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Interference drag (cD,interference)

When two shapes intersect or are placed in proximity, their pressure distributions and
boundary layers can interact and result in a net drag of the combination that is higher
than the sum of the separate drags. This increment in drag is known as
Interference drag occurs between the
engine nacelle & wing,
engine nacelle & fuselage
wing & fuselage,

6.1.3. Interference drag (cD,interference)

Interference drag between engine nacelle & fuselage


Engine nacelle
Boeing Chinook CH-47

Effect of the proximity of an engine nacelle to the rear pylon (part of fuselage) on the
CH-47 Chinook helicopter. Note that the interference drag can be as high as the drag
of the individual nacelle only. The nacelle has to be placed at least 0.5Dn from the pylon
to eliminate interference drag.

6.1.3. Interference drag (cD,interference)

Interference drag between (rotary) wing & fuselage

Rotor hub


Robinson R44

Effect of rotor hub proximity to pylon (which is part of the fuselage) on a helicopter. As
the distance between the rotor hub and pylon (Z/W) increases, the interference drag
decreases. In order to eliminate interference drag, Z/W must be larger than 0.7.

6.1.3. Interference drag (cD,interference)

High-wing vs. Low-wing configuration
At the fuselage-wing juncture, a drag increment results as the boundary layers from the
two components interact.

6.1.3. Interference drag (cD,interference)

The larger the thickness of the interacting boundary layers, the larger the interference
Due to the nature of lift generation, the upper surface boundary layer on a wing is always
thicker than that over the lower surface. Hence,
high-wing configuration results in
thin-thin boundary layer interaction

small cD,interference

and a low-wing configuration in

thick-thin boundary layer interaction

high cD,interference

Therefore, a high-wing configuration has lower interference drag than a low-wing


6.1.3. Interference drag (cD,interference)

Interference drag is largely affected by the angle between the wing and fuselage surfaces:
The smaller the angle, the larger the interference drag.
The sharper the corner, the larger the interference drag.
Filleting can help reduce interference drag.

Fillet between fuselage and wing

Douglas DC-3

6.1.3. Interference drag (cD,interference)

Filleting can help reduce interference drag.

There are no analytical methods for estimating

interference drag: experimental or CFD data are
required to determine it.


6.1.4. Wave drag (cD,wave)

WAVE DRAG is a pressure drag arising due to the formation of shock waves. It is a result
of the pressure distribution over the body surface.

Flat plate


Net horizontal force due to pressure distribution is WAVE DRAG.

6.1.4. Wave drag (cD,wave)

There are a number of strategies reducing wave drag:
- sharp Leading Edge (LE)
- wing sweep
- "area-ruling" or "coke-bottling"

Sharp LE:

Sharp LE eliminates "detached" normal shock

waves, which are associated with large pressure
rise (through the wave) and large pressure drag.
Attached oblique shock waves yield much smaller
pressure drag.

6.1.4. Wave drag (cD,wave)

Wing Sweep: (Already discussed in AERO 3002)
Wing sweep should be larger than the Mach angle.

Sweep angle
Mach angle


6.1.4. Wave drag (cD,wave)

Area Ruling:
Wave drag is analytically related to the second derivative (i.e. curvature) of the longitudinal
volume distribution of the aircraft.
The Sears-Haack plot minimizes curvature of the volume distribution for a given length and
internal volume:

Sears-Haack volume distribution: the ideal

volume distribution for minimum wave drag.


6.1.4. Wave drag (cD,wave)

Unfortunately, in real life it is impossible to match or even to approximate the Sears-Haack
curve. (Components such as wing, nacelles, etc. all introduce sharp breaks in the curvature
of the volume distribution).
However, by smoothing the volume distribution, the supersonic wave drag can be reduced
by as much as 50%. This leads to a coke-bottle like fuselage:



Trying to resemble
Sears-Haack curve


6.1.4. Wave drag (cD,wave)

The "supersonic area rule" was used for decades by ballisticians, but first employed by
Richard Whitcomb (supercritical airfoil, winglets) in the 1950's.

First application:
Convair F-102
(could not break
sound barrier
until "area-ruling"
was applied
to the fuselage.


6.1.5. Cooling drag (cD,cooling)

COOLING DRAG is the momentum loss of air used to cool the engine, oil, or other heat
exchangers on the airplane.

P51 Mustang
Oil Cooler

Cooling drag can be expressed either as drag or power:

Some manufacturers provide engine power with the power lost due to cooling
drag subtracted. For a typical piston engine, the power lost due to cD,cooling can
be as high as 6%.

6.1.5. Cooling drag (cD,cooling)

cD,cooling is highly configuration dependent and no general method exists for its calculation.
The performance analyst needs to consult with the engine manufacturer to assess


6.1.6. Trim drag (cD,TRIM)

The horizontal tail/canard produces lift to balance the airplane around its pitching axis.
Any drag increment attributed to the generation of this lift is called TRIM DRAG.
Most often, TRIM DRAG is equal to the induced drag of the tail.
It can be determined from:

F 0 : Lw Lt W
M 0 : x.Lw (l x) Lt

6.1.6. Trim drag (cD,trim)

The total trim drag in terms of geometry:

cD ,trim

St cLt cLt AR.e

2 cDi
S cL cL ARt .et

And in terms of CG (Centre of Gravity) location:

cD ,trim

x x b e

l l bt et

where subscript t correspond to horizontal tail values.


6.1.6. Trim drag (cD,trim)

And plotting this second equation shows that

negative TRIM DRAG can be obtained

for small positive centre-of gravity locations.

Trim drag is typically in the order of 1-2%

of total airplane drag in cruise.

Source: McCormick (1995)


6.2. Drag reduction

The drag break-down for a jet transport clearly shows that the 2 major contributors to
total drag are:

- skin friction drag

- induced drag

75% of total drag

Source: McCormick (1995)

Hence, drag reduction techniques aim at reducing these two categories of drag.


6.2. Drag reduction

Induced Drag Reduction: Winglets
The winglet was invented by Richard Whitcomb (supercritical airfoils, area-rule).
The basic idea is to create a forward pointing "negative drag":

Flow leakage around wing tip

Induced velocity acts not
only downwards but also inwards.
This will change the resultant
AOA acting on winglet
Winglet has cambered airfoil,
which at an AOA creates lift

Forward component of this lift is

"negative drag".
Source: McCormick (1995)


6.2. Drag reduction

Design guidelines for winglets:
- low profile drag
- low interference drag (larger than 90 deg angle and/or fillet between tip and
- high winglet AR for increased efficiency
- location close to T.E. where vi is larger
- larger loading at the wing tip increases vi and winglet efficiency

Typical induced drag reduction: ~25%

Winglet geometry used for first

generation jet transport with
higher wing loading around tip
(Boeing 707).
Source: McCormick (1995)

6.2. Drag reduction

Design guidelines for winglets:
For 2nd generation jets, the loading is lower towards the wing tip than for 1st generation
jets. Therefore, applying the above guidelines for winglet design are even more important
to maximize the drag reduction effect:

Effects of winglets on drag for

1st and 2nd generation jets.
Source: McCormick (1995)


6.2. Drag reduction

Typical winglet design for a modern jet transport. Due to the lower wing loading towards the tip, the winglet has
to be well optimized to achieve useful amounts of drag reduction.

Large angle between wing and winglet for

reduced interference drag

Airbus A340


6.2. Drag reduction

Skin Friction Drag Reduction: Laminar Flow Control (LFC)
Laminar B.L., which has less skin friction drag than turbulent B.L. (sec. 6.1.1), can be
promoted for example by suction of the boundary layer through slots on the surface:

Source: McCormick (1995)


6.2. Drag reduction

Skin Friction Drag Reduction: Laminar Flow Control (LFC)

- Range increase of about 30%.

- Fuel saving of about 30%


- swept L.E. destabilizes B.L

- need for fences or chordwise suction slots
- technology: pumping power, double skin, extra weight

Source: McCormick (1995)


6.2. Drag reduction

Skin Friction Drag Reduction: Laminar Flow Control (LFC)
Practicality test: Jetstar LFC Flight Test Program
(Jul 1985 - Feb 1986)
- Lockheed Jetstar (4 engine executive jet)
- 4 scheduled flights a day
- Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Cleveland locations
- low maintenance system

Source: McCormick (1995)


6.2. Drag reduction

Drag Cleanup
Even without fancy and expensive techniques, many small drag items can be reduced by
paying attention to details, i.e. ensuring
- smooth surfaces
- protuberances streamlined or avoided
- tight seals around wheel wells, door openings, cutouts
Example: Wind tunnel test - adding all necessary items increased total airplane drag by 65%!!

Source: McCormick (1995)



6.3. Total airplane drag

See the Pres6.3_TotalAirplaneDrag file.