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AER621 Aircraft Structural Design

Overview of a/c structures and their roles


Zouheir Fawaz, PhD, P.Eng.

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Airframe Structural Complexity

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Primary vs. Secondary structures


The major primary structural parts of a
conventional aircraft are:
Wing
Fuselage
Tail
Engine mounts
Landing gear
Predominantly: stiffened thin skin (semi
monocoque).
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Monocoque vs. Semi Monocoque

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Wing: supports the weight of a/c plus


maneuvering loads and gust loads.

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Landing gear: landing loads and the weight of


the airplane.

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Horizontal tail with elevator: Pitching stability


and control.
Vertical tail (fin), rudder : directional (yaw)
stability and control
Ailerons: roll stability and control

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Wing trailing-edge flaps and leading-edge


slats: increase lift at low speeds
Spoilers: "kill" lift (after touchdown, for
example).

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Elevons: dual role of aileron and elevator, as


well as flap on Delta-wing aircraft.
All-moving horizontal tailplane with no
elevator: supersonic military airplanes.
All-moving vertical fins have also been
employed.

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Engines may be mounted on the wings, on the


fuselage, or both.

With few exceptions, wing-mounted jet


engines on modern aircraft are placed
beneath the wing in streamlined nacelles.
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Transverse frames and the longitudinal stiffeners


(stringers): major structural elements of a semi
monocoque fuselage.

The skin is attached to both, and frames and stiffeners


may themselves be fastened together where they
intersect.
Bulkheads are major transverse members that are
more massive than a typical frame.
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Pressure bulkheads fill the


entire fuselage cross section.

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Longerons: Primary longitudinal


load-bearing members.
Keelson: For large low-wing
aircraft, a massive longeron, runs
along the bottom of the fuselage.
Transmits bending loads across
central gap.
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Doublers: Bonded, bolted or riveted around


cutouts

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Ribs and spars: major internal structural


components of a wing. Like fuselage frames,
and longerons, attached to wing skin,
Stringers (stiffeners) attached to wing skin
panels on the upper and lower surfaces, also
on spar webs.

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Spars: transmit most of the bending load arising


from the wing's support of the aircraft's weight.
The vertical webs of the spars, in combination
with the wing cover skins, act as torque boxes to
resist the twist that also accompanies lift.
The stiffeners (stringers): pick up some bending
load, primary purpose is stiffening the skin
against buckling.
Spars, ribs, and stringers also comprise the
substructure of horizontal and vertical
stabilizers.
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Landing gear: crucial to aircraft performance


during the periods between touchdown and
takeoff.
Retractable landing gear: among the most
complex of the mechanical systems on a
modem airplane.

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The landing gear must be able to absorb several


times the entire gross weight of the airplanewithout undue shock to the airframe
Furthermore, it must quickly fold up into a
compact space in the wing or fuselage for storage
during flight and must as quickly and reliably
deploy for landing.
Oleo strut: A key structural component of a
landing gear. An oleopneumatic shock absorber,
which is there to ease the loads on the airframe
during landings and to cushion impact.
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The landing gear attachment points: spars and


bulkhead ribs on the wing, frames and beams
in the fuselage
Those must be "hard,".
Same for engine attachment points
Must resist the weight and moment of the
engine, as well as the thrust, torsion, and
vibration it produces.

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A huge variety of engine mounts.


Design clearly depends on the kind of engine
it supports and position of engine mount.
Jet engines are invariably attached to the
airframe at just three points.
Ensures airframe deflections cannot transfer
to the engine.

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Engines mounted inside the fuselage: attach


directly to the fuselage framework.
Mounted below the wings or on the aft
fuselage: housed in protective nacelles and
fastened to pylons
Pylons: builtup, stiffened-web structures, or
truss structures, or a combination that are
joined to the wing or fuselage structure.

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Aerospace materials :
Traditionally aluminum alloys and steel alloys
More recently, titanium alloys, and fiberreinforced composites.
Titanium alloys: used in the early stages of a
compressor in gas turbine engine design
Nickel-based alloys or steels are used for the
hotter later stages.

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9% of the 777 structural weight is composite materials


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The Boeing 787 is 50% of total weight composites


Aluminum, by contrast, will comprise only 12 percent of the aircraft. In fact, titanium will make up a greater
percentage than aluminum, at 15 percent. Steel will comprise another 10 percent and other metals, the
remaining 5 percent. By contrast, the Boeing 777 is 9-12 percent composites and 50 percent aluminum.

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12% of the A330 structural weight is composite materials

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25% of the A380 structural weight is composite materials


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Aircraft Structural Design:


Guiding Principles
Overriding principle: Ensuring structural
integrity of the a/c at all times during its
operational life
Two approaches: Safe Life and Fail Safe
Modern Aircraft: Fail safe within a damage
tolerance philosophy
Regulations dictate what part is designed
according to what approach
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Competing Pressures

Design for Integrity


Design for Manufacturing
Design for Cost
Design for Maintainability/Accessibility
Design for Life Cycle
Focus of the course: Design for Structural
Integrity

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Structural Integrity
Design for Strength
Design for Stiffness
Optimized Design:
Strength to Weight
Stiffness to Weight
Fatigue Resistance to Weight

Weight is critical
Very small margins: no room for error
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In Summary
A good a/c structural design process considers:
The specific role of each part/component
The loads applied
The stresses that result
The deformations that ensue
The geometric layout to counter
The material to resist
An excellent a/c structural design is one that
ensures integrity at the lowest weight possible.
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