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Stability of an airplane in flight is slightly more complex than just explained, because the airplane is free to move in any direction and must be controllable in pitch, roll, and direction. When designing the airplane, engineers must compromise between stability, maneuverability, and controllability; and the problem is compounded because of the airplane's three-axis freedom. Too much stability is detrimental to maneuverability, and similarly, not enough stability is detrimental to controllability. In the design of airplanes, compromise between the two is the keyword.

Static stability has been defined as the initial tendency that the airplane displays after being disturbed from its trimmed condition. Occasionally, the initial tendency is different or opposite from the overall tendency, so distinction must be made between the two. Dynamic stability is the overall tendency that the airplane displays after its equilibrium is disturbed. If the time unit for one cycle or oscillation is above 10 seconds' duration, it is called a "long-period" oscillation (phugoid) and is easily controlled. In a longitudinal phugoid oscillation, the angle of attack remains constant when the airspeed increases and decreases. To a certain degree, a convergent phugoid is desirable but is not required. The phugoid can be determined only on a statically stable airplane, and this has a great effect on the trimming qualities of the airplane. If the time unit for one cycle or oscillation is less than one or two seconds, it is called a "short-period" oscillation and is normally very difficult, if not impossible, for the pilot to control. This is the type of oscillation that the pilot can easily "get in phase with" and reinforce. A neutral or divergent, short-period oscillation is dangerous because structural failure usually results if the oscillation is not damped immediately.

Short-period oscillations affect airplane and control surfaces alike and reveal themselves as "proposing" in the airplane, or as in "buzz" or "flutter" in the control surfaces. Basically, the short-period oscillation is a change in angle of attack with no change in airspeed. A short-period oscillation of a control surface is usually of such high frequency that the airplane does not have time to react. Logically, the Code of Federal Regulations require that short-period oscillations be heavily damped (i.e., die out immediately).

Flight tests during the airworthiness certification of airplanes are conducted for this condition by inducing the oscillation in the controls for pitch, roll, or yaw at the most critical speed (i.e., at VNE, the never-exceed speed). The test pilot strikes the control wheel or rudders pedal a sharp blow and observe the results.

Aerodynamics of Flight - BASIC CONCEPTS OF STABILITY

The flight paths and attitudes in which an airplane can fly are limited only by the aerodynamic characteristics of the airplane, its propulsive system, and its structural strength. These limitations indicate the maximum performance and maneuverability of the airplane. If the airplane is to provide maximum utility, it must be safely controllable to the full extent of these limits without exceeding the pilot's strength or requiring exceptional flying ability. If an airplane is to fly straight and steady along any arbitrary flight path, the forces acting on it must be in static equilibrium. The reaction of any body when its equilibrium is disturbed is referred to as stability.

There are two types of stability; static and dynamic. Static will be discussed first, and in this discussion the following definitions will apply:
  • Equilibrium—All opposing forces acting on the airplane are balanced; (i.e., steady, un-accelerated flight conditions).
  • Static Stability—The initial tendency that the airplane displays after its equilibrium is disturbed.
  • Positive Static Stability—The initial tendency of the airplane to returned to the original state of equilibrium after being disturbed.
  • Negative Static Stability—The initial tendency of the airplane to continue away from the original state of equilibrium after being disturbed.
  • Neutral Static Stability—The initial tendency of the airplane to remain in a new condition after its equilibrium has been disturbed.

Aerodynamics of Flight - DESIGN CHARACTERISTICS

Every pilot who has flown numerous types of airplanes has noted that each airplane handles somewhat differently—that is, each resists or responds to control pressures in its own way. A training type airplane is quick to respond to control applications, while a transport airplane usually feels heavy on the controls and responds to control pressures more slowly. These features can be designed into an airplane to facilitate the particular purpose the airplane is to fulfill by considering certain stability and maneuvering requirements. In the following discussion, it is intended to summarize the more important aspects of an airplane's stability; its maneuvering and controllability qualities; how they are analyzed; and their relationship to various flight conditions. In brief, the basic differences between stability, maneuverability, and controllability are as follows:

q        Stability The inherent quality of an airplane to correct for conditions that may disturb its equilibrium and to return or to continue on the original flightpath. It is primarily an airplane design characteristic.

q        Maneuverability—The quality of an airplane that permits it to be maneuvered easily and to withstand the stresses imposed by maneuvers. The airplane's weight, inertia, size and location of flight controls, structural strength, and power plant govern it. It too is an airplane design characteristic.

q        Controllability—The capability of an airplane to respond to the pilot's control, especially with regard to flight path and attitude. It is the quality of the airplane's response to the pilot's control application when maneuvering the airplane, regardless of its stability characteristics.

Aerodynamics of Flight - MOMENTS AND MOMENT ARM

A study of physics shows that a body that is free to rotate will always turn about its center of gravity. In aerodynamic terms, the mathematical measure of an airplane's tendency to rotate about its center of
gravity is called a "moment." A moment is said to be equal to the product of the force applied and the distance at which the force is applied. (A moment arm is the distance from a datum [reference point or line] to the applied force.) For airplane weight and balance computations, "moments" are expressed in terms of the distance of the arm times the airplane's weight, or simply, inch pounds.

Airplane designers locate the fore and aft position of the airplane's center of gravity as nearly as possible to the 20 percent point of the mean aerodynamic chord (MAC). If the thrust line is designed to pass horizontally through the center of gravity, it will not cause the airplane to pitch when power is changed, and there will be no difference in moment due to thrust for a power-on or power-off condition of flight. Although designers have some control over the location of the drag forces, they are not always able to make the resultant drag forces pass through the center of gravity of the airplane. However, the one item over which they have the greatest control is the size and location of the tail. The objective is to make the moments (due to thrust, drag, and lift) as small as possible; and, by proper location of the tail, to provide the means of balancing the airplane longitudinally for any condition of flight.

The pilot has no direct control over the location of forces acting on the airplane in flight, except for controlling the center of lift by changing the angle of attack. Such a change, however, immediately involves changes in other forces. Therefore, the pilot cannot independently change the location of one force without changing the effect of others. For example, a change in airspeed involves a change in lift, as well as a change in drag and a change in the up or down force on the tail. As forces such as turbulence and gusts act to displace the airplane, the pilot reacts by providing opposing control forces to counteract this displacement.

Some airplanes are subject to changes in the location of the center of gravity with variations of load. Trimming devices are used to counteract the forces set up by fuel burn off, and loading or off-loading of passengers or cargo. Elevator trim tabs and adjustable horizontal stabilizers comprise the most common devices provided to the pilot for trimming for load variations. Over the wide ranges of balance during flight in large airplanes, the force which the pilot has to exert on the controls would become excessive and fatiguing if means of trimming were not provided.

Aerodynamics of Flight - AXES OF AN AIRPLANE

Whenever an airplane changes its flight attitude or position in flight, it rotates about one or more of three axes, which are imaginary-lines, that pass through the airplane's center of gravity. The axes of an airplane can be considered as imaginary axles around which the airplane turns, much like the axle around which a wheel rotates. At the point where all three axes intersect, each is at a 90° angle to the other two. The axis, which extends lengthwise through the fuselage from the nose to the tail, is the longitudinal axis. The axis, which extends crosswise from wing tip to wing tip, is the lateral axis. The axis, which passes vertically through the center of gravity, is the vertical axis.

The airplane's motion about its longitudinal axis resembles the roll of a ship from side to side. In fact, the names used in describing the motion about an airplane's three axes were originally nautical terms. They have been adapted to aeronautical terminology because of the similarity of motion between an airplane and the seagoing ship.

In light of the adoption of nautical terms, the motion about the airplane's longitudinal axis is called "roll"; motion about its lateral axis is referred to as "pitch." Finally, an airplane moves about its vertical axis in a motion, which is termed "yaw"—that is, a horizontal (left and right) movement of the airplane's nose.

The three motions of the airplane (roll, pitch, and yaw) are controlled by three control surfaces. The ailerons control roll; pitch is controlled by the elevators; yaw is controlled by the rudder.

Aerodynamics of Flight - GROUND EFFECT

It is possible to fly an airplane just clear of the ground (or water) at a slightly slower airspeed than that required to sustain level flight at higher altitudes. This is the result of a phenomenon, which is better known than understood even by some experienced pilots.

When an airplane in flight gets within several feet from the ground surface, a change occurs in the three-dimensional flow pattern around the airplane because the vertical component of the airflow around the wing is restricted by the ground surface. This alters the wings up wash, down wash, and wingtip vortices. These general effects due to the presence of the ground are referred to as "ground effect." Ground effect, then, is due to the interference of the ground (or water) surface with the airflow patterns about the airplane in flight.

While ground effects alter the aerodynamic characteristics of the tail surfaces and the fuselage, the principal effects due to proximity of the ground are the changes in the aerodynamic characteristics of the wing. As the wing encounters ground effect and is maintained at a constant lift coefficient, there is consequent reduction in the up wash, down wash, and the wingtip vortices.

Induced drag is a result of the wing's work of sustaining the airplane and the wing lifts the airplane simply by accelerating a mass of air downward. It is true that reduced pressure on top of an airfoil is essential to lift, but that is but one of the things that contributes to the overall effect of pushing an air mass downward. The more down wash there is, the harder the wing is pushing the mass of air down. At high angles of attack, the amount of induced drag is high and since this corresponds to lower airspeeds in actual flight, it can be said that induced drag predominates at low speed.

However, the reduction of the wingtip vortices due to ground effect alters the span wise lift distribution and reduces the induced angle of attack and induced drag. Therefore, the wing will require a lower angle of attack in ground effect to produce the same lift coefficient or, if a constant angle of attack is maintained, an increase in lift coefficient will result.

Ground effect also will alter the thrust required versus velocity. Since induced drag predominates at low speeds, the reduction of induced drag due to ground effect will cause the most significant reduction of thrust required (parasite plus induced drag) at low speeds.
The reduction in induced flow due to ground effect causes a significant reduction in induced drag but causes no direct effect on parasite drag. As a result of the reduction in induced drag, the thrust required at low speeds will be reduced.

Due to the change in up wash, down wash, and wingtip vortices, there may be a change in position (installation) error of the airspeed system, associated with ground effect. In the majority of cases, ground effect will cause an increase in the local pressure at the static source and produce a lower indication of airspeed and altitude. Thus, the airplane may be airborne at an indicated airspeed less than that normally required.

In order for ground effect to be of significant magnitude, the wing must be quite close to the ground. One of the direct results of ground effect is the variation of induced drag with wing height above the ground at a constant lift coefficient. When the wing is at a height equal to its span, the reduction in induced drag is only 1.4 percent. However, when the wing is at a height equal to one-fourth its span, the reduction in induced drag is 23.5 percent and, when the wing is at
a height equal to one-tenth its span, the reduction in induced drag is 47.6 percent. Thus, a large reduction in induced drag will take place only when the wing is very close to the ground. Because of this variation, ground effect is most usually recognized during the liftoff for takeoff or just prior to touchdown when landing.

During the takeoff phase of flight, ground effect produces some important relationships. The airplane leaving ground effect after takeoff encounters just the reverse of the airplane entering ground effect during landing; i.e., the airplane leaving ground effect will:

• Require an increase in angle of attack to maintain the same lift coefficient.
• Experience an increase in induced drag and thrust required.
• Experience a decrease in stability and a nose-up change in moment.
• Produce a reduction in static source pressure and increase in indicated airspeed.

These general effects should point out the possible danger in attempting takeoff prior to achieving the recommended takeoff speed. Due to the reduced drag in ground effect, the airplane may seem capable of takeoff well below the recommended speed. However, as the airplane rises out of ground effect with a deficiency of speed, the greater induced drag may result in very marginal initial climb performance. In the extreme conditions such as high gross weight, high density altitude, and high temperature, a deficiency of airspeed during takeoff may permit the airplane to become airborne but be incapable of flying out of ground effect. In this case, the airplane may become airborne initially with a deficiency of speed, and then settle back to the runway. It is important that no attempt be made to force the airplane to become airborne with a deficiency of speed; the recommended takeoff speed is necessary to provide adequate initial climb performance. For this reason, it is imperative that a definite climb be established before retracting the landing gear or flaps.

During the landing phase of flight, the effect of proximity to the ground also must be understood and appreciated. If the airplane is brought into ground effect with a constant angle of attack, the airplane will experience an increase in lift coefficient and a reduction in the thrust required. Hence, a "floating" effect may occur. Because of the reduced drag and power off deceleration in ground effect, any excess speed at the point of flare may incur a considerable "float" distance. As the airplane nears the point of touchdown, ground effect will be most realized at altitudes less than the wingspan. During the final phases of the approach as the airplane nears the ground, a reduced power setting is necessary or the reduced thrust required would allow the airplane to climb above the desired glide path.

Aerodynamics of Flight - WINGTIP VORTICES

The action of the airfoil that gives an airplane lift also causes induced drag. It was determined that when a wing is flown at a positive angle of attack, a pressure differential exists between the upper and lower surfaces of the wing. That is, the pressure above the wing is less than atmospheric pressure and the pressure below the wing is equal to or greater than atmospheric pressure. Since air always moves from high pressure toward low pressure, and the path of least resistance is toward the airplane's wingtips, there is a span wise movement of air from the bottom of the wing outward from the fuselage around the wingtips. This flow of air results in "spillage" over the wingtips, thereby setting up a whirlpool of air 3-7 called a "vortex." At the same time, the air on the upper surface of the wing has a tendency to flow in toward the fuselage and off the trailing edge. This air current forms a similar vortex at the inboard portion of the trailing edge of the wing, but because the fuselage limits the inward flow, the vortex is insignificant. Consequently, the deviation in flow direction is greatest at the wingtips where the unrestricted lateral flow is the strongest. As the air curls upward around the wingtip, it combines with the wing's down wash to form a fast spinning trailing vortex. These vortices increase drag because of energy spent in producing the turbulence. It can be seen, then, that whenever the wing is producing lift, induced drag occurs, and wingtip vortices are created.

Just as lift increases with an increase in angle of attack, induced drag also increases. This occurs because as the angle of attack is increased, there is a greater pressure difference between the top and bottom of the wing, and a greater lateral flow of air; consequently, this causes more violent vortices to be set up, resulting in more turbulence and more induced drag. The intensity or strength of the wingtip vortices is directly proportional to the weight of the airplane and inversely proportional to the wingspan and speed of the airplane. The heavier and slower the airplane, the greater the angle of attack and the stronger the wingtip vortices. Thus, an airplane will create wingtip vortices with maximum strength occurring during the takeoff, climb, and landing phases of flight.

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Aerodynamics of Flight - LIFT

The pilot can control the lift. Any time the control wheel is more fore or aft, the angle of attack is changed. As angle of attack increases, lift increases (all other factors being equal). When the airplane reaches the maximum angle of attack, lift begins to diminish rapidly. This is the stalling angle of attack, or burble point.

Before proceeding further with lift and how it can be controlled, velocity must be interjected. The shape of the wing cannot be effective unless it continually keeps "attacking" new air. If an airplane is to keep flying, it must keep moving. Lift is proportional to the square of the airplane's velocity. For example, an airplane traveling at 200 knots has four times the lift as the same airplane traveling at 100 knots, if the angle of attack and other factors remain constant.

Actually, the airplane could not continue to travel in level flight at a constant altitude and maintain the same angle of attack if the velocity is increased. The lift would increase and the airplane would climb as a result of the increased lift force. Therefore, to maintain the lift and weight forces in balance, and to keep the airplane "straight and level" (not accelerating upward) in a state of equilibrium, as velocity is increased, lift must be decreased. This is normally accomplished by reducing the angle of attack; i.e., lowering the nose. Conversely, as the airplane is slowed, the decreasing velocity requires increasing the angle of attack to maintain lift sufficient to maintain flight. There is, of course, a limit to how far the angle of attack can be increased, if a stall is to be avoided.

Therefore, it may be concluded that for every angle of attack there is a corresponding indicated airspeed required to maintain altitude in steady, unaccelerated flight—all other factors being constant. (Bear in mind this is only true if maintaining "level flight.") Since an airfoil will always stall at the same angle of attack, if increasing weight, lift must also be increased, and the only method for doing so is by increased velocity if the angle of attack is held constant just short of the "critical" or stalling angle of attack.

Lift and drag also vary directly with the density of the air. Density is affected by several factors: pressure, temperature, and humidity. Remember that at an altitude of 18,000 feet, the density of the air has one-half the density of air at sea level. Therefore, in order to maintain its lift at a higher altitude, an airplane must fly at a greater true airspeed for any given angle of attack.

Furthermore, warm air is less dense than cool air, and moist air is less dense than dry air. Thus, on a hot humid day, an airplane must be flown at a greater true airspeed for any given angle of attack than on a cool, dry day.

If the density factor is decreased and the total lift must equal the total weight to remain in flight, it follows that one of the other factors must be increased. The factors usually increased are the airspeed or the angle of attack, because these factors can be controlled directly by the pilot.

It should also be pointed out that lift varies directly with the wing area, provided there is no change in the wing's platform. If the wings have the same proportion and airfoil sections, a wing with a platform area of 200 square feet lifts twice as much at the same angle of attack as a wing with an area of 100 square feet.

As can be seen, two major factors from the pilot's viewpoint are lift and velocity because these are the two that can be controlled most readily and accurately. Of course, the pilot can also control density by adjusting the altitude and can control wing area if the airplane happens to have flaps of the type that enlarge wing area. However, for most situations, the pilot is controlling lift and velocity to maneuver the airplane. For instance, in straight-and-level flight, cruising along at a constant altitude, altitude is maintained by adjusting lift to match the airplane's velocity or cruise airspeed, while maintaining a state of equilibrium where lift equals weight. In an approach to landing, when the pilot wishes to land as slowly as practical, it is necessary to increase lift to near maximum to maintain lift equal to the weight of the airplane.

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Aerodynamics of Flight - WEIGHT

Gravity is the pulling force that tends to draw all bodies to the center of the earth. The center of gravity (CG) may be considered as a point at which all the weight of the airplane is concentrated. If the airplane were supported at its exact center of gravity, it would balance in any attitude. It will be noted that center of gravity is of major importance in an airplane, for its position has a great bearing upon stability.

The location of the center of gravity is determined by the general design of each particular airplane. The designers determine how far the center of pressure (CP) will travel. They then fix the center of gravity forward of the center of pressure for the corresponding flight speed in order to provide an adequate restoring moment to retain flight equilibrium.

Weight has a definite relationship with lift, and thrust with drag. This relationship is simple, but important in understanding the aerodynamics of flying. Lift is the upward force on the wing acting perpendicular to the relative wind. Lift is required to counteract the airplane's weight (which is caused by the force of gravity acting on the mass of the airplane). This weight (gravity) force acts downward through the airplane's center of gravity. In stabilized level flight, when the lift force is equal to the weight force, the airplane is in a state of equilibrium and neither gains nor loses altitude. If lift becomes less than weight, the airplane loses altitude. When the lift is greater than weight, the airplane gains altitude.

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Aerodynamics of Flight - DRAG

Drag in flight is of two basic types: parasite drag and induced drag. The first is called parasite because it in no way functions to aid flight, while the second is induced or created as a result of the wing developing lift.

Parasite drag is composed of two basic elements: form drag, resulting from the disruption of the streamline flow; and the resistance of skin friction.

Of the two components of parasite drag, form drag is the easier to reduce when designing an airplane. In general, a more streamlined object produces the best form to reduce parasite drag.

Skin friction is the type of parasite drag that is most difficult to reduce. No surface is perfectly smooth. Even machined surfaces, when inspected through magnification, have a ragged, uneven appearance. This rough surface will deflect the streamlines of air on the surface, causing resistance to smooth airflow. Skin friction can be minimized by employing a glossy, flat finish to surfaces, and by eliminating protruding rivet heads, roughness, and other irregularities.

Another element must be added to the consideration of parasite drag when designing an airplane. This drag combines the effects of form drag and skin friction and is called interference drag. If two objects are placed adjacent to one another, the resulting turbulence produced may be 50 to 200 percent greater than the parts tested separately.

The three elements, form drag, skin friction, and interference drag, are all computed to determine parasite drag on an airplane.

Shape of an object is a big factor in parasite drag. However, indicated airspeed is an equally important factor when speaking of parasite drag. The profile drag of a streamlined object held in a fixed position relative to the airflow increases approximately as the square of the velocity; thus, doubling the airspeed increases the drag four times, and tripling the airspeed increases the drag nine times. This relationship, however, holds good only at comparatively low subsonic speeds. At some higher airspeeds, the rate at which profile drag has been increased with speed suddenly begins to increase more rapidly.

The second basic type of drag is induced drag. It is an established physical fact that no system, which does work in the mechanical sense, can be 100 percent efficient. This means that whatever the nature of the system, the required work is obtained at the expense of certain additional work that is dissipated or lost in the system. The more efficient the system, the smaller this loss.

In level flight the aerodynamic properties of the wing produce a required lift, but this can be obtained only at the expense of a certain penalty. The name given to this penalty is induced drag. Induced drag is inherent whenever a wing is producing lift and, in fact, this type of drag is inseparable from the production of lift. Consequently, it is always present if lift is produced.

The wing produces the lift force by making use of the energy of the free airstream. Whenever the wing is producing lift, the pressure on the lower surface of the wing is greater than that on the upper surface. As a result, the air tends to flow from the high pressure area below the wing tip upward to the low pressure area above the wing. In the vicinity of the wing tips, there is a tendency for these pressures to equalize, resulting in a lateral flow outward from the underside to the upper surface of the wing. This lateral flow imparts a rotational velocity to the air at the wing tips and trails behind the wing. Therefore, flow about the wing tips will be in the form of two vortices trailing behind as the wings move on.

When the airplane is viewed from the tail, these vortices will circulate counterclockwise about the right wing tip and clockwise about the left wing tip. Bearing in mind the direction of rotation of these vortices, it can be seen that they induce an upward flow of air beyond the wing tip, and a down wash flow behind the wing's trailing edge. This induced down wash has nothing in common with the down wash that is necessary to produce lift. It is, in fact, the source of induced drag. The greater the size and strength of the vortices and consequent down wash component on the net airflow over the wing, the greater the induced drag effect becomes. This down wash over the top of the wing at the tip has the same effect as bending the lift vector rearward; therefore, the lift is slightly aft of perpendicular to the relative wind, creating a rearward lift component. This is induced drag.

It should be remembered that in order to create a greater negative pressure on the top of the wing, the wing could be inclined to a higher angle of attack. Also, that if the angle of attack of an asymmetrical wing were zero, there would be no pressure differential and consequently no down wash component; therefore, no induced drag. In any case, as angle of attack increases, induced drag increases proportionally.

To state this another way—the lower the airspeed the greater the angle of attack required to produce lift equal to the airplane's weight and consequently, the greater will be the induced drag. The amount of induced drag varies inversely as the square of the airspeed.

From the foregoing discussion, it can be noted that parasite drag increases as the square of the airspeed, and induced drag varies inversely as the square of the airspeed. It can be seen that as airspeed decreases to near the stalling speed, the total drag becomes greater, due mainly to the sharp rise in induced drag. Similarly, as the airspeed reaches the terminal velocity of the airplane, the total drag again increases rapidly, due to the sharp increase of parasite drag. Total drag is at its maximum amount. This is very important in figuring the maximum endurance and range of airplanes; for when drag is at a minimum, power required overcoming drag is also at a minimum.

To understand the effect of lift and drag on an airplane in flight, both must be combined and the lift/drag ratio considered. With the lift and drag data available for various airspeeds of the airplane in steady, unaccelerated flight, the proportions of CL (Coefficient of Lift) and CD (Coefficient of Drag) can be calculated for each specific angle of attack. The resulting plot for lift/drag ratio with angle of attack shows that L/D increases to some maximum, then decreases at the higher lift coefficients and angles of attack, as shown in figure 3-6. Note that the maximum lift/drag ratio, (L/D max) occurs at one specific angle of attack and lift coefficient. If the airplane is operated in steady flight at L/D max, the total drag is at a minimum. Any angle of attack lower or higher than that for L/D max reduces the lift/drag ratio and consequently increases the total drag for a given airplane's lift.

The location of the center of gravity (CG) is determined by the general design of each particular airplane. The designers determine how far the center of pressure (CP) will travel. They then fix the center of gravity forward of the center of pressure for the corresponding flight speed in order to provide an adequate restoring moment to retain flight equilibrium.

The configuration of an airplane has a great effect on the lift/drag ratio. The high performance sailplane may have extremely high lift/drag ratios. The supersonic fighter may have seemingly low lift/drag ratios in subsonic flight, but the airplane configurations required for supersonic flight (and high L/Ds at high Mach numbers) cause this situation.

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Aerodynamics of Flight - THRUST

Before the airplane begins to move, thrust must be exerted. It continues to move and gain speed until thrust and drag are equal. In order to maintain a constant airspeed, thrust and drag must remain equal, just as lift and weight must be equal to maintain a constant altitude. If in level flight, the engine power is reduced, the thrust is lessened, and the airplane slows down. As long as the thrust is less than the drag, the airplane continues to decelerate until its airspeed is insufficient to support it in the air.

Likewise, if the engine power is increased, thrust becomes greater than drag and the airspeed increases. As long as the thrust continues to be greater than the drag, the airplane continues to accelerate. When drag equals thrust, the airplane flies at a constant airspeed.

Straight-and-level flight may be sustained at speeds from very slow to very fast. The pilot must coordinate angle of attack and thrust in all speed regimes if the airplane is to be held in level flight. Roughly, these regimes can be grouped in three categories: low-speed flight, cruising flight, and high-speed flight.

When the airspeed is low, the angle of attack must be relatively high to increase lift if the balance between lift and weight is to be maintained. If thrust decreases and airspeed decreases, lift becomes less than weight and the airplane will start to descend. To maintain level flight, the pilot can increase the angle of attack amounts, which will generate a lift force again equal to the weight of the airplane. While the airplane will be flying more slowly, it will still maintain level flight if the pilot has properly coordinated thrust and angle of attack.

Straight-and-level flight in the slow speed regime provides some interesting conditions relative to the equilibrium of forces, because with the airplane in a nose-high attitude, there is a vertical component of thrust that helps support the airplane. For one thing, wing loading tends to be less than would be expected. Most pilots are aware that an airplane will stall, other conditions being equal, at a slower speed with the power on than with the power off. (Induced airflow over the wings from the propeller also contributes to this.) However, if analysis is restricted to the four forces as they are usually defined, one can say that in straight-and-level slow speed flight the thrust is equal to drag, and lift is equal to weight.

During straight-and level-flight when thrust is increased and the airspeed increases, the angle of attack must be decreased. That is, if changes have been coordinated, the airplane will still remain in level flight but at a higher speed when the proper relationship between thrust and angle of attack is established.

If the angle of attack were not coordinated (decreased) with this increase of thrust, the airplane would climb. But decreasing the angle of attack modifies the lift, keeping it equal to the weight, and if properly done, the airplane still remains in level flight. Level flight at even slightly negative angles of attack is possible at very high speed. It is evident then, that level flight can be performed with any angle of attack between stalling angle and the relatively small negative angles found at high speed.

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Aerodynamics of Flight - FORCES ACTING ON THE AIRPLANE

In some respects at least, how well a pilot performs in flight depends upon the ability to plan and coordinate the use of the power and flight controls for changing the forces of thrust, drag, lift, and weight. It is the balance between these forces that the pilot must always control. The better the understanding of the forces and means of controlling them, the greater will be the pilot's skill at doing so.

The following defines these forces in relation to straight-and-level, unaccelerated flight.

Thrust is the forward force produced by the power plant/ propeller. It opposes or overcomes the force of drag. As a general rule, it is said to act parallel to the longitudinal axis. However, this is not always the case as will be explained later.

Drag is a rearward, retarding force, and is caused by disruption of airflow by the wing, fuselage, and other protruding objects. Drag opposes thrust, and acts rearward parallel to the relative wind.

Weight is the combined load of the airplane itself, the crew, the fuel, and the cargo or baggage. Weight pulls the airplane downward because of the force of gravity. It opposes lift, and acts vertically downward through the airplane's center of gravity.

Lift opposes the downward force of weight, is produced by the dynamic effect of the air acting on the
wing, and acts perpendicular to the flight path through the wing's center of lift.

In steady flight, the sum of these opposing forces is equal to zero. There can be no unbalanced forces in steady, straight flight (Newton's Third Law). This is true whether flying level or when climbing or descending. This is not the same thing as saying that the four forces are all equal. It simply means that the opposing forces are equal to, and thereby cancel the effects of, each other. Often the relationship between the four forces has been erroneously explained or illustrated in such a way that this point is obscured. In the upper illustration the force vectors of thrust, drag, lift, and weight appear to be equal in value. The usual explanation states (without stipulating that thrust and drag do not equal weight and lift) that thrust equals drag and lift equals weight as shown in the lower illustration. This basically true statement must be understood or it can be misleading. It should be understood that in straight, level, unaccelerated flight, it is true that the opposing lift/weight forces are equal, but they are also greater than the opposing forces of thrust/drag that are equal only to each other; not to lift/weight. To be correct about it, it must be said that in steady flight:

• Sum of all upward forces (not just lift) equals the sum of all downward forces (not just weight).
• Sum of all forward forces (not just thrust) equals the sum of all backward forces (not just drag).

This refinement of the old "thrust equals drag; lift equals weight". Formula takes into account the fact that in climbs a portion of thrust, since it is directed upward, acts as if it were lift; and a portion of weight, since it is directed backward, acts as if it were drag. In glides, a portion of the weight vector is directed forward, and therefore acts as thrust. In other words, any time the flight path of the airplane is not horizontal, lift, weight, thrust, and drag vectors must each be broken down into two components.

Discussions of the preceding concepts are frequently omitted in aeronautical texts/handbooks/manuals. The reason is not that they are of no consequence, but because by omitting such discussions, the main ideas with respect to the aerodynamic forces acting upon an airplane in flight can be presented in their most essential elements without being involved in the technicalities of the aerodynamics. In point of fact, considering only level flight, and normal climbs and glides in a steady state, it is still true that wing lift is the really important upward force, and weight is the really important downward force.

Frequently, much of the difficulty encountered in explaining the forces that act upon an airplane is largely a matter of language and its meaning. For example, pilots have long believed that an airplane climbs because of excess lift. This is not true if one is thinking in terms of wing lift alone. It is true, however, if by lift it is meant the sum total of all "upward forces." But when referring to the "lift of thrust" or the "thrust of weight," the definitions previously established for these forces are no longer valid and complicate matters. It is this impreciseness in language that affords the excuse to engage in arguments, largely academic, over refinements to basic principles.

Though the forces acting on an airplane have already been defined, a discussion in more detail to establish how the pilot uses them to produce controlled flight is appropriate.

Principles of Flight - PRESSURE DISTRIBUTION

From experiments conducted on wind tunnel models and on full size airplanes, it has been determined that as air flows along the surface of a wing at different angles of attack. There are regions along the surface where the pressure is negative, or less than atmospheric, and regions where the pressure is positive, or greater than atmospheric. This negative pressure on the upper surface creates a relatively larger force on the wing than is caused by the positive pressure resulting from the air striking the lower wing surface. In the design of wing structures, this center of pressure travel is very important, since it affects the position of the air loads imposed on the wing structure in low angle-of-attack conditions and high angle-of-attack conditions. The airplane's aerodynamic balance and control ability are governed by changes in the center of pressure.

The center of pressure is determined through calculation and wind tunnel tests by varying the airfoil's angle of attack through normal operating extremes. As the angle of attack is changed, so are the various pressure distribution characteristics. Positive (+) and negative (–) pressure forces are totaled for each angle of attack and the resultant force is obtained. The resultant force vector represents the total resultant pressure.

The point of application of this force vector is termed the "center of pressure" (CP). For any given angle of attack, the center of pressure is the point where the resultant force crosses the chord line. This point is expressed as a percentage of the chord of the airfoil. A center of pressure at 30 percent of a 60- inch chord would be 18 inches aft of the wing's leading edge. It would appear then that if the designer would place the wing so that its center of pressure was at the airplane's center of gravity, the airplane would always balance. The difficulty arises, however, that the location of the center of pressure changes with change in the airfoil's angle of attack.

In the airplane's normal range of flight attitudes, if the angle of attack is increased, the center of pressure moves forward; and if decreased, it moves rearward. Since the center of gravity is fixed at one point, it is evident that as the angle of attack increases. The center of lift (CL) moves ahead of the center of gravity, creating a force which tends to raise the nose of the airplane or tends to increase the angle of attack still more. On the other hand, if the angle of attack is decreased, the center of lift (CL) moves aft and tends to decrease the angle a greater amount. It is seen then, that the ordinary airfoil is inherently unstable, and that an auxiliary device, such as the horizontal tail surface, must be added to make the airplane balance longitudinally.

The balance of an airplane in flight depends, therefore, on the relative position of the center of gravity (CG) and the center of pressure (CP) of the airfoil. Experience has shown that an airplane with the center of gravity in the vicinity of 20 percent of the wing chord can be made to balance and fly satisfactorily.

The tapered wing presents a variety of wing chords throughout the span of the wing. It becomes necessary then, to specify some chord about which the point of balance can be expressed. This chord, known as the mean aerodynamic chord (MAC), usually is defined as the chord of an imaginary untapered wing, which would have the same center of pressure characteristics as the wing in question.

Airplane loading and weight distribution also affect center of gravity and cause additional forces, which in turn affect airplane balance.

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Principles of Flight - LOW & HIGH PRESSURE ABOVE

In a wind tunnel or in flight, an airfoil is simply a streamlined object inserted into a moving stream of air. If the airfoil profile were in the shape of a teardrop, the speed and the pressure changes of the air passing over the top and bottom would be the same on both sides. But if the teardrop shaped airfoil were cut in half lengthwise, a form resembling the basic airfoil (wing) section would result. If the airfoil were then inclined so the airflow strikes it at an angle (angle of attack). The air molecules moving over the upper surface would be forced to move faster than would the molecules moving along the bottom of the airfoil, since the upper molecules must travel a greater distance due to the curvature of the upper surface. This increased velocity reduces the pressure above the airfoil.

Bernoulli's principle of pressure by itself does not explain the distribution of pressure over the upper surface of the airfoil. A discussion of the influence of momentum of the air as it flows in various curved paths near the airfoil will be presented. Momentum is the resistance a moving body offers to have its direction or amount of motion changed. When a body is forced to move in a circular path, it offers resistance in the direction away from the center of the curved path. This is "centrifugal force." While the particles of air move in the curved path AB, centrifugal force tends to throw them in the direction of the arrows between A and B and hence, causes the air to exert more than normal pressure on the leading edge of the airfoil. But after the air particles pass B (the point of reversal of the curvature of the path) the centrifugal force tends to throw them in the direction of the arrows between B and C (causing reduced pressure on the airfoil). This effect is held until the particles reach C, the second point of reversal of curvature of the airflow. Again the centrifugal force is reversed and the particles may even tend to give slightly more than normal pressure on the trailing edge of the airfoil, as indicated by the short arrows between C and D.

Therefore, the air pressure on the upper surface of the airfoil is distributed so that the pressure is much greater on the leading edge than the surrounding atmospheric pressure. This causing strong resistance to forward motion; but the air pressure is less than surrounding atmospheric pressure over a large portion of the top surface (B to C).

As seen in the application of Bernoulli's theorem to a venturi, the speed-up of air on the top of an airfoil produces a drop in pressure. This lowered pressure is a component of total lift. It is a mistake, however, to assume that the pressure difference between the upper and lower surface of a wing alone accounts for the total lift force produced.

One must also bear in mind that associated with the lowered pressure is downwash; a downward backward flow from the top surface of the wing. As already seen from previous discussions relative to the dynamic action of the air as it strikes the lower surface of the wing, the reaction of this downward backward flow results in an upward forward force on the wing. This same reaction applies to the flow of air over the top of the airfoil as well as to the bottom, and Newton's third law is again in the picture.

In the section dealing with Newton's laws as they apply to lift, it has already been discussed how a certain amount of lift is generated by pressure conditions underneath the wing. Because of the manner in which air flows underneath the wing, a positive pressure results, particularly at higher angles of attack. But there is another aspect to this airflow that must be considered. At a point close to the leading edge, the airflow is virtually stopped (stagnation point) and then gradually increases speed. At some point near the trailing edge, it has again reached a velocity equal to that on the upper surface. In conformance with Bernoulli's principles, where the airflow was slowed beneath the wing, a positive upward pressure was created against the wing; i.e., as the fluid speed decreases, the pressure must increase. In essence, this simply "accentuates the positive" since it increases the pressure differential between the upper and lower surface of the airfoil, and therefore increases total lift over that which would have resulted had there been no increase of pressure at the lower surface. Both Bernoulli's principle and Newton's laws are in operation whenever lift is being generated by an airfoil.

Fluid flow or airflow then, is the basis for flight in airplanes, and is a product of the velocity of the airplane. The velocity of the airplane is very important to the pilot since it affects the lift and drag forces of the airplane. The pilot uses the velocity (airspeed) to fly at a minimum glide angle, at maximum endurance, and for a number of other flight maneuvers. Airspeed is the velocity of the airplane relative to the air mass through which it is flying.

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Principles of Flight - AIRFOIL DESIGN

In the sections devoted to Newton's and Bernoulli's discoveries, it has already been discussed in general terms the question of how an airplane wing can sustain flight when the airplane is heavier than air. Perhaps the explanation can best be reduced to its most elementary concept by stating that lift (flight) is simply the result of fluid flow (air) about an airfoil—or in everyday language, the result of moving an airfoil (wing), by whatever means, through the air.

Since it is the airfoil which harnesses the force developed by its movement through the air, a discussion and explanation of this structure, as well as some of the material presented in previous discussions on Newton's and Bernoulli's laws, will be presented.

An airfoil is a structure designed to obtain reaction upon its surface from the air through which it moves or that moves past such a structure. Air acts in various ways when submitted to different pressures and velocity's; but this discussion will be confined to the parts of an airplane that a pilot is most concerned with in flight—namely, the airfoils designed to produce lift. By looking at a typical airfoil profile, such as the cross section of a wing, one can see several obvious characteristics of design. Notice that there is a difference in the curvatures of the upper and lower surfaces of the airfoil (the curvature is called camber). The camber of the upper surface is more pronounced than that of the lower surface, which is somewhat flat in most instances.

In above figure, note that the two extremities of the airfoil profile also differ in appearance. The end which faces forward in flight is called the leading edge, and is rounded; while the other end, the trailing edge, is quite narrow and tapered.

A reference line often used in discussing the airfoil is the chord line, a straight line drawn through the profile connecting the extremities of the leading and trailing edges. The distance from this chord line to the upper and lower surfaces of the wing denotes the magnitude of the upper and lower camber at any point. Another reference line, drawn from the leading edge to the trailing edge, is the "mean camber line." These mean line is equidistant at all points from the upper and lower contours.

The construction of the wing, so as to provide actions greater than its weight, is done by shaping the wing so that advantage can be taken of the air's response to certain physical laws, and thus develop two actions from the air mass; a positive pressure lifting action from the air mass below the wing, and a negative pressure lifting action from lowered pressure above the wing.

As the airstream strikes the relatively flat lower surface of the wing when inclined at a small angle to its direction of motion, the air is forced to rebound downward and therefore causes an upward reaction in positive lift, while at the same time airstream striking the upper curved section of the "leading edge" of the wing is deflected upward. In other words, a wing shaped to cause an action on the air, and forcing it downward, will provide an equal reaction from the air, forcing the wing upward. If a wing is constructed in such form that it will cause a lift force greater than the weight of the airplane, the airplane will fly.

However, if all the lift required were obtained merely from the deflection of air by the lower surface of the wing, an airplane would need only a flat wing like a kite. This, of course, is not the case at all; under certain conditions disturbed air currents circulating at the trailing edge of the wing could be so excessive as to make the airplane lose speed and lift. The balance of the lift needed to support the airplane comes from the flow of air above the wing. Herein lies the key to flight. The fact that most lift is the result of the airflow's downwash from above the wing, must be thoroughly understood in order to continue further in the study of flight. It is neither accurate nor does it serve a useful purpose, however, to assign specific values to the percentage of lift generated by the upper surface of an airfoil versus that generated by the lower surface. These are not constant values and will vary, not only with flight conditions, but also with different wing designs.

It should be understood that different airfoils have different flight characteristics. Many thousands of
airfoils have been tested in wind tunnels and in actual flight, but no one airfoil has been found that satisfies every flight requirement. The weight, speed, and purpose of each airplane dictate the shape of its airfoil. It was learned many years ago that the most efficient airfoil for producing the greatest lift was one that had a concave, or "scooped out" lower surface. Later it was also learned that as a fixed design, this type of airfoil sacrificed too much speed while producing lift and, therefore, was not suitable for high-speed flight. It is interesting to note, however, that through advanced progress in engineering, today's high-speed jets can again take advantage of the concave airfoil's high lift characteristics. Leading edge (Kreuger) flaps and trailing edge (Fowler) flaps, when extended from the basic wing structure, literally change the airfoil shape into the classic concave form, thereby generating much greater lift during slow flight conditions.

On the other hand, an airfoil that is perfectly streamlined and offers little wind resistance sometimes does not have enough lifting power to take the airplane off the ground. Thus, modern airplanes have airfoils, which strike a medium between extremes in design, the shape varying according to the needs of the airplane for which it is designed.

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A half century after Sir Newton presented his laws, Mr. Daniel Bernoulli, a Swiss mathematician, explained how the pressure of a moving fluid (liquid or gas) varies with its speed of motion. Specifically, he stated that an increase in the speed of movement or flow would cause a decrease in the fluid's pressure. This is exactly what happens to air passing over the curved top of the airplane wing.

An appropriate analogy can be made with water flowing through a garden hose. Water moving through a hose of constant diameter exerts a uniform pressure on the hose; but if the diameter of a section of the hose is increased or decreased, it is certain to change the pressure of the water at that point. Suppose the hose was pinched, thereby constricting the area through which the water flows. Assuming that the same volume of water flows through the constricted portion of the hose in the same period of time as before the hose was pinched, it follows that the speed of flow must increase at that point.

Therefore, if a portion of the hose is constricted, it not only increases the speed of the flow, but also decreases the pressure at that point. Like results could be achieved if streamlined solids (airfoils) were introduced at the same point in the hose. This same principle is the basis for the measurement of airspeed (fluid flow) and for analyzing the airfoil's ability to produce lift.

A practical application of Bernoulli's theorem is the venturi tube. The venturi tube has an air inlet which narrows to a throat (constricted point) and an outlet section which increases in diameter toward the rear. The diameter of the outlet is the same as that of the inlet. At the throat, the airflow speeds up and the pressure decreases; at the outlet, the airflow slows and the pressure increases.

If air is recognized as a body and it is accepted that it must follow the above laws, one can begin to see how and why an airplane wing develops lift as it moves through the air.

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In the 17th century, a philosopher and mathematician, Sir Isaac Newton, propounded three basic laws of motion. It is certain that he did not have the airplane in mind when he did so, but almost everything known about motion goes back to his three simple laws. These laws, named after Newton, are as follows:

Newton's first law states, in part, that: A body at rest tends to remain at rest, and a body in motion tends to remain moving at the same speed and in the same direction.

This simply means that, in nature, nothing starts or stops moving until some outside force causes it to do so. An airplane at rest on the ramp will remain at rest unless a force strong enough to overcome its inertia is applied. Once it is moving, however, its inertia keeps it moving, subject to the various other forces acting on it. These forces may add to its motion, slow it down, or change its direction.

Newton's second law implies that: When a constant force acts upon a body, its resulting acceleration is inversely proportional to the mass of the body and is directly proportional to the applied force.

What is being dealt with here are the factors involved in overcoming Newton's First Law of Inertia. It covers both changes in direction and speed, including starting up from rest (positive acceleration) and coming to a stop (negative acceleration, or deceleration).

Newton's third law states that: Whenever one body exerts a force on another, the second body always exerts on the first, a force that is equal in magnitude but opposite in direction.

The recoil of a gun as it is fired is a graphic example of Newton's third law. The champion swimmer who pushes against the side of the pool during the turnaround, or the infant learning to walk both would fail but for the phenomena expressed in this law. In an airplane, the propeller moves and pushes back the air; consequently, the air pushes the propeller (and thus the airplane) in the opposite direction—forward. In a jet airplane, the engine pushes a blast of hot gases backward; the force of equal and opposite reaction pushes against the engine and forces the airplane forward. The movement of all vehicles is a graphic illustration of Newton's third law.

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The explanation of lift can best be explained by looking at a cylinder rotating in an air stream. The local velocity near the cylinder is composed of the air stream velocity and the cylinder's rotational velocity, which decreases with distance from the cylinder. On a cylinder, which is rotating in such a way that the top surface area is rotating in the same direction as the airflow, the local velocity at the surface is high on top and low on the bottom.

As shown in following figure, at point "A," a stagnation point exists where the air stream line that impinges on the surface splits; some air goes over and some under. Another stagnation point exists at "B," where the two air streams rejoin and resume at identical velocity's. We now have up wash ahead of the rotating cylinder and down wash at the rear.

The difference in surface velocity accounts for a difference in pressure, with the pressure being lower on the top than the bottom. This low pressure area produces an upward force known as the "Magnus Effect." This mechanically induced circulation illustrates the relationship between circulation and lift. An airfoil with a positive angle of attack develops air circulation as its sharp trailing edge forces the rear stagnation point to be aft of the trailing edge, while the front stagnation point is below the leading edge.

Magnus Effect is a lifting force produced when a rotating cylinder produces a pressure differential. This is the same effect that makes a baseball curve or a golf ball slice.

Air circulation around an airfoil occurs when the front stagnation point is below the leading edge and the aft stagnation point is beyond the trailing edge.

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Effects on Density

Since air is a gas, it can be compressed or expanded. When air is compressed, a greater amount of air can occupy a given volume. Conversely, when pressure on a given volume of air is decreased, the air expands and occupies a greater space. That is, the original column of air at a lower pressure contains a smaller mass of air. In other words, the density is decreased. In fact, density is directly proportional to pressure. If the pressure is doubled, the density is doubled, and if the pressure is lowered, so is the density. This statement is true, only at a constant temperature.

The effect of increasing the temperature of a substance is to decrease its density. Conversely, decreasing the temperature has the effect of increasing the density. Thus, the density of air varies inversely as the absolute temperature varies. This statement is true, only at a constant pressure.

In the atmosphere, both temperature and pressure decrease with altitude, and have conflict effects upon density. However, the fairly rapid drop in pressure as altitude is increased usually has the dominating effect. Hence, density can be expected to decrease with altitude.

The preceding paragraphs have assumed that the air was perfectly dry. In reality, it is never completely dry. The small amount of water vapor suspended in the atmosphere may be almost negligible under certain conditions, but in other conditions humidity may become an important factor in the performance of an airplane. Water vapor is lighter than air; consequently, moist air is lighter than dry air. It is lightest or least dense when, in a given set of conditions, it contains the maximum amount of water vapor. The higher the temperature, the greater amount of water vapor the air can hold. When comparing two separate air masses, the first warm and moist (both qualities tending to lighten the air) and the second cold and dry (both qualities making it heavier), the first necessarily must be less dense than the second. Pressure, temperature, and humidity have a great influence on airplane performance, because of their effect upon density.

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The atmosphere in which flight is conducted is an envelope of air that surrounds the earth and rests upon its surface. It is as much a part of the earth as the seas or the land. However, air differs from land and water inasmuch as it is a mixture of gases. It has mass, weight, and indefinite shape.

Air, like any other fluid, is able to flow and change its shape when subjected to even minute pressures because of the lack of strong molecular cohesion. For example, gas will completely fill any container into which it is placed, expanding or contracting to adjust its shape to the limits of the container.

The atmosphere is composed of 78 percent nitrogen, 21 percent oxygen, and 1 percent other gases, such as argon or helium. As some of these elements are heavier than others, there is a natural tendency of these heavier elements, such as oxygen, to settle to the surface of the earth, while the lighter elements are lifted up to the region of higher altitude. This explains why most of the oxygen is contained below 35,000 feet altitude.

Because air has mass and weight, it is a body, and as a body, it reacts to the scientific laws of bodies in the same manner as other gaseous bodies. This body of air resting upon the surface of the earth has weight and at sea level develops an average pressure of 14.7 pounds on each square inch of surface, or 29.92 inches of mercury. But as its thickness is limited, the higher the altitude, the less air there is above. For this reason, the weight of the atmosphere at 18,000 feet is only one-half what it is at sea level.

My Aircraft Structure Blog

Aircraft Structure

Although airplanes are designed for a variety of purposes, most of them have the same major components.
The overall characteristics are largely determined by the original design objectives. Most airplane structures include a fuselage, wings, an empennage, landing gear, and a power plant.

Aircraft—A device that is used for flight in the air. Airplane—An engine-driven, fixed-wing aircraft heavier than air that is supported in flight by the dynamic reaction of air against its wings.

The fuselage includes the cabin and/or cockpit, which contain seats for the occupants and the controls for the airplane. In addition, the fuselage may also provide room for cargo and attachment points for the other major airplane components. Some aircraft utilize an open truss structure. The truss-type fuselage is constructed of steel or aluminum tubing. Strength and rigidity is achieved by welding the tubing together into a series of triangular shapes, called trusses.

Construction of the Warren truss features longerons, as well as diagonal and vertical web members. To reduce weight, small airplanes generally utilize aluminum alloy tubing, which may be riveted or bolted into one piece with cross-bracing members.

As technology progressed, aircraft designers began to enclose the truss members to streamline the airplane and improve performance. This was originally accomplished with cloth fabric, which eventually gave way to lightweight metals such as aluminum. In some cases, the outside skin can support all or a major portion of the flight loads. Most modern aircraft use a form of this stressed skin structure known as monocoque or semimonocoque construction.

The monocoque design uses stressed skin to support almost all imposed loads. This structure can be very strong but cannot tolerate dents or deformation of the surface. This characteristic is easily demonstrated by a thin aluminum beverage can. You can exert considerable force to the ends of the can without causing any damage.

However, if the side of the can is dented only slightly, the can will collapse easily. The true monocoque construction mainly consists of the skin, formers, and bulkheads. The formers and bulkheads provide shape for the fuselage.

Since no bracing members are present, the skin must be strong enough to keep the fuselage rigid. Thus, a significant problem involved in monocoque construction is maintaining enough strength while keeping the weight within allowable limits. Due to the limitations of the monocoque design, a semi-monocoque structure is used on many of today’s aircraft.

The semi-monocoque system uses a substructure to which the airplane’s skin is attached. The substructure, which consists of bulkheads and/or formers of various sizes and stringers, reinforces the stressed skin by taking some of the bending stress from the fuselage.
The main section of the fuselage also includes wing attachment points and a firewall.

Truss—A fuselage design made up of supporting structural members that resist deformation by applied loads. Monocoque—A shell-like fuselage design in which the stressed outer skin is used to support the majority of imposed stresses. Monocoque fuselage design may include bulkheads but not stringers. Semi-Monocoque—A fuselage design that includes a substructure of bulkheads and/or formers, along with stringers, to support flight loads and stresses imposed on the fuselage.

On single-engine airplanes, the engine is usually attached to the front of the fuselage. There is a fireproof partition between the rear of the engine and the cockpit or cabin to protect the pilot and passengers from accidental engine fires. This partition is called a firewall and is usually made of heat-resistant material such as stainless steel.

The wings are airfoils attached to each side of the fuselage and are the main lifting surfaces that support the airplane in flight. There are numerous wing designs, sizes, and shapes used by the various manufacturers. Each fulfills a certain need with respect to the expected performance for the particular airplane.

Wings may be attached at the top, middle, or lower portion of the fuselage. These designs are referred to as high-, mid-, and low-wing, respectively. The number of wings can also vary. Airplanes with a single set of wings are referred to as monoplanes, while those with two sets are called biplanes.

Many high-wing airplanes have external braces, or wing struts, which transmit the flight and landing loads through the struts to the main fuselage structure. Since the wing struts are usually attached approximately halfway out on the wing, this type of wing structure is called semi-cantilever. A few high-wing and most low-wing airplanes have a full cantilever wing designed to carry the loads without external struts.

The principal structural parts of the wing are spars, ribs, and stringers. [Figure 1-6] These are reinforced by trusses, I-beams, tubing, or other devices, including the skin. The wing ribs determine the shape and thickness of the wing (airfoil). In most modern airplanes, the fuel tanks either are an integral part of the wing’s structure, or consist of flexible containers mounted inside of the wing.

Attached to the rear, or trailing, edges of the wings are two types of control surfaces referred to as ailerons and flaps. Ailerons extend from about the midpoint of each wing outward toward the tip and move in opposite directions to create aerodynamic forces that cause the airplane to roll. Flaps extend outward from the fuselage to near the midpoint of each wing. The flaps are normally flush with the wing’s surface during cruising flight. When extended, the flaps move simultaneously downward to increase the lifting force of the wing for takeoffs and landings.

Airfoil—An airfoil is any surface, such as a wing, propeller, rudder, or even a trim tab, which provides aerodynamic force when it interacts with a moving stream of air. Monoplane—An airplane that has only one main lifting surface or wing, usually divided into two parts by the fuselage. Biplane—An airplane that has two main airfoil surfaces or wings on each side of the fuselage, one placed above the other.

The correct name for the tail section of an airplane is empennage. The empennage includes the entire tail group, consisting of fixed surfaces such as the vertical stabilizer and the horizontal stabilizer. The movable surfaces include the rudder, the elevator, and one or more trim tabs.

A second type of empennage design does not require an elevator. Instead, it incorporates a one-piece horizontal stabilizer that pivots from a central hinge point. This type of design is called a stabilator, and is moved using the control wheel, just as you would the elevator. For example, when you pull back on the control wheel, the stabilator pivots so the trailing edge moves up. This increases the aerodynamic tail load and causes the nose of the airplane to move up. Stabilators have an anti-servo tab extending across their trailing edge.

The anti-servo tab moves in the same direction as the trailing edge of the stabilator. The anti-servo tab also functions as a trim tab to relieve control pressures and helps maintain the stabilator in the desired position. The rudder is attached to the back of the vertical stabilizer. During flight, it is used to move the airplane’s nose left and right. The rudder is used in combination with the ailerons for turns during flight. The elevator, which is attached to the back of the horizontal stabilizer, is used to move the nose of the airplane up and down during flight.

Trim tabs are small, movable portions of the trailing edge of the control surface. These movable trim tabs, which are controlled from the cockpit, reduce control pressures. Trim tabs may be installed on the ailerons, the rudder, and/or the elevator.

Empennage—The section of the airplane that consists of the vertical stabilizer, the horizontal stabilizer, and the associated control surfaces.

The landing gear is the principle support of the airplane when parked, taxiing, taking off, or when landing. The most common type of landing gear consists of wheels, but airplanes can also be equipped with floats for water operations, or skis for landing on snow.

The landing gear consists of three wheels—two mains wheels and a third wheel positioned either at the front or rear of the airplane. Landing gear employing a rear-mounted wheel is called conventional landing gear. Airplanes with conventional landing gear are sometimes referred to as tail-wheel airplanes. When the third wheel is located on the nose, it is called a nose-wheel, and the design is referred to as a tricycle gear. A steer-able nose-wheel or tail-wheel permits the airplane to be controlled throughout all operations while on the ground.

The power plant usually includes both the engine and the propeller. The primary function of the engine is to provide the power to turn the propeller. It also generates electrical power, provides a vacuum source for some flight instruments, and in most single-engine airplanes, provides a source of heat for the pilot and passengers. The engine is covered by a cowling, or in the case of some airplanes, surrounded by a nacelle. The purpose of the cowling or nacelle is to streamline the flow of air around the engine and to help cool the engine by ducting air around the cylinders. The propeller, mounted on the front of the engine, translates the rotating force of the engine into a forward acting force called thrust that helps move the airplane through the air.

Nacelle—A streamlined enclosure on an aircraft in which an engine is mounted. On multiengine propeller-driven airplanes, the nacelle is normally mounted on the leading edge of the wing.

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