entire surface, not by
changing its effective shape as is done with an elevator. On some aircraft, the pitch
stability and control is provided by a horizontal surface placed forward of the center of
gravity (a tail in the front). This surface is called a canard. The name is the French word
for goose and it is used because the shape when viewed from above resembles a goose
with bulges near the neck. The Wright brother's first aircraft used a forward elevator.
20

VERTICAL STABILIZER RUDDER

At the rear of the fuselage of most aircraft one finds a vertical stabilizer and a
rudder. The stabilizer is a fixed wing section whose job is to provide stability for the
aircraft, to keep it flying straight. The vertical stabilizer prevents side-to-side, or
yawing, motion of the aircraft nose. The rudder is the small moving section at the rear
of the stabilizer that is attached to the fixed sections by hinges. Because the rudder
moves, it varies the amount of force generated by the tail surface and is used to
generate and control the yawing motion of the aircraft. This slide shows what happens
when the pilot deflects the rudder, a hinged section at the rear of the vertical
stabilizer.
The rudder is used to control the position of the nose of the aircraft. Interestingly, it is
NOT used to turn the aircraft in flight. Aircraft turns are caused by banking the aircraft
to one side using either ailerons or spoilers. The banking creates an unbalanced side
force component of the large wing lift force which causes the aircraft's flight path to
curve. The rudder input insures that the aircraft is properly aligned to the curved flight
path during the maneuver. Otherwise, the aircraft would encounter additional drag or
even a possible adverse yaw condition in which, due to increased drag from the
control surfaces, the nose would move farther off the flight path.
The rudder works by changing the effective shape of the airfoil of the vertical
stabilizer. As described on the shape effects, changing the angle of deflection at the
rear of an airfoil will change the amount of lift generated by the foil. With increased
deflection, the lift will increase in the opposite direction. The rudder and vertical
stabilizer are mounted so that they will produce forces from side to side, not up and
down. The side force (F) is applied at some distance (L) from the aircraft center of
gravity.
T=F*L
This creates a torque on the aircraft and the aircraft rotates about its center of gravity.
With greater rudder deflection to the left as viewed from the back of the aircraft, the
force increases to the right. If the pilot reverses the rudder deflection to the right, the
aircraft will yaw in the opposite direction. We have chosen to base the deflections on a
view from the back of the aircraft towards the nose, because that is the direction in
which the pilot is looking.
On all aircraft, the vertical stabilizer and rudder create a symmetric airfoil. This
combination produces no side force when the rudder is aligned with the stabilizer and
allows either left or right forces, depending on the deflection of the rudder. Some
fighter planes have two vertical stabilizers and rudders because of the need to control
the plane with multiple, very powerful engines.
21

MACH NUMBER

As an object moves through the air, the air molecules near the object are disturbed and
move around the object. If the object passes at a low speed (typically less than 200
mph) the density of the fluid will remain constant. But for higher speeds, some of the
energy of the object goes into compressing the fluid and locally changing the density of
the air. This compressibility effect will alter the amount of resulting force on the object.
The effect becomes more important as speed increases. Near and beyond the speed of
sound (about 330 m/s or 700 mph), the compression waves merge into a strong shock
wave, which affects both the lift and drag of an object.
Mach number
The ratio of the speed of an object to the speed of sound (determines the presence of
shock waves) is Mach number. [in honor of Ernst Mach, a late 19th century physicist
who studied gas dynamics.]
Subsonic
The speed of an object less than the speed of sound, ie., Mach<1. The subsonic aircraft
never flies above the speed of sound. For the lowest subsonic conditions, compressibility
can be ignored.
Transonic
The speed of the object is equal to the speed of sound, the conditions are said to be sonic
and Mach=1. Compressibility effects are most important in transonic flows and lead to
the early belief in a sound barrier above which velocity flight would be impossible. In
fact, the sound barrier was only an increase in the drag near transonic conditions because
of compressibility effects.
Supersonic
The speed of an object greater than the speed of sound, ie., Mach >1. Supersonic aircraft
travels from three to four times the speed of sound. Compressibility effects are important
for supersonic aircraft, and shock waves are generated by the surface of the object.
Hypersonic
The speed of an object greater than five times the speed of sound, ie., Mach > 5. At these
speeds, some of the energy of the object now goes into exciting the chemical bonds
holding the nitrogen and oxygen molecules together. So the thermo-chemistry of the gas
must be considered when determining forces on the object.
22

SPEED OF SOUND

Speed of sound
The speed at which sound waves travel. If you stand a distance away from a friend and
say something to him, the sound waves of your voice will travel very quickly to the
ear of your friend. The speed of sound is the speed at which those waves traveled.
Air is a gas, and a very important property of any gas is the speed of sound through
the gas. Why are we interested in the speed of sound? The speed of "sound" is
actually the speed of transmission of a small disturbance through a medium.
The speed of sound depends on the state of the gas--more specifically, the square root
of the temperature of the gas. The speed of sound (a) is equal to the square root of the
ratio of specific heats (g) times the gas constant (R) times the absolute temperature
(T).
a = sqrt [g * R * T]
The speed of sound depends on the temperature, and temperature decreases with
altitude through the lower portions of the atmosphere. So the speed of sound also
decreases as you increase altitude.
As an object moves through the air, or air is forced to move through a device, the air is
disturbed. The disturbances are transmitted through the air at the speed of sound. If the
object moves much slower than the speed of sound, conditions are said to be subsonic,
where certain compressibility effects are small and can be neglected. If the object
moves up to four times faster than the speed of sound, the conditions are said to be
supersonic, and compressibility effects (like shock waves) are present in the gas. If
the object moves near the speed of sound, conditions are said to be transonic, and
other compressibility effects (like flow choking) become important. If the object
moves more than five times the speed of sound, conditions are said to be hypersonic,
and the high energy involved under these conditions has significant effects on the air
itself.
The important parameter in each of these situations is the ratio of the speed of the
object to the speed of sound. Aeronautical engineers call this ratio the Mach number. A
Mach number less than one indicate subsonic flow, a Mach number near one is
transonic, and a Mach number greater than one is supersonic and greater than five is
hypersonic.
23

FACTORS THAT AFFECT LIFT

All that is necessary to create lift is to turn a flow of air. An


aerodynamic, curved airfoil will turn a flow. But so will a simple flat plate, if it is
inclined to the flow. The fuselage of an airplane will also generate lift if it is inclined to
the flow. For that matter, an automobile body also turns the flow through which it
moves, generating a force. (Lift is a big problem for NASCAR racing machines! Race
cars now include spoilers on the roof to kill lift in a spin.) Any physical body moving
through a fluid can create lift if it produces a net turning of the flow.
There are many factors that affect the turning of the flow, which creates lift. We can
group these factors into(a) those associated with the object, (b) those associated with the
motion of the object through the air, and (c) those associated with the air itself:
a. Object: At the top of the figure, aircraft wing geometry has a large effect on the amount
of lift generated. The airfoil shape and wing size will both affect the amount of lift.
b. Motion: To generate lift, we have to move the object through the air. The lift then
depends on the velocity of the air and how the object is inclined to the flow.
c. Air: Lift depends on the mass of the flow. The lift also depends in a complex way on
two other properties of the air: its viscosity and its compressibility.
We can gather all of this information on the factors that affect lift into a single
mathematical equation called the Lift Equation. With the lift equation we can predict
how much lift force will be generated by a given body moving at a given speed.

24

FACTORS THAT AFFECT DRAG

When a solid body is moved through a fluid (gas or liquid), the fluid resists the
motion. The object is subjected to an aerodynamic force in a direction opposed to the
motion. This force is called drag.
As with aircraft lift, there are many factors that affect drag. We can group these factors
into (a) those associated with the object, (b) those associated with the motion of the
object through the air, and (c) those associated with the air itself:
Object: Aircraft wing geometry has a large effect on the amount of drag generated.
The shape and size of any object moving through the air affects the amount of drag
generated.
Motion: Drag is associated with the movement of the aircraft through the air, so drag
will then depend on the velocity of the air and how the object is inclined to the flow.
Air: Drag depends on the mass of the flow going past the aircraft. The drag also
depends in a complex way on two other properties of the air: its viscosity and its
compressibility.
We can gather all of this information on the factors that affect drag into a single
mathematical equation called the Drag Equation. With the drag equation we can
predict how much drag force will be generated by a given body moving at a given
speed.

25

SHAPE EFFECTS ON LIFT

The amount of lift generated depends on how much the flow is turned, which depends
on the shape of the object. The lift is, in general, a very complex function of the shape.
Aerodynamicists mathematically model the effect by a lift coefficient which is
normally determined through wind tunnel testing. For certain simplified examples,
however, we can develop mathematical equations for this dependence. Even the
simplest example of shape dependence (two dimensional Kutta-Joukowski airfoil) is
probably beyond the mathematical capabilities of high school students. A simple result
of the analysis shows that the greater the flow turning, the greater the lift.
This slide shows the flow fields for two different airfoils. The airfoil on the left is a
symmetric airfoil; the shapes above and below the white centerline are the same. The
airfoil on the right is curved near the trailing edge. The yellow lines on each figure
show the streamlines of flow from left to right. The left figure shows no net turning of
the flow and produces no lift; the right figure shows a large amount of turning and
generates a large amount of lift. The front portions of both airfoils are nearly identical.
The aft portion of the right airfoil creates the higher turning.
This explains why the aft portion of wings have hinged sections to control and
maneuver an aircraft. Deflecting the aft section down will produce a geometry similar
to the figure on the right producing more lift. Similarly, if the aft section is deflected
up, it will create less lift (or even negative lift). The ability to vary the amount of lift
over a portion of the wing gives the pilot the ability to maneuver an aircraft. The
deflection of the control surfaces and the resulting motion of the aircraft:

Elevator controls pitching motion.

Rudder controls yawing motion.

Ailerons control rolling motion.

26

SHAPE EFFECTS ON DRAG

The drag coefficient is a number which aerodynamicists use to model all of the
complex dependencies of drag on shape inclination, and some flow conditions. The
drag coefficient (Cd) is equal to the drag (D) divided by the quantity: density (r) times
reference area (A) times one half of the velocity (V) squared. This slide shows some
typical values of the drag coefficient for a variety of shapes. The values shown here
were determined experimentally by placing models in a wind tunnel and measuring the
amount of drag and the tunnel conditions of velocity and density. The drag equation
was then used to produce the coefficient. The projected frontal area of each object was
used as the reference area. A flat plate has Cd = 1.28, a wedge shaped prism with the
wedge facing downstream has Cd = 1.14, a sphere has a Cd that varies from .07 to .5,
a bullet Cd = .295, and a typical airfoil Cd = .045.
We can study the effect of shape on drag by comparing the values of drag coefficient
for any two objects as long as the same reference area is used and the Mach number
and Reynolds numbers are matched. All of the drag coefficients on this slide were
produced in low speed (subsonic) wind tunnels and at similar Reynolds number,
except as noted. A quick comparison shows that a flat plate gives the highest drag and
a streamlined symmetric airfoil gives the lowest drag, by a factor of almost 30! Shape
has a very large effect on the amount of drag produced. The drag coefficient for a
sphere is given with a range of values because the drag on a sphere is highly
dependent on Reynolds number. (Flow past a sphere, or cylinder, goes through a
number of transitions with velocity. At very low velocity, a stable pair of vortices are
formed on the downwind side. As velocity increases, the vortices become unstable and
are alternately shed downstream. As velocity is increased even more, the boundary
layer transitions to chaotic turbulent flow with vortices of many different scales being
shed in a turbulent wake from the body. Each of these flow regimes produce a different
amount of drag on the sphere.) Comparing the flat plate and the prism, and the sphere
and the bullet, we see that the downstream shape can be modified to reduce drag.

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SIZE EFFECTS ON LIFT

The amount of lift generated by an object depends on the size of the object. Lift is an
aerodynamic force and therefore depends on the pressure variation of the air around
the body as it moves through the air. The total aerodynamic force is equal to the
pressure times the surface area around the body; lift is the component of this force
perpendicular to the flight direction. Since most of the lift is generated by the wings,
and lift is the force perpendicular to the flight direction, we find that lift is directly
proportional to the wing planform area. The planform area is the area of the wing as
viewed from above the wing, looking along the "lift" direction. It is a flat plane, and is
NOT the surface area (top and bottom) of the entire wing, although it is almost half
that number for most wings. Increasing the wing area will increase the lift. Doubling
the area will double the lift.
This slide shows the projected surface area for two different aircraft. The airplane on
the left is shown in a cruise condition while the airplane on the right is shown in a
takeoff or landing condition. Takeoff and landing are times of relatively low velocity,
so to keep the lift high (to avoid the ground!) designers try to increase the wing area.
This is done by sliding the flaps backwards along metal tracks and shifting the slats
forward to increase the wing area. The next time you fly in an airliner, watch the wings
during takeoff and landing to see the change in wing area.
Since aircraft come in many shapes and sizes, an aerodynamicist has to be able to
compute the wing area for many different shapes.

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SIZE EFFECTS ON DRAG

The amount of drag generated depends on the size of the object. Drag is an
aerodynamic force and therefore depends on the pressure variation of the air around
the body as it moves through the air. The total aerodynamic force is equal to the
pressure times the surface area around the body; drag is the component of this force
along the flight direction. Like the other aerodynamic force, lift, the drag is
proportional to the area of the object. Doubling the area will double the drag.
Unlike lift, however, there are several different areas from which to choose when
developing the reference area used in the drag equation. If we think of drag as being
caused by friction between the air and the body, a logical choice would be the total
surface area (As) of the body. If we think of drag as being a resistance to the flow, a
more logical choice would be the frontal area (Af) of the body which is perpendicular
to the flow direction. This is the area shown in blue on the figure. Finally, if we want
to compare with the lift coefficient, we should use the same area used to derive the lift
coefficient, the wing area, (Aw). Each of the various areas are proportional to the other
areas, as designated by the "~" sign on the figure. Since the drag coefficient is
determined experimentally, by measuring the drag and measuring the area and
performing the necessary math to produce the coefficient, we are free to use any area
which can be easily measured. If we choose the wing area, the computed coefficient
will have a different value than if we had chosen the cross-sectional area, but the drag
is the same, and the coefficients are related by the ratio of the areas. In practice, drag
coefficients are reported based on a wide variety of object areas. In the report, the
aerodynamicist must specify what area is used and when using the data the reader may
have to convert the drag coefficient using the ratio of the areas.

29

LIFT TO DRAG RATIO ( L / D ratio)

There are four forces that act on an aircraft in flight: lift, weight, thrust, and drag. The
motion of the aircraft through the air depends on the size of the various forces. The
weight of an airplane is determined by the size and materials used in the airplane's
construction and on the payload and fuel that the airplane carries. The thrust is
determined by the size and type of propulsion system used on the airplane and on the
throttle setting selected by the pilot. Lift and drag are aerodynamic forces that depend
on the shape and size of the aircraft, air conditions, and the flight velocity.
Because lift and drag are both aerodynamic forces, the ratio of lift to drag is an
indication of the aerodynamic efficiency of the airplane. Aerodynamicists call the lift
to drag ratio the L/D ratio, pronounced "L over D ratio." An airplane has a high L/D
ratio if it produces a large amount of lift or a small amount of drag. Because under
cruise conditions lift is equal to weight, a high lift aircraft can carry a large payload.
And because under cruise conditions thrust is equal to drag, a low drag aircraft
requires low thrust. Thrust is produced by burning a fuel. To generate high thrust,
large amounts of fuel are burned. A low thrust aircraft requires low fuel usage. As
discussed on the maximum flight time page, low fuel usage allows an aircraft to stay
aloft for a long time, and that means the aircraft can fly long range missions. For
gliders (aircraft with no engines), a high L/D ratio again produces a long range
aircraft by reducing the steady state glide angle.
As shown in the middle of the slide, the L/D ratio is also equal to the ratio of the lift
and drag coefficients. The lift coefficient is described on a separate page, and the drag
coefficient is quite similar. Lift and drag coefficients are normally determined
experimentally using a wind tunnel. But for some simple geometries, they can be
determined mathematically.
THE WEIGHT EQUATION

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Weight is the force generated by the gravitational attraction of the earth on an airplane
or model rocket. Weight is fundamentally different from the aerodynamic forces, lift
and drag. Aerodynamic forces are mechanical forces and the vehicle has to be in
physical contact with the air which generates the force. The gravitational force is a
field force; the source of the force does not have to be in physical contact with the
object (the airplane or rocket).
The nature of the gravitational force has been studied by scientists for many years and
is still being investigated by theoretical physicists. For an object the size of an airplane
flying near the earth, the descriptions given three hundred years ago by Sir Isaac
Newton work quite well. Newton published his theory of gravitation with his laws of
motion in 1686. The gravitational force between two particles equals a universal
constant times the product of the mass of the particles divided by the square of the
distance between the particles.
If you have a lot of particles acting on a single particle, you have to add up the
contribution of all the individual particles. For objects near the earth, the sum of the
mass of all the particles is simply the mass of the earth and the distance is then
measured from the center of the earth. On the surface of the earth the distance is about
4000 miles. Scientists have combined the universal gravitational constant, the mass of
the earth, and the square of the radius of the earth to form the gravitational
acceleration, g . On the surface of the earth, it's value is 9.8 meters per square second
or 32.2 feet per square second. The weight, or gravitational force, is then just the mass
of an object times the gravitational acceleration (W = mg).
Since the gravitational constant (g) depends on the square of the distance from the
center of the earth, we would expect that the weight of an airplane would decrease as
we fly higher. Let's do a test problem to see how much the weight changes. If an
airplane is flying at 35000 feet (about 7 miles) the distance to the center of the earth is
about 4007 miles.. We can calculate the change in the gravitational constant as the
square of (4000/4007) which equals .9965. If the airplane weighs 10000 pounds on the
surface of the earth, it weighs 9965 pounds at 35000 feet; it has lost 35 pounds, a very
small amount compared to 10000 pounds.
The magnitude of the airplane's weight depends on the mass of all of the parts of the
airplane itself, plus the amount of fuel, plus any payload on board (people, baggage,
freight, ...). The weight is distributed throughout the airplane, but we can often think of
it as collected and acting through a single point called the center of gravity. In flight,
the airplane rotates about the center of gravity, but the direction of the weight force
always remains toward the center of the earth. During a flight the aircraft burns up its
fuel, so the weight of the airplane constantly changes. Also, the distribution of the
weight and the center of gravity can change, so the pilot must constantly adjust the
controls to keep the airplane balanced.
Similarly, the weight of a model rocket depends on the mass of all its parts (nose, fins,
engine, recovery system ..). The center of gravity of a model rocket is much easier to
determine than for an aircraft, because there are fewer parts. The location of the center
of gravity for a model rocket is important for stability.

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THE DRAG EQUATION

Drag depends on the density of the air, the square of the velocity, the air's viscosity and
compressibility, the size and shape of the body, and the body's inclination to the flow.
In general, the dependence on body shape, inclination, air viscosity, and
compressibility is very complex.
One way to deal with complex dependencies is to characterize the dependence by a
single variable. For drag, this variable is called the drag coefficient, designated "Cd."
This allows us to collect all the effects, simple and complex, into a single equation.
The drag equation states that drag is equal to the drag coefficient (Cd) times the
density (r) times half of the velocity (V) squared times the reference area (A). For
given air conditions, shape, and inclination of the object, we must determine a value
for Cd to determine drag. Determining the value of the drag coefficient is more
difficult than determining the lift coefficient because of the multiple sources of drag.
The drag coefficient given above includes form drag, skin friction drag, wave drag,
and induced drag components. (Ram drag is usually included in the net thrust because
it depends on the airflow through the engine.) Drag coefficients are almost always
determined experimentally using a wind tunnel.
Notice that the area (A) given in the drag equation is given as a reference area. The
drag depends directly on the size of the body. Since we are dealing with aerodynamic
forces, the dependence can be characterized by some area. But which area do we
choose? If we think of drag as being caused by friction between the air and the body, a
logical choice would be the total surface area of the body. If we think of drag as being
a resistance to the flow, a more logical choice would be the frontal area of the body
that is perpendicular to the flow direction. And finally, if we want to compare with the
lift coefficient, we should use the same wing area used to derive the lift coefficient.
Since the drag coefficient is usually determined experimentally by measuring drag and
the area and then performing the division to produce the coefficient, we are free to use
any area that can be easily measured. If we choose the wing area, rather than the
cross-sectional area, the computed coefficient will have a different value. But the drag
is the same, and the coefficients are related by the ratio of the areas. In practice, drag
coefficients are reported based on a wide variety of object areas. In the report, the
aerodynamicist must specify the area used; when using the data, the reader may have
to convert the drag coefficient using the ratio of the areas.
32

In the equation given above, the density is designated by the letter "r." We do not use
"d" for density since "d" is often used to specify distance. In many textbooks on
aerodynamics, density is given by the Greek symbol "rho" (Greek for "r"). The
combination of terms "density times the square of the velocity divided by two" is
called the dynamic pressure and appears in Bernoulli's pressure equation.

THE LIFT EQUATION

Lift depends on the density of the air, the square of the velocity, the
air's viscosity and compressibility, the surface area over which the air flows, the shape
of the body, and the body's inclination to the flow. In general, the dependence on body
shape, inclination, air viscosity, and compressibility is very complex.
One way to deal with complex dependencies is to characterize the dependence by a
single variable. For lift, this variable is called the lift coefficient, designated "Cl." This
allows us to collect all the effects, simple and complex, into a single equation. The lift
equation states that lift is equal to the lift coefficient (Cl) times the density (r) times
half of the velocity (V) squared times the wing area (A). For given air conditions,
shape, and inclination of the object, we have to determine a value for Cl to determine
the lift. For some simple flow conditions and geometries and low inclinations,
aerodynamicists can determine the value of Cl mathematically. But, in general, this
parameter is determined experimentally.
In the equation given above, the density is designated by the letter "r." We do not use
"d" for density, since "d" is often used to specify distance. In many textbooks on
aerodynamics, the density is given by the Greek symbol "rho" (Greek for "r"). The
combination of terms "density times the square of the velocity divided by two" is
called the dynamic pressure and appears in Bernoulli's pressure equation.

33

EXCESS THRUST
(Thrust Drag)

The propulsion system of an aircraft must perform two important roles:


During cruise, the engine must provide enough thrust, to balance the aircraft drag
while using as little fuel as possible.
2. During takeoff and maneuvers, the engine must provide additional thrust to
accelerate the aircraft.
1.

The thrust minus the drag of the aircraft is called the excess thrust. Considering
Newton's second law of motion, mass (m) times acceleration (a) is equal to the net
external force (Fex). For an aircraft, the horizontal net external force is the excess
thrust. Therefore, the acceleration of an aircraft is equal to the excess thrust divided by
the mass of the aircraft. The thrust divided by the mass of the aircraft is closely related
to the thrust to weight ratio. Airplanes with high excess thrust, like fighter planes, can
accelerate faster than aircraft with low excess thrust.
If the excess thrust and the mass remain constant, the basic equation of motion can be
easily solved for the velocity and displacement as a function of time. This equation can
be used only if the force (and the acceleration) are constant. Unfortunately for aircraft,
drag is a function of the square of the velocity. So we can assume a constant force for
only a very small amount of time. To solve the actual equations of motion for an
aircraft, we must use calculus and integrate the equations of motion, either analytically
or numerically.

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HYDRAULIC SYSTEM

35

The automatic hydraulic control systems of the F-15 drive three-ramp variable capture area
air intakes. The variable forward ramp changes angle with AoA and Mach number and nods
up through 40 and down through 110. Each intake is separately controlled via a system that
senses AoA, stagnation temperature, pitot, and static pressures and then positions the ramps
and bypass doors.

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