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MODULE 11.01
Theory of Flight





Fixed Aerofoils.............................................................. 1-2
Moveable Control Surfaces .......................................... 1-7
High Lift Devices .......................................................... 1-14
Drag Inducing Devices ................................................. 1-15
Airflow Control Devices – Wing Fences ........................ 1-18
Boundary Layer Control................................................ 1-19
Trim Tabs ..................................................................... 1-22
Mass Balance............................................................... 1-25
HIGH SPEED FLIGHT .................................................................... 1-2
Speed of Sound............................................................ 1-2
Subsonic Flight............................................................. 1-3
Transonic Flight............................................................ 1-4
Supersonic Flight.......................................................... 1-6
Aerodynamic Heating ................................................... 1-13
Area Rule ..................................................................... 1-14
Factors Affecting Airflow in Engine Intakes of High Speed Aircraft
Effects of Sweepback on Critical Mach Number ........... 1-17


ACCIDENTS ................................................................................. 2-3

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The principles of Aircraft Theory of Flight are covered in JAR 66 Module 8.


An aircraft is equipped with fixed and moveable surfaces, or aerofoils, which provide
stability and control. Each item is designed for a specific function during the operation of
the aircraft.

Typical Aircraft Flight Controls
Figure 1

The fixed aerofoils are the wings or mainplanes, the horizontal stabiliser or tailplane and
vertical stabiliser or fin. The function of the wings is to provide enough lift to support the
complete aircraft. The tail section of a conventional aircraft, including the stabilisers,
elevators and rudder, is occasionally known as the empennage.

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Horizontal Stabiliser
The horizontal stabiliser is used to provide longitudinal pitch stability and is usually
attached to the aft portion of the fuselage. It may be mounted either on top of the vertical
stabiliser, at some mid-point, or below it.
Conventional horizontal stabilisers are placed aft of the wing and normally set at a
slightly smaller or negative angle of incidence with respect to the wing chord line.
This configuration gives a small downward force on the tail with a value dependent on
the size of the stabiliser and its distance from the Centre of Gravity (CG).

Horizontal Stabiliser
Figure 2

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T-Tail Arrangement
The T-Tail arrangement places the complete stabiliser/tailplane and elevator assembly at
the top of the vertical stabiliser. The use of this system not only makes the fin and
rudder more effective by the so-called ‘end-plate effect’ but also ensures pitch control is
not affected by wing turbulence, (except during an unwanted deep-stall condition).
However, this configuration has the disadvantage that the whole empennage structure
will be heavier than normal, due to the strengthening required to combat the greater
bending loads produced by this layout.
On some aircraft, the complete tailplane can be moved through several degrees angle of
attack to provide a trimming facility as an alternative to trim tabs.(later).

T–Tail Arrangement
Figure 3

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the stability and controllability of this design has until recently. fuselage or empennage. the flying wing appears to be the most perfect lowdrag design. which on a conventional aircraft generates minimum lift. without conventional wings. has the design become a practically feasibility. about 100 computers are used to control and monitor every aspect of flight. However. but produces a large amount of drag and without the vertical and horizontal stabilising surfaces which also generate drag. Only with the advent of high computing power generating artificial stability and actively operating unorthodox flying controls. B2 Flying Wing Figure 4 Issue 1 – 04 Sept 2001 Page 1-5 . been extremely poor. On the example shown below.Unconventional Aircraft Design – Flying Wing Minus the fuselage.

Vertical Stabiliser The vertical stabiliser for an aircraft is the aerofoil forward of the rudder and is used to provide directional stability. resulting in a yawing moment. This strikes one side of the vertical stabiliser more than the other. Off-Set Vertical Stabiliser Figure 5 Issue 1 – 04 Sept 2001 Page 1-6 . thereby causing the airflow to pass around it in such a manner to counter the yaw. A problem encountered on single-engined propeller driven aircraft is that the propeller causes the airflow to rotate as it travels rearward. These aircraft may have the leading edge of the stabiliser offset slightly.

so this is how these notes will define them. rudder. Moveable Control Surfaces Figure 6 Issue 1 – 04 Sept 2001 Page 1-7 .1. Note: Traditionally. but those which operate in conjunction with the ailerons during roll. The secondary controls are used to change the lift and drag characteristics of the aircraft or to provide assistance to the primary controls. high lift devices (flaps and slats). ailerons and roll spoilers. are considered to be primary in the JAR 66 syllabus. speed brakes and lift dumpers (additional spoilers). The primary control surfaces include the elevators. spoilers have not been included as primary controls. The primary control surfaces are used to make the aircraft follow the correct flight path and to execute certain manoeuvres.2 MOVEABLE CONTROL SURFACES Moveable control surfaces are normally divided into Primary and Secondary controls.1. The secondary control surfaces consist of trim controls (tabs).

causing the wing to go down. will result in the aircraft rolling to that side. The ailerons are operated by a control wheel. whilst the down-going surface increases the lift on the opposite side.Roll Control . Aileron Controls Figure 7 Issue 1 – 04 Sept 2001 Page 1-8 .Ailerons These primary controls provide lateral (roll) control of the aircraft. one in the conventional position near the wing tip and the other set at mid-span or outboard of the flaps. near the wing tip. The inboard set is referred to as ‘high speed ailerons’.Movement of any of these inputs away from neutral towards one side. where the possibility of structural damage may result if the outboard surfaces were too powerful. for example when large movements may be required. The outboard surfaces. If the outer ailerons were permitted to operate at high speed. movement about the longitudinal axis. They move in opposite directions. raising the wing. the stress produced at the wing tips may twist the wing and produce ‘aileron reversal’. that is. They are normally attached to hinges at the trailing edge of the wing. a control column or a side-stick. so that the up-going aileron reduces lift on that side. or sometimes both sets. Large aircraft often use two sets of aileron surfaces on each wing. work at low speeds to give maximum control during take off and landing. At high cruising speed the outer ailerons are isolated and only the inboard set operate. Returning the control to neutral at this stage will leave the aircraft in a banked condition and a similar but opposite movement will be required to bring the aircraft level once more. This is particularly likely with modern highly flexible thin wings.

. Alternatively. A co-ordinated turn is one that occurs without slip or skid. Too little bank will cause the aircraft to skid outwards. Roll spoilers are mounted on the top of the wing just inboard of the outboard set of ailerons. the spoiler will remain flush with the upper wing camber. Issue 1 – 04 Sept 2001 Page 1-9 . Roll Control . The up-going spoiler will effectively spoil the lift on the down-going wing and augment the similar effect of the up-going aileron. too much bank will cause the aircraft to slip downwards. whilst on the side of the down-going aileron.This is achieved by the control system being routed via a spoiler/aileron mixer unit.Spoilers The use of spoilers as a primary control. will be to operate asymmetrically in conjunction with aileron movement and are normally referred to as Roll Spoilers. Roll Spoiler Controls Figure 8 Movement of the aileron control wheel on the flight deck will deploy each spoiler progressively upwards with the up-going aileron.The ailerons are usually operated in conjunction with the rudder and/or elevator during a turn and are rarely used on their own. on some aircraft the spoilers will replace the ailerons completely to provide the sole means of roll control. Note: Other spoiler functions are covered later under Secondary Controls.

Elevators The elevators are the control surfaces which govern the movement of the aircraft in pitch about its lateral axis. They are normally attached to the hinges on the rear spar of the horizontal stabiliser.. Elevator Controls Figure 9 Stabilator Controls Figure 10 Issue 1 – 04 Sept 2001 Page 1-10 . The reverse action takes place when the control is pulled back. raises the tail and lowers the nose of the aircraft. When the control column of the aircraft is pushed forward. The resultant force of the ‘airflow generated lift'.Pitch Control . often referred to as a slab or all-flying tailplane . The stabilator is a complete all-moving horizontal stabiliser which can change its angle of attack when the control column is moved and thereby alter the total amount of lift generated by the tail. Pitch Control – Stabilators A special type of pitch control surface that combines the functions of the elevator and the horizontal stabiliser is the stabilator. acting upwards. the elevators move down.

stabilising down force. This configuration. This means that the wing has to produce slightly more lift to balance this down force. such as the Wright Flyer. thereby reducing drag from the lift producing wing. As we have seen. Normally a powerful electric motor is used to vary its angle of attack when trim switches on the flight deck are operated. has been used on occasions.Pitch Control – Variable Incidence Stabilisers Incorporating a conventional elevator control system. the variable incidence horizontal stabiliser is often used for pitch trim. with the forward surface usually referred to as a canard or foreplane. in order for a wing to produce lift it must also generate drag. Conventional aircraft have the tailplane located at the rear of the fuselage which provides a small. up to the present day. the stabilising force is directed upwards. Issue 1 – 04 Sept 2001 Page 1-11 . This contributes to the total lift of the aircraft. had horizontal surfaces located ahead of the wings. Variable Incidence stabiliser Figure 11 Canards Some earliest powered aircraft. With the tailplane located at the front of the aircraft.

Because of the power of some rudder systems. moved by different operating systems to provide a level of redundancy. Canard Design – Beach Starcraft Figure 12 Yaw Control . resulting in a predictable dropping of the nose and a certain recovery. causes the rudder to move to the right also.Rudder The rudder is a vertical control surface that is hinged at the rear of the fin and is designed to apply yawing moments. leaving the main wing safely below the stalling angle and still producing adequate lift. particularly assisted systems. can be triggered just before the foreplane reaches its critical angle of attack. Pushing on one pedal. The rudder rotates the aircraft about its vertical axis and is controlled by rudder pedals that are operated by the pilots’ feet.(later). Issue 1 – 04 Sept 2001 Page 1-12 . This causes the rudder to generate a 'lifting' force sideways to the left which turns the nose of the aircraft to the right. the right for example. (in front of the CG of the aircraft) is set at a greater angle than the main wing. stall sensing systems (later). Additionally. The rudder is normally a single structural unit but on large transport aircraft it may comprise two or more operational segments.A fundamental feature of a canard design is that the angle of attack of the foreplane. This feature will ensure that the foreplane reaches the stalling angle first. they may have their range reduced at high speed by means of a speed-sensitive range limiting system.

. Issue 1 – 04 Sept 2001 Page 1-13 . where control surfaces for pitch and roll must be fitted on the trailing edge of the wing. provide both pitch and roll. by moving symmetrically in pitch or asymmetrically in roll via a mixer unit. when the control column or control wheel are operated on the flight deck.Rudder controls Figure 13 Combined-Function Controls – Elevons and Ruddervators An example of combined-function controls is found on delta-wing aircraft. Controls with a dual-function (elevators and ailerons) called elevons.

passenger jet such as the Boeing 777.Another example are ruddervators normally used on aircraft fitted with a 'V' or Butterfly tail. (about 1. the wing is designed to give optimum lift to support the aircraft whilst in cruise (typically Mach 0. In order to achieve this. Issue 1 – 04 Sept 2001 Page 1-14 .3 HIGH LIFT DEVICES Aerodynamic lift is determined by the shape and size of the main lifting surfaces of the aircraft. more lift is required and this is obtained from so-called high lift devices.1. slotted and fowler flaps. swept wing.3 times the stalling speed). These surfaces serve the purposes of both rudder and elevator. Ruddervator Controls Figure 14 1. These are divided generally into leading edge devices. namely slots.87). Consequently the landing speed. They will increase lift and as a result. since drag is also increased with large angles of trailing edge flap deployment. slats and Krueger flaps and trailing edge devices including plain. In order to produce the outstanding performance achieved by a large modern. reduce the stalling speed. the landing speed needs to be slower than the ‘clean’ stalling speed of the aircraft. that to be able to control and land the aircraft weighing around 200tonne on runways of reasonable length. This has meant. will also be reduced.

low drag design which. will continue in level flight for many miles before slowing down. light aircraft. if the nose were lowered more than a degree or so. Furthermore. With slower. simply closing the throttle allows the high drag of the airframe and the idling propeller to slow the aircraft down. if only the throttles are retarded. Issue 1 – 04 Sept 2001 Page 1-15 . to gliding speed prior to landing approach. but extra lift (and drag) is generated during landing. These surfaces are usually referred to as Flaperons or sometimes called droop ailerons. a modern airliner is an extremely smooth. act as additional plain flaps. high drag.Flaps and Slats Figure 15 Additionally. Droop Aileron Figure 16 1.4 DRAG INDUCING DEVICES There are several situations where the aircraft must slow down fairly quickly. the aircraft will begin to accelerate again.1. ailerons designed to 'droop' when the trailing edge flaps are lowered to certain positions. on a few aircraft. As previously stated. for example. Roll control is retained.

they can be the primary roll control of the aircraft as described previously. the designers have introduced a variety of drag inducing devices. to assist in stopping the aircraft efficiently and thereby allowing the wheel brakes to be operated more effectively. Spoilers and Lift Dumpers. resulting in a reduction of lift. lowering the landing gear and operating in-flight thrust reversers. as their name describes.In order to overcome the problems of low drag on large aircraft with high momentum. Speed Brakes Issue 1 – 04 Sept 2001 Page 1-16 . Secondly. allowing the aircraft to slow down quickly in the cruise. part-deployed position. Spoilers and Lift Dumpers are usually hinged panels located about mid-chord position on the upper surface of the wing. Lift Dump Spoilers Figure 17 Spoilers. Hydraulically operated. These include spoilers. speed brakes and in unusual circumstances. Firstly. lift dumpers. are spoiler panels incorporated solely to dump lift. Some of the following facilities can be combined. They are normally deployed after landing. or descend at a much steeper rate without accelerating. the spoilers can be used in a symmetrical. On some aircraft. the deployment angle of the spoiler panels can be varied by changing the position of the control lever in the flight compartment. have a variety of uses. destroying the lift of the wing and producing high drag. all of which involve spoiling the lift of the wing. they produce a large amount of turbulence and drag when deployed. so that one set of panels can have more than one job. Lift dumpers are.

lift will be completely unaffected. The aft mounted speed brakes not only produce high drag at any airspeed. (This will be covered later in powerplants). Speed Brake Installation Figure 18 Issue 1 – 04 Sept 2001 Page 1-17 . which some people may find disturbing. the term more accurately describes devices which are solely for the production of drag without any change of trim. Also.Whilst it is true that the in-flight use of spoilers may be referred to as selecting the 'speed brakes'. thus permitting their deployment on approach and making a go-around much safer. but their selection is virtually vibration free. The rear fuselage mounted 'clamshell-type’ doors which open up on the BAe 146 and Fokker 70/100 aircraft are true speed brakes (or air brakes) and have the following major advantage over the use of spoilers for producing drag. vibration or rumble is often felt in the passenger cabin. When the wing mounted spoilers are deployed.

1.1. Also they will straighten the airflow over the ailerons. Leading Edge Notch Figure 20 Issue 1 – 04 Sept 2001 Page 1-18 . Total airflow over a swept wing. which flows over the wing and straightens the spanwise flow. tends to form an invisible 'wall' of high velocity air. (See Winglets later). The step where the change occurs. thereby producing less drag.5 AIRFLOW CONTROL DEVICES – WING FENCES These devices are usually fitted to aircraft with swept wings. The saw tooth or notch is simply a small increase in wing chord on the outer portion of the wing. improving their effectiveness and straighten the air nearer the wing tip. on the leading edge of the wing and extending rearwards. Wing Fences Figure 19 Airflow Control Devices – Saw Tooth Leading Edges This form of airflow control is more common on military aircraft than modern commercial airliners. one moving across the wing chord parallel to the airflow and the other flowing spanwise towards the wing tip. They are designed to control the spanwise flow of the boundary layer air over the top of the wing. splits into two components. The fences are fitted about mid-span. resulting in less 'spillage' of air from beneath the wing to the top. It functions in much the same way as the wing fence but removes the extra drag and weight penalty.

the transition point tends to move forward. the boundary layer becomes thicker and turbulent. the air velocity in the layer will vary from zero directly on the surface. These winglets work best at higher speeds and. If measured. rather like a yacht sail.Winglets These can be seen on a variety of the later generation airliners and business jets. The winglets add weight to the aircraft as well as increasing parasitic drag. The outboard part of the wing are upswept to an extreme dihedral angle. by clever aerodynamic design. will give better airflow control and reduce the drag produced by the wing.As airspeed increases. so the designer tries to prevent this thus maintaining laminar flow. at the leading edge of the wing the boundary layer will be laminar. to the relevant velocity of the free stream at the outer extremity of the boundary layer.Airflow Control . Normally. but as the air moves over the wing towards the trailing edge. Methods of boundary layer control are as follows: Issue 1 – 04 Sept 2001 Page 1-19 . (in smooth thin sheets close to the surface). results in a significant fuel saving. It does this by using the up-flow from below the wing to produce a forward thrust from the winglet. but the large reduction in induced drag at the wingtip.6 BOUNDARY LAYER CONTROL The boundary layer is that layer of air adjacent to the aerofoil surface (the boundary between ‘metal’ and ‘air’). The region where the flow changes from laminar to turbulent is called the transition point. over the top of the wing for as far back as possible. Winglets Figure 21 1. .1.

as they are sometimes known. (later). This can be overcome with the use of stall wedges. In this way.Stall Wedges We have seen previously that washout on a wing permits the root of the wing to stall first.(about 3 times the typical boundary layer thickness). the aircraft will ‘drop a wing’ on occasions due to adverse boundary layer air causing the outer part of the wing to stall first. Even with a degree of washout. They also weaken the shock wave at high speed and reduce shock drag also. into the free stream air. or stall strips.Vortex Generators One way of stimulating the boundary layer and stopping the airflow becoming increasingly sluggish towards the trailing edge is the use of vortex generators. Issue 1 – 04 Sept 2001 Page 1-20 . allowing the pilot to retain roll control during the stall. This action pushes the transition point backwards towards the trailing edge .Boundary Layer Control . Vortex Generators Figure 22 Boundary Layer Control .the small amount of drag created by the vortices is far more than compensated by the considerable boundary layer drag which they save. Vortex generators are small plates or wedges projecting up from the surface of an aerofoil about 25mm. Their purpose is to shed small but lively vortices from their tip. which act as scavengers to direct and mix the high energy free stream air into the sluggish boundary layer air and invigorate it.

They can be a droop snoot or permanent droop type.Leading edge Devices Other devices to prevent laminar separation at the low speed end of the range and thus control boundary layer air are leading edge droop flaps and Kreuger flaps. Stall Wedges Figure 23 Boundary Layer Control . thus ensuring the airflow breaks away. or can be adjusted during flight. at the root end of the wing first.(stalls). wedge-shaped strips mounted on the leading edge of the wings at about one third span. The are designed to disrupt the boundary layer airflow.Stall Wedges are small. at large angles of attack approaching the stall. thus retaining optimum roll control. Krueger (left) and Drooped (right) Leading Edge Flaps Figure 24 Issue 1 – 04 Sept 2001 Page 1-21 . Additionally they produce a similar effect to a wing fence at smaller angles of attack resulting in a smoother airflow over the ailerons.

Trim tabs move the primary control surface aerodynamically in the opposite direction to the movement of the tab. It is adjusted on the ground by simply bending it up or down. so trim tabs are used for this purpose instead. This may be due to changes in fuel state. This would be fatiguing for the crew and difficult to maintain for long periods. the elevator tab is moved down.1. Fixed Trim Tabs A fixed trim tab may be a simple section of sheet metal attached to the trailing edge of a control surface. so that the nose comes up. with its position being transmitted back to a flight deck indicator showing trim units. load position or flap/landing gear selection and could be countered by applying a continuous correcting force to the primary controls.1. Finding the correct position for both types is by trial and error. Issue 1 – 04 Sept 2001 Page 1-22 .7 TRIM TABS During a flight an aircraft will develop a tendency to deviate from a straight and level ‘hands-off’ attitude. speed. the tab is connected to the primary control by a ground-adjustable connecting rod. resulting in the elevator moving up. To correct an aircraft ‘nose down’ out of trim condition. to a position resulting in zero control forces during cruise. Alternatively. the tail of the aircraft moving down. Fixed Trim Tab Figure 25 Controllable Trim Tabs A controllable trim tab is adjusted from the flight deck. left and right of neutral. correcting the fault.

With these systems. moves the primary control. electrical or hydraulic means. Servo Tabs Sometimes referred to as the flight tabs. trim tabs if fitted. lever. Servo Tab Figure 27 Issue 1 – 04 Sept 2001 Page 1-23 . Controllable Trim Tab Figure 26 Note: Aircraft with hydraulic fully powered controls do not have trim tabs.. trimming is achieved by moving the primary control surface to a new neutral datum. Movement of the flight deck control input moves the tab up or down and the aerodynamic force created on the tab. switch. Moving the tab down will cause the primary control to move up and vice-versa. with the actuation of the tab by mechanical.Flight deck controls are trim-wheel.(later). since pilot effort is only required to deflect the relatively small area of the servo tab into the air stream. until the aerodynamic load on the control surface balances that on the tab. would be aerodynamically ineffective. Trim facilities are normally provided on all three axes. They act as a form of ‘power booster’. Since fully powered controls are termed irreversible. servo tabs are positioned on the trailing edge of the primary control surface and connected directly to the flight deck control inputs. etc.

that it tends to maintain the tab at the same relative angle to the stabiliser when the pilot moves the elevator. The difference is in the way it is connected to the fixed aerofoil. Anti-Balance Tab Figure 29 Spring Tabs At high speed. The effect is to add a loading to the pilot effort. become increasingly difficult to deflect from neutral. For example. therefore. This is usually achieved by installing a form of linear actuator in the rod and is termed a trim/balance tab (Geared balance and trim/balance tabs will be covered later in the notes). The function of a balance tab can also be combined with that of a trim tab. hinged to the trailing edge of the primary surface. Aerodynamically. The flight deck controls are connected to the primary control surface whereas the balance tab. will be connected by an adjustable rod to the horizontal stabiliser and is so arranged. by adjusting the length of the balance tab connecting rod from the flight deck. to prevent the possibility of over-stressing the airframe structure. Some types of balance tab have more than one point of attachment and it is possible with these so called ‘geared balance tabs’. Adjusting the length of the connecting rod will alter the displacement of the effective range of the tab about the mid-point datum. Issue 1 – 04 Sept 2001 Page 1-24 . It is routed so that the tab moves. making it slightly heavier and thus providing ‘feel’. Balance Tab Figure 28 Anti-Balance Tabs Anti-balance tabs operate in a similar way aerodynamically as balance tabs but with a reverse effect. the elevator balance tab. the primary control surface. to alter the range of tab deflection.Balance Tabs Balance tabs assist the pilot in moving the primary control surface. the tab is moving in the opposite direction to the control surface and assists its movement. relative to and in the same direction as. is connected to the fixed aerofoil. due to the force of the aerodynamic loads caused by the airstream around them. control surfaces operated directly from the flight deck.

resulting in a deflection of the spring tab. resulting in a progressively increasing assistance in moving the primary control.The spring tab is progressive in its operation and provides increasing aerodynamic assistance in moving the control surface. Issue 1 – 04 Sept 2001 Page 1-25 . the greater the airflow force and therefore the greater the spring tab deflection. If the flight deck controls are deflected from neutral. Deflection of the flight deck controls in this case causes the torque tube to twist (or the spring to compress). should the air load distort the wing upwards. as all good structures are. the centre of gravity (C of G) will be behind the hinge and as a consequence. When the aircraft is stationary or flying at low airspeed the airloads are non-existent or very small. The flight deck controls are connected to the spring tab in a similar manner to the servo tab previously described. This unwanted phenomenon is referred to as flutter. it is likely that the aileron will ‘lag’ behind and distort downwards. The faster the aircraft flies. except the linkage is routed via a torque rod assembly (or spring box) attached to the primary control surface.8 MASS BALANCE All aircraft structures are distorted when loads are applied. aerodynamically forcing the wing down further than it would normally go due to elastic recoil alone. the increased force produced by the airflow. In the case of an aileron for example. opposes the movement of the primary control surface from its neutral position. Spring Tab Figure 30 1. As the aircraft flies faster. the wing will spring back and the aileron will lag again but this time upwards.1. or its point of application is changed. This effectively produces an extra upward aerodynamic force which pushes the wing up even further. it will tend to spring back when the load is removed. Now the cycle is repeated and a high speed oscillation will result. Since a control surface is hinged near its leading edge. there will be more weight aft of the hinge line than in front of it . Due to its elasticity. If the structure is elastic. with an increase in aircraft forward speed. the rigidity of the torque tube (or spring force) causes the primary control to be deflected together with the spring tab. The tab will remain in the same relative position with the primary control and consequently provides no additional aerodynamic assistance. The tab deflection provides an added aerodynamic load which assists the flight deck effort.

The normal way of achieving this is to add a number of high density weights.Flutter can be prevented if the C of G of the control surface is moved in line with. either within the leading edge of the surface itself or externally. is closely controlled and calculated to ensure that the exact balance is obtained. External Mass Weights Figure 31 Integral Mass Weights Figure 32 Issue 1 – 04 Sept 2001 Page 1-26 . ahead of the hinge line. the hinge line. The addition of these weights. or slightly in front of. normally made from lead or depleted uranium. This procedure of adding weights is referred to as mass balancing of the controls.

Control Surface Bias True control surface bias is achieved in manually operated controls by the use of fixed or adjustable trim tabs. The airflow on this side assists the movement of the control in the desired direction and will attempt to move the control further away from the neutral position. Horn Balance Figure 33 Issue 1 – 04 Sept 2001 Page 1-27 . (This will be covered later). If the proportion of balance area forward of the hinge and control area aft of the hinge is correct. as previously discussed. However in order to overcome the high stick forces on larger aircraft at higher speeds. Air loads on the control side. try to push the surface back towards neutral. the pilot will feel that his control loads are more manageable. making the aircraft easier to fly. Aerodynamic Balance – Horn Balance In this method. (This is the force that would normally make the controls heavy). inset hinge and pressure balancing. a small part of the primary control surface ahead of the hinge will project into the airflow when the control is deflected from neutral. In power operated controls the input signal to the hydraulic servo valve is adjusted to offset the primary control surface. This is referred to as Aerodynamic Balancing and the three principal ways of achieving it are: horn balance. aft of the hinge. the surfaces themselves are used to lighten the forces.

Aerodynamic Balance Panel Figure 35 Issue 1 – 04 Sept 2001 Page 1-28 . Instead of having a forward projection at one or both ends of the control surface. Often used in the aileron system. which projects into the air flow when the control surface is moved from neutral. When the aileron is deflected upwards (downwards) from neutral. low pressure air passing over the lower (upper) gap decreases the air pressure under (above) the balance panel and pulls it down (up). Inset Hinge Balance Figure 34 Aerodynamic Balance – Balance Panels A device fitted to a few aircraft is the aerodynamic balance panel. the hinges are set back so that the area forward of the hinge line. is spread evenly along its whole length. the high velocity.Aerodynamic Balance – Inset Hinge This method is similar to and has the same effect as the horn balance. ahead of the hinge and the rear face of the wing. the panel is fitted between the leading edge of the aileron. The force on the balance panel is proportional to airspeed and control surface deflection and assists the pilot in moving the controls accordingly.

depends on the type and density of the material in which they are travelling.000feet). Air and Water are both fluids but water is more dense than air.000 metres (approximately 36. like those produced by a stationary object vibrating at certain frequencies. Issue 1 – 04 Sept 2001 Page 1-2 . this will amount to an airspeed of about 575 miles per hour. Sound waves. Mach number is named after the Austrian physicist Ernst Mach (1838-1916) and is the ratio of true airspeed of an aircraft to the local speed of sound at that altitude. so sound waves will travel faster (about 4 times) in water than in air. will cause a continuous series of pulses or pressure waves. the aerodynamic effects of airflow passing over an aircraft. Earlier in the course the effects of subsonic air were considered. 1.2 HIGH SPEED FLIGHT Advancement in modern aircraft and engine design has produced very large airliners capable of cruising at 87% of the speed of sound.1. As airspeed increases. Pressure Waves – Stationary Object Figure 36 The actual speed at which the waves radiate. go through a series of changes. which will now be considered. (This will be covered in more detail later).1 SPEED OF SOUND One of the most important measurements in high speed aerodynamics is based on the speed of sound and so called mach number. to radiate outwards equally in all directions from the point of origin and travel in exactly the same manner as the ripples on a pond.2. Typically at an altitude of 11.

anyone standing ahead of the aircraft. As temperature increases. would hear it coming and be able to detect the change in the nature of the pressure waves as the aircraft passed by.Additionally. in any one of the fluids. Consequently.000 metres and up to about 27. When an aircraft begins to move through the air at subsonic speeds. speed will vary with a change in temperature.2 SUBSONIC FLIGHT The propagation of the pressure waves from a stationary object has been discussed above. the speed will fall to 661mph. This warning message can be detected perhaps 100metres in front of the aircraft. the temperature and hence the speed of sound. will remain constant. 1. Pressure waves – Subsonic Flight Figure 37 Issue 1 – 04 Sept 2001 Page 1-3 . whereas at 11. On receipt of this message. so that in Air on a standard day at sea level (15oC approx). the speed of sound will increase and vice-versa. the air streams begin to divide to make way for the aircraft but there is very little. the waves will travel at 761mph (661. It would be similar to the change in the pitch of the siren of a passing emergency road vehicle. (a speed less than pressure wave propagation speed) the waves still travel forward and it is as if a message is sent ahead of the aircraft to warn of its approach. This is often referred to as Doppler shift or Doppler effect. since the temperature has dropped to -56oC at this altitude. if any change in the density of the air as it flows over the aircraft.000 metres.2.7 knots).000 metres altitude. Note: At altitudes above 11.

the study of aerodynamics is simplified by the fact that air passing over a wing experiences only very small changes in pressure and density.3 TRANSONIC FLIGHT At subsonic speeds. When air enters a venturi at supersonic speeds. Subsonic Airflow Figure 38 Supersonic Airflow Figure 39 Issue 1 – 04 Sept 2001 Page 1-4 .1. when it passes through a venturi. its pressure and density will both increase. the airflow slows down and must compress in order to pass through its throat. Once a fluid compresses. the change in air pressure and density becomes significant and is called the compressibility effect. The airflow is termed incompressible as. the pressure changes without the density changing At higher speeds.2.

Transonic Flight Pressure Waves Figure 40 At these speeds other pressure waves. is subsonic and some is supersonic. They accumulate to form a continuous pressure wave and consequently will result in the removal of any advance warning of the approach of the aircraft. the pressure waves ahead of it will be travelling at the same speed as the aircraft and are therefore relatively stationary. or shock waves form wherever the airflow reaches the speed of sound.The transonic flight range encompasses sound wave velocity and consequently is the most difficult realm of flight since some of the air flowing over the aircraft. As the aircraft approaches the speed of sound. These waves will upset the aerodynamic balance of the wing and this phenomenon will be covered later in the notes. Issue 1 – 04 Sept 2001 Page 1-5 . particularly the wings.

Mach number is the ratio of the true airspeed of the aircraft and the local speed of sound at that altitude. An aircraft travelling at exactly the speed of sound is said to be travelling at Mach 1. It follows therefore that an aircraft travelling at twice the speed of sound would be travelling at Mach 2 and at half the speed of sound. Mach Cone Figure 41 Mach Number As previously mentioned.1.5. the inclination of which will change as the aircraft speed changes.75 Transonic Flow Mach Numbers between Mach 0. etc.2 and 5. Mach 0..4 SUPERSONIC FLIGHT Once the aircraft is supersonic.0 Hypersonic Flow Mach Numbers above Issue 1 – 04 Sept 2001 Mach 5.75 and Mach 1.2 Supersonic Flow Mach Numbers between Mach 1.0 Page 1-6 .2. all parts of it are considered to be above the speed of sound and therefore travelling faster than the rate of propagation of the pressure waves. The following definitions regarding airflow and mach number apply: Subsonic Flow Mach Numbers below Mach 0. An infinite number of pressure waves are produced and form a cone.

This in turn will mean that the aircraft with a thin wing. Consequently. may have already reached Mach 1 As will be discussed later. a unique maximum aircraft forward speed will be calculated. its speed will increase as it flows rearwards from the leading edge. the designers may either incorporate features that will lessen the unwanted effects. Issue 1 – 04 Sept 2001 Page 1-7 .Critical Mach Number At any constant aircraft forward speed. corresponding to a wing speed of Mach 1. since this is the major lift provider for the aircraft. This aircraft speed (always be less than Mach 1) is called the Critical Mach Number or M. Conversely.crit and nonsupersonic aircraft flying in the transonic flight range. will normally be limited to a maximum speed set below the Critical Mach number. Critical Mach Number Figure 42 A thick wing will cause the airflow to speed up over the camber and reach Mach 1 more quickly than a thin wing of similar chord length. As air flows over the camber on the upper surface of the wing. the Critical Mach number for the thinner wing will be a higher value than the thicker wing. the speed of the airflow will vary over the curves and cambers on the different areas of the airframe. less lift will be produced by a thin wing. The behaviour of the airflow over the wing will be particularly significant. than a thick wing of similar chord length. the airflow over the thickest part of the wing chord. before the unwanted effects caused by the wing reaching Mach 1 ensue. many unwanted effects occur when the wing approaches and reaches Mach 1. This means that although the aircraft itself may be travelling at an airspeed well below Mach 1. that will ensure the wing speed remains below Mach 1 and thus avoids the unwanted effects altogether. or limit the aircraft to a predetermined maximum airspeed. Therefore. For each aircraft type therefore. reaching a maximum at the thickest part of the wing chord. but this can be overcome by the so called Supercritical wing chord. will be able to fly faster in the transonic flight range than the one with the thicker wing.

This region. Unwanted adverse effects including. Compressibility Buffet Previously discussed has been the build up of the pressure wave in front of the aircraft as it approaches Mach 1. control loss or possible structural damage can occur. Transonic flight presents major design problems for the aerofoil in particular. shock waves. as well as those on the flying control aerofoils. decrease in lift and movement of the centre of pressure occur. experience violent vibration and so-called compressibility buffeting of the airframe.In this design. are likely to reach Mach 1 well before the complete aircraft does. increase in drag. even though the aircraft is at high speed and low angle of incidence. slats and flaps) is necessary Supercritical Wing Figure 43 Adverse Transonic Effects Even though the onset of compressibility is gradual. in particular the wing. these effects could result in the aircraft becoming difficult to fly and to behave in a similar manner to a low speed high incidence stall. has been discussed. because only a portion of the airflow passing over the wing becomes supersonic. This is perfect for transonic cruise conditions. If allowed to continue. including the fact that other parts of the airframe. If uncontrolled. the build up of pressure waves and the change from incompressible to compressible flow as the aircraft or an aerofoil surface approaches the speed of sound. When this occurs the smoothness of the airflow over the wing is severely affected. it begins to have a significant effect as the Critical Mach number is approached. but at low airspeeds. Shock Wave Previously in the notes. buffeting. Issue 1 – 04 Sept 2001 Page 1-8 . the total amount of lift lost by the shallower camber of the thin wing is restored by making the chord longer. lift on a clean wing will be insufficient and so extensive use of high lift devices (slots.

Any turbulence resulting from the separation. the point of separation moves forward. Subsonic Flow Over all the Surface Figure 44 However. As speed begins to increase. The First Sonic Flow is Encountered Figure 45 A Normal Shock Wave Begins to Form Figure 46 Issue 1 – 04 Sept 2001 Page 1-9 . all of the airflow is subsonic and the pressure distribution is predictable. will cause an increase in drag and a corresponding reduction in the amount of lift.When an aerofoil moves through the air at a speed below its critical Mach number. as flight speed reaches and exceeds the critical Mach number. extending the turbulent wake.The first indication of a change in the nature of the flow will be a breakaway of the airflow from the aerofoil surface as described previously in boundary layer control. the airflow over the top of the wing speeds up to supersonic velocity and a shock wave starts to form.

A second wave begins to form on the lower surface. the wave will extend outwards and begin to move aft towards the trailing edge of the wing. so both the static pressure and the density of the air increase adding to the high drag/ low lift condition. resistance caused by the wave itself and Boundary Layer Drag. affecting the pitching moment.Note: If the aerofoil is symmetrical and set at zero degrees angle of attack. some of the energy in the airstream will be dissipated in the form of heat. the incipient shock wave as it is called. However. resulting in a sudden and considerable increase in drag (about 10 times) and therefore a large loss of lift. will be made up of two components. Furthermore. as the airflow here also speeds up to supersonic velocity Shock Induced Separation Occurs Figure 47 Issue 1 – 04 Sept 2001 Page 1-10 . The wave extends outwards more or less at right angles to the aerofoil surface and is referred to as a normal (perpendicular) shock wave This normal shock wave forms a boundary between supersonic and subsonic airflow. so called Shock Drag. Severe buffeting is likely. resulting in a rapid rise in pressure. would form equally on the upper and lower surfaces. As the aircraft speed continues to increase. namely Wave Drag. As we have seen the high velocity airflow over the top of a wing creates an area of low pressure. The separation point and turbulent wake will now start from this point. because the wing is usually set to an angle of incidence of about 3 degrees. due to the increased turbulent region over the surface of the wing. which could even lead to a shock stall and the centre of pressure will be altered. This ‘extra’ drag. Additionally. The shock wave causes it to decelerate to subsonic speed. this shock-induced separation is likely to reduce flying control effectiveness The velocity of the air leaving the shock wave remains supersonic. even a symmetrical aerofoil section would produce the incipient wave on the top surface first.

all airflow over the wing will be supersonic and many of the unwanted transonic effects are eliminated. become stronger and will eventually attach to the wing's trailing edge. Almost all Flow is Supersonic. to the leading edge of the wing. will move towards and subsequently attach itself. known as a Bow wave. Some Shock Induced Separation Figure 48 Further increases in forward speed will now result in the characteristic normal shock wave forming ahead of the aerofoil. Once attached.As the airspeed reaches the upper end of the transonic range. The Bow Wave is Starting to Form Figure 49 Issue 1 – 04 Sept 2001 Page 1-11 . both shock waves move aft. This continuous wave.

a bow wave is forming and airflow over the wing is slowed to subsonic speeds. when shock induced separation drastically reduces the coefficient of lift. the transonic region has a great affect on the lift and drag. Lift / Drag Comparison at 2º Angle of Attack Figure 50 Issue 1 – 04 Sept 2001 Page 1-12 .99. resulting in an increase in lift coefficient and a reduction of drag.As can be seen in figure 50. Both values rise until Mach 0.81. As speed approaches Mach 0.

When the aircraft is flown at Mach 2. the flight deck is directed to reduce the speed to about Mach 1. Concorde is probably the only airliner where aerodynamic heating presents a significant problem.2. other materials such as titanium alloy or stainless steel would need to be considered. When a reading of 1270C is reached. the friction of the air passing around the aircraft heats the skin considerably even at altitudes in excess of 17. An extreme example of aerodynamic heating might be a ‘shooting star’.1. As a precaution. Concorde uses conventional aluminium alloys in its construction. The point of maximum heating is on the nose where the rise in temperature could reach 175 0C.8. a probe on the nose of the aircraft monitors the temperature during flight. a similar fate might occur to it on re-entry.000 metres. if it were not for the special ceramic tile ‘heat-sink’ insulation on the structure of the Space Shuttle. Concord Skin Temperature Figure 51 Issue 1 – 04 Sept 2001 Page 1-13 . In fact. In the commercial world. to bring the temperature back within limits. from the heat generated by friction-heating with the earth's atmosphere. If future aircraft are required to travel within the atmosphere at even higher Mach numbers.5 AERODYNAMIC HEATING One of the biggest problems of sustained supersonic flight is aerodynamic heating of the aircraft structure. when its material overheats to the point of destruction.

Therefore. thereby cancelling out the increase caused by the wings. Area rule is defined as: “For the minimum drag at the connections. Alternatively. the fuselage cross-section could be increased with the use of enlarged sections behind and in front of the wings to eliminate sudden changes in the cross-sectional area and achieve the same result. one method of achieving area rule in this situation. fuselage. (wing/fuselage). smooth and streamlined.6 AREA RULE Area rule is an aerodynamic technique used in the design of high speed aircraft. should approximate that of an ideal shape having minimum wave drag”. If drag is to be kept to a minimum at transonic speeds. conform to those of a simple body of streamline shape. empennage and other appendages have to be considered together when working out the total streamlining.2. In general terms it means that the wings.1. is to reduce the cross-sectional area of the fuselage. the variation of the aircraft’s total cross-sectional area along its length. the greatest frontal cross-sectional area of the fuselage would occur where the wings are attached to the fuselage. Area Rule Figure 52 Issue 1 – 04 Sept 2001 Page 1-14 . This is necessary so that the cross-sectional area of successive ‘slices’ of the aircraft from nose to tail. aircraft must be slim. Without area rule.

1.7 FACTORS AFFECTING AIRFLOW IN ENGINE INTAKES OF HIGH SPEED AIRCRAFT Engine intakes on aircraft that operate in the subsonic flight range only can be of almost any form. Obviously. Other methods to control airflow reaching the compressor is to make use of the fact that air passing through a shock wave slows down to a lower speed. which on some aircraft can translate in and out of the intake to reposition the shock wave during low or high supersonic flight speeds. If the aircraft is designed to cruise above Mach 1. the air entering the intakes will be supersonic and will behave in accordance with the rules of supersonic flow. This is normally achieved by the careful design of the intake ducts.5.2. if the aircraft never exceeds Mach 0.5. This technique can be found on the intakes of Concorde. See figure 53. However the aircraft must fly through the transonic range in order to reach supersonic speed so both types of duct will be necessary. but if the aircraft is to cruise at airspeeds in excess of this. a divergent duct must be utilised to slow the airflow at the compressor down to Mach 0. One way to overcome the problem is to have moveable doors which change the intake duct shape from divergent to convergent cross-section as the aircraft passes through Mach 1.5. a parallel intake duct could be employed. yet below Mach 1. The main criteria is that the airflow reaching the compressor stage of the engine during cruise ideally does not exceed Mach 0. In this case a convergent duct would be necessary to slow down the airflow to the compressor. This type of intake design is usually characterised by the ‘bullet fairing’. See Figure 54 Issue 1 – 04 Sept 2001 Page 1-15 .

Intake Moveable doors Figure 53 ‘Bullet Fairing’ Intake Figure 54 Issue 1 – 04 Sept 2001 Page 1-16 .

Sweepback not only delays the production of the shock wave. one way is to have as thin a wing as possible. i. is reduced by the shock wave to subsonic speeds. but reduces the severity of the shock stall should it occur. the shock wave lies parallel to the span of the wing. Therefore only that part of the velocity perpendicular to the shock wave. As has already been shown. The other velocity component which travels spanwise causes only frictional drag and has no effect on shock wave production. The greater the sweepback.1. Another way of raising the Critical Mach number without the structural limitations is by the use of swept wings. This theory is borne out by the fact that when it does appear. the Critical Mach number needs to be as high as possible. the smaller will be the component of velocity affected. across the chord.8 EFFECTS OF SWEEPBACK ON CRITICAL MACH NUMBER In order to fly at high speed in the transonic range without encountering the problems caused by the production of shock waves. Additionally sweepback results in a thinner mean aerodynamic chord which raises the Critical Mach number even more. such as wing loading. This of course is an acceptable solution in theory.e. strength and flexibility. resulting in a higher Critical Mach number and a reduction in drag at all transonic speeds. but in practice there will be structural integrity problems. Effects of Sweepback Figure 55 Issue 1 – 04 Sept 2001 Page 1-17 . The theory behind this is that it is only the component of velocity over the wing chord which is responsible for the pressure distribution and so for causing the shock wave to develop.2.

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1 ACCIDENTS Issue 1 – 04 Sept 2001 Page 2-3 .2 SAFETY PRECAUTIONS – AIRCRAFT & WORKSHOP 2.