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Santa Susana High School

Lift-Off
Senior Project Research Paper: Final Draft

Drake Hartwell
Mrs. Bradley
English 12 AP
Period 5
20 November 2015

The first successful flight of an aircraft was conducted by the Wright Brothers, only
lasting 59 seconds over the span of 852 feet. Orville Wright went on to say no flying machine
will ever fly from New York to Paris [because] no known motor can run at the requisite speed

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for four days without stopping (The Wright Brothers). The modern-day AirBus A-350 can easily
put Orvilles claim to rest as the aircraft managed to conduct the longest nonstop flight, flying
9,506 miles in 19 hours (Strunksky). In our day and age, flying is as common as driving with
about 37.4 million commercial flights worldwide (Aviation: Benefits Beyond Borders) occurring
in 2014. Most of the planes used for these flights utilize the common conventional wing design
with the aircrafts wings swept back. However, is this wing design truly the best for executing the
various flights taking place everyday? There are several types of operating wing designs, all
with their own positive aspects, but one must be ideal for generating the best lift for sustainable
flight. For my senior project Im looking to discover this using only a handful of wing designs, for
the sake of my sanity, and testing them in a wind tunnel in order to observe each designs
generated lift. I have a particularly spiked interest in this topic as it is centered around the study
of Aerospace. Ive been aspiring to become an aerospace engineer since middle school and
have strived to become more familiar with the field through courses such as physics and
calculus. For my project, Ive gathered information from various credible sources including top
engineering schools and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on my
needed criteria of aerodynamics, wind tunnels, and wing designs. I also have consulted with an
engineer and pilot who works at NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, CA. In
order to successfully conduct my experiment, I will need a general understanding on the
aerodynamic forces which influence flight, the various existing wing designs along with their
unique aspects, the different types of operating wind tunnels, and how wind tunnel testing is
conducted.
I will need to understand how flight itself works in order successfully conduct my
experiment. Despire my years of studying Physics at Santa Susana, the materials covered
barely touched base on the basic aerodynamic forces. These forces, which are all measured in
Newtons, include lift, drag, weight, and thrust. In order for an aircraft to rise into the air, a force
must be created that equals or exceeds the force of gravity (Sablan). Such an upward force is

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called lift and it is usually generated from air flow around the wing as air streams faster on top of
the wings than on the bottom of the wings. This difference in airflow allows for a decrease in air
pressure below the wing as the higher the velocity of flow, the lower the pressure (Sablan).
Thus the net pressure generates an upward force, lift. The force of lift on an aircraft can be
calculated by the following equation: Lift = lift coefficient x (density of air x velocity of air
squared)/2 x wing area (Hall). The value of the lift coefficient depends of on the geometry of the
wing, its incline, and air conditions. In order to ensure the lift coefficient only changes with the
shape of the wing, the incline of each wing during testing and air conditions in the wind tunnel
will be kept constant. The force working against lift is the downward force of gravity acting on an
object or its weight. An objects weight can easily be determined by multiplying the mass of the
object, in kilograms, and the constant downward acceleration caused by gravity, 9.8 m/s
squared. In order for an aircraft to take-off it also requires a strong horizontal force, typically
created by a jet propulsion system, to move it forward (Hall). This force is thrust and it is
generated from the change in linear momentum when an object loses mass from ejected
exhaust. This force can be calculated by multiplying the velocity of the exhaust being ejected by
the rate of change of the mass of the exhaust. However this will not be necessary for my
experiment as the thrust for my model wings, since they wont have engines to do so, while be
simulated by the fan of the wind tunnel. The final important force regarding flight acts against
thrust as the resistance to airflow when an object is propelled in the air. This force is drag which
is generated by the interaction and contact of a solid body with a fluid through the difference
in velocity between the solid object and the fluid (Hall). The value of the drag force can be
calculated by the following equation: Drag= drag coefficient x (density of air x velocity of air
squared/2 x reference area (Hall). The value of the drag coefficient depends on the velocity of
the object being propelled, the viscosity of the air, the geometry of the object, and how rough the
surface of the body of the aircraft is (Hall). In order to ensure the drag coefficient only changes
with the shape of the wing, the velocity of the plane, the viscosity of the air in the wind tunnel,

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and how roughness of the surface of the aircraft will all be constant across all of the designs.
Knowing how these aerodynamic forces operate is crucial to my experiment as it is centered
them and will provide me with a deeper understanding of what will be occuring during my
testing. The means of calculating these forces is also very important since that is how I will
obtain the values required to reach my conclusion of which wing design is most suitable for
flight.
With a general understanding of aerodynamic forces, I will now need to investigate
common wing designs used for modern-day aircrafts. As there are numerous wing designs that
do sustain flight, for practical purposes I will only experiment with the common rectangular,
elliptical, swept, and delta wings. Rectangular wings, nicknamed the Hershey Bar wing, are
just horizontal, straight wings in the shape of rectangles. This type of wing is ideal for personal
aircraft as its easy to control in the air as well as inexpensive to build and maintain (Wing
Design). Rectangular wings dont excel in any certain aspect of flight and are able to operate at
reasonable speeds. Elliptical wings are similar to that of rectangular wings, but are rounded at
its wingtips. Elliptical wings, when given a large wingspan, can provide lift without the need for
a lot of forward momentum, or airspeed (Wing Design). Swept wings are the most commonly
used wings for aircrafts. These wings are typically swept to the back from the base of the wing
to its tip. While swept wings require a greater thrust to produce lift [they] produce much less
drag in the process, meaning that the aircraft can fly faster (Wing Design). This type of wing
also functions well at high altitudes where the majority of modern-day flights take place. The last
wing configuration I will explore is the delta wing which is in the shape of triangle. Delta wings
are typically only used for supersonic aircrafts as they require a large amount of thrust to
produce lift due to pulling the wings further back (Wing Design). This wing design has even
lower drag than a swept wing meaning it can also travel at even greater speeds than a swept
winged aircraft. Now that I have information on what each wing design looks like as well as
some of their own unique attributes, I can start to hypothesize which wings will perform better

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when I test them. (Images of wings provided below: Upper-left hand corner depicts the rectangular wing design. Upper-right
hand corner depicts the elliptical wing design. Lower-left hand corner depicts the swept wing design. Lower-right hand corner
depicts the delta wing design. Source: Wing Design. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, n.d. Web. 20 November 2015.)

While researching the various wing designs


I had encountered a new variable that would come into play in my project; the airfoil design for
the wings. In order to fly more effectively wings require a camber meaning the top [of the wing]
needs to be slightly curved while the bottom [of the wing] is left flat or straight (Virtual Skies:
Aeronautics). A camber on a wing allows air to flow over the top faster than air flows beneath it,
which causes a pressure variation and thus will create upward lift. The amount of lift produced
by an airfoil depends upon many factors: the angle of attack, the lift devices used (like flaps),
the density of the air, the area of the wing, the shape of the wing, and the speed at which the
wing is traveling (Virtual Skies: Aeronautics). To create an airfoil, you first start with
constructing a chordline which spans the width of the wing. You then add curvature with a

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camber line which is typically equidistant between the upper and lower surfaces of the airfoil
(ME 440: Aerospace Engineering Fundamentals). Thickness is then added to the wing, both on
the top and bottom, to get the final airfoil form. As there are countless types of airfoils with
varying thicknesses and curvature, I will limit my wings to an asymmetrical airfoil sd it is the
most commonly used in commercial aircrafts today. An asymmetrical airfoil has its camber line
above the chord line (ME 440: Aerospace Engineering Fundamentals) resulting a thicker top
portion of the wing unlike a symmetric airfoil that, as its name suggests, is symmetrical. With
this new information, I can now modify my experiment to account for any changes in lift due to
each wing designs airfoil. If all the wing designs have the same airfoil shape, lift should only be
affected by the wing shape. (Image provided to the left depicts an asymmetrical airfoil. Source: Virtual Skies: Aeronautics.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration, n.d. Web. 20 November 2015.)

Just as there are various wing designs, there are several types of wind tunnels that are
used for different types of testing. The most common wind
tunnels utilize the use of a uniform, steady stream of air coming
from a powerful, single fan. This airflow continues into a
testable section where a model aircraft is placed and observed
under typical flight conditions (Bradshaw and Mehta). To begin
there are open-circuit wind tunnels. This type of tunnel is open
on both ends and draws in air (Hall) from wherever the
experiment is occurring. To ensure the air coming in is clean
and free of any unwanted particles, a filter is required
(Bradshaw and Mehta). On the other hand, closed-circuit
tunnels have the outlet of the wind tunnel connected to an inlet
in order to recirculate the air. As the pressure within the wind
tunnel can change as the air gets warmer, a small vent is
placed at the end of the testable section to prevent any such

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increase (Bradshaw and Mehta). This type of wind tunnel has uniform airflow as the air within
the circuit is being recycled, but it typically is only used on large scales. Wind tunnels are not
only classified by their shapes, but also by the speed of the air they produce. These speeds are
typically recorded in Mach numbers which is determined by taking the ratio of the speed of an
aircraft to the speed of sound in gas to eliminate any compressibility effects, changes in airflow
due to the compression of air molecules. Subsonic tunnels are low speed wind tunnels that
have a maximum airflow of 250 mph (Mach 0.8). Aircrafts that travel at these speed can have
compressibility effects, but can be neglected as air density remains constant (Hall). Next come
transonic tunnels that have an air flow ranging from 250 mph to 760 mph (Mach 0.8 to 1.2).
These are the most commonly used wind tunnels as most aircrafts operate at about Mach 1. It
is also at this speed when compressibility effects and changes in air density come into play
(Hall). Supersonic tunnels follow with airflow speeds from 760 mph to 1500 mph (Mach 1.2 to
5.0). Aircrafts tested in such tunnels typically have powerful engines to provide large amounts of
thrust in order to account for the high amounts of drag (Hall). Lastly there are hypersonic
tunnels which allow for an airflow greater than 1500 mph (Mach 5.0). The temperature of the air
flow in these tunnels is so great that the chemistry of the air molecules must be considered as
these molecules will begin to vibrate and affect the aerodynamic forces on the aircraft (Hall).
This also can lead to increased differences in air density and pressure.
With these several types of wind tunnels, they all serve a common function of testing the
performance of an aircraft before it is truly ready for flight. In some wind tunnels, the
aerodynamic forces and moments on the model are measured directly (Hall). In order to do so
the model aircraft is usually mounted on a force balance that can measure lift and drag.
However for this balance to be effective, it must be calibrated against a known value of the
force before, and sometimes during, a test (Hall) to ensure sound calculations. In certain
tunnels, pressure taps are implemented to read the total pressure and thus get the value of
aerodynamic forces (Hall). This technique fails to show variations in pressure and due to

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changes in pressure at high speeds, this method is not widely used. To show the airflow within
the wind tunnel, visualization techniques such as free stream smoke, a laser sheet, or surface
oil flow (Hall) can be implemented. With this information, I now have an idea on how I should
conduct my testing in my wind tunnel.
Now that I have an understanding on the aerodynamic forces which influence flight, the
various existing wing designs along with their unique aspects, the different types of operating
wind tunnels, and how wind tunnel testing is conducted, I should be able to successfully carry
out my experiment. As mentioned earlier, I will have to ensure the incline of each wing design,
air conditions in the wind tunnel, the velocity of the plane, the viscosity of the air in the wind
tunnel, and how rough the surface of the wings are all held constant across each wing design so
that the lift coefficient and drag coefficient only changes with the shape of the wing. Since
subsonic wind tunnels have both a constant air density and no compressibility effects, I can
confidently construct this cost effective model that is also the most realistic for me to create. For
the construction I can simply used plywood boards in order to construct the framework, a large
fan to provide airflow, and plexiglass that will allow me to witness the testing. The fan should be
able to provide my needed thrust and will provide airflow less than 250 mph, keeping it in range
for a subsonic wind tunnel. I will be also be using multi-force sensors in order gather my data on
a few of the aerodynamic forces affecting my models. To get any other forces, I can always uses
the equations I researched earlier. These equations can also be used to make sure my multiforce sensors are calibrated properly for testing as I can calculate roughly what the forces
should be. I was originally going to use free stream smoke in order to visualize the airflow in my
wind tunnel, but I wont be able to do so due to the fact Im creating an open circuit wind tunnel
and the smoke would then fill up the room Im testing in. I could instead use a mist, as it wont
be as thick, along with a laser sheet in order to better see the airflow since oiling the model
wings wouldnt provide as pleasant of a visual. The models themselves can be constructed out
of either balsa wood, cardboard, or styrofoam as these materials can be easily crafted into the

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various designs I need. I most likely will stay away from heavier materials as I dont want the
weight of the wings to be too great since the force of weight counteracts lift.
In conclusion, in order to successfully conduct my experiment, I reached aerodynamic
forces in order to understand how they influence flight, the various existing wing designs along
with their unique aspects to become familiar with the designs Im testing, the different types of
operating wind tunnels to understand how the wind tunnel Im constructing functions, and how
wind tunnel testing is conducted so I know how to conduct my project. There may be several
types of operating wing designs, but one must be ideal for generating the best lift for sustainable
flight. From the data Ive collected through research it should be the commonly used swept wing
as it helps reduce drag while not requiring much of a greater increase in thrust as other wing
designs. However, I cannot be certain until I conduct testing of my own.
Sources Cited
Aviation: Benefits Beyond Borders. Air Transport Action Group, April 2014. Web. 20
November 2015.
Bradshaw, Peter, and Rabi Mehta. Tunnel Configurations. Stanford University, n.d. Web.
20 November 2015.
Hall, Nancy. Aerodynamic Forces. Glenn Research Center, National Aeronautics and
Space Administration, n.d. Web. 20 November 2015.
Hall, Nancy. Types of Wind Tunnels. Glenn Research Center, National Aeronautics and
Space Administration, n.d. Web. 20 November 2015.
Hall, Nancy. Wind Tunnel Testing. Glenn Research Center, National Aeronautics and
Space Administration, n.d. Web. 20 November 2015.
ME 440: Aerospace Engineering Fundamentals. Michigan State University, Fall 2016.
Web. 20 November 2015.
Sablan. Theory of Flight. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 16 March 1997. Web.
20 November 2015.

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Strunsky, Steve. The Longest Non-Stop Flight in the World is Returning to Newark. NJ
Advance Media, 15 October 2015. Web. 20 November 2015.
The Wright Brothers. GreenLight LLC and The Wright Family Fund, n.d. Web. 20
November 2015.
Virtual Skies: Aeronautics. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, n.d. Web. 20
November 2015.
Wing Design. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, n.d. Web. 20 November
2015.
Annotated Bibliography
Aviation: Benefits Beyond Borders. Air Transport Action Group, April 2014. Web. 20
November 2015.
Bradshaw, Peter, and Rabi Mehta. Tunnel Configurations. Stanford University, n.d. Web.
20 November 2015.
The main purpose of this work is to provide information on the different types of
wind tunnels and the function of each form. Bradshaw and Mehta provide the
classifications for open-circuit wind tunnels, closed-circuit wind tunnels, pressure
tunnels, transonic winds tunnels, and supersonic wind tunnels. The audience of the work
are educated students looking into wind tunnel design as Bradshaw and Mehta display
the information in way to teach. The authors work is valuable to my senior project as it
provides instruction on the different types of wind tunnels which is one thing that needs
to be constructed for my project. A special feature the website has is an interactive
interface full of various models and figures pertaining to wind tunnels. However, the
authors may have a bias as they are professors at Stanford whom may favor a certain
model that they have access to on their campus.
Carnegie, Claudius. Conventional Airfoils and Laminar Flow Airfoils. Florida International
University, 2 May 2008. Web. 20 November 2015.

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The main purpose of this work is to explain different types of wing designs
especially for airfoils. Carnegie displays the various wing designs for airfoils including the
low camber, deep camber (both thick and thin), reflex tailing edge, symmetrical, and
GA(W). The audience of the work is teachers and students who are searching for
resources on wing design for airfoils as it clearly states its use as such. The authors
work is valuable to my senior project as it supplies me with various images and
explanation for various airfoil wing designs that I can then construct. A special feature
the website has is various figures depicting the shape of airfoil wing. However, a
weakness in this source is that it only provides images of conventional airfoil and not
laminar flow airfoils.
Hall, Nancy. Aerodynamic Forces. Glenn Research Center, National Aeronautics and
Space Administration, n.d. Web. 20 November 2015.
The main purpose of this work is to describe the aerodynamic force that act upon
a plane during flight. Hall explains the various variables that affect flight such as
variations in pressure, lift, drag, and velocity distribution. The audience of the work are
those, most likely high school and college students, looking into the basic principles of
flight, thus involving aerodynamic forces. The authors work is valuable to my senior
project as I will need to calculate the effects aerodynamic forces on the various wing
designs being tested within the wind tunnel. This source is especially reliable as it comes
from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration whom are extremely qualified in
flight. However, a weakness in this source is the fact it may use higher level vocabulary
and jargon as it does come from a prominent source.
Hall, Nancy. Types of Wind Tunnels. Glenn Research Center, National Aeronautics and
Space Administration, n.d. Web. 20 November 2015.
The main purpose of this work is to provide information on the different factors
that affect how a winds tunnels operates. Hall explores how the speed of the test

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section, geometry of the tunnel, the type of fluid used, and possibly a special designated
purpose divide different designs of wind tunnels.The audience of the work are those,
most likely high school and college students, researching the various types of wind
tunnels and what set them apart from what another. The authors work relevant to my
senior project as I must know what type of wind tunnel Im creating and what special
features its has. This source is especially reliable as it comes from the National
Aeronautics and Space Administration whom have a lot experience in flight tests. An
apparent weakness in this source is the use mature diction and jargon as it does come
from an exceptional source.
Hall, Nancy. Wind Tunnel Testing. Glenn Research Center, National Aeronautics and
Space Administration, n.d. Web. 20 November 2015.
The main purpose of this article is to give a basis for wind tunnel testing and the
diverse tests for it. Hall is able to provide a general idea of how wind tunnel testing
should go by describing all the variables that can be tested and how to record values for
them. The audience of the work are those, most likely high school and college students,
looking into the basic principles of flight, thus involving aerodynamic forces. Halls work
is relevant to my senior project as she provides me with a basic approach to testing in
my wind tunnel along with useful instruments that I will need. This source is especially
reliable as it comes from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration whom are
greatly knowledgeable of aerodynamics. A weakness within this source is the use
advanced diction and jargon as it does come from a sophisticated source.
How Things Fly. Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institute,
n.d. Web. 20 November 2015.
The main purpose of this article is to explain how objects fly by exploring the
effects of air upon an object. The Smithsonian Institute is able to do so by first describing
air in motion and then going into the forces created by air in motion. The audience of the

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work those looking for a simple explanation of how certain factors such as lift, drag,
pressure, and wing design come into play to allow flight. The authors work relevant to
my senior project as I must be familiar with how flight works in order to conduct my
experiment and calculate the value of important variables. A special feature this website
has is various insightful figures that help provide a vision to what the test is explaining.
However, a defect in the site causes some of the models involving Adobe Flash Player to
crash upon launch.
Kuhns, Marcos. The Evolution of Airplane Wings. Hesston College, n.d. Web. 20
November 2015.
The main purpose of this article is to follow the evolution of airplane wings throughout
the years. Kuhns provides an in depth analysis of the different formations planes have
taken on while providing examples of most of the described designs. The audience of
the work are people with some knowledge on how basic flight works as Kuhns
commonly uses flight terminology throughout his article. The authors work relevant to
my senior project as it gives me a consensus of what wing designs there are as well as
which ones are less effective as others. A special feature this article utilizes is providing
not only examples of plane models with a certain wing design, but also images that
further improve the learning process. However, a possibly weakness is that the site
appears to be older and thus may be outdated, failing to having more modern wing
designs.
ME 440: Aerospace Engineering Fundamentals. Michigan State University, Fall 2016.
Web. 20 November 2015.
Nave, R. Hyper Physics. Georgia State University, n.d. Web. 20 November 2015.
The main purpose of this article is to give a closer look at how a wing works
during flight and the numerous forces that act upon the plane. Nave is able to inform his
audience on aerodynamic forces that are created during flight with descriptive

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explanations as well as providing basic information on airfoils. The audience of the work
are those, most likely high school and college students, searching for an understanding
of aerodynamics as well as the basic run down on airfoil. The authors work relevant to
my senior project as it not only reviews forces of flight with effective detail, but it also get
me more familiar with the parts of an airfoil wing. The website has an interactive
interface with various links on certain vocabulary words that lead to more thorough
explanations. A weakness within this source is that the sources lessons contain far more
complex terminology than needed..
Sablan. Theory of Flight. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 16 March 1997. Web.
20 November 2015.
The main purpose of this article is to inform the audience on how flight works and
all the numerous factors that come into play while an object is in flight. Sablan explores
the effects of lift, drag, weight, and thrust (the main aerodynamic forces) during flight and
provides insightful definitions for each of them. The audience of the work are specifically
Sablans students as he originally constructed the source for them with discussion,
activities/research, and problems at the end of his article. The authors work relevant to
my senior project as it provides yet again more information on just how exactly flight
works along with equations to all my fundamental variables. Special features that Sablan
provides are questions at the end in order to enable a deeper understanding of the
subject. A weakness in this source is that Sablan failed to provide answers to the
questions at the end of the article, thus leaving students unable to know if they
understand the content properly.
Strunsky, Steve. The Longest Non-Stop Flight in the World is Returning to Newark. NJ
Advance Media, 15 October 2015. Web. 20 November 2015.
The Wright Brothers. GreenLight LLC and The Wright Family Fund, n.d. Web. 20
November 2015.

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Virtual Skies: Aeronautics. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, n.d. Web. 20
November 2015.
Wing Design. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, n.d. Web. 20 November
2015.

Wing Design Parameters. Stanford University, n.d. Web. 20 November 2015.


The main purpose of this article is to give the audience a proper understanding of
wing designer parameters. The author, who has ties to Stanford University, analyzes the
span, area, sweep, thickness, taper, and twist along with how these factors weigh into
how a wing is able to fly. The audience of the work are those looking into constructing a
plane with a certain type of wing design. The authors work relevant to my senior project
as it evaluates the different components that weigh into the reliability of a wing to allow
for flight. A special feature this source has is a detailed diagrams that depicts all the
different components as well as equations to solve for them. A weakness in this source
is that it failed to provide examples of how to properly execute the calculations as well as
how to accurate record each variable.