Aerodynamics of Airfoil & Wings
As seen earlier, aircraft flight is an interplay of four basic forces: thrust, weight, lift and drag. Two of the forces lift and drag are as a direct consequence of motion of aircraft. This means an interaction between fluid and solid results in lift and drag. Specific shape called airfoil ensures an optimum and correct utilization of these forces. Movement of air over a stationary solid surface is same as movement of solid surface through stationary atmosphere. Former is used in wind tunnel experiments whereas latter is used in actual flight conditions. Thrust is produced by an engine, which is controlled by the pilot whereas the weight of aircraft can only vary due to fuel consumption or deployment of payload (bomb, missile). Thrust is directly coupled with aircraft speed and thus to lift and drag. Aerodynamic efficiency is thus the key factor.
Two Non-Dimensional Numbers play critical role in Aeronautics. The first one is called Reynolds Number and is defined as Re = ( u L ) / It is a ratio of kinetic to viscous properties of the system with L being the characteristic dimension. For high performance aircraft this number is in excess of million. This number is used to classify Laminar and Turbulent flow regions as well. Smaller the number viscous effects will be dominating. Similarly Mach number is defined as a ratio of velocity to the local speed of sound and in mathematical terms expressed as
M = u / a = u / R T Flow is termed as subsonic or supersonic depending on M less or greater than one.
Principles of Airfoil
Airfoil operations were originally explained with the help of Bernoulli’s principle which states that pressure and velocity is inversely related. Second principle was that of equal transit time (Not Quite Right). Thus by shape if air has to travel more on the upper surface than the lower one, it will produce suction on the top and pressure on the lower surface. The pressure difference integrated over wing surface will produce lift.
equal transit time does not have serious scientific validity.Inverted Flight: No Big Deal !
Even though Bernoulli’s principle is proved for the incompressible flow and apparatuses have been built around this.
. This also does not explain how the aerobatic aircrafts can successfully fly in inverted fashion where the curvature would be opposite of the conventional airfoil.
This would be less than the lift produced in the normal flight. To keep the nose up attitude.Inverted Flight: No Big Deal ! +
By application of rudder and aileron.
. one can enter in inverted flight. elevator is pushed down making the tail to be pushed down. The main wings are able to produce sufficient quantity of lift even in the inverted flight.
Such a vortex induces a circulation which when superimposed over the incoming air velocity causes higher upper surface velocity.Principles of Airfoil +
More plausible explanation is given in terms of shedding of vortex left behind when wing moves forward. Now one can use same Bernoulli’s equation to arrive at the force production due to the pressure difference across a surface.
.Such a vortex production is seen in actual flight as shown.
The curvature that is provided for the airfoil. The resultant of upper suction surface and the lower pressure surface is a single resultant force. When this force is resolved. creates typical pressure distribution as shown in the figure. whereas force along the stream wise direction is termed as drag force.
. force in normal perpendicular direction is termed as lift.
Conventional subsonic airfoil would be a rounded one as seen here.Principles of Airfoil +
Angle of attack
Shape of airfoil changes depending on the speed from overall considerations. diamond shape airfoil is adequate to produce necessary lift without enhancing adverse effects such as increased drag.
. For supersonic flight.
Note that cl is positive even for small negative values of angle of attack . of lift cl v/s angle of attack curve. phenomena that is known as stall and which should be carefully avoided. surface area and square of the velocity.
. Lift depends on cl ( or angle of attack ). density of medium.Principles of Airfoil +
Airfoil is characterized by coeff. Also note that it drops rapidly beyond particular value of .
of drag v/s shows sudden increase in drag beyond certain limit value of . As in previous case.
.Principles of Airfoil +
Other crucial part of airfoil is the production of drag which must be overcome as it is always in the direction opposite to that of the motion. coeff. There are two basic components to drag: form or profile drag and friction or viscous drag. Former depends on the cross section area. and the later depends on surface area.
Some typical values of L/D and other important number T/W are shown in next table.Principles of Airfoil +
Lift and Drag being desirable & undesirable characteristic respectively. it makes sense to devise a composite ratio L/D (cl / cd ) to characterize the airfoil.
. Such a ratio will be different for different airfoils and the aerodynamic efficiency of the airfoil will be decided by this ratio-higher the ratio. better it would be.
Drag and Shape
Since reducing drag for normal flying conditions is the key objective. shape of the body is important.
. As can be seen blunt objects offer more resistance to the flow compared to slender or aerodynamically shaped simple objects. Combination and orientation of different cross sections and varied dimensions make it necessary to study the complete aircraft model.
These are studied by placing small scale models fabricated with similarity rule in the wind-tunnel. Development of nondimensional parameters permit one to upgrade to the actual flight conditions. Precise characterization of the working medium as well as the model and the flow condition is essential.Drag Dependence
Practical shapes are studied for accurate estimation of drag.
Stall is the last word. the flow looses aerodynamic characteristics as the flow leaves the solid surface or detaches.
Actual conditions in terms of flight maneuvers are best characterized by changes in angle of attack or camber of the airfoil achieved with the help of deflection or extension of flaps. Beyond particular angle of attack. When such a situation arises the solid body in the flow path becomes irrelevant and stall occurs (no lift).
Friction drag on the other hand refers to the length over which air is contact with the solid surface.
. Thus for fast moving military aircraft. Drag increases rapidly as the flow velocity increases close to M~1. slender bodies are preferred to reduce the drag resistance from pressure or wake.Big or Small Makes difference in Drag
For a particular component of drag the frontal area is important.
Mcr = 0.808 30 0 Swept Wing
Mcr = 0.808 and drag divergence is delayed. In reality the flow becomes three dimensional and thus complex.Cheating Airfoil – Swept Back Wing
M Mcr = 0. Critical Mach number is increased by 1/cos(30) to Mcr = 0. However most modern aircrafts use swept wings.7 Airfoil SWEPT WING
Mcr is the critical Mach number beyond which the drag increases much more rapidly which is undesirable. Thus by using swept back wing. Airfoil sees only the normal component of velocity for the purpose of drag.
the flow component normal to the leading edge will be subsonic resulting in less wave drag.Swept Back at Supersonic Speed
For Supersonic speed swept wing provide advantage. If Mach cone with vertex angle ensures that the leading edge of the wing always remains inside. This is shown in figure on left. Figure on right indicates that there is a possibility of a very strong oblique shock which is irreversible dissipative loss as the Mach cone does not engulf the leading edge of the wing. This is costly from the drag and thus power requirement point of view.
0.2 .Principles of Airfoil +
Birds/Insects Gliders Aircraft ~ 20 ~ 20-35 ~ 15-20
~ 4-10 (military)
.0.3 0 ~ 0.3 ~ 1.2 .2 .
power required to propel the airplane is DV. Higher the value of this lower would be the resistance. . By comparing various airfoils on this ratio one can select the best airfoil. or proportional to Cl 3/2 / Cd. D varies inversely to (L/D).Ideal Aerofoil
• • •
High maximum value of lift coefficient which will reduce the landing speed and enhance the safety of aircraft. For L. One must operate at this angle to ensure minimum resistance for given weight. High maximum value of ( CL 3/2 / Cd ). v is inversely proportional to Cl. A small movement of centre of pressure would yield stable operations. This does not occur at minimum drag or maximum lift coefficient. S remaining constant.
. Good Lift to Drag Ratio. Low minimum drag coefficient is critical for high speed aircrafts.
Relative motion between the model and the medium such as air is created and force components are measured. Scaling laws for model are formulated as only small size objects can be effectively tested under these controlled environment.Spinning Around
The characteristics of the airfoil are experimentally determined with the help of wind-tunnel testing. Controlled operating conditions are varied so that large volume of data is generated.
Thus for example NACA 4412 implies maximum camber of 4% of chord Position of max camber 40% of chord Maximum thickness 12% of chord NASA has a large wind-tunnel facility which can house B-707 type of aircraft.Wind Tunnels
Wind-tunnels can generate data for various airfoils. density etc) is quite different.
. airfoil nomenclature has also been developed. In this process of large collection. Academic wind-tunnels have certain limitations in terms of size and speed. Another important aspect is wind-tunnel capable of conducting high altitude tests as aircraft operates around 10-15 km where air quality (pressure. NASA has generated volumes of data on standard airfoil sections and such a catalogue is available in open literature. Additionally including complicated shapes or full scale objects is virtually impossible.
NASA Wind Tunnel
The NASA facility such as shown here is indeed unique. body. CFD analysis for real life simplified 3-D bodies is still in infant stage. Integrated shapes such as wing. It requires lot of power. it is huge and is indeed costly.
. Considerable amount of experimental work has been replaced by other similar tools such as CFD analysis. engine shapes are rather difficult to solve with CFD analysis and wind tunnels still have a upper hand.
More Lift Needed !
Slots. These can also delay the stall and depending on the configuration increase the drag. flaps and slats could be
used for altering the lift and drag.
. Flaps work on the principles of changed camber and have been in use since WWI. for changing stalling angle and to change the trim. Slots help in Boundary Layer Control. These devices are operated only for a short duration.
This increases the lift coefficient by as much as 60%.
. Stall is caused by breakdown of flow. It also increases the stalling angle. When the airflow is through the slot. Which is advantageous at the time of landing.Slats
Small and auxiliary airfoil could be placed in front of the main airfoil with suitable gap or slot in between the two. it keeps the flow smooth following the airfoil contour exercising boundary layer control.
4 @ 22 Wing + Slot Cl max= 1.0 @ 28 Cl max= 3.6 @ 15 Plain Wing
.2 @ 24 Wing + Flap +Slot
Wing + Flap
Cl max= 2.By How Much ??
Cl max= 4.
Single Element Airfoil
Single Element Airfoil
0.Maximum Lift Coefficient for Airfoil
Configuration Million Re Maximum CL
Single Element Airfoil
.Typical Examples over the Years
Aircraft Wing Configuration CL
Boeing B-52 (1947)
Slat + Fowler Flap
Boeing 767 (1981)
Slat + Triple Flap
Boeing 727 (1963)
Slat + Single Flap
Powered System Internally Blown Flaps Upper Surface Blowing Externally Blown Flap Augmenter Flap Vectored Thrust CL Range 4 ~ 9 4 ~ 8 5 ~ 7 4 ~ 7 1 ~ 3
generators are small plates about an inch deep standing on edge in a row span wise along the wing.
and TE devices such as slats and flaps are temporary control measures to increase lift during critical maneuvers. These tend to prevent or delay the breakaway of the boundary layer by re-energizing it.Successive
Airfoils to Wings
stacking of airfoils of different chord allows one to construct a wing surface.
ensure spillage of flow in the lateral direction and thereby improving the effectiveness of wings. They are lighter and simpler than the suction boundary layer control system described above. They are placed at an angle of attack and (like a wing airfoil section) generate vortices. Practical wing comprises of number of additional features.
Air Spill at the Wing Tips
Air-flow over and under the wing surface creates regions of differential pressure.
. Since the wing surface is not infinite in length at the edges and tips air tries to take natural course with a movement from high pressure to low pressure region. High pressure air from under the wing spills over towards low pressure air on the top surface of the wing from the tip.
. the damaging effect could be minimized. Wing tip vortices are unavoidable but the influence could be minimized by changing the Aspect Ratio. If one can keep the percentage area affected to a smaller value as in case of a long and narrower wing.Wing Tip Vortices
The portion near the tip would be less effective as an airfoil due to the pressure equalization.
Wing structure is of cantilever type without external bracing.
Aspect Ratio of Rectangular shape is ratio of span to chord.
. Thus very long wings would not only droop under the weight but also would require heavier bracing at the root attachment with fuselage. Efficient airfoils would have higher Aspect Ratio with a consequence of increased range. Since the plan form is rarely rectangular it is alternately defined as ratio of (Span)2/Area. Effect of increasing Aspect Ratio is to reduce the Induced Drag which is caused by lift or by the change in direction of flow.
Fluid velocity will be same as the solid surface velocity (no slip) and gradually increases to the free stream inviscid velocity some distance from the surface. Turbulent boundary layer results in increased skin friction drag and thus undesirable.Wing BL
In a narrow thin region close to flow of fluid over solid surface is sluggish due to viscosity (friction).
. If the flow is streamlined then it is referred to as laminar which transits into turbulent. Attempts are made to keep the flow laminar by shape of by suction of the boundary layer.
fuselage. For Thickness tapered plan form CP is less sensitive to change in angle of attack. Weight saving is very critical in aircraft operations.
Root section of wing is inboard section and has to be strong to ensure satisfactory load transfer to the strong central part viz. Taper in both. Also L/D ratios would simultaneously improve. In tapering the wing in any one dimension one can achieve this objective. It is sensitive if the wing is tapered in plan form. results best aerodynamic performance. Taper results in higher value of CL max and lower values of CD.
. However lack of knowledge about deep airfoil sections as well development of material and manufacturing technique delayed the development of Monoplane. earlier designers felt that biplanes will be able to provide more lift than the monoplanes.Mono v/s Biplane
Though currently not a favored configuration. Increased Drag due to interplane interference as well as the drag wires and struts were cause of concern.
If area of wing has to remain same.Delta Wing
Delta Wing combines wing and horizontal tail. This is attractive for military aircrafts which invariably fly at supersonic speeds. The wing can accommodate more amount of fuel necessary for the flight. Concorde also uses Delta Wing. the additional surface by joining the two surfaces will result in shorter wing span.
leaving fixed wing clean and drag free. Also increased lift permits lower takeoff speeds-reducing runway length requirements & permitting steeper climb angles. Current solution provides movable wing system that alters wing shape & not area.Novelty
Big wings won’t go fast & smaller one won’t go slow.
. Such novel concept can find applications in inner city noise sensitive airports. In Variable wing. At takeoff. low drag fixed wing is designed for high speed minimizing power requirements at cruise. the skin is fully deployed to maximize lift & at cruise it is fully retracted.
drag. thickness. pressure distribution etc. One can vary airfoil parameters such as camber. It is again emphasized that these forces are active only when there is a relative motion between solid body & air that is flowing over it. it is an essential part as it is also used for controlling the motion of aircraft especially during landing when deceleration is most important. Even though drag in general is considered as a negative component of this force generation. airspeed and obtain important information regarding lift.
. The forces produced by the typical shape is used for various purpose from controlling to force generation against gravity (lift).Conclusion
Wings with Airfoil shape is the single-most important component that distinguishes aircraft from other transport devices. angle of attack. FOILSIM software is available on the net which demonstrates interactively the airfoil characteristics.