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James F. Marchman, III

Professor of Aerospace & Ocean Engineering
Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University
Copyright 1994 by James F. Marchman, III

James F. Marchman, III

Associate Dean of Engineering &
Professor of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering
Viirginia Tech


Most aerospace engineering departments include some course in introductory aircraft

performance in their curricula; however, proper positioning of such a course within the
curriculum is sometimes a problem. At an introductory level, aircraft performance is a
relatively elementary subject which can easily be taught to students in the sophomore year.
Prerequisite material needed for such a course includes, for the most part, only basic
calculus, engineering statics and dynamics.

The only prerequisite subject matter beyond the above needed for a study of
introductory level aircraft performance is some background in aerodynamics. This often
presents a problem to those who must decide on the proper place for the performance
course within the aerospace curriculum since a full course in aerodynamics or basic fluid
dynamics is, in reality, much more demanding for both the student and professor than the
aircraft performance course which may follow.

It is the author’s opinion, based on over twenty years experience with curricula which
placed a first aircraft performance course both before and after the first aerodynamics or
fluids course, that the best place for the performance course is very early in the curriculum,
immediately following the student’s introduction to engineering statics and dynamics. In
this position the course can serve as a bridge between the generic, basic engineering
courses of the freshman and sophomore years which the student often finds rather
unappealing, and the more difficult, more theoretical coursework of the junior year. The
applied nature of the course has much appeal to the student who is, by this time, wondering
if he or she is ever going to get to a course which has anything to do with his or her chosen
curriculum and early placement of the course in the curriculum can boost the morale of the
student and prevent loss of good students to other curricula.

In order to give an aircraft performance course such early placement in an aerospace

curriculum, the course, and hence its text, must include proper introductory material on the
subject of aerodynamics. This need not include a complete theoretical background in such
areas as potential flow theory, vortex sheet theory or lifting line theory, but must include
enough introductory fluid flow theory to enable the student to understand the basic applied
aerodynamics which govern the performance of an aircraft in flight.

This text is designed to give the student a “stand-alone” course in basic aircraft
performance. It contains sufficient introductory fluid mechanics to allow the student to
understand the standard atmosphere in which the aircraft must perform and enough fluid
dynamics and aerodynamics to enable the student to understand the origins of the fluid
forces that govern the performance of the aircraft. The text can thus be used for an aircraft
performance course which preceeds a formal course in fluids or aerodynamics. The only
prerequisites for the course are introductory courses in statics and dynamics such as those
normally taught in the freshman and sophomore years of most engineering curricula, plus
an understanding of basic calculus. Those students who take the course after completing a
course in aerodynamics or fluid dynamics should find the sections on those subjects in this
text a good review of the more practical aspects of those subjects.

It will be obvious to the reader that the present version of this text is relatively poorly
edited and needs much work to have consistent style and presentable graphics and to be
free of error. A first cut at actually including the equations on the word processor file has
been made in the first three chapters, thanks to the patient, volunteer efforts of Mrs. Betty
Williams. She should not be blamed for any errors in the equations but only for her faulty
judgment in volunteering to try to learn to do equations on WordPerfect in her valiant
attempts to help the author produce a readable text. The remainder of the equations in the
text are in the author’s poor handwriting and he must take all responsibility for both poor
legibility and technical error.

Writing style is seen to change throughout the text, depending on the mood and
purpose of the author at the times of writing. Chapter three was the first part of this text
developed. It was originally to be the sixth chapter in a longer, multiple authored
aerodynamics/aircraft performance text which died due to other priorities some 15 years or
more ago. The first two chapters were written when Virginia Tech converted from a
quarter to a semester system and elements of a quarter based aerodynamics course were
combined with a quarter based performance course. The third chapter was tacked onto the
first two and provided to the students as notes to supplement any of several “performance”
texts used over the past few years. Finally, after tiring of changing from one text to
another year after year in an effort to find the “perfect” performance text, the author decided
that his own meager attempts at constructing a satisfactory text for AOE 3104 would be as
good as anything on the market and, when duplicated and sold at no profit, would save
the students lots of money when compared to the usual $50 texts.

In future years the text will be further refined as needed and will continue to be made
available to students at cost. All suggestions of students and other faculty for improving
this material are both encouraged and welcome.


Thanks are due to Mrs. Betty Williams of the Virginia Tech Aerospace and Ocean
Engineering Department who retyped the first three chapters from my earlier typed notes.
She said she wanted to do that work as a way to learn to use WordPerfect to type

I hope it turned out to be worth the effort for her because it saved me a lot of work. The
rest of the typing is my fault as are all the figures and handwritten equations.

Thanks are also due to Dr. Fred Lutze of the Virginia Tech Aerospace and Ocean
Engineering Department since the basic order of chapters 4 - 8 evolved from his teaching
notes provided me some 23 years ago when I first was asked to teach a section of Aircraft
Performance. I owe much to those notes, which allowed me to learn much of the material
for the first time myself, having had a rather meaningless encounter with these same
principles in my own undergraduate education. Dr. Lutze’s notes, in turn, are based on
several classic source texts and his own experience. Anything I have added to those notes
has also come from my experience in subsonic aerodynamic research and teaching, from
texts of others and from my experience as a private pilot and aircraft owner.

While being an aerospace engineer or even an aircraft performance specialist has little to
do with being a pilot, it could easily be argued that one’s real world experience at the
controls of an airplane does give an important perspective in teaching or understanding
aircraft performance and aerodynamics. I owe my “hands on” flying experience to my
father who began flying in his teens and continues to own and fly an airplane as of this
writing at age 78, and to Dr. David Manor who, as my Masters student, took on the
challenge of pushing me to get my pilot’s license. I will never live up to my father’s wish
that I share his intense love of being in an airplane whenever possible or to Dr. Manor’s
desire that all of his students become daredevil acrobatic pilots; however, even the relatively
mundane flying in a straight line from point A to point B has its satisfying moments if one
is willing to put up with the hassles imposed by the FAA and the weather and the
outrageous expenses of flight which result primarily from government regulation and the
unlimited greed of the American Bar Association.

Finally, thanks go to the hundreds of students who have been subjected to my methods
and demands in several versions of aircraft performance courses. While some of them
have sat in a stupor in the back of the classroom oblivious to everything, many have
responded, questioned and even excelled, making the experience worthwhile for us all.

James F. Marchman, III

November 1991

Since its first use in l 99 l, this text has served well as the text for several sections of
AOE 3 l04, Aircraft Performance. Thanks to student help (students delight in finding
mistakes in work done by faculty) many errors have been found and corrected and some
small sections have been rewritten. Also, a set of representative homework problems has
been added as an Appendix

Also, since 199l, I have become a victim of those high costs of flying which I
mentioned on the previous page and have sold my airplane and gotten away from flying.
Nonetheless the experience of being a pilot will always influence the way I teach any Aero
course. My father also had to give up flying when he lost his medical certificate to Lou
Gehrig’s disease (ALS) which later cost him his life

Perhaps it is my imagination, but I also have the perception that over the last few years
engineering students have come to this course with an ever diminishing awareness of the
physical realities of how and why things work and with a decreased ability to recognize
when their answers are not in the right “ball park”. In contrast to students of 25 years ago,
today’s engineering student has probably never overhauled a car engine or built a stereo
amplifier from a kit. Hence, a certain “feel” for physical reality which can only come from
grease under one’s fingernails or through the smell of solder fumes is often lacking. He or
she has also never had to worry about the “magnitude” of an answer in a calculation, a
talent which was forced on users of the slide rule, and thus often isn’t bothered when
calculations for the best rate of climb for a Cessna 150 give an answer of l2,000 ft/min.

Years of use of a “politically correct” but alien to everyday life unit system have created
a numbness toward the magnitudes of numbers which allows the student to accept as OK
answers that would be immediately recognized as absurd were they in a familiar, everyday
unit system. The same student who would demand his or her money back from a shopping
mall scale which gave his or her weight as 56 pounds would not be alarmed if a classroom
calculation showed that weight to be 250 Newtons! Having never learned that there might
be physical relevance to the magnitude of answers and having 12 or more years of
reinforcement of the idea that if everything is done in SI units the answer will come out
right, that same student has difficulty grasping the necessity of recognizing that a Reynolds
number of 600 or a Lift Coefficient of 9.3 for an airplane wing is a pretty good indication
of a blown calculation! And, it is a rare day indeed when one encounters a student who
knows how many feet are in a mile! These shortcomings of today’s student are often first
encountered in a course like Aircraft Performance and they can add a significant burden for
those teaching such a course, especially for one who finds it second nature to navigate
successfully through either the English or SI unit systems and whose vast experience in
recognizing ballpark answers makes it difficult to understand why others may find this a
new and strange demand

J F. Marchman, III


Chapter 1: Introductory Concepts and the Standard Atmosphere 1

Unit Systems and Their Use 2
Fluid Forces - Hydrostatics 6
Stratified Fluids and the Standard Atmosphere 12

Chapter 2: Introduction to Fluid Dynamics 22

Steady Flow 24
Conservation of Mass: The Continuity Equation 24
Fluid Dynamics and Euler’s Equation 29
Bernouli’s Equation: Conservation of Energy 34
Velocity Measurement: The Pitot-Static Tube 42
Momentum Theorem 46

Chapter 3: Airfoil Aerodynamics 56

Forces and Moments 56
Dimensional Analysis and Non-Dimensional Coefficients 58
Force and Moment Coefficients 64
Airfoil Geometry 66
NACA Airfoil Designations 69
Pitching Moment and Its Transfer 70
Flaps and High Lift Devices 82
Laminal Flow Airfoils 91
Supercritical Airfoils 94
Three-Dimensional Effects 95
Summary 97

Chapter 4: Performance in Straight and Level Flight 98

Static Balance of Forces 100
Aerodynamic Stall 101
Perspectives on Stall 103
Drag and Thrust Required 104
Minimum Drag 106
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Minimum Drag 109
Review Minimum Drag Conditions for a Parabolic Drag Polar 112
Flying at Minimum Drag 114
Drag in Compressible Flow 114
Review 115
Thrust 116
Minimum and Maximum Speeds 117
Special Case of Constant Thrust 120
Review for Constant Thrust 122
Performance in Terms of Power 124
Power Required 126
Review 130
Chapter 5: Altitude Change: Climb and Glide 132
Gliding Flight 133
Time to Descend 139
Climbing Flight 142
Time to Climb 149
Power Variation with Altitude 150
Ceiling Altitudes 151

Chapter 6: Range and Endurance 152

Fuel Usage and Weight 154
Range and Endurance: Jet 155
Approximate Solutions 158
Range and Endurance: Prop 163
Approximate Solutions 165
Wind Effects 166
Let the Buyer Beware 168

Chapter 7: Accelerated Performance: Take-off and Landing 170

Take-off Performance 171
Take-off Without Rotation 178
Thrust Augmented Take-off 180
Ground Wind Effects 182
Landing 184
Effect of Wind 187

Chapter 8: Accelerated Performance: Turns 190

The Two Minute Turn 196
Instantaneous Versus Sustained Turns 197
The V-n or V-g Diagram 199




Aircraft Performance is a subject which examines the simpliest motions of an aircraft in

the atmosphere. It essentially treats the aircraft as a point mass which is subject to external
forces that cause the aircraft to move, accelerate and decelerate. As such, the subject of
aircraft performance is merely an extension or application of the material studied in
introductory courses in engineering statics and dynamics, the primary difference being the
source of the forces involved.

The primary forces which act on an aircraft in such a way as to cause or alter its motion::

Fluid dynamic forces

Fluid static forces
Gravitational forces
Propulsive forces
Ground interaction forces

In this text the desire is to examine the way in which these forces determine the motion
of an aircraft in the atmosphere; ie., the performance of the aircraft. Among the things
which will be examined are the following:

1. How fast can the aircraft fly?

2. How high can it climb?
3. How fast can it climb?
4. How slowly can the plane fly?
5. How far can the airplane glide?
6. What is the time of descent in a glide?
7. What is the range and endurance of the aircraft?
8. What distances are needed for takeoff and landing?
9. How quickly can the airplane make a turn?
10. What radius is required for a turn?

As stated above, the aircraft will be considered a point mass in modeling its motions.
This means that rotational motions of the aircraft will not be considered. These motions,
pitch, roll and yaw, are rotations of the aircraft about its center of gravity and are the
subject of texts dealing with aircraft stability and control. This text will thus consider the
simple translational motion of the center of gravity of the aircraft as it is subjected to the
above named forces.

The mathematics and mechanics background needed for the use of this text is relatively
basic. The equations derived in the text are fairly simple and can indeed be easily derived

from Newton's Second Law, F = ma, and in most cases the right hand term is zero. The
danger faced by the student in a course in elementary aircraft performance is that of being
lulled into complacency by the simplicity of the theoretical development of the course while
failing to thoroughly comprehend the physical aspects of the problems. The result can be
catastrophic when the student suddenly realizes that he or she is awash in a sea of simple
but similar theoretical relationships with no knowledge of the physics of the phenomena
under investigation without which the correct selection of equations suitable to the solution
of the problems at hand is impossible. For this reason this text will emphasize the physical
aspects of the aircraft performance problems considered and will try to avoid the temptation
to develop theoretical relationships in terms of anything other than the most basic physical
phenomena upon which the performance problem depends.


One of the most frequent sources of error in student solutions of engineering problems
is improper use of units. Many students, faculty and text authors seem to labor under the
misconception that by using the International (SI) system of units one will never have to
worry about units; however, in this author's experience such is not the case. Problems
seem to arise from a combination of two sources. The first is the student's lack of
understanding of the relationship among units within a given system of units and the
second is the failure of the student to consider the physical reasonableness of the magnitude
of an answer.

The basic units used in this text are those of length (L), time (T) and mass (M). All
physical properties considered will be defined in terms of one or more of these units.

These units are related through Newton's Second Law:

F = ma ( MLT −2 )

This says that a force must have the units of mass multiplied by length and divided by
the square of time. This relationship is the key to dealing with the unit relationships in any
system of units which may be used in aircraft performance problems.

There was a movement in the 1970's to purge all engineering texts of any unit system
but the SI system since this system was and still is being promoted as the desired standard
worldwide unit system for use in all scientific and technical fields. Unfortunately, or
fortunately, depending on one's point of view, this movement has not yet succeeded in
many engineering fields and, even if it had succeeded, one cannot now completely ignore
the vast store of technical literature which was written in terms of other unit systems. As a
result, most modern engineering texts employ both the SI unit system and the older,
traditional unit system used in the subject under consideration.

The unit system traditionally used in the Aerospace field is a variation of the standard
English system of units. This system uses the "slug" as the unit of mass whereas the
standard English system uses the pound-mass.

Let us examine the four unit systems most often encountered in engineering work.
These are the gravitationally based English system which employs the pound-mass, the
"slug" variation of the English system which is also gravitationally based, the "cgs" version
of the old metric system where the gram is the unit of mass, and the SI system which uses
the kilogram unit for mass. The latter two systems are not said to be gravitationally based
since their unit relationship via Newton's Second Law does not depend on the defined
gravitational acceleration at the Earth's surface. The standard English system is
traditionally used by Mechanical Engineers, the "cgs" system by Electrical Engineers and
the slug based English system is commonly used in the Aerospace Engineering field.


Mass lb m slug gm kg

Length foot foot cm meter

Time sec. sec. sec. sec.

Expressed in terms of Newton's Second Law these systems give the following
combinations of units:

Standard English: 1 lb f = 1 lbm × 32.2 ft sec 2

Modified English: 1 lb f = 1 slug × 1 ft sec 2

CGS: 1 Dyne = 1 gm × 1 meter sec2

SI: 1 Newton = 1 kg × 1 meter sec2

The use of any of these systems is simple if one does not let his or her lack of
familiarity with the everyday use of the system intimidate. Unfortunately, most people are
intimidated by one or more of these systems.

The SI system, which is supposed to be the "cure-all" for unit system woes, is a
problem for some because they have trouble remembering how many zeros go with the
kilos, millis, centis, etc. Its biggest problem in reality resides in the lack of "feel" that most
people have for the physical magnitude of the units encountered in the system. Even those
who have used the older metric system all their lives have such problems, having become
accustomed to the use of the kilogram-force as a unit of weight (force) for everyday use
instead of the

Newton of the SI system. Only when the true SI system is used in common, everyday
business transactions in such places as food markets all over the world will it become a
truly universal system. This author sees little indication that such is happening, either in
the United States or elsewhere.

Much of the engineering work in the aerospace field is still done in the English unit
system. The modified English system which uses the slug as the unit of mass is
formulated such that if mass is expressed in slugs all other units work out in terms of
pounds-force, feet and seconds if these same units are always used with the appropriate
terms. This system has long been favored by Aerospace Engineers. Mechanical Engineers
are more likely to use the basic English system in everyday work in the United States,
using the pound-mass as the standard unit of mass. This results in the 32.2 feet per
second-squared term being used for acceleration in Newton's Law. While remembering
that one poundforce is equal to one pound-mass times 32.2 feet per second squared (F =
ma) would seem to be no greater a chore than remembering that one foot is equal to twelve
inches or that one meter is equal to ten decimeters, it has been standard practice in
Mechanical Engineering texts to introduce the term g c as a means of dealing with
combinations of force and mass units. In this author's experience in teaching both
Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, courses the use of g c is both unnecessary and
confusing to the student who often tries to rely on memorizing where to put g c in every
equation rather than simply keeping up with all units as they are used and using F = ma to
simplify the units.

In using any unit system the best policy is to always write the appropriate units with all
numbers, combining the units as appropriate during the solution of the problem and using
the unit relationship in Newton's Law to deal with combinations of mass and force units
whenever and wherever they occur.


Suppose you are an astronaut-engineer assigned to the planet Zorg and are there to
instruct Zorgian engineers in an educational exchange program. In order to maintain good
diplomatic relations you must instruct using the Zorgian Standard unit system (ZSI) in
which mass is expressed in "lumps"", force is given in "whops", length in "leaps" and time
is in "zips". Fortunately, Newton's laws still hold anywhere in the universe, and these
units are related through the Second Law:

1 whop = 1 lump × 827.6 leaps zip2

You find that on a Zorgian scale you weigh 2134 whops at "crust-level standard
conditions" where the gravitational acceleration is 92.77 leaps per zip squared. What is
your mass in ZSI units of lumps?

First you must use F = ma to calculate your mass:

2134 whops = mass × 92.77 leaps zip2

or mass = 23 whops × zip 2 leaps

Now this must be converted to standard units of lumps. Using the second law
definition of the unit system you multiply the term on the right as follows:

× zip
23 whops
leap × 1 lump × 827.6 leaps zip2

The result gives your Zorgian mass:

mass = 19034.8 lumps.

As you calculate this you start planning to introduce the Zorgians to the SI unit system
and you begin to think that even the ancient English unit system wasn't so bad after all!

In this text, the unit systems used will be the modified or slug based English system
and the SI system since these are the systems most likely to be encountered by the engineer
working in the aircraft industry. Not only should the student be familiar with both systems
of units but he or she should also become familiar with the magnitudes of the various
performance variables and fluid properties which will be commonly encountered in
performance problems.

It is not difficult for one to recognize an incorrect answer when dealing with familiar
things. For example, if calculating a person's height gives an answer of 42 feet, most
people would immediately recognize that an error had been made and would begin to try to
find the source of that error. Most Americans would, however, not be as quick to
recognize an error if, when working in the metric system they calculated a person's height
to be 9752 mm and virtually no one would be able to recognize a meaningful quantity if
working in the Zorgian units of the example above.

In an aircraft performance course it is necessary for the student to get a feel for the
"normal" magnitudes of quantities found in the course. Is a rate of climb of 500 feet per
minute normal or is 500 feet per second more normal? This is made more complicated by
the fact that the equations used will often give answers in units that are not commonly used
for the quantity in concern such as aircraft endurance in seconds and range in feet while
hours and miles or kilometers are the more familiar terms. The ability to recognize
reasonable magnitudes for such quantities will be an important asset to the student seeking

success in an aircraft performance course and is certainly every bit as important as the
ability to choose the right equation for the solution of a particular problem.


Perhaps the most important source of forces which act on the aircraft in such a way as
to cause it to move or change its motion is the fluid in which it is immersed. These effects
are found in the hydrostatic forces which determine the change of fluid properties through
the atmosphere and in the aerodynamic forces which are used by the aircraft to fly and
maneuver. In order to understand these forces one needs to have at least a basic
understanding of the fluid, in this case air, in which the aircraft operates.

Technically a fluid is any material which cannot resist a shear stress. A fluid moves
and deforms continuously as long as a shear stress is applied. A fluid at rest is in a state of
zero shear stress.

Fluids are generally divided into two classes, liquids and gases. A liquid has close-
packed molecules with strong cohesive forces and tends to retain its volume (is
incompressible) and will form a free surface in a gravitational field. Gases have negligible
cohesive forces and are free to expand until they encounter confining walls. Gases cannot
form a free surface. These are general definitions to which special case exceptions can be

In this text the fluid of primary concern is air, which is usually modeled as an "Ideal
Gas" and is said to behave according to the Ideal Gas Equation of State,


It is assumed that the student is already familiar with this relationship and with the fluid
properties involved. The Ideal Gas model is based on an assumption of no intermolecular
inter-actions and, therefore, has limits in its application. The Ideal Gas model is, however
more than adequate for use with air in the Earth's atmosphere in most aircraft performance
applications. Typical magnitudes of these quantities and their units will be discussed later.
It should be noted here, however, that pressure and temperature in this relationship, and
indeed in all usage in this text must always be expressed in absolute values

The first and most basic of the fluid principles which must be examined is Pascal's
Law which states that the pressure acting at a point in a fluid at rest is the same in all
directions. This can be shown mathmatically by considering the triangular element of fluid
shown below.

Figure 1.1

Pressure Px acts on the face dY, pressure Py acts on the face dX and pressure Pn acts
on the diagonal face dS. The weight of the element dW acts vertically downwards in the
negative Y direction.

dW = g (dX × dY 2)

where the term in parentheses is the area of the triangular element.

This element is static, ie., not in motion, and hence the forces on the element sum to
zero. Summing these forces in the X and Y directions gives:

∑ F = (P
x x × dY ) − ( Pn × dS ) sin = 0

∑ F ( P × dX ) − ( P
y y n × dS) cos − dW = 0

Realizing that:
dY = dS sin

and that:
dX = dS cos

the equations above become:

∑ F = (P x x × dY ) − ( Pn × dY ) = 0

and ∑ F = (P y y × dX ) − ( Pn × dX) − dW = 0

From the first of these equations (∑ Fx = 0) it is found that:
Px = Pn,

and from the other equation:

Py = Pn + dW.

As the fluid element becomes small, the weight of the element goes to zero, giving:

Py = Pn.


Px = Py = Pn

and the pressure is shown to act equally in all directions at any given point in a fluid at rest.
This pressure is known as the hydrostatic, or simply static, pressure.

The HYDROSTATIC EQUATION is probably the most basic relationship used in

fluid mechanics . It is the basis for defining the model of the atmosphere which is used in
aircraft performance predictions and provides the basis for the use of liquid manometers for
the measurement of pressures in the laboratory. It is also used to calculate the buoyancy of
lighter than air vehicles in the atmosphere and for ships, submersibles and other vehicles
operating in water.

Pascal's law dealt with the equality of pressures at a point within a static fluid. The
hydrostatic equation accounts for the changes in pressure within a fluid in a gravitational
field resulting from the weight of one fluid element acting on the element below it. Again a
simple fluid element is examined and the forces are summed over that element. The
element below is a three dimensional block of fluid shown in the X - Z plane:

Figure 1.2

Note: the depth of the element is dY.

In this derivation the element will not be reduced to a point in the limit and thus the
variation of pressure across the element must be considered. Pressure is assumed to vary
vertically ( in the Z direction ) due to the force of one element stacked over another in that
direction. The pressure at the center of the element is said to be P and to vary by an amount
(dP dZ ) × (dZ 2) from the center of the element to the top or bottom surface.

Summing the forces on the element in the Z direction gives:

 1 P   1 P  
∑F z = −  P +
 (dxdy ) +  P −
2 z  
dz (dxdy) −
2 z  
gdxdydz = 0

Dividing by the volume of the element ( dX In dY X dZ )gives:

1 P 1 P
− − − g=0
2 z 2 z


+ g =0


= − g.

Similarly summing forces in the X and Y directions will give:

= 0, =0
x y

Note: there are no gravity forces in these directions.

Only the relation in the Z direction is meaningful in most cases and it is customarily

= =− g
z h

Note that this relation has two independent variables P and . Therefore, in order to
to integrate this equation some relationship must he determined between two of the
variables. There are also situations where gravitational acceleration must be considered a
third variable.
There are many situations where both the density and the gravitational acceleration are
constant and this equation can be easily intergrated. One such case is when an
incompressible liquid is the fluid. This results in the ability to use liquids as working fluids
in manometers to measure pressures in the laboratory. If and g are both constant

P=− g h
or ∆P = − g∆h.

This form of the hydrostatic equation is the basis of pressure measurement using "U -
tube" manometers where an incompressible liquid of known density is used to find the
difference in pressures between two points. One point is usually a convenient reference
point of known pressure such as the atmosphere; thus allowing measurement of an
unknown pressure at some other location. Such a case is shown below where a U - tube
manometer connects a point in a system with unknown pressure ( Ps ) to the surrounding
atmosphere with a known atmospheric pressure ( Pa ). The fluid in the manometer has a
known density and, as shown, the higher pressure in the system causes the manometer
fluid to rise in the atmospheric side of the U - tube. The difference in the heights of the
fluid in the two sides of the U - tube manometer is the ∆ h term in the hydrostatic equation
and the pressure in the system is found from the following relationship:

Ps = ( g ∆h) + Pa

Figure 1.3

It must be remembered when using this relationship that the density and the height
difference used are for the manometer fluid and not for either the air in the atmosphere or
for the fluid in the system for which the pressure is being measured.

A common manometer fluid for use in wind tunnel experiments is water. Water is
readily available, non-toxic, and quite stable. Because of its common usage in wind tunnel
manometers where such U - tube manometers were once used as the primary means of
measuring ( via dynamic pressures ) the wind tunnel speed, it is common to hear wind
tunnel personnel refer to tunnel operating conditions in terms of "inches of water" and to
use inches of water as a unit of pressure.

The only major problem with the use of water as a manometer fluid is its tendency to
evaporate easily. For this reason other fluids such as mercury or oil are also commonly
used. The densities of water and mercury are given in metric and English units below:

water: =1.0 gm cc =1.94 sl cu ft.

mercury: =13.6 gm cc =0.002376 sl cu ft.

air: = 0.0012 gm cc =0.002376 sl cu ft.

(at sea level standard conditions)

The density of air is shown for comparison purposes only. It is obviously not an
acceptable manometer fluid for reasons such as its compressibility.

Oils ( usually with color added ) are commonly used as manometer fluids because their
density can be near that of water and they have little tendency to evaporate. Oils can be
blended such that their density matches that of water and these special oils are commonly
found in wind tunnel manometers.

It is interesting to note that although electronic manometers using electronic pressure

transducers have replaced fluid manometers in most modern wind tunnel facilities, these
instruments are often calibrated to give readings in "inches of water".


A U - tube manometer is used to measure the pressure on the surface of a wing model
in a wind tunnel. The working fluid in the manometer is water and the reference end of the
manometer is open to the atmosphere at sea level standard pressure of 2116 pounds-per-
square-foot ( psf ). If the difference in the heights of the water on both sides of the
manometer is three inches as shown below, find the pressure on the wing in units of psf.

Pa = 2116 psf
∆h =− 3" H2 O

H2 O = 1.94 sl ft 3
Px = g∆ h + Pa
g =32.17 ft sec2

sl ft lb
Px = −3in ×1.94 3
× 32.17 2 + 2116 2f
ft sec ft
−3 sl lb
= ft × 62.4 2 2
+ 2116 2f
12 ft .sec ft
sl 1lb f lb f
= −15.6 × + 2116
ft.sec 1sl × 1 ft
ft 2
sec 2
lb lb lb 2
Px = −15.6 2f + 2116 2f =2100.4 2
ft ft ft

Note: To convert from inches of water to psf one simply multiplies by 5.2.

g 12 = 62.4 12 = 5.2

Sometimes it is advantageous to "incline" or tilt a manometer in order to allow increased

accuracy in reading its level as illustrated in the figure below.

Figure 1.5

The height difference across the manometer is the same for both the upright and the
inclined manometers above. Increased precision is made possible using the inclined
manometer by measuring the slant distance ∆ L rather than ∆ h and then calculating ∆ h
from the measured ∆ L and the sine of the angle between the inclined tube and the

∆ h =∆ L sin


The operation of liquid manometers described above relies on the incompressibility or

constant density of the manometer fluid. In gases the density of the fluid usually changes
as the forces on the gas increase or decrease and they are described as compressible. In the
atmosphere, for example, the force on a particular element of the fluid (air) depends on its
altitude, with that force, and hence the density, increasing as altitude decreases. The
element at the base of the atmosphere near the Earth's surface experiences a large force due
to the weight of all the elements stacked above while the element high in the atmosphere
does not experience mush of a load. The density of the air thus varies with altitude and the
atmosphere is said to be stratified.

It is intuitive that the performance of an aircraft will depend to some extent upon the
density of the surrounding air as well as on the pressure and temperature of the air which
are also dependent on the air density through the ideal gas or other similar relationships. It
is therefore very important to have some model of the atmosphere and its pressure, density
and temperature variations in order to predict aircraft performance.

In order to model the atmosphere, two previously introduced relationships may be
used. The first is the hydrostatic equation

dP dh = − g.

This relationship has at least two independent variables and cannot be solved by itself
(density can no longer be considered a constant as it was in the liquid manometer case).

The second relationship which may be used is the Ideal Gas Equation of State:


which also has two independent variables. Together, these two equations result in three
independent variables P, h and T and another relationship is needed between two of these
three variables or the definition of one of them as a constant.

The atmosphere is, of course, anything but static with pressures and temperatures (and
hence, densities) varying with time of day, frontal movement and time of the year. Even
average conditions are different at every location on earth and on every day of the year.
International agreement has been reached, however, on an International Standard
Atmosphere (I.S.A) which defines sea level standard conditions and temperature variations
with altitude. This standard atmosphere is actually intended to approximate average
atmospheric conditions in the relatively temperate latitudes found in North America and
Europe. Other standards have been defined for more extreme locations on the globe,
giving standards such as the Arctic Minimum Atmosphere and the Tropical Maximum

The definitions of these standard atmospheres are based on a knowledge of temperature

variation within the atmosphere based on thousands of measurements from aircraft baloons
and sounding rockets. Through these measurements it has been determined that the best
way to characterize the property variations with altitude is through temperature.
Temperature has been found to decrease very nearly linearly with increasing altitude up an
altitude of 11,000 meters (36,100 feet) and to be essentially constant from that altitude up
to those well above the maximum operating altitudes of most aircraft (there is some
disagreement among references regarding the upper limit of the constant temperature
region). These temperature variations are shown graphically in Figure 1.6.

Temperature variation with altitude can best be defined by use of a term called the
"lapse rate", L , which relates temperature to altitude.

dT dh = − L

Note that the minus sign is necessary due to the decrease in temperature with increasing

If the lapse rate is assumed to be a constant, this integrates as

T = Tref + L (href − h ),

a linear variation in temperature with altitude.

Figure 1.6

The reference values of temperature and altitude which are needed in the temperature,
lapse rate relation above are chosen as the defined Sea Level Standard temperature and its
accompanying zero altitude.

Sea level standard conditions are defined as follows in both SI and English units:

Pressure = 1.013 ×10 5 pascals or 2116lb ft2

Density = 1.23 kg m3 or 0.002378 sl ft3

Temperature = 288o K or 520 o R

Based on these sea level conditions, the defined lapse rate, the Ideal Gas assumption
and the hydrostatic equation conditions within the standard atmosphere can be calculated.
The lower part of the atmosphere where the temperature is modeled as decreasing linearly
with altitude increase is called the TROPOSPHERE. In the troposphere the lapse rate is

defined as 6.5 degrees Kelvin per kilometer. This works out to 1.98 degrees Kelvin per
thousand feet. Pilots learn to approximate this as two degrees per thousand feet, a figure
both useful and easy to remember since pilots in all parts of the world use feet as units of

In the Troposphere

T = Tsl − hL

and combining the hydrostatic equation with the ideal gas law,

dP P
dh =− g = −g RT
Rearranging gives

P=− (g RT ) dh
Substituting the lapse rate equation to reduce the number of variables for integration gives

dP −g
= dh
P R(Tsl − LH)

and integrating gives

[ ln ( Tsl − Lh)]h
ln P]P12 =
P h2

LR 1

P g g T 
[ln T ]h1 = ln  2 
or ln  2  =
 P1  LR LR  T1 

P2  T  LR
or finally = 2
P 1  T1 

Using the Ideal Gas law, this pressure temperature relationship can be rewritten as
g − LR
T  LR
=  2
1  T1 
or g
P2   g− LR
= 2

P1  1

The preceding equations are used to calculate the properties of the air at any altitude
within the Troposphere. Such calculations will be examined in a later example. The
Troposphere is defined as extending up to 11,000 meters or 36,100 feet. Using this
altitude in the Troposphere lapse rate relation for temperature results in a value of 216.5
degrees Kelvin or 389.99 degrees Rankine at the upper limit of the Troposphere.

Above the Troposphere is a region where the temperature is modeled as a constant,

invariant with altitude. This region is called the STRATOSPHERE and references are
not in agreement about the proper definition of the upper limit of this region It is common
for modern jet aircraft to fly in the Stratosphere and it is necessary to extend the definition
of the standard atmosphere model through this region

In the Stratosphere the hydrostatic equation and the ideal gas law still hold, however the
temperature is now constant at 389.99˚ R or 2165˚ K making possible the integration of the
hydrostatic equation over the single independent variable h.

dP g 
P = −  RTS  dh

where Ts is the constant temperature in the stratosphere.

Integrating gives: ln P]P12 =
[h − h ]
RTs 2 1

g( h1 − h2 )
=e RT3

and since T is constant, the Ideal Gas Law gives:

= 1

P2 2

g ( h1 −h2 )

2 RTs

These relations account for the variation of pressure and density in the stratosphere.

In using these relations it is convenient to use the conditions at the boundary between
the Troposphere and the Stratosphere as the reference or state one property values in the
equations. This boundary between Troposphere and Stratosphere is known as the


Calculate the pressure and density at altitudes of 30,000 ft and 60,000 ft in the standard

(a) 30,000 feet is within the troposphere. The lapse rate equation gives:

T = 288˚K − (30,000 ft )1.98˚K 1000 ft.

or T = 228.6˚ K

This is now used in the pressure - temperature relationship for the troposphere:

 T 
g / LR
=  SL 
P30,000  T30,000 

Note that this example now contains a strange mixture of units with temperature in SI units
and altitude in feet. Normal practice would be to convert everything to a common unit
system; however, this is a rare case where such a combination of units is often seen in even
fairly recent literature and, as mentioned earlier, airplane pilots are still taught to use this
lapse rate of about 2 degrees per thousand feet for calculations of atmospheric properties.
It is therefore worthwhile to examine such a calculation. To make this work, the gas
constant R must be defined for air using this rather strange mixture of units. ( As
mentioned earlier, an engineer must be prepared to handle any system of units, even if it
means working in leaps per whop!)

Thus, using:

R = 3092 ft − lbf sl °K

the pressure - temperature ratio becomes

PSL  TSL  5.256

= 
P  T 

which, using sea level pressure as 2116 psf and sea level temperature as 288 degrees
Kelvin, finally gives

P30,000 = 630 psf .

Density can now be calculated from the Ideal Gas Law



P30,000 = 0.00089

(b) An altitude of 60,000 feet is within the stratosphere which requires that the properties
at the tropopause first be determined. These are found by using the troposphere relations
with an altitude of 36,100 feet, giving a pressure and temperature of 470 psf and 216.5
degrees Kelvin. Using thses as the base reference property values in the stratosphere, the
pressure and density at 60,000 feet can be found.
g [ 60,000 − 36,100 ]
=e RTS


P60,000 = 149 psf

and using the Ideal Gas Law

= = 0.000228 sl / ft 3

The temperature is, of course, defined as constant in the stratosphere at the tropopause
value of 216.5 degrees Kelvin.

It is a relatively simple matter to program the above equations in either BASIC or

FORTRAN to readily calculate air properties anywhere in the troposphere or stratosphere
and it is suggested that the student do this as a first step in building a library of computer
programs for elementary aircraft performance calculations. It is also convenient to tabulate
standard atmosphere conditions as is done in the following tables in both English and SI



h T a p × 10 7
(ft) (˚F) (ft/sec)
(lb/ft )
(slugs/ft )
(slugs/ ftsec)
0 59.00 1117 2116.2 0.002378 3.719
1,000 57.44 1113 2040.9 .002310 3.699
2,000 51.87 1109 1967.7 .002242 3.679
3,000 48.31 1105 1896.7 .002177 3.659
4.000 44.74 1102 1827.7 .002112 3.639
5,000 41.18 1098 1760.8 .002049 3.618
6,000 37.62 1094 1696.0 .001988 3.598
7,000 34.05 1090 1633.0 .009128 3.577
8,000 30.49 1086 1571.9 .001869 3.557
9,000 26.92 1082 1512.9 .001812 3.536
10,000 23.36 1078 1455.4 .001756 3.515
11,000 19.80 1074 1399.8 .001702 3.495
12,000 16.23 1070 1345.9 .001649 3.474
13,000 12.67 1066 1293.7 .001597 3.453
14,000 9.10 1062 1243.2 .001546 3.432
15,000 5.54 1058 1194.3 .001497 3.411
16,000 1.98 1054 1147.0 .001448 3.390
17,000 -1.59 1050 1101.1 .001401 3.369
18,000 -5.15 1046 1056.9 .001355 3.347
19,000 -8.72 1041 1014.0 .001311 3.326
20,000 -12.28 1037 972.6 .001267 3.305
21,000 -15.84 1033 932.5 .001225 3.283
22,000 -19.41 1029 893.8 .001183 3.262
23,000 -22.97 1025 856.4 .001143 3.240
24,000 -26.54 1021 820.3 .001104 3.218
25.000 -30.10 1017 785.3 .001066 3.196
26,000 -33.66 1012 751.7 .001029 3.174
27,000 -37.23 1008 719.2 .000993 3.153
28,000 -40.79 1004 687.9 .000957 3.130
29,000 -44.36 999 657.6 .000923 3.108
30,000 -47.92 995 628.5 .000890 3.086
31,000 -51.48 991 600.4 .000858 3.064
32,000 -55.05 987 573.3 .000826 3.041
33,000 -58.61 982 547.3 .000796 3.019
34,000 -62.18 978 522.2 .000766 2.997
35,000 -65.74 973 498.0 .000737 2.974
40,000 -67.6 971 391.8 .0005857 2.961
45,000 -67.6 971 308.0 .0004605 2.961
50,000 -67.6 971 242.2 .0003622 2.961
60,000 -67.6 971 150.9 .0002240 2.961
70,000 -67.6 971 93.5 .0001389 2.961
80,000 -67.6 971 58.0 .0000861 2.961
90,000 -67.6 971 36.0 .0000535 2.961
100,000 -67.6 971 22.4 .0000331 2.961
150,000 113.5 1174 3.003 .00000305 4.032
200,000 159.4 1220 .6645 .00000062 4.277
250,000 -8.2 1042 .1139 .00000015 3.333
Data taken from NACA TN 1428. Courtesy of the National Advisory Committee for


h T a p ×10− 4 × 10 5
(km) (˚ C) (m / sec) (N / m )
(kg / m )
(kb / m sec)
0 15.0 340 10.132 1.226 1.780
1 8.5 336 8.987 1.112 1.749
2 2.0 332 7.948 1.007 1.717
3 -4.5 329 7.010 0.909 1.684
4 -11.0 325 6.163 0.820 1.652
5 -17.5 320 5.400 0.737 1.619
6 -24.0 316 4.717 0.660 1.586
7 -30.5 312 4.104 0.589 1.552
8 -37.0 308 3.558 0.526 1.517
9 -43.5 304 3.073 0.467 1.482
10 -50.0 299 2.642 0.413 1.447
11 -56.5 295 2.261 0.364 1.418
12 -56.5 295 1.932 0.311 1.418
13 -56.5 295 1.650 0.265 1.418
14 -56.5 295 1.409 0.227 1.418
15 -56.5 295 1.203 0.194 1.418
16 -56.5 295 1.027 0.163 1.418
17 -56.5 295 0.785 0.141 1.418
18 -56.5 295 0.749 0.121 1.418
19 -56.5 295 0.640 0.103 1.418
20 -56.5 295 0.546 0.088 1.418
30 -56.5 295 0.117 0.019 1.418
45 40.0 355 0.017 0.002 1.912
60 70.8 372 0.003 3.9 ×10 − 4 2.047
75 -10.0 325 0.0006 8 ×10 − 5 1.667



In this chapter the subject is the motion of a fluid and the changes in fluid properties
caused by that motion. In order to calculate the performance of an aircraft one must have
an understanding of the fluid forces which govern, in part, that performance, and to do that
one must have at least a fundamental understanding of the dynamics of the fluid itself.
Numerous excellent fluid mechanics texts are available which will give the student a more
thorough appreciation of this subject than is possible within the scope of this text; however,
it is believed that the following coverage will be sufficient for a good understanding of the
subject of aircraft performance.

There are two fundamental approaches to the analysis of a fluid. The first approach
studies a fluid from the point of view of the individual fluid particle. This "fluid fixed"
approach to the study of fluid dynamics is called the LAGRANGIAN approach and it is
designed to describe directly the flow characteristics of individual particles. Usually,
however, it is preferable to describe the behavior of a fluid through the overall flow pattern
than by looking at individual particles.

The EULERIAN approach is a mathematical method of analysis which examines the

total flowfield rather than the individual particle. This approach to fluid mechanics looks at
fluid properties such as pressure, temperature and density as functions of time and space
through the fluid rather than looking at changes of these properties for a single particle as it
moves through the fluid. Properties of the fluid are described as functions of their spacial
coordinates and time. For example, the pressure in a flow field would be described
mathmatically as:

P = P (x,y,z,t).

In this study of fluid dynamics, as in most such studies, the Eulerian approach will be
employed. All fluid properties will be described as functions of x, y, z and t ( or
appropriate cylindrical or spherical coordinates ) and the derivatives of the fluid properties
must include consideration of possible variation with respect to all of these. The
temperature derivative would, for example, be written as follows:

dT = dx + dy + dz + dt
x y z t

A single particle can be followed in the Eulerian approach as well as in the Lagrangian.
This is done by the use of the particle derivative or the "substantial derivative" of the
property in concern. For example, to find the total change of temperature experienced by

a particle due to its motion over time dt, the substantial derivative DT / Dt is written as

DT T dx T dy T dz T
= + + +
Dt x dt y dt z dt t

This equation recognizes that the changes in T with x and t, y and t, etc cannot be treated

Knowing that three of the terms in the substantial derivative are velocities in the x, y
and z directions,

dx dt = u, dy dt = v, dz dt = w

the substantial derivative can be written:

=u +v +w +
Dt x y z t

The first three terms on the right hand side of the above relation are called convective terms
because they account for the change in the property in concern (in this case, temperature)
due to its motion through the flowfield, while the last term accounts for the local rate of
change with time.

The acceleration of a fluid particle in a flow field is one source of forces in a fluid. Particle
acceleration is also written as a substantial derivative:

Dv v v v v
a= = +u +v +w ,
Dt t x y t

where the velocity vector is

V = u iˆ + v jˆ + w kˆ.

The x, y and z components of that acceleration are then written:

u u u u
ax = +u +v +w
t x y z
v v v v
ay = +u +v w
t x y z
w w w w
az = +u +v +w
t x y z


In many elementary treatments of fluid mechanics it is convenient to simplify the

mathmatics by assuming steady flow. This means that the components of velocity are not
functions of time; ie., at any time t the velocity of a particle in a flow field is dependent only
on the position of that particle. This results in a simplification of the fluid flow equations
because the time derivatives of the velocity components are zero:

In most real world cases flows are actually unsteady; however, it is often possible to
approximate their behavior by assuming steady flow over short periods of time.


One of the most fundamental assumptions used in the development of the basic
relations governing the behavior of a fluid is that mass is conserved; ie., neither created or
destroyed within the fluid flow field under consideration. In order to develop a
mathmatical statement of this important principle, one need only examine the flow into and
out of a simple fluid element in the flowfield.

Consider the cubical element of fluid shown below and assume that the fluid properties
at the center of the element have values of p, , T. u, v, and w. Any of these properties of
the fluid may change between the center and any of the element sides, for example the x
directed velocity has a value of u in the center of the element, a value of

u dx
x 2

at the right face of the element and a value of

u dx
x 2
at the left face.

Figure 2.1

The mass rate of flow of a fluid is given by the product of the fluid density, velocity
and the area through which it flows:

mass rate of flow = m˙ = AV .

Looking at the flow in the x direction, using the fluid density and velocity at the left
face of the element and the area of that face ( dy × dz) ), the mass rate of flow into the
element through the left face is:

 p x  u dx 
 −  u −  dydz
 x 2  x 2

Similarly, the mass rate of flow out of the right face is:

 x u dx 
 −  u −  dydz
 x 2  x 2 

The net mass rate of flow in the positive x direction is therefore the difference between
these two flow rates, with the outflow being considered positive.

 p dx   u d x  p dx   u dx 
 +  u +  dydz −  −  u −  dydz
 x 2  x 2   x 2  x 2 

Multiplying all terms as indicated gives:

1 u 1 p 1 p 1 p
(dxdydz ) + u (dxdydz ) + u (dxdydz ) + u ( dxdydz )
2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x

 u
which reduces to: u − +  dxdydz
 x x

Finally: ( u )dxdydz

Similar mass flow terms are found by summing the flows in the y direction and in the z

( v )dxdydz , ( w )dxdydz
y z

The net mass flow balance into and out of the element must be balanced by any change
in the mass within the element itself. The mass in the element is the product of the fluid
density and the element volume and the change in that mass with time is:

(dxdydz )

Equating this to the net mass flow through the element gives:

( u) ( v) ( w)
+ + =−
x y z t

If the flow is steady and the fluid is incompressible (density is constant) the equation
above reduces to a simple form:

u v w
+ + =0
x y z

These equations are known as the conservation of mass equations or continuity equations.
The incompressible form of the equation is used repeatedly in elementary fluids courses
and students often loose sight of the fact that it is a special case with the compressible form
of the equation being the most general.

In vector notation the incompressible continuity equation is expressed in terms of the

divergence if the velocity vector:

div V = 0

It is also often useful to know the continuity equation in cylindrical coordinates:

ur u 1 u w
3− D: + r + + =0
r r r z
ur 1  u 
2 − D: + Ur + =0
r r 

The continuity equation can be used to determine if a flow satisfies conservation of

mass. In fluid mechanics and aerodynamics mathmatics are used to model or describe flow
fields. The student must realize; however, that it is possible to write equations for "flows"
that are physically impossible because they do not satisfy conservation laws.

One way to write equations describing a flow is to develop relations for each
component of velocity in terms of the coordinate system in which the flow exists. Such
relations; ie., u = f(x,y,z), v = f(x,y,z) and w = f(x,y,z), should always be tested by
applying the continuity equation to see if mass is, indeed, conserved.


A two-dimensional flow field has been described by the following velocity


u = 2 xy 2
v = 2 x 2 y.

Is mass consemved in this flow?

If the continuity equation in two dimensions is satisfied then mass is conserved. The
partial derivatives in the 2-D continuity equation become:

u v
= 2y 2 , = 2x 2 ,
x y
u v
+ = 2y 2 + 2x 2 .
x y

Since these terms do not add to zero mass is not conserved.

Note that if the X and Y components of velocity were reversed and the Y component of
velocity above had been negative

u v
+ = 4xy − 4yx = 0
x y

mass would have been conserved.

Mass conservation is an important element in the mathmatical description of fluid flows

and the continuity equation is one of the fundamentals upon which theories of
aerodynamics and fluid dynamics are constructed.


The motion of a fluid can be described through Newton's Law, F = ma, where
acceleration refers to the acceleration of a particle or element of fluid. As mentioned earlier,
in the Eulerian approach to the description of fluid motion, particle acceleration is given by
the substantial derivative:


and, using the fluid density multiplied by the element or particle volume as the mass

F = ∆x ∆y∆ z

The substantial derivative of the velocity vector V has three components which may all
be functions of x, y, z and time. The u or x-directed velocity component of the substantial
derivative is:

Du u u u u
= +u +v +w
Dt t x y z

The left hand side of F = ma must contain all the forces on the element of fluid. This
can include pressure forces, gravitational forces, friction forces, external forces, and even
such things as electromagnetic forces for charged fluids. The following simple
examination of the dynamics of a fluid element will only consider the pressure forces and
the gravitational forces. Friction forces will be ignored; ie. the fluid is assumed inviscid.
Neglecting friction or viscous forces is valid as long as these forces are small compared to
the other forces. This is generally true outside of a normally thin region of flow next to the
surface of a body in a fluid. In this thin region, called the boundary layer, viscous forces
must be considered and the equations of fluid motion become vastly more complicated.
Texts on boundary layer theory are recommended for those wishing more discussion of
these special but very important flow regions.

Again a simple cubical fluid element is used below to examine the forces in the fluid. It
should be noted that it is popular in many fluid mechanics texts to use a more abstract
shaped fluid element for derivation of these equations, with force vectors shown in generic
normal and tangential orientations to that element. While such "wounded amoeba"
derivations may appeal to some, it is this author's experience that most students grasp the
physical reality of the mathmatics when a simple cubical element is used with force vectors
in the direction of the defined axes.

Figure 2.2

Pressure forces are shown acting on the left and right faces of the fluid element above
where the pressure on the faces may differ from that in the center of the element by the

x 2

Summing the pressure forces in the x direction gives:

 P ∆ x  P ∆ x P
P+ ∆ y∆ z −  P − ∆ y∆ z = − ∆x∆y∆z
 x 2   x 2  x

Similarly, in the y and z directions the sums of the pressure forces are:

− ∆ x∆y∆z, − ∆ x∆ y∆z
y z

Adding the pressure forces above gives the net pressure force on the element:

 P P P
− + +  ∆ x∆ y∆ z = −grad P (∆ x∆ y∆z ).
 x y z

Gravitational acceleration also may represent a significant force on the element. This force,
the weight of the element, is:

mg = g∆ x∆ y ∆z.

Adding this to the pressure force gives a total external force on the fluid element which
must equal its mass multiplied by its acceleration.

( g − grad P )∆ x∆ y ∆z = m = ∆x ∆ y∆ z
Dt Dt

Dividing the volume of the fluid element out of the last relationship gives EULER'S
EQUATION, which is normally written in one of the following three forms:

g − grad P =
 P P P DV
or g− + + =
 x y z Dt
1 DV
g− ( grad P ) = =a

Note that the simple looking equations above are vector relationships; ie., there is a
separate equation for each direction.

u u u u 1 P
ax = +u +v +w = gx −
t x y z x
v v v v 1 P
ay = +u +v +w = gy −
t x y z y
w 2 w w 1 P
az = +u +v +2 = gz −
t x y z z

These equations are really momentum equations.


Use the Euler equations to find the pressure at the bottom of a bucket of water which is
on an elevator, accelerating downward at a rate of 10 feet per second-squared. The water
in the bucket is one foot deep.

The downward acceleration, az = 10 ft sec 2

and the acceleration of gravity, also acting in the z direction is

g = 32.2 ft sec2

The pressure and the accelerations in this example all act in the z direction, thus, the az
relation is used.

w w w w 1 P
az = +u +v +w = gz −
t x y z z

Since the term asked for in the problem is the pressure and the downward acceleration is
known, the solution need not deal with the velocity terms and only the following equation
is needed:

1 P
az = − − gz
− = − az + gz

Entering the known quantities and the density of water:

P sl  ft ft 
− = 1.94 3 10 2 − 32.2

z ft  Sec sec2 

note: both az and gz act in negative z direction.


 
dP sl  1 lb f 
=43 2 2 
dz ft sec  1sl + 1ft 
 sec 2 


dP lb
= 43 3f
dz ft

Therefore, the water depth of one foot results in a pressure at the bottom of the bucket of

P = 43 lb f ft2 .


Euler's equation resulted from a force balance on a fluid element. As such it is

essentially a momentum relationship since force is the rate of change of momentum.

A force acting over a distance produces work, a form of energy. That work is
expressed mathmatically as the dot product of the force vector and the distance vector.
Therefore, a work or energy relationship will result if one takes the dot product of the Euler
equation and a distance over which the fluid element moves, ds.

 Dv
[ g − grad P] ⋅ d s =  ⋅ds
 Dt 

The result of this vector dot product is a scalar with each term being the product of the
x, y or z components of Euler's equation with the like component of the distance vector:

 P  P  P
 gx −  dx +  g y −  d y +  gz −  dz
 x  y  z
Du Dv Dw
= dx + dy + dz.
Dt Dt Dt

This is divided by the fluid density to give:

 Du 1 P   Dv 1 P 
 + − gx  dx +  + − gy  dy
 Dt x   Dt y 
 Dw 1 P 
+ + − gz  dz = 0
 Dt z 

Each of these three terms is similar. Considering only the x related term above and
expanding gives:

 u u u u 1 P 
 +u +v +w + − gx  dx
 t x y z x 

At this point an important assumption will be made, that of steady flow. This
eliminates the time derivative term in the equation, making the equation simpler. More
importantly, it now means that any relationship developed after this point is only applicable
to flows which are not time dependent. This assumption gives:

u u u 1 P 
u dx + v dx + w dx +  − gx  dx
x y z  x 

Another very basic assumption will now be made. It will be assumed that the flow
under consideration is on a STREAMLINE. A streamline is a path of the fluid flow
along which the velocity at any point is tangent to the streamline. By this definition the
velocity components along the streamline can be related to the directional derivatives of the

v u = dy dx , w u = dz dx , w v = dz dy , etc.


vdx = udy, wdx = udz, etc.

It is therefore possible to rewrite the v and w terms in the x component of the dot product
above in terms of u:

u u u u
v dx = u dy, w dx = u dx
y y z z

This gives:

 u u u  1 P 
u t dx + u y dy + u z dz  +  − gx  dx
x 

The first three terms in the above are simply udu. This part of the equation may thus be

1 P 
udu +  − gx  dx
 x 

Similar terms will result for the y and z parts of the dot product. Combining these
terms into the full dot product gives a scalar equation for steady flow along a

1 P 
P P 
(udu + vdv + wdw ) +  dx + dy + dz
 x y z 

− gx dx + gy dy + gz dz = 0 ]
The third group of terms above obviously deals with the effects of gravitational
acceleration. Gravitational acceleration is often expressed in terms of a gravitational
potential where

gx = , gy = g = ,
x y z z


g x dx + gy dy + gz dz = dG

The first group of terms can be rewritten as

 u2 + v 2 + w2 
udu + vdv + wdw = d  
 2 

and the second group as


The full equation is now:

 u2 + v 2 + w2  1
d  + dP − dG = 0
 2 

This equation must now be integrated. In order to simplify that integration, the density
of the flow is assumed constant allowing the equation to be written as:

 u2 + v2 + w2 P 
d + + G = 0
 2 
 V2 P 
d + − G = 0
 2 

This is now an exact differential which integrates to:

V2 p
+ − G = CONST.

This relationship states that the sum of the energies per unit mass of a fluid along a
streamline in an incompressible, steady flow is constant. The first term in the equation is
the kinetic energy of the flow per unit mass, the second term is the internal energy per unit
mass and the third term is the potential energy per unit mass.

Several more steps need to be taken to get this equation into the form usually
recognized as Bernoulli's equation. The first is to multiply by the fluid density, giving:

V 2 + P − G = const.
Normally an axis system is chosen such that one axis is aligned with the direction of
gravitational acceleration. The selected axis is usually the z axis, thus:

gz = G z = g


G = g z.

Integrating gives:

G = gz.

Bernoulli's equation is now written as:

V 2 + P = const. + gz

It is worthwhile to pause at this point and examine the relative magnitudes of the terms
in this equation. All the terms in the relationship will have units of pressure. The terms on
the left hand side of the equation are the DYNAMIC PRESSURE which results from
the motion or kinetic energy of the flow and the STATIC PRESSURE or hydrostatic
pressure of the fluid. At sea level conditions a velocity of 100 ft/sec would produce a
dynamic pressure of

V 2 = 0.5(0.002378sl ft 3 )(100 ft sec)
1 2


V 2 = 11.9psf ,

This is small compared to a sea level static pressure of

P = 2116 psf,

however the magnitude of the dynamic pressure term is sufficient to be very important in
most problems.

The gravity term on the right in the equation is, however, almost always quite small if
the fluid is air. At sea level conditions in air this term becomes:

gz = ( 0.002378sl ft3 )(32.2 ft sec2 ) z

= 0.07657 psf × z

This is really a buoyancy term which says that at sea level a body displacing a one foot
high column of air will experience an upward buoyancy force of 0.07657 pounds per
square foot of surface area. This force, or more properly, pressure, is obviously quite
negligible when compared to either of the pressures on the left hand side of Bernoulli's
equation. For this reason it is common to neglect this term when using Bernoulli's
equation in air. Another approach which achieves the same result is to consider the term
essentially constant and combine it with the constant of integration Either justification can
be used to obtain the following common form of BERNOULLI'S EQUATION for a
steady, incompressible flow:

1 2
P+ v = P0

This is undoubtedly the single most important equation needed to understand the nature
of a fluid flow. The student who understands the physics of this equations will have very
little trouble in succeeding in studies of aerodynamics or aircraft performance. The student
who, on the other hand, merely memorizes this relationship without understanding its
physical consequences will have difficulty in these subjects.

Bernoulli's equation is an energy conservation statement. Its units are

those of pressure or energy per unit volume. The relationship can be thought of in two

P + 1 2 V 2 = P0



Bernoulli's equation can also be derived from the first law of thermodynamics
(conservation of energy) by assuming an open system (control volume), steady flow and
no heat transfer (adiabatic).

STEADY FLOW was assumed. This means that the relationship cannot be applied to
a flow which has time dependent properties or behavior. There will be some exceptions to
this when flow changes are slow enough to consider the flow "quasi-steady".

INCOMPRESSIBLE FLOW was assumed, meaning that density was assumed

constant throughout the flow. A mathmatical analysis of this assumption would show that
it requires that the flow velocity in a gas must be lower than about one third the speed of
sound in the gas. In reality, for most problems encountered in aircraft performance and
aerodynamics, the velocity can be as high as about 65 percent of the speed of sound, with
the limit being that free stream velocity at which the air speed over the wing has gone
supersonic and a local shock wave has formed. Liquids are almost always considered
incompressible at all speeds.

Compressible forms of Bernoulli's equation can be derived, either from Euler's

equation or from the first law of thermodynamics. Since there is little need to use these in a
course in elementary aircraft performance they are not derived here. A more advanced
course in aircraft performance might require the use of such compressible relationships
which will undoubtedly be derived in any good aerodynamics text.

FLOW ALONG A STREAMLINE was assumed. The "constant" in Bernoulli's

equation, P0 may only be considered constant along the one streamline to which the
equation is applied. P0 may be considered constant throughout the entire flow if it is
known that all streamlines emanate from a common source such as a quiescent atmosphere
or a uniform flow. If the flow is known to have a velocity or pressure gradient,
Bernoulli's equation must be used with care and only applied along streamlines for which
enough properties are known to define the total pressure.

NEGLIGIBLE BUOYANCY was assumed in neglecting the gravitational
acceleration term in the equation. It was seen that this is a good assumption for bodies
which operate in the atmosphere and have a relatively small vertical displacement. There
are vehicles, of course, which do not meet these restrictions. The obvious examples are
lighter than air vehicles such as airships (blimps, derigibles) and baloons which depend on
this buoyancy force to remain aloft. A calculation of the magnitude of this term in water
would reveal it to be significant due to the much higher density of water and the term must
always be considered in liquids.

Several examples of the use of Bernoulli's equation are in order.


1. An airfoil is moving through the air at a speed of 100 meters per second at an
altitude of 1 km. Find the pressure on the leading edge of this airfoil.


The pressure at the leading edge of the airfoil will be the stagnation pressure since the
air will come to rest at that point.

The statement of the problem has the airfoil moving through stationary air. This is the
same as a stationary airfoil immersed in a uniform flowfield. The total pressure is the same
throughout the flowfield since it is a uniform field. The static pressure will change within
the flowfield as the air accelerates or decelerates. In the freestream (at some distance
upstream of the airfoil) where the uniform flow velocity is 100 m/s the static pressure must
be equal to the hydrostatic pressure in the atmosphere. This pressure is found, along with
the density of the air at that altitude, from the SI standard atmosphere table:

P = 8.987 ×104 pascals, = 1.112kg m 3 .

The sketch below shows the flow streamline going from freestream conditions at infinity to
the stagnation point on the airfoil.

Figure 2.3

At the freestream location, Bernoulli's equation gives:

1 1.112 kg  m2
P0 = P∞ + V = 8.9870 pa + 100  = 95430 pa

2 ∞ 2 m3  s

Since this total pressure (stagnation pressure) is a constant all along the streamline, the
stagnation pressure at the leading edge of the airfoil must also be 95430 Pascals.

2. For this same airfoil find the pressure over the airfoil at a point where the flow
has accelerated to 150 m/s.


Since the same streamline examined above continues over the airfoil and the total
pressure along that streamline is constant, using that total pressure, the constant density and
the new velocity gives:

1 2 1.112 kg  m 2
P = P0 − V = 95430 pa −  150  = 82920 pa
2 2 m3  s


Bernoulli's equation provides an easy method for determining the speed of a fluid flow.
Rearranging the equation to solve for the flow velocity gives:

2 ( P0 − P)

In order to determine the speed, one need only find the difference in the total and static
pressures and the density of the fluid. It should, of course, be noted that, since the
incompressible form of Bernoulli's equation is being used, the method of speed
measurement being discussed is only valid for low speed flows in air.

The total or stagnation pressure in a flow is easy to measure if the flow direction is
known. One need only place a simple, open ended tube in the flow such that the tube is
aligned with the local flow direction and the open end of the tube is pointing upstream. The
flow then stagnates or comes to rest at the tube's open end, giving a local pressure

equal to the total pressure. The tube can then be connected to any of a number of types of
pressure sensors to allow a determination of that pressure as shown below. This type of
tube is called a pitot tube.


The static pressure is equally easy to measure using another type of tube with a closed
end and pressure "taps" or openings around its circumference. This tube must also be
aligned with the flow direction such that the flow is parallel to the pressure taps. When
connected to a sensor, the flow's static pressure will be indicated. It should be noted that
for a static probe to obtain good readings the upstream end should be properly shaped to
avoid flow separation and the pressure taps placed far enough from the end to avoid errors
that might be produced by the local acceleration of the flow over the front of the probe.


Bernoulli's equation, as solved for the velocity, does not require the independent
knowledge of the total and static pressures, but only a knowledge of their difference. This
makes possible the use of a combination of the two types of instruments described above.
This combined pressure probe is called a PITOT-STATIC TUBE.

The pitot-static tube is simply a static tube wrapped around a pitot tube as shown in the
figure below. The inner tube is connected to one side of a differential pressure sensor and
the outer tube, to the other side. The sensor used may be a simple U-tube manometer such
as those discussed in Chapter 1 where the pressure difference, P0 − P , is measured in
inches of water.


Many different styles of pitot-static probes exist with shapes and static port location
optimized for particular applications. Static taps are usually placed at several
circumferential locations around the probe, allowing accurate measurement of static
pressure even with slight probe/flow misalignment. The simple "Prandtl"-type probe,
similar in shape to that shown in the above figure, is constructed such that with small and
even moderate flow/probe misalignment the errors in sensing of the two pressures tend to
counteract each other, allowing reasonably accurate pressure differential readings at angles
of ten to fifteen degrees from the flow direction.

Aircraft may also use pitot-static probes to measure speed but their probes are generally
sturdier and incorporate heaters and drain systems for operation in rain and icing
conditions. Most aircraft use separate pitot probes and static ports, still connected to a
common system to measure the pressure difference, with the pitot probe mounted on the
wing or aircraft nose (away from the propellor airstream or jet intakes) and the static port at
a carefully selected position on the side of the fuselage.

With the pitot-static tube to measure the difference in the total and static pressures, only
the density is needed in order to calculate the flow velocity:

2( P0 − P)

The density can be found using the ideal gas equation of state and measured values of static
pressure and temperature:


In aircraft performance work the velocity of interest to both the pilot and the engineer is
the sea level equivalent velocity which is defined as follows:

2 (P0 − P)
Vsl =

The use of sea level equivalent velocity allows the reference of all aircraft performance
parameters to a common atmospheric condition and eliminates the need to directly measure
the static pressure and temperature and calculate density in order to relate the performance
to a meaningful velocity. Fortunately, as will be seen in later chapters, most aircraft
performance capabilities such as rate of climb or take-off distance can be related directly to
sea level standard conditions and the corresponding sea level equivalent velocity. When
actual conditions at altitude are needed, the data is corrected using the ratio of actual air
density to sea level standard density.

In most subsonic aircraft, the airspeed indicator actually shows the sea level equivalent
velocity rather than the actual velocity at altitude. To the pilot this is a better indication of
the aircraft's actual performance under all operating conditions than the true velocity can
give. There are, of course, instrument calibration and other errors which must be included
in calculations when the precise airspeed is desired. Some of these will be discussed in
later chapters.


The pitot-static tube on an aircraft measures a pressure differential of 300 psf. If the
aircraft is flying at an altitude of 15,000 ft. Find the true airspeed and the sea level
equivalent airspeed.


2(300 psf )
VT = , 15,000 = 0.001497sl ft3
True airspeed: 15,000

VT = 633 ft /sec

S. L. equivalent speed:

2∆P 2(300 psf )

Vsl = = = 502 ft sec
sl 0.002378sl / ft3

Note: It is obvious that the true airspeed will always be greater than the sea level equivalent
speed unless the air density is higher than sea level standard density.


Conservation of mass and conservation of energy have been used to develop the
continuity equation and Bernoulli's equation. These two equations are sufficient for the
solution of many basic problems in fluid mechanics; however, sometimes a third
conservation law is useful. Euler's equation was developed earlier and it was pointed out
that it was a kind of momentum equation, but a more complete conservation of momentum
relation will prove more useful for many classes of problems.

As mentioned with Euler's equation a force is simply a rate of change of momentum:

dmv d (momentum)
F= =
dt dt

therefore, one way to determine forces developed on a body in a fluid flow is to find the
momentum change in the fluid. An example is the determination of the drag on a wing by
measurement of the change in momentum in the flow as it passes over the wing. The drag
is equal to the momentum deficit in the flow downstream of the wing.

Figure 2.7

The thrust of a propellor or a jet engine can also be determined by finding the momentum
added to the flow.

Euler's equation can be used when a single particle or element of fluid is being
examined; however when a large group of particles is involved a more general momentum
method is needed. Consider, then, a large group of particles located within the two
dimensional area surrounded by the surface S in the figure below. Within a short time (as
time goes from t to t1 ) this group of particles has moved to the right and is now surrounded
by surface S1 at time + t1 .

Figure 2.8

During the time in which the defined group of particles has moved, individual particles
within the group may have changed their relative positions or speeds, etc., such that the
surface around them may have changed shape as well as position. At time t1 the new
surface, S1 , surrounding the defined group of particles overlaps a portion of the area
originally enclosed by surface S. The areas within the original and final surfaces are
shown crosshatched in different directions such that three regions, A, B and C, are defined
as shown in the figure. These regions are defined as:
A = origional region minus overlap

B = overlapping region

C = new region minus overlap.

Consider now the momentum of the fluid in each of these three regions: MA , MB, MC ,

MA = ∫∫∫ A V dA etc.

Note that this is a vector quantity.

At the original time t the fluid in the original region surrounded by S had a momentum:

MA ( t) + MB( t),

and at the final time t1 the same particles now have momentum

MB (t1 ) + MC (t1 ).

The change in momentum of this group of fluid particles in the time observed must then

MB (t1 ) + MC (t1 ) − MA( t) − M B( t)

= [ MB t1 − MB ( t)] + [ MC (t1 ) − MA( t)]

Dividing by the time t1 − t to get the rate of momentum change:

MB (t1 ) − MB( t) MC (t1 ) − M A( t)

t1 − t t1 − t1

The next step is to take the limit as t1 − t becomes small.

In this limit S1 also approaches S.

In this limit the first term in the equation above represents the rate of change of
momentum in the region which will now be called R which is enclosed by the surface S.
Note that in the limit regions A and C go to zero. This term becomes:

( V )dR
dt ∫∫∫
V dR = ∫∫∫

The second term represents, in the limit, the rate at which momentum leaves S minus
the rate at which it enters; ie., a momentum flux through S without outflow viewed as
positive. Defining the unit vector n as positive going out of S the second term in the
equation becomes:

∫∫ V (V ⋅n )dS

The sum of these two terms must be equal to the force exerted on that defined group of
fluid particles during the time in question:

V dR+ ∫∫S V (V ⋅ n)dS.

dt ∫∫∫ R

The force F may be the result of several things which are now defined as follows:

−Fe = force of body on fluid

− ∫∫S pn ds = forceof pressureon control surface

− ∫∫∫ g dR = gravitational forces on body.


Finally, the following relationship can be written:

dR+ ∫∫S V (V ⋅ nˆ)dS =

∫∫∫R 4V 442444 443
− Fe − ∫∫S pnˆds + ∫∫∫R gdR
144 44 42444 44 3
momentum changein fluid Forcescau sin g momentumchange

This relationship appears, at first, quite intimidating to most students, with all its
double and triple integrals over areas and surfaces. It can be said; however, that there are
many problems where the application of this theorem is fairly simple. The important thing
about the momentum theorem is that it can be used in cases where all that is known are the
properties of the flow at a system's boundaries and there is a desire to find out what is
happening within that system.

It is often useful to consider the individual x, y and z components of these forces within
a cartesian coordinate system and gravitational forces are often negligible since their change
with time is usually small. The equation can now be written as three equations.

dt ∫∫∫R S S
( )
udR + ∫∫ u(V ⋅ nˆ)ds = −Fx − ∫∫ p cos nˆ, iˆ dS

dt ∫∫∫R
( )
vdR + ∫∫S v(V ⋅ nˆ)dS = −Fy − ∫∫S p cos nˆ, jˆ dS

dt ∫∫∫R
( )
wdR + ∫∫S w(V ⋅ nˆ )dS = −Fz − ∫∫ S p cos nˆ, kˆ dS

In each of the above equations is a term such as cos (n,i). This term is the cosine
between the normal unit vector and the x, y, or z direction unit vector.

At this point it will be helpful to look at a few practical examples of the use of the
momentum theorem.

As mentioned earlier, one use of the momentum theorem is in finding the drag on a
body from the momentum deficit in the flow. Consider the flow control volume below:

Figure 2.9

The control volume is bounded by streamlines far enough from the body that the velocity
on those streamlines is undisturbed and the static pressure is constant. The end stations are
also far enough away that the pressure is constant over them. Note that the height of the
downstream surface is not necessarily the same as that upstream.

By making the boundaries large enough to have an undisturbed pressure around those
boundaries the pressure integral becomes zero:

∫∫ S
pnˆds = 0

Thus, the pressure force on the control volume is zero. Steady flow is also assumed.


Since the velocities at the boundaries are all in the x direction, only the single x equation
is needed.

Fe = − ∫∫ V (V ⋅n )ds

= −iˆ ∫ V2 ( V2dy2 ) + iˆ ∫ V1 ( V1dy1)

2 1

The force resulting is then the x directed force on the body; ie., its DRAG.

In solving, mass conservation must also be considered to account for the fact that a
"stream tube" going between an element dy at the upstream boundary may become larger or
smaller before it reaches the downstream boundary to form a downstream dy. (A stream
tube is a "tube" of flow in which the mass rate of flow is constant. The mass coming into
the upstream boundary must equal that leaving downstream or the momentum carried by
any mass entering or leaving through the sides of the volume must be included in the

m˙ = V1dy1 = V2 dy2

The momentum equation now becomes:

D = −∫ 2 V 2 dy2 + ∫1V1( V2dy2 )

or simply:

D= ∫ V2 (V1 − V2 )dy2

This approach is used in wind tunnels to measure drag without using a force balance.
In this derivation only linear momentum has been considered. If high angles of attack are
involved or there are other sources of rotational momentum change are present, more
complicated relations are needed.


Another common example of the application of the momentum theorem is for the
calculation of the force exerted on a pipe by flow passing through a bend in the pipe. The
following figure shows a flow entering a pipe bend at station one and exiting at station two
with possible changes in area, density and pressure between the two stations.

Figure 2.10

In this problem the direction of the resulting force is unknown and must be found from the
vector form of the solution. For solution a control surface is indicated by the dashed line.
Writing the general momentum equation and assuming steady flow and neglecting
gravitational forces gives:

∫∫ V (V ⋅n )ds = − Fe − ∫∫S pn ds

The pressure integral becomes:

∫∫ pn ds = iˆ( P1 − Pa )A1 + jˆ (P2 − Pa )A2


where Pa is the ambient pressure acting around the entire control volume.

The momentum flux term is:

V (V ⋅ n ) ds = − 2 [( ) ( )]
jˆV2 − jˆV2 . − jˆ A2 + [( ) ( )]
iˆ V1 iˆ V1 . − iˆ A1

= − 2V22 A2 jˆ − V A1iˆ
1 1

The momentum equation now becomes:

− 2V22 A2 jˆ − V A1iˆ =− Fe + iˆ( P1 − Pa ) A1 + jˆ( P2 − Pa) A2

1 1

and the force has both x and y components:

Fe = iˆ[ 1 A1V12 + (P1 − Pa ) A1 ] + jˆ[ 2 A2V22 + ( P2 − Pa ) A2 ]

Now, since mass is conserved,

m˙ = V A1 =
1 1 V A2
2 2


Fe = iˆ [m˙ V1 + ( P1 − Pa )A1 ] + jˆ[ m˙ V2 + ( P2 − Pa ) A2]

This allows the force to be determined from a knowledge of the mass rate of flow in the
pipe, the velocities going into and out of the bend, the pressures into and out of the bend
and the external pressure.


As a final example of applications of the momentum theorem, consider flow through

the set of blades or vanes shown in the figure below. These could represent compressor or
turbine blades in a jet engine or turning vanes at the corner of a wind tunnel.

Figure 2.11

The control surface is made up of streamlines AB and CD and the end surfaces AC and
BD. Steady flow will be assumed as well as uniform flow over AC and BD. This last
assumption says that any momentum loss is due to turning of the flow and not to any drag
of the vanes ( not any worse than the frictionless bearings and massless points assumed in
other texts! ).

Conservation of mass gives:

m˙ AC = u1h = m˙ BD = U2 h, ThusU 1 = U2

Neglecting gravity again, the resulting momentum equation is:

∫∫ V (V ⋅n )ds = Fe − ∫∫S pn ds


V (V ⋅ n )ds = iˆ(0 ) + jˆ U2 h(v2 − v1 )

since U1 = U 2

The pressure term becomes:

∫∫ pn ds = iˆ( P2 − P1)h

In this example it is convenient to use Bernoulli's equation to eliminate the pressure

terms from the momentum equation.

1 1
P1 + V12 = P2 + V2
2 2 2
V22 = u22 + v22, V12 = u12 + v12

(v − v12 )
V22 − V1 2 = u22 − u12 + v22 − v12 or P1 − P2 = 2
123 2 2


1 
Fe = iˆ 
2 (v 2
2 − v12 )h  + jˆm˙ (v 1 − v2 )


h( v22 − v12) = ( p1 − p2 )h
Fx =
Fy = m˙ (v1 − v2 )



It is conventional to separate aerodynamic forces and moments into three force

components (lift, drag, sideforce) and three moments (pitch, yaw, roll). These
components may be defined relative to the wind direction (wind axis system) or relative to
the vehicle centerline (body axis system) or a combination of the two. One must be careful
in the computation or use of force and moment data to use the proper axis system and to be
consistent in its use. The most commonly used system is the wind axis system where the
forces are defined either along the free stream velocity vector or perpendicular to it as
shown in Figure 3.1.

Figure 3.1. Wind Axis System

To many people this axis system appears inverted and somewhat unnatural. It was chosen
primarily because it is a standard right hand system. It is often more intuitive to invert part
of the system to make the z axis point "ups and the x axis go with the wind; however, in
that arrangement the moments do not follow the right hand rule. Either system can be used
if one is careful in its use.

It is important to note that the axis system is aligned with the wind, rather than the
horizon or the vehicle axis. This is an easy source of confusion since it is common to
visualize the wind vector concurrent with the horizon or along the aircraft axis. Indeed, in
a straight and level flight situation for an aircraft the free stream wind vector might coincide
with the vehicle axis and the horizon; however it is best not to think in terms of that special
case. Some people prefer to think of the x axis shown in Figure 3.1 as lying along the path
of flight of the vehicle. Figure 3.2 illustrates the problem by showing a typical glide
situation for an aircraft.

Figure 3.2. Aircraft in Glide

The three orthogonal forces are lift, L, drag, D, and side force, Y. Lift is defined as the
force along the negative z axis (normally "upward") and acting perpendicular to the free
stream direction. Note that this is not necessarily upward with respect to the aircraft axis or
the horizon as indicated in Figure 3.2.

Drag is defined as the force in the direction of the relative wind or along the negative x
axis. Drag can always be thought of as the force which resists the motion of the vehicle.

Side force, given the symbol Y, is defined as mutually perpendicular to both lift and
drag and is positive outhe the right hand or starboard side of the vehicle.

The three moments, pitch (M), roll (LR) and yaw (N) are the moments which tend to
result in a rotation of the vehicle about the y, x or z axes respectively.

Pitching moment, M, is by far the most widely discussed of the three moments since it
must be considered in two dimensional (x, z plane) problems as well as in 3-D cases.
Pitching moment is defined as positive when it tends to raise the nose of the vehicle. It is
this basic definition of the sense of pitch that requires the use of an "inverted" (z
downward) axis system in order to have a right had coordinate system. The pitching
moment acts about the positive y axis.

The rolling moment, LR, is the moment which causes rotation about the x axis or
causes an aircraft to roll one wing up and the other down. Note that this definition of roll
may not coincide with that of an airplane pilot who thinks of roll as occurring about the
plane's body axis rather than the wind axis.

Yawing moment, N. rotates the vehicle around the lift direction and is defined as
positive when it is clockwise or results in a nose right motion. Again the use of a body
axis rather than a wind axis may result in a different value for yawing moment.


It is convenient in engineering work to deal with non-dimensional terms or unitless

numbers rather than everyday dimensional terms. The resulting non-dimensional
parameters not only remain unchanged from one unit system to another but they are usually
more meaningful in terms of the physics of a problem than conventional dimensional

It is possible to develop the concept of a non-dimensional force coefficient and to

examine the important physical parameter groupings on which aerodynamic forces depend
by using a simple process known as dimensional analysis. Dimensional analysis, as used
here, is simply a process of first identifying the parameters on which fluid forces depend
and then grouping these parameters in such a way that the units or dimensions balance.
Assume then that it is know that the forces one body in a fluid depend on the following:

1. The properties of the fluid itself, pressure, P, density, , viscosity, , and the
speed of sound (fluid's elastic properties), a. Note that one need not include
temperature since P and are considered.

2. The speed of the body relative to the fluid, V.

3. The acceleration of gravity, g.

4. The characteristic size or dimension of the body, l, or the distance of a body

from a fluid boundary, also designated l.

Hence it can be said that the force on a body in a fluid is a function of all of the above,

F = f( ,V,l, ,g,P,a)

or to be completely general, the force is a function of each variable to some power,

F = f( A
,V B ,l C , D
,g E ,P G ,a H )

Since the left hand side of this equation, [3.1] has the dimensions of force, the right
hand side must also have the same dimensions. Force has units of mass multiplied by
acceleration (kilograms meters/seconds2 or slugs feet/seconds2). To be general then it can
be said that force has dimensions of (mass)x(length)/(time)2 and letting M, L, and T
represent these physical dependencies one can write the dimensions for force as MLT-2.
Likewise, one can write the dimensions for all the other terms in equation 3.2 in terms of
mass, length, and time:

Parameter Dimension
velocity (V) LT-1
length (L) L
density ( ) ML-3
viscosity ( ) ML-1T-1
pressure (P) ML-1T-2
acceleration (g) LT-2
speed of sound (a) LT-1
force (F) MLT-2

Now, substituting these into equation [3.2] the result is a dimensional equation of the

MLT 2 = ( ML−3 ) (LT −1 ) (L ) ( ML− 1T − 1) ( LT −2 ) ( ML− 1T − 2 ) ( LT −1 )



The task is now to balance the above equation dimensionally; i.e.., the sum of the mass
exponents on the left side of the equation must equal those on the right, etc. Equating
exponents of mass, length and time respectively leads to three equations:

(Mass) 1=A+D+G

(Length) 1 = -3A + B + C - D + E - G + H

(Time) 2 = B + D + 2E + 2G + H


Now, equations [Figure 3.4] give a set of three equations and seven unkowns. These
equations may be solved for the values of any three of the unknowns in terms of the
remaining four. Solving then for A, B, and C in terms of the remaining terms gives:


B = 2 - D - 2E - 2G - H



Substituting these solutions [Figure 3.2.5] into the original relationship [3.2.2] and
grouping all terms of like exponents gives:

 −D G −H 
 gl   P   V  
F = V 2l 2  Vl

V   V    
2 2 a 


It is noted that each of the terms with an unknown exponent is a dimensionless term;
Vl gl p
i.e., the term is unitless as are 2 , and V a . If the equation is divided
V V2
2 2
by V l , both side become unitless.

 Vl   gl   P   V  
F V 2 l 2 = f    
  V 2   V2   a  
 


Two conclusions can be drawn from equation [3.7]. The first is that the proper way to
nondimensionalize a fluid force is to divide it by the fluid density, the square of the velocity
and the square of the characteristic dimension of the body or the body's representative area.
1 2
Since the term V represents the dynamic pressure of the fluid as found in Bernoulli's
equation, a factor of is introduced into the relationship and a "force coefficient" is
defined as

CF = 1 2
2 V S


where S is the representative area of the body. In two dimensional problems a

characteristic length (2-D area) is used in the denominator instead of S.

The second conclusion is that the nondimensional fluid force is dependent on the
groups of parameters on the right of equation [3.7]. These groups are known as "similarity
parameters" and are important in relating nondimensional force coefficients found on one
body in a fluid to those on a geometrically similar body of different size. Technically,
equation [3.7] says that for force coefficients on two geometrically similar bodies to be
equal, each of the grouped terms or "similarity parameters" must be identical for the flows
around the two bodies. It is obvious that it would be quite a task to make all of these
similarity parameters equal for tests on bodies of two different sizes or in different fluids.
Fortunately, it is seldom necessary to match all four of these similarity parameters at the
same time as an examination of the meaning of each term will show.

The first term on the right of equation [3.7] is known as Reynolds number, Re.

Re =


Reynolds number is a parameter relating inertial effects in a fluid to viscous effects. This is
an important parameter for flow similarity because it is found that laminar-turbulent
transition in a boundary layer is a function of Re and a body at low Re values may have a
significantly different behavior from one at high Reynolds number. The classic example of
Reynolds number effects is found in the flow around a sphere or cylinder, where at low Re
boundary layer separation occurs early, resulting in a high wake drag and at high Re
separation is delayed by turbulence and the wake drag is reduced.

Reynolds number is an important similarity parameter which must be considered in

every flow. However, there are some cases where it may be ignored. These are generally
where flow separation occurs at a sharp corner on a body and the separation point will not
be influenced by the laminar or turbulent character of the flow. For this reason Re may not
be a factor when considering flows around some non-streamlined shapes. However, these
situations are rare and Reynolds number is almost always the most important factor in
considerations of flow scaling and similarity.

The second most important similarity parameter in most aerospace problems is Mach
number, M, where


This parameter indicates the relevance of compressibility effects. Compressibility effects

occur due to elastic compression and expansion of a fluid as it passes over a body. These
are important only when compression or mach waves begin to form in a fluid as it flows
around a body. Hence, Mach number similarity need not be considered at speeds giving
Mach numbers less than 0.5 or so. In water Mach number need not be considered since
water is an incompressible fluid.

In some aerospace problems both Reynolds number and Mach number are important
but it is impossible to satisfy both types of similarity at one time. Here, tests are usually
done to examine separately the effects of each parameter and the resulting scaling of data
must be done using engineering judgement based on past experience and a thorough
understanding of the problem at hand.

The remaining two parameter groupings on the right side of equation [3.7] are
encountered primarily in the fields of naval architecture or ocean engineering. The first of
these is the inverse square root of a widely used similarity parameter known as Froude
number (F), where

F= V gL


Froude number is the ratio of inertial forces to gravitational forces and it is essentially a
measure of the importance of the effects of a fluid boundary or interface on the forces on
the body. Here the term L refers to a distance which may be the distance of the vehicle
above or below the ground or air-water interface or the height of waves generated by a
ship. The importance of Froude number is perhaps most easily understood when
considering the motion of a submarine below the surface. When a submarine is sufficiently
far below the surface it can move without disturbing the surface; however, if it is close to
the surface, waves are generated. The energy present in these waves represents an energy
loss by the submarine and consequently must be treated as part of the vehicle's drag. In
like manner any vehicle moving over, under or through the air-sea interface which causes
such surface waves develops a wave drag and for proper simulation of this drag in testing
Froude number for aerodynamic similarity, hydrodynamic problems often involve a need
for both Re and F similarity at the same time, a condition which may not be easily

The last of the four similarity parameters developed in equation [3-7] is Euler number,

Euler number = P

which is a measure of the ratio of inertial forces and pressure forces. This term assumes
importance when cavitation is a problem on ship hulls or propellers. Basically, cavitation
occurs when the pressures caused by motion of water around a body become low enough
to result in boiling of the water. Cavitation can result in loss of lift on hydrofoils, loss of
thrust on propellers, and high drag on hulls and is thus a very important phenomenon.
Proper scaling of flows where cavitation may occur therefore nessitates the use of Euler
number to insure similarity. In practice Ocean Engineers define a slightly different number
called the cavitation number, , where

P − Pv

and Pv is the vapor pressure of the water. This is used in place of Euler number as the
cavitation similarity parameter.

Example 3.1. An aircraft is designed to fly at 250 mph at an altitude of 25,000 feet
where the pressure, temperature and density are standard. We wish to test a one-tenth scale
model of this plane in a wind tunnel at sea level standard conditions. What problems might
we have in achieving flow similarity?

The Reynolds number for the full scale aircraft would be

Re f = Vlf

and, at standard conditions for 25,000 feet and 250 mph we have

= 0.001066sl ft3
= 3.196x10-7 sl ft
V = 250mph = 367.5 fps

This gives a Reynolds Number per foot of

Re f l f = 1.226x10 6 ft -1

Note: It is common practice in wind tunnel testing to speak of Reynolds Number

per foot.

To achieve this Reynolds Number on a one-tenth scale model in the wind tunnel at
sea level conditions we need to make

Re f = Rem = V 1
SL m m SL = Re f 1 f = 1.223 ×1061b

Thus, the speed in the wind tunnel test section must be

Vm = (1.226x10 6
lf SL ) SL m l

Using SL = 0.002376 sl ft3 , SL = 3.719 x 10 −7 sl ftsec and l f lm = 10, we


Vm = 1919ft sec = 1305mph

But this supersonic speed quite obviously violates the Mach Number similarity
requirement! Does this mean that it is impossible to properly test for full scale
aerodynamics effects by using small scale models in a wind tunnel? Fortunately not.

One solution is to use a sealed, variable density wind tunnel. Most of the early
wing aerodynamics tests of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics ( NACA ),
NASA's predecessor, were done in such a tunnel at Langley Field using 1/20th scale
models tested in a tunnel pressurized to 20 atmospheres, giving a density twenty times
normal and matching full scale Reynolds Numbers.

Another commonly used method, provided that the model scale is not too small, is
to "fool" the flow into behaving like it would at a higher Reynolds Number. The primary
flow influence of Reynolds Number on a streamlined shape is to determine where on the
shape the flow in the thin "boundary layer" next to the body changes from a smooth
"laminar"" behavior to a turbulent behavior. This, in turn, partly determines where flow
separation from the surface might occur. We can "fool" the flow by forcing or tripping"
boundary layer transition from laminar to turbulent flow by using a "trip strip" which can
be as simple as a line of fine sand grains glued to the surface.


In the preceeding section it was shown that thenondimensional force coefficient took
the form

C F = Force V 2S
Hence, force coefficients can be defined for the aerodynamic forces of lift, drag and

lift coefficient, C L = liftV 2S
drag coefficient, CD = drag V 2S
1 2
side force coefficient, C Y = side force V S
As with all force coefficients these are unitless (nondimensional) and therefore are invariant
from one unit system to another.

One problem which appears when using force coefficients is the area, S, to be used in
the denominator. This is merely a representative area which is characteristic of the body or
case being considered. For example, when using lift coefficient the area S used is almost
always the planform or projected area of the wing. This is logical since the wing is the lift
producing element of the vehicle. The best area to use for drag coefficient is not as obvious
and any one of several areas will be found in common usage; wing planform area when
considering drag wings, fuselage or hull cross sectional when considering such shapes, or
"wetted" (total surface) area when skin friction drag is being treated. Similar variations will
be found when defining characteristic areas for side force coefficients. Hence, it is
important that one be extremely careful in interpreting data in coefficient form since
themagnitude of the resulting coefficient may vary greatly depending on the choice of a
representative area. For the same reason extreme care must be exercised in combining
coefficients. The drag coefficients of various parts of a vehicle cannot merely be added to
get a total drag coefficient unless all the coefficients are based on a common area

Force coefficients can also be similarly defined in two dimensions where only a two
dimensional section of a body such as an airfoil section is under consideration. In these
cases only lift and drag are considered and the forces are two dimensional forces; that is,
they are expressed in units of force-per-unit-length such as force-per-foot or meter of wing
span. Therefore, to obtain a nondimensional coefficient only a characteristic length is
needed in the denominator.

C L2− D = L V 21
C D2 − D =D V 21

The length commonly used for two dimensional lift and drag coefficients is the wing chord
(distance from leading-to-trailing edge) when dealing with airfoils.

Moment coefficients are similarly defined except that an additional length factor is
needed in the coefficient denominator. The length most commonly used is the wing's mean
chord c or the length of the body.

CM = M V 2S c

In like manner coefficients for rolling and yawing moment may be defined with appropriate
characteristic lengths.

In two dimensions the pitching moment coefficient becomes

C M2 −D = M V 2c 2


In order to discuss airfoil aerodynamics it is necessary to have a grasp of the

terminology commonly used to define the geometry of a wing. This terminology will be
discussed in reference to Figure 3.3 which shows the "planform" view of a wing and
Figure 3.4 which shows a typical airfoil section.

Figure 3.3. Wing Planform Geometry

Figure 3.4. Wing Section Geometry

The wing span, b, is the tip-to-tip dimension perpendicular to the fuselage centerline
indlucing the width of the fuselage.

Several chords may be defined for a 3-D wing. The root chord, C o , is the distance
from the airfoil leading edge to trailing edge taken parallel to the fuselage centerline at he
wing-fuselage junction. The tip chord C T is the same dimension taken at the wing tip.

different definitions of a mean or average chord are in common usage. The mean chord c
is defined as

∫ ob 2 cdy
c= b2
∫ o dy

where y is measured from fuselage centerline along the span to the wing tip. Also defined
is the "aerodynamic mean chord", c A ,

∫ bo 2 c 2dy
cA = b 2
∫ o cdy


Wing area, S, is usually thought of as the planform area rather than the actual surface
area. The planform area includes the imaginary area between the wings in the fuselage.
When this fuselage area is to be ignored, ie., the planform area of the exposed wing only is
to be used, this is referred to as the net wing area SN .

A term which is of some importance in airfoil fluid dynamics is the "aspect ratio"
AR . Aspect ratio is a measure of the "narrowness" of the wing planform and is the ratio of
the wing span to the mean chord

AR = b c


which is often written as

b2 b2
AR = =
bc S

a form which is easier to use. Aspect ratio will be found to be a measure of the 3-D
efficiency of a wing.
While some airfoils have a rectangular planform, most are swept and/or tapered to some
degree. Wing sweep can be measured at the leading or trailing edge or at some other point
such as a line along the quarter chord (C/4 behind the leading edge) and the sweep angle is
given the symbol Λ . Taper is defined in terms of a taper ratio where = C r C o . The
wing angle of attack ( ) shown in Fig. 3.4 is defined as the angle between the chord line
and the fluid velocity vector.

Wing camber is usually expressed as percent camber of an airfoil section where percent
camber is the percentage of the airfoil chord represented by the maximum perpendicular
distance between the chord and camber lines. Wing thickness is also defined in terms of
percent chord.

Figure 3.5 illustrates wing dihedral which is defined as a dihdral angle due to the
inclination of the wings from a common plane. Dihedral is built into wings for roll
stabaility purposes and the dihedral angle is defined as 2 , the sum of the inclination angles
of both wings. A negative dihedral is called "anhedral".

Figure 3.5. Wing Dihedral


In the early days of wing development wing shapes were often given names and
numbers in a very nonsystematic manner. Sections were names after researchers such as
Clark or Eiffel or after laboratories or research groups (RAF, Gottingen) and each group
developed its own series of airfoil shapes. In an attempt to systematize airfoil research and
designation, the National Advisary Committee for Aeronautics or NACA (NASA's
forerunner), devised a systematic scheme of testing and classifying airfoil sections.
Hundreds of airfoil sections were thoroughly tested and catalogues. These airfoils were
designated by four, five, and six digit numbers according to basic shape and performance.
The data from these tests is reported in numerous NACA publications and some of it will
be referenced in later sections. To properly use this data one should understand the
meaning of the NACA airfoil designations.

Most of the NACA airfoils fall into the four, five or six digit airfoil series as explained
in examples below.

NACA 2412
2 - The maximum camber of the mean line is 0.02c
4 - the position maximum camber is 0.4c
12 - the maximum thickness is 0.12c

NACA 23021
2 - the maximum camber of the mean line is approximately 0.02c (also the
design lift coefficient is 0.15 times the first digit for this series)
30 - the position of the maximum camber is at 0.30/2 = 0.15c
21- the maximum thickness is 0.21c

NACA 63 2 -215 (laminar flow series)

6 - series designation
3 - the maximum pressure is at 0.3c
2 - the drag coefficient is near its minimum value over of lift coefficients of
0.2 above and below the design C L
2 - the design lift coefficient is 0.2
15 - the maximum thickness is 0.15c

There are other series of airfoil sections besides the ones given above, however, these
are most common. There is a new class of airfoil which will be discussed later that is being
developed out of the "super critical" design of wing. NASA has now began to
systematically number these shapes in categories of low, medium and high speed airfoils
with shapes given designations such as LS(1)-0417 and MS (1)-0313 etc. Hence, the
process of systematically defining and designating airfoil shapes still continues.


Before a discussion of airfoil characteristics can be meaningful a better understanding

of pitching moment is helpful. Since most of the later discussion of airfoils will center
around the dimensional case the only moment of concern will be the pitching moment. It is
obvious that pitching moment can be defined as acting about any chosen point on the
airfoil, however, its value will vary depending on the point of definition. It is therefore
convenient to choose some sort of standard reference points for definition of pitching
moment which will be meaningful physically. One then needs to be able to transfer a
pitching moment which has been measured or calculated at a given point on the airfoil to
one of the chosen reference points or any other location.

In order to transfer the pitching moment all forces and moments acting on the airfoil
must be known. In two dimensions this means that one must know the lift, drag and
pitching moment at some point. Suppose, for example, that wing has been mounted in a
wind tunnel and the lift, drag and pitching moment measured at the mounting point (a), a
distance, a, behind the airfoil's leading edge, as shown in Figure 3.6 (a) and that one needs
to know the pitching moment about a different point x where a structural member is to be

Figure 3.6. Transfer of Pitching Moment

The forces are invariant in the transfer, however, their effects on the moment must be

L a = Lx
Da = Dx

To examine the effect of the moment transfer take the moments in each case relative to a
common reference point, the leading edge. In case a, the lift and drag produce moments
around the leading edge of

(a )(Lcos )
and (a )( Dsin )

Since both moments are counterclockwise they are considered negative.

Thus, the entire moment about the leading edge is

M LE = Ma - Lacos - Dasin
Likewise for wing b

M LE = M x -Lxcos -Dxsin

Since these two moments must be identical, equating [3.19] and [3.20] gives

M x = Ma - (Lcos = Dsin )(a - x )

1 2 2
converting to coefficient form by dividing by V c gives

C Mx = CMa − (C L cos + C D sin ) a − x 

c c
As mentioned previously, there are some cases of special interest regarding placement
of pitching moment. One such case is the point where the pitching moment becomes zero
and another is the point where the moment becomes a constant over a wide range of angle
of attack or lift. Both of these may be important both aerodynamically and structurally in
the design of a wing. These two points are called the center of pressure and the
aerodynamic center, respectively.

The aerodynamic center is probably the most commonly used reference point for
forces and moment on an airfoil. If one were to measure the forces and pitching moment on
an airfoil over a wide range of angles of attack or lift coefficient and then for each value of
C L look at the values of C M at various chordwise positions on the wing, one special point
would be found where C M was virtually constant for all values of C L This point is the
aerodynamic center.

The aerodynamic center is defined as the point along the chord where the pitching
moment coefficient is constant and independent of the lift coefficient. Note that C M is
constant at the aerodynamic center and not necessarily zero. There are some limits to this
definition since at high angles of attack where C L does not change linearly with the
aerodynamic center may shift; however, the concept of an aerodynamic center is very
useful and valid over the normal operating range of C L 's for an airfoil.

It is therefore useful to find an equation which will locate the aerodynamic center once
the forces and pitching moment about some point on the airfoil have been found.
Returning to equation [3.22] and assuming that the unknown position x is the aerodynamic

C Mxac = CMa − ( CL cos + C D sin ) a − x ac 

c c

Several assumptions can be used to simplify this equation based on the already
mentioned fact that the definition for the aerodynamic center is only meaningful for
moderate angles of attack. At these angles cos is approximately ten times the magnitude
of sin ,

cos ≈ 10sin

Also at moderate one normally finds that C L is about twenty times the magnitude of
CD ,

C L ≈ 20C D

C L cos ≈ 200C Dsin

and the latter term can be neglected. Using this and assuming Cos is approximately
unity gives

a x 
C Mxac = C Ma − CL  − ac 
c c 

Now the definition for aerodynamic center can be utilized. This definition states that at
the aerodynamic center C M does not vary as C L is changed, or

dC Mac

To use this the derivative of equation [3.23] is taken with respect to C L ,

dC Mac dC Ma dC L  a xac 
= −  − 
dCL dCL dC L  c c 

By definition then the term on the left becomes zero and the derivative of C L with respect
to itself is unity; thus, the equation can be rearranged as

x ac a dC Ma
= −
c c dC L

Using the equation 3.24 the position of the aerodynamic center can be found as a
distance x ac from the leading edge by finding the value of the derivative of the known
moment coefficient with respect to the lift coefficient. This can be easily obtained by
plotting a graph of C M versus C L and measuring the slope of the curve. Such a curve will
be essential linear over a normal range of angle of attack for most common airfoils.

EXAMPLE 3.2 For a particular airfoil section the pitching moment coefficient about a
point 1/3 chord behind the leading edge varies with the lift coefficient in the following

CL K 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8

CM K − 0.02 0.00 + 0.02 + 0.04

Find the aerodynamic center and the value of C Mo .

It is seen that C M varies linearly with C L , value of dC M dCL being

0.04 − (−0.02 ) 0.06

=+ = +0.10
0.80 − 0.20 0.60
Therefore, from equation 3.12, with a/c = 1/3

x ac 1
= − 0.10 = 0.233
c 3
The aerodynamic centre is therefore at 23.3% chord behind the leading edge.

Plotting C M against C L gives the value of C Mo , the value of C M when C L = 0, as


Theoretically, on a flat plate or circular arc airfoil in subsonic flow the aerodynamic
center is exactly one forth of the chord from the leading edge or at a point called the
"quarter chord". In practice it is usually from 23 to 25% of the chord from the leading edge
at incompressible speeds. For this reason it is popular to define aerodynamic forces and
pitching moments about the quarter chord as is the practice in may reports of tabulated
airfoil aerodynamic data.

When speeds are high enough for compressibility to become a factor (M ≥ 0.5) the
aerodynamic center will start to move rearward along the airfoil. The theoretical position of
the aerodynamic center in supersonic flow is at 50% chord. This shift will be examined in a
later section where compressibility effects on airfoils are discussed.

The center of pressure, while not necessarily a fixed point over a range of or
C L , is important since this is the point where the moment disappears. It is the point, not
necessarily on the chord, where the pitching moment is zero for a particular value of lift.
Returning to equation [3.20] the following relation can be written relating the moment at the
leading edge, M LE to the moment at the center of pressure M MP .

M LE = M MCP − (Lcos +Dsin )k CP C

Now, recognizing that by definition MCP = O and writing X CP as kCP C where kCP is the
fraction of the chord to the center of pressure, the result is

MLE = MCP − ( L cos a + Dsin a)kCP C


Writing the same equation with the moment about the aerodynamic center in the equation

MLE = Mac − ( Lcos + Dsin ) Xac

Now equating the two equations [3.25] and [3.56] and dividing by V 2c2 to get the
relation in coefficient form gives

C Mac − (C L cos + CD sin ) Xac = −( CL cos + C D sin ) kcp

Solving for kcp, the position of the center of pressure as a fraction of the chord,

Xac CMac
kcp = −
c C L cos + CD sin

Here again, since is relatively small and C L > > CC , the term C D sin can be
neglected and cos is assumed to be unity, giving

Xac C Mac
kcp = −
c CL

Hence a relation has been developed which will determine the position of the center of
pressure for any value of C L once the pitching moment at the aerodynamic center and the
location of the aerodynamic center known.

Since C Mac is almost always negative it can be seen from equation [3.28] that
kcp − will be positive, indicating that the center of pressure is almost always behind
the aerodynamic center.

Example 3.3 For the airfoil section of Example 3.2, plot a curve showing the
approximate variation of center of pressure position with lift coefficient, for lift coefficients
between zero and unity.

For this case, kcp ≅ 0.233 −
≅ 0.233 +

The corresponding curve is shown above. It shows that kcp tends asymptotically to Xac as
C L increases, and tends to infinity behind the airfoil as C L tends to zero. For values of
C L less that 0.05 the center of pressure is actually behind the airfoil.

For a symmetrical section (zero camber) and for some special camber lines, the pitching
moment coefficient about the aerodynamic center is zero. It then follows, that kcp = x ac ;
i.e., the center of pressure and the aerodynamic center coincide, and that for moderate
incidences the center of pressure is therefore stationary at about the quarterchord point.


Now that the meaning of forces and moments on airfoils have been discussed and the
terminology of airfoil geometry is understood, the effects of changes in airfoil geometry
and fluid flow behavior can be explored. The discussion that follows will be very general
and many exceptions can undoubtedly be found to the examples given; however, the airfoil
behavior discussed will be that typical of most airfoils.

Any discussion of airfoils should begin with the simple symmetrical airfoil which
typically exhibits an aerodynamic behavior similar to that shown in Figure 3.7.
Theoretically the lift coefficient for a two dimensional airfoil increases linearly with a curve
slope of 2 per radian when plotted against . When the C L curve begins to become
non-linear, flow separation is beginning along the upper surface of the airfoil. As
separation or stall progresses the curve slope decreases until a peak is reached and beyond
this angle of attack C L will decrease. At this peak the value of lift coefficient is termed
C Lmax The nature of the stall region will vary with leading edge radius, Reynolds number
and other factors which will be discussed later.

Fig. 3.7. Symmetrical airfoil characteristics.

The pitching moment coefficient shown is for the quarter chord position and since this
is roughly the position for the aerodynamic center for an airfoil in incompressible flow,
C Mc 4 is constant over the range of where dC L d is constant.

The drag coefficient for the symmetrical airfoil is seen to be at a minimum at a C L of

zero which corresponds to a zero angle of attack. Drag coefficient rises rapidly in the stall
region as wake drag increases.

The effects of camber on an airfoil are illustrated in Figure 3.8.

Fig. 3.8. Effects of Camber

The primary effect of camber on an airfoil is to shift the C L vs curve to the left which
means that the cambered airfoil produces a finite lift at a zero nominal angle of attack. The
cambered airfoil experiences a zero lift at some negative angle of attack designated LO .
Stall usually occurs at a lower nominal angle of attack for the cambered airfoil, however
C Lmax will usually be somewhat increased over that for a symmetrical airfoil of comparable
thickness and leading edge radius.

Increasing camber is seen to produce a larger negative C Mc 4 and to cause shift in the
drag polar to correspond to the C L shift.

The effects of changes in airfoil thickness depend largely on where the maximum
thickness of the airfoil occurs. It is somewhat intuitive that a thicker section will produce a
higher drag coefficient, however, the primary effect of thickness is on the wings stall
behavior and the lift curve slope. The effect of thickness on the lift curve slope varies with
the distribution of the thickness along the chord as shown in Figure 3.9

Fig. 3.9 Effect of Thickness on Lift Curve Slope

For the NACA 4 and 5 digit series airfoils the slope of the lift curve is seen to decrease
slightly as thickness increases (the theoretical slope should be 2 radian or
0.10966/degree)/ whereas, for the 63 series airfoil it shows an increase.

The thickness can also either increase or decrease C Lmax as illustrated in Figure 3.10.
An increase in thickness up to a point can lead to a higher C Lmax because of its effect on
improving the leading edge radius, however further increases increase the likelihood of
earlier separation over the rear of the airfoil.

Figure 3.10. Thickness effects on C Lmax

The most significant effect of thickness is to be seen near the airfoil's leading edge in
terms of leading edge radius. Too small a leading edge radius can result in an abrupt stall
with a sudden decrease in lift coefficient. A larger leading edge radius can smooth the stall
and give an increase in C LMax as shown in Figure 3.11.

Figure 3.11

The effects of Reynolds number on airfoil performance are due to the influence of
Reynolds number on the airfoil boundary layer and on flow separation. These effects have
been discussed to some extent earlier. At low values of Re a laminar boundary layer exists
over a large distance from the leading edge of the airfoil. A laminar boundary layer is very
poor at resisting separation over the region of the airfoil where the flow is slowing down
and the pressure is increasing, and early flow separation may result, giving larger drag and
early stall. At high Re values the boundary layer goes turbulent at an early point on the
airfoil and because of the ability of a turbulent boundary layer to resist flow separation,
wake drag may be reduced and stall delayed. These effects are illustrated in Figure 3.12
for a typical airfoil.

Figure 3.12. Reynolds Number Effects on Lift and Drag

One of the more important effects of Reynolds number is its influence on the near stall
region at high angles of attack. Increasing Reynolds number almost always increases
C LMax and it can also have a significant effect on the nature of stall as shown in Figure
3.13. For a particular airfoil it is seen that at low Re a fairly smooth stall exists with a
relatively low C LMax . As Re is increased a higher C LMax is obtained but the stall is a
sharp one. Here the high Re flow is able to resist separation but when it finally occurs it
suddenly covers a large portion of the airfoil. At even higher Re the turbulent boundary
layer is able to resist a sudden leading edge separation and an ever higher C LMax is
achieved with a somewhat improved stall behavior.

Figure 3.13. Effect of Re on Stall

The effect shown in Figure 3.13 is also a function of the airfoil thickness and
particularly the leading edge radius even small increases in Re may increase C LMax while
on a thin airfoil with small leading edge radius it may be necessary to go to very high
values of Re before significant C LMax increases occur, as shown in Figure 3.14. A small
leading edge radius produces very large flow accelerations at high angles of attack resulting
in large pressure deficits. The subsequent pressure rise as the flow slows down again over
the airfoil's upper surface is also very rapid and this large "adverse" pressure gradient
causes flow separation. Very high Reynolds numbers are required to resist the separation
inducing effects of this large pressure gradient. on a thicker airfoil with a larger leading
edge radius the pressure gradient is not as large and it is not necessary to reach as large a
value of Re to control separation.

Fig. 3.14. Effects of thickness and Re on C LMax

Compressibility effects on an airfoil must be considered at Mach numbers above 0.5 or
so. Even at relatively modest subsonic speeds the local velocities of air over a wing may
approach the speed of sound. When the free stream velocity is great enough that the local
flow at some point on the upper surface of the airfoil reaches the speed of sound the airfoil
is said to have reached its "critical Mach number, M crit ." For example, the NACA 4412
airfoil flying in air at sea level standard conditions will begin to experience locally
supersonic flow at about 20 - 30% of the chord behind the leading edge at a speed of 592
fps or 180m/s. Since the speed of sound is 1117 fps at sea level the wing is flying at a
Mach number of 0.53. Hence its critical Mach number M crit = 0.53.

Once a region of supersonic flow beings to form on the airfoil a shock wave will form
as the flow "shocks" down to subsonic flow. In a shock wave the flow deceleration occurs
very suddenly resulting in a sharp, essentially instantaneous, pressure increase. It is this
pressure increase or compression wave which results in the sonic boom when the wave is
strong enough to reach the ground. The sudden pressure increase in the shock wave acts
as an almost infinite adverse pressure gradient on the wing's boundary layer, resulting in
almost certain flow separation. This process is illustrated in Figure 3.15.

Figure 3.15. Transonic Flow Patterns Around an Airfoil

As this supersonic flow region and accompanying shock wave grow the separated
wake also grows, increasing drag and changing the manner in which lift is produced on the
wing. This causes the aerodynamic center to shift and large changes in the pitching
moment about the quarter chord. These changes with Mach number are shown in Figure
3.16 as changes in the slope of the lift curve, drag coefficient and moment coefficient about
the quarter chord.

Figure 3.16. Compressibility Effects on Lift Curve Slope, Drag and Pitching Moment

It is these large changes which created the myth of the "sound barrier" in the early days
of transonic flight. For an aircraft designed for subsonic flight these changes could easily
lead to disaster when the wing reached and passed its critical Mach number in a high speed
dive. When these speeds were reached there was a sudden sharp rise in drag which
required thrust beyond that available in the engine technology of the day, and worse, the
sudden aerodynamic center shift and flow separation caused severe stress in the structure
and loss of control. As shown in Figure 3.16-c the value of C Mc 4 may go from a negative
to a positive value, resulting in a complete reversal of the stability behavior of the aircraft
and control behavior. The result was often a disaster where the aircraft went out of control
and broke up in mid-air. Once powerplants were large enough to handle the drag rise and
aircraft were designed to handle the moment shifts it became possible to fly in and through
the transonic regime.


In order to fly, an aircraft must produce enough lift to counteract its weight. From the
equation for lift coefficient [3.12] it can be seen that the lift generated by a wing is a
function of its area, (S), the square of its velocity (V∞ ), the air density ( ), and the lift
coefficient (C L ).

Lift = V∞2 SC L
Hence, lift can be increased by increasing any one of these four parameters. This presents
little problem in high speed flight since for a given wing and angle of attack the lift
increases as the square of the speed. There are however, problems at lower speeds.

The lower limit for the airspeed of a wing is its stall speed VSTALL . This is the speed
at which a wing of given area will stall at a given altitude (or density). Stall occurs when
the lift coefficient has reached its maximum (C LMax ). Thus for a given wing area, density
and weight of aircraft, the minimum flying speed is given by:

L 2W
V∞min = =
1 SCL max
SCL max
This is obviously then the speed which will result in the shortest takeoff or landing roll.
Naturally, it would not be safe to land or takeoff an aircraft at C LMax conditions since it is
on the verge of stall; thus, a slightly higher speed is used to give a safety factor. This
speed is usually figured to be 1.3VSTALL . However, the fact still remains that the
minimum safe flying speed and, hence, the minimum landing or takeoff distance is
determined by C LMax for a wing at a given altitude, weight and wing area.

In the early days of aviation, when more lift was needed to keep landing and takeoff
distances within limits, a larger wing area was used. However, this also increased the drag
of the aircraft and limited its cruise speed. A more highly cambered wing or one which
was relatively thick to give a larger leading edge radius could also be used to increase
C LMax but these also increased drag and limited cruise speed. Therefore, the cruise speed
of an aircraft was effectively limited by the length of runway available for the takeoff and
landing. What was needed was a way to use a minimal drag wing for high speed cruise
and then increase wing area and/or camber for takeoff and landing to reduce the required
takeoff and landing speeds.

The answer to this requirement was the flap. The basic idea behind the use of the flap
is that of developing a variable camber airfoil which will normally have a low camber, low
drag shape but can have its camber increased when a higher maximum lift coefficient is
needed for low speed flight. Adjustable camber airfoils were built and flown as early as
1910 and the hinged flap can be traced to as early as 1914 in England.

Theory can show that a change in camber near the trailing edge of an airfoil has a much
greater effect on C L than changes at any other position. Hence flaps are, in their simplest
form, merely hinged portions of the airfoil's trailing edge as shown in Figure 3.17. The
typical effects of flap deflection are also shown in the figure to be essentially the same as
adding camber.

Figure 3.17. Aerodynarnic Effects of the Flap

There are many different designs for flaps, some more effective than others. The
effectiveness of a variety of flaps is illustrated in Figure 3.18.

Designation Diagram C LMax L D Reference

at C LMax at C LMax NACA

Basic airfoil 1.29 15 7.5 TN 459

Clark Y
.30c 1.95 12 4.0 TR 427
Plain flap
deflected 45
.30c 1.98 12 4.0 TR 427
Slotted flap
deflected 45
.30c 2.16 14 4.9 TN 422
Slit flap
deflected 45
.30c hinged at .80c 2.26 13 4.43 TN 422
Split flap (zap)
deflected 45
.30c hinged at .90c 2.32 12.5 4.45 TN 422
Split flap (zap)
deflected 45
.30c 2.82 13 4.55 TR 534
Fowler flap
deflected 40
.40c 3.09 14 4.1 TR 534
Fowler flap
deflected 40
Fixed slot 1.77 24 5.35 TR 427

Handley Page 1.04 28 4.1 TN 459

automatic slot
Fixed slot and 2.18 19 3.7 TR 427
.30c plain flap
deflected 45
Fixed slot and 2.26 18 3.77 TR 427
.30c slotted flap
deflected 45
Handley Page slot and 3.36 16 3.7 TN 459
.40c Fowler flap
deflected 40
Data taken form NACA 7 x 10 ft tunnel, wing AR=6, Re=609,000

Fig. 3.18. Effectiveness of Flaps and Slots on a Clark Y airfoil.

Some of the flaps have slots between the flap and the main wing and some both deflect and
extend. The Fowler flap, which deflects and extends to open a slot is seen to be the most
effective of the single flap systems, increasing C LMax by a factor of 2.4.

The leading edge slot and flap is also illustrated in Figure 3.18. It is seen that the
leading edge flap and slot can be very effective in increasing C LMax by itself and its use
with trailing edge flaps improves the performance of the wing even further.

The leading edge flap, slot of "slat" does not achieve its effectiveness through a change
in camber, because a camber change at the leading edge has very little effect; but works by
reducing the likelihood of flow separation and stall at high angles, much like an increased
leading edge radius or increased Reynolds number would. Figure 3.19 illustrates the basic
influence of the slot on an airfoils performance.

Figure 3.19. Effect of Leading Edge Slot

Figure 3.20 shows several types of leading edge devices which have been used on
wings. The first four do not incorporate slots and achieve their effect essentially by
providing an easier path for the flow to follow over the leading edge. This reduces the low
pressure peak experienced by the upper surface of the airfoil at high angles of attack since
the flow does not have to accelerate as rapidly to get around the leading edge.
Subsequently the following adverse pressure gradient is not as strong and separation is less

Figure 3.20. Leading Edge Devices

The other two devices shown in Figure 3.20 incorporate a slot of some type. The
leading edge flap with a slot is much more effective than one without it. The action of the
leading edge slot has often been incorrectly explained as that of a nozzle which directs high
speed air into the wing's boundary layer, "energizing" it so that it can continue on around
the wing without separating. However, an examination of the flow through the slot will
show that it is, in fact, a very low speed flow and that, instead of adding high speed air to
the flow above the wing, it slows the flow.

The slot effect is best understood if the main wing and the leading edge flap or slat are
viewed as two separate wings. If these two wings (A and B in Figure 3.21) were tested
alone at the orientation to the free stream shown, a pressure distribution similar to that
shown by the dashed lines in the plot would result. When the two are placed in proximity
to each other however, the blockage of flow through the slot slows the flow over the
bottom of wing A and the leading edge of wing B. This reduction in the velocity of the
flow has two effects. The most important effect is that by slowing the flow over the
leading edge of wing B, the low pressure peak is reduced in magnitude, thus reducing the
severity of the adverse pressure gradient which follows and delaying separation. This
means the wing can go to higher angles of attack before stall. As is always the case,
however, this benefit is not free. The solid line on the C P graph shows that the new
pressure distribution reduces the lift generated by the wing.

The loss of lift on wing B is more than counteracted by the increase i lift on wing A due
to the reduced velocity and hence, higher pressure below wing A. In actuality, the flow
around wing B results in an effective large positive angle of attack on wing A. The
pressure distribution on wing A thus changes as shown in Figure 3.21 and the lift on wing
A changes from negative to a large positive value.

The net effect of the flow over the two wings is a slotted airfoil which can go to high
angles of attack before separation and stall. In actuality, the total flow is a bit more
complicated than that just described and includes boundary layer interaction and
downstream influences. However, the essentials of the flow fit the above description.

Figure 3.21. Action of a Leading Edge Slot.

Slotted trailing edge flaps work on the same principle as that just described for the
leading edge slot. In this case the slots allow the trailing edge flaps to be deflected to very
large angles without flap stall. Modern transport aircraft which need to be able to cruise at
high speeds and land in reasonable distances often use multiple flap and slot systems such
as the one shown in Figure 3.22.

Fig. 3.22. Geometry of Leading Edge Slat and Triple Slotted Flap

A number of other devices exist which are intended to increase the maximum lift
coefficient of an airfoil. Most of these devices are in some way dependent on power from
the aircraft and are essentially boundary layer control devices. With non-power augmented
devices such as mechanical flaps and slats it is possible to achieve lift coefficients in the
range of 3.5 to 4.0. According to inviscid theory the upper limit on C L is 4 or about
12.5. Of course, this theory does not account for the effects of viscosity in retarding the
flow in the boundary layer and subsequent flow separation. By attempting to control the
boundary layer to prevent separation it is possible to achieve higher maximum lift

The two primary types of power augmented boundary layer control high lift devices
used have been suction and blowing. Boundary layer suction can be effective in
delaying separation on an airfoil. Suction is applied through a slot in the wing surface in
the region where the adverse pressure gradient would be likely to lead to separation. The
suction pulls away the "stale" boundary layer and, essentially a new boundary layer begins.
It is possible to roughly double C Lmax for an airfoil by using suction properly. The
improvement in C Lmax increases as the suction increases.

A certain amount of power is required to create the suction used to control the boundary
layer and this power usage must be accounted for. Since power used in a vehicle is usually
that used for propulsion to overcome drag and the use of suction for boundary layer control
must be considered as part of the total vehicle power requirement, this power is usually
treated as a drag penalty. Hence the question must always be asked whether or not the gain
in lift is worth the price paid.

Boundary layer blowing may be accomplished in several different ways and is more
common than suction as a boundary layer control device. Boundary layer control by
blowing is usually accomplished by introducing a jet through a slot such that the jet is
tangential to the boundary layer (Figure 3.23). This jet "energizes" the boundary layer by
introducing a high speed stream and by entraining fluid from outside the boundary layer.
Like suction similarly placed, boundary layer blowing on the wing's upper surface can
essentially double the C Lmax of the airfoil. Again, the power required for blowing must be
considered as a penalty and is usually treated as drag.

Blowing is often used to control the flow over the flaps where fluid is blown over the
flap either from a slot in the aft portion of the main airfoil or from a slot in the leading edge
of the flap itself. This can be extremely effective in increasing C Lmax for a wing by
preventing flow separation over the flaps at high wing angles of attack and high flap
deflection angles (Figure 3.24).

Fig. 3.23. Boundary Layer

Figure 3.24. Internally Blown Flaps

A type of blowıng with sinıilar effect is found in the externally flow flap (Figure 3.25)
where the jet engine or fan exhaust flows over the airfoil enhancing the normal flap, slot,
slat action to increase C Lmax . Engine placement is critical in this system and the exhaust
must be designed to cover as much of the wing as possible.

Many other types of boundary layer control, high lift devices exist or have been
investigated. These are too numerous to mention within the scope of this text. These
include the augmentor wing upper surface blowing, the Coanda effect, jet flaps and other

Figure 3.25. Externally Blown Flaps.


An examination of boundary layer behavior would show that a laminar boundary layer
causes less skin friction drag than a turbulent boundary layer; however, the turbulent
boundary layer is much better at resisting flow separation. Knowing this, NACA
researchers in the late 1930's and 1940's designed a low drag series of airfoils called
laminar flow airfoils. These airfoils, know as the NACA 6-series airfoils, were designed
to take advantage of the low skin friction of a laminar boundary layer by encouraging a
laminar flow over the first 30 to 50 percent of the airfoil surface.

In order to maintain laminar flow over a large portion of an airfoil something must be
done to prevent laminar-turbulent transition and to prevent flow separation, which occurs
rather easily in a laminar boundary layer. In the laminar flow airfoil this can be achieved at
low to moderate angles of attack by shaping the airfoil to produce a favorable pressure
gradient over the area where laminar flow is required. A favorable pressure gradient, that
is one where pressure is decreasing and flow is accelerating, has the effect of suppressing
the development of turbulence in the boundary layer. Laminar-turbulent transition in a
boundary layer is caused by the growth and merger of small scale turbulence disturbances
in the flow. The likelihood of the growth of these disturbances is spoken of in terms of
boundary layer stability and a favorable pressure gradient is a stabilizing one while an
adverse gradient is de-stabilizing.

The most straightforward way of creating a favorable pressure gradient on an airfoil is
to shape the wing in such a way that the flow accelerates relatively slowly over a large
portion of the wing. This is done primarily by reducing the leading edge radius to cut
down on large accelerations there, and by moving the maximum thickness of the airfoil
rearward. This will result in easier separation at high angles of attack and a lower C Lmax
but will give a lower drag at more moderate angles of attack hence, saving fuel in a long
distance cruise condition. Figure 3 26 shows the difference in wing shape and pressure
gradient between the conventional NACA 0015 airfoil and its laminar flow counterpart, the
NACA 653 -015.

Figure 3.26. Conventional and Laminar Flow Airfoils

Figure 3.27 shows the result of this change in comparing an NACA 2415 airfoil with a
NACA 64 2 -415 wing. Both airfoils are 15% thickness and have the same camber,
however the latter has a region of reduced drag coefficient over a range of C L from 0 to
0.5. This area of reduced C D is known as the "drag bucket" and it is this "bucket" that is
the primary characteristic of laminar flow airfoils. It should be noted that at C Ls above the
bucket, the drag of the laminar flow airfoil is actually higher than its conventional
counterpart because of the effect of the sharper leading edge at high , however the
reduction of drag coefficient by a factor of two in the drag bucket region may be more
important in a given wing design than the effects at higher angles of attack.

The position of the drag bucket can be changed as shown in Figure 3.28 with the first
digit in the second series of three numbers in the NACA designation referring to the value
of C L at the center of the drag bucket. This gives the designer an important tool, allowing
her or him to select a laminar flow airfoil which is best for his or her design. If an aircraft
is to be designed for long distance cruise and a C L of 0.2 is needed in cruise, the designer
can select the laminar flow airfoil which will position the drag bucket around the C L = 0.2
range, giving a low drag cruise and a high fuel economy in cruise. Likewise if a high
performance aircraft requires low drag during maneuvers and climbs where C L is high, the
drag bucket can be placed there.

Fig. 3.27: Drag Bucket for a Laminar Airfoil

Figure 3.28. Placement of Drag Bucket

Laminar flow airfoils have been used on almost all transport aircraft and on many
general aviation aircraft designed since about 1940. They can greatly reduce drag in cruise
and with proper use of flaps and other high lift devices it is still possible to achieve high
C Lmax values when needed for landing and takeoff. It should be noted however, that it is
possible to loose the drag bucket if sufficient dirt or roughness accumulates on the forward
part of the airfoil and, hence, such wings must be kept clean to work at their best.


The problem of drag rise, moment shift and lift loss during transonic flow was
discussed earlier. When the critical Mach number is reached, a shock wave forms on the
airfoil's upper surface and the flow is very likely to separate due to the large adverse
pressure gradient imposed by the shock. Anything which can be done to increase the
critical Mach number; i.e., delay the onset of the shock wave to a higher speed, will allow
higher speed subsonic flight with low drag. Hence a higher M crit will allow flight at
higher speed on a given amount of engine power or flight at the same speed as wings with
low M crit at reduced power and fuel levels.

The most obvious way to delay the onset of an upper wing surface shock is to reduce
the curvature of the upper surface in such a way that the flow does not accelerate to as high
a speed as it would with a conventional or even a laminar flow airfoil. With a "flatter"
upper surface the region of supersonic flow may be spread over a larger portion of the
airfoil and the flow does not accelerate to as high a supersonic speed. This accomplishes
two things, it delays the onset of the shock until a more aft position where any resulting
separation will affect less of the airfoil and it gives a weaker shock which is less likely to
cause separation. Because of the lower supersonic speeds over the airfoil the pressures
developed are not as low and lift due to the flow over the upper surface may be reduced
from that on a conventional airfoil. Hence, the new airfoil is designed with a large camber
created by a cusp in the lower surface at the trailing edge which creates enough lift to make
up for that lost on the upper surface. The resulting design is shown in Figure 3.29.

Figure 3.29. Supercritical Airfoils

The supercritical airfoil has proved to be very effective at lower speeds as well as in the
transonic regime. As of the mid 1970's supercritical airfoils were appealing on transport
designs for production in the 1980's and beyond. Low speed versions of the airfoil have
been tested on general aviation aircraft and are appearing on new models of such airplanes.
the airfoil design has an advantage of giving low drag with a relatively thick wing section
(13 to 21% thickness) and thus provides room for improved structure or fuel capacity. The
large thickness and large leading edge radius generally result in a higher C Lmax in low
speed applications.

The primary drawback for the supercritical airfoil design has been the large negative
pitching moment caused by the large magnitude of lift generated near its trailing edge.
Another problem has been in the manufacture of the sharp trailing edges which result from
the trailing edge cusp. It is, however, possible to design around these problems and the
supercritical airfoil is expected to be the wing used on most aircraft for the foreseeable


Most of the discussion in the previous sections of this chapter has dealt with two
dimensional airfoil behavior. A two dimensional airfoil is, of course, only a section or
slice of a 3-D airfoil and two dimensional airfoil aerodynamics must be considered the ideal
case. Three dimensional effects can often be thought of as simply factors which limit the
normal 2D performance of an airfoil. The two primary three dimensional factors which
affect wing performance are aspect ratio, AR, and wing sweep.

As mentioned in section 3.4 aspect ratio is a measure of the ratio of the span to the
mean chord. Aspect ratio has a significant effect on the performance of the total wing
because of wing tip losses. Ideally, the lift generated by an untapered wing would be
constant at every point along the span. However, due to flow around the wing tip there are
lift losses near the tip as shown in Figure 4.30. Since there is a lower pressure on top of
the wing than below the fluid will flow around the wingtip to the area of lower pressure.
This, therefore reduces the lift generated near the wingtip and must be considered as a 3-D
loss. This flow around the wingtip is also the source of the trailing vortex, a swirling flow
coming off of each wingtip.

The loss of lift at the tip of a 3-D wing goes inboard over some percentage of the
span. Hence, for a short stubby wing with low AR a greater percentage of the total wing
area experiences some tip loss than in a high aspect ratio wing. Therefore a high aspect
wing will produce more lift than a low aspect ratio wing of the same area and airfoil
section. The 3-D wing has a higher drag coefficient than the 2D airfoil and this additional
drag is inversely proportional to aspect ratio. The net result is that a high aspect ratio airfoil
has higher lift and lower drag than a low aspect ratio wing of the same area and airfoil

Figure 3.30. 3-D Airflow Effects

Wing sweep primarily affects the performance of a 3-D airfoil in the transonic flow
regime. The primary effect of sweeping the wing is to raise the critical Mach number of the
airfoil. The shock wave, which develops on an airfoil in transonic flow, is developed in
response to the component of the free stream to the line down the quarter chord of the
wing. Hence, for a given free stream velocity, the greater the wing sweep the lower will be
the component of velocity normal to the quarter chord line. It is not until this normal
component of the flow reaches the critical Mach number that the drag rise will occur and
even when it does occur the drag rise is not as great as in the unswept case. Figure 3.31
shows the effect of varymg degrees of sweep on one senes of wings.

Figure 3.31. Sweepback Effect on Drag Rise vs. Mach No.

As is the case with almost any change that is of benefit in some way a price must be
paid for the favorable effects of sweep. This price is sweep-induced cross flow tip stall.
The span-wise flow which results from the sweep can cause severe adverse pressure
gradients at the wing tips and tip stall. Severe structural as well as aerodynamic problems
can result.


A review of this chapter will show that almost all phenomena which occur on airfoils
can be understood in terms of simple pressure-velocity behavior and their effects on the
behavior and their effects on the behavior of the boundary layer. All that is needed for a
physical understanding of airfoil aerodynamics is an appreciation of the meaning of the
pressure-velocity relationship called Bernoullis equation. This, combined with a physical
feel for the meaning of laminar, turbulent and separated boundary layers can explain the
aerodynamic behavior of flow about any shape. Other texts will show how to take this
simple physical understanding and build it into a useful mathematical description of fluid



Now that we have examined the origins of the forces which act on an aircraft in the
atmosphere, we need to begin to examine the way these forces interact to determine the
performance of the vehicle. We know that the forces are dependent on things like
atmospheric pressure, density, temperature and viscosity in combinations that become
"similarity parameters" such as Reynolds number and Mach number. We also know that
these parameters will vary as functions of altitude within the atmosphere and we have a
model of a standard atmosphere to describe those variations. It is also obvious that the
forces on an aircraft will be functions of speed and that this is part of both Reynolds
number and Mach number.

Many of the questions we will have about aircraft performance are related to speed.
How fast can the plane fly or how slow can it go? How quickly can the aircraft climb?
What speed is necessary for lift-off from the runway?

In the previous section on dimensional analysis and flow similarity we found that the
forces on an aircraft are not functions of speed alone but of a combination of velocity and
density which acts as a pressure that we called dynamic pressure. This combination
appears as one of the three terms in Bernoulli's equation

1 2
P+ V = P0

which can be rearranged to solve for velocity

V = 2( P0 − P)

In chapter two we learned how a Pitot-static tube can be used to measure the difference
between the static and total pressure to find the airspeed if the density is either known or
assumed. We discussed both the sea level equivalent airspeed which assumes sea level
standard density in finding velocity and the true airspeed which uses the actual atmospheric
density. In dealing with aircraft it is customary to refer to the sea level equivalent airspeed
as the indicated airspeed if any instrument calibration or placement error can be
neglected. In this text we will assume that such errors can indeed be neglected and the term
indicated airspeed will be used interchangeably with sea level equivalent airspeed.

2( P0 − P )
VIND = Ve = VSL =

It should be noted that the equations above assume incompressible flow and are not
accurate at speeds where compressibility effects are significant. In theory, compressibility
effects must be considered at Mach numbers above 0.3; however, in reality, the above
equations can be used without significant error to Mach numbers of 0.6 to 0.7.

The airspeed indication system of high speed aircraft must be calibrated on a more
complicated basis which includes the speed of sound:

 
2a  P0 − P 
+1 −1 
− 1  SL 
 

where as l = speed of sound at sea level and P SL = pressure at sea level.

Gamma is the ratio of specific heats (Cp Cv ) for air.

Very high speed aircraft will also be equipped with a Mach indicator since Mach
number is a more relevant measure of aircraft speed at and above the speed of sound.

In the rest of this text it will be assumed that compressibility effects are negligible and
the incompressible form of the equations can be used for all speed related calculations.
Indicated airspeed (the speed which would be read by the aircraft pilot from the airspeed
indicator) will be assumed equal to the sea level equivalent airspeed. Thus the true airspeed
can be found by correcting for the difference in sea level and actual density. The correction
is based on the knowledge that the relevant dynamic pressure at altitude will be equal to the
dynamic pressure at sea level as found from the sea level equivalent airspeed:

 1 2 1
V ≡ Ve2
2  alt 2 SL

Ve = Valt = Valt

An important result of this equivalency is that, since the forces on the aircraft depend on
dynamic pressure rather than airspeed, if we know the sea level equivalent conditions of
flight and calculate the forces from those conditions, those forces (and hence the
performance of the airplane) will be correctly predicted based on indicated airspeed and sea
level conditions. This also means that the airplane pilot need not continually convert the
indicated airspeed readings to true airspeeds in order to gauge the performance of the
aircraft. The aircraft will always behave in the same manner at the same indicated airspeed
regardless of altitude (within the assumption of incompressible flow). This is especially
nice to know in take-off and landing situations!


Many of the important performance parameters of an aircraft can be determined using

only statics; ie., assuming flight in an equilibrium condition such that there are no
accelerations. This means that the flight is at constant altitude with no acceleration or
deceleration. This gives the general arrangement of forces shown below.

Figure 4.1 Static force balance in straight and level flight.

In this text we will consider the very simplest case where the thrust is aligned with the
aircraft's velocity vector. We will also normally assume that the velocity vector is aligned
with the direction of flight or flight path. For this most basic case the equations of motion



Note that this is consistent with the definition of lift and drag as being perpendicular and
parallel to the velocity vector or relative wind.

Now we make a simple but very basic assumption that in straight and level flight lift is
equal to weight,


We will use this so often that it will be easy to forget that it does assume that flight is
indeed straight and level. Later we will cheat a little and use this in shallow climbs and
glides, covering ourselves by assuming "quasi-straight and level" flight. In the final part of
this text we will finally go beyond this assumption when we consider turning flight.

Using the definition of the lift coefficient

CL = 1
V∞2 S

and the assumption that lift equals weight, the speed in straight and level flight becomes:


The thrust needed to maintain this speed in straight and level flight is also a function of
the aircraft weight. Since T = D and L = W we can write



T= W= DW

Therefore, for straight and level flight we find this relation between thrust and weight:

The above equations for thrust and velocity become our first very basic relations which
can be used to ascertain the performance of an aircraft


Earlier we discussed aerodynamic stall. For an airfoil (2-D) or wing (3-D), as the angle
of attack is increased a point is reached where the increase in lift coefficient, which
accompanies the increase in angle of attack, diminishes. When this occurs the lift
coefficient versus angle of attack curve becomes non-linear as the flow over the upper
surface of the wing begins to break away from the surface. This separation of flow may be
gradual usually progressing from the aft edge of the airfoil or wing and moving forward;
sudden, as flow breaks away from large portions of the wing at the same time; or some
combination of the two. The actual nature of stall will depend on the shape of the airfoil
section, the wing planform and the Reynolds number of the flow.

Figure 4.2

We define the stall angle of attack as the angle where the lift coefficient reaches a
maximum, CLmax, and use this value of lift coefficient to calculate a stall speed for straight
and level flight.

SCL max

Note that the stall speed will depend on a number of factors including altitude. If we look
at a sea level equivalent stall speed we have


It should be emphasized that stall speed as defined above is based on lift equal to
weight or straight and level flight. This is the stall speed quoted in all aircraft operating
manuals and used as a reference by pilots. It must be remembered that stall is only a
function of angle of attack and can occur at any speed. The definition of stall
speed used above results from limiting the flight to straight and level conditions where lift
equals weight. This stall speed is not applicable for other flight conditions. For example,
in a turn lift will normally exceed weight and stall will occur at a higher flight speed. The
same is true in accelerated flight conditions such as climb. For this reason pilots are taught
to handle stall in climbing and turning flight as well as in straight and level flight.

For most of this text we will deal with flight which is assumed straight and level and
therefore will assume that the straight and level stall speed shown above is relevant. This
speed usually represents the lowest practical straight and level flight speed for an aircraft
and is thus an important aircraft performance parameter.

We will normally define the stall speed for an aircraft in terms of the maximum gross
takeoff weight but it should be noted that the weight of any aircraft will change in flight as
fuel is used. For a given altitude, as weight changes the stall speed variation with weight
can be found as follows:


It is obvious that as a flight progresses and the aircraft weight decreases, the stall speed
also decreases. Since stall speed represents a lower limit of straight and level flight speed it
is an indication that an aircraft can usually land at a lower speed than the minimum takeoff

For many large transport aircraft the stall speed of the fully loaded aircraft is too high to
allow a safe landing within the same distance as needed for takeoff. In cases where an
aircraft must return to its takeoff field for landing due to some emergency situation (such as
failure of the landing gear to retract), it must dump or burn off fuel before landing in order
to reduce its weight, stall speed and landing speed. Takeoff and landing will be discussed
in a later chapter in much more detail.


While discussing stall it is worthwhile to consider some of the physical aspects of stall
and the many misconceptions that both pilots and the public have concerning stall.

To the aerospace engineer, stall is CLmax, the highest possible lifting capability of the
aircraft; but, to most pilots and the public, stall is where the airplane looses all lift! How
can it be both? And, if one of these views is wrong, why?

The key to understanding both perspectives of stall is understanding the difference

between lift and lift coefficient. Lift is the product of the lift coefficient, the dynamic
pressure and the wing planform area. For a given altitude and airplane (wing area) lift then
depends on lift coefficient and velocity. It is possible to have a very high lift coefficient CL
and a very low lift if velocity is low.

When an airplane is at an angle of attack such that CLmax is reached, the high angle of
attack also results in high drag coefficient. The resulting high drag normally leads to a
reduction in airspeed which then results in a loss of lift. In a conventionally designed
airplane this will be followed by a drop of the nose of the aircraft into a nose down attitude
and a loss of altitude as speed is recovered and lift regained. If the pilot tries to hold the
nose of the plane up, the airplane will merely drop in a nose up attitude. Pilots are taught to
let the nose drop as soon as they sense stall so lift and altitude recovery can begin as rapidly
as possible. A good flight instructor will teach a pilot to sense stall at its onset such that
recovery can begin before altitude and lift is lost.

It should be noted that if an aircraft has sufficient power or thrust and the high drag
present at CLmax can be matched by thrust, flight can be continued into the stall and post-
region. This is possible on many fighter aircraft and the post-stall flight realm offers many
interesting possibilities for maneuver in a fight.

The general public tends to think of stall as when the airplane drops out of the sly. This
can be seen in almost any newspaper report of an airplane accident where the story line will
read "the airplane stalled and fell from the sly, nosediving into the ground after the engine
failed". This kind of report has several errors. Stall has nothing to do with engines and an
engine loss does not cause stall. Sailplanes can stall without having an engine and every
pilot is taught how to fly an airplane to a safe landing when an engine is lost. Stall also
doesn't cause a plane to go into a dive. It is, however, possible for a pilot to panic at the
loss of an engine, inadvertently enter a stall, fail to take proper stall recovery actions and
perhaps "nosedive" into the ground.


As seen above, for straight and level flight, thrust must be equal to drag. Drag is a
function of the drag coefficient CD which is, in turn, a function of a base drag and an
induced drag.

CD = CD0 + CDi

We assume that this relationship has a parabolic form and that the induced drag coefficient
has the form

CDi = K L2.

We therefore write

CD = CD0 + K 2L .

K is found from inviscid aerodynamic theory to be a function of the aspect ratio and
planform shape of the wing

where e is unity for an ideal parabolic form of the lift distribution along the wing's span
and less than one for non-ideal spanwise lift distributions.

The drag coefficient relationship shown above is termed a parabolic drag "polar"
because of its mathematical form and is actually only valid for inviscid wing theory. In
this text we will use this equation as a first approximation to the drag behavior of an entire
airplane. While this is only an approximation, it is a fairly good one for an introductory
level performance course. It can, however, result in some unrealistic performance
estimates when used with some real aircraft data.

The drag of the aircraft is found from the drag coefficient, the dynamic pressure and the
wing planform area:

D = CD  V∞2 S


D = ( CD0 + KCL2)
V∞2 S
Realizing that for straight and level flight, lift is equal to weight and lift is a function of
the wing's lift coefficient, we can write:

CL = 1 = 1
V∞2 S V∞2 S
2 2


1 KW 2
D = CD0 V∞2 S + 1
2 V∞2 S

The above equation is only valid for straight and level flight for an aircraft
in incompressible flow with a parabolic drag polar.

Let's look at the form of this equation and examine its physical meaning. For a given
aircraft at a given altitude most of the terms in the equation are constants and we can write

D = AV 2 +
where A= SCD0
KW 2
B= 1

The first term in the equation shows that part of the drag increases with the square of
the velocity. This is the base drag term and it is logical that for the basic airplane shape the
drag will increase as the dynamic pressure increases. To most observers this is somewhat

Figure 4.3
The second term represents a drag which decreases as the square of the velocity
increases. It gives an infinite drag at zero speed, however, this is an unreachable limit for
normally defined, fixed wing (as opposed to vertical lift) aircraft. It should be noted that
this term includes the influence of lift or lift coefficient on drag. The faster an aircraft flies,
the lower the value of lift coefficient needed to give a lift equal to weight. Lift coefficient, it
is recalled, is a liner function of angle of attack (until stall). If an aircraft is flying straight
and level and the pilot maintains level flight while decreasing the speed of the plane, the
wing angle of attack must increase in order to provide the lift coefficient and lift needed to
equal the weight. As angle of attack increases it is somewhat intuitive that the drag of the
wing will increase. As speed is decreased in straight and level flight, this part of the drag
will continue to increase exponentially unto the stall speed is reached

Figure 4.4

Adding the two drag terms together gives the following figure which shows the complete
drag variation with velocity for an aircraft with a parabolic drag polar in straight and level

Figure 4.5


One obvious point of interest on the previous drag plot is the velocity for minimum
drag. This can, of course, be found graphically from the plot. We can also take a simple
look at the equations to find some other information about conditions for minimum drag.

The requirements for minimum drag are intuitively of interest because it seems that they
ought to relate to economy of flight in some way. Later we will find that there are certain
performance optima which do depend directly on flight at minimum drag conditions.

At this point we are talking about finding the velocity at which the airplane is flying at
minimum drag conditions in straight and level flight. It is important to keep this
assumption in mind. We will later find that certain climb and glide optima occur at these
same conditions and we will stretch our straight and level assumption to one of
"quasi"-level flight.

We can begin with a very simple look at what our lift, drag, thrust and weight balances
for straight and level flight tells us about minimum drag conditions and then we will move
on to a more sophisticated look at how the wing shape dependent terms in the drag polar
equation (CD0 and K) are related at the minimum drag condition. Ultimately, the most
important thing is the speed for flight at minimum drag because this is the quantity which
will enable the pilot to achieve such flight.

Let's look at our simple static force relationships:

L = W, T = D

to write

D = W × D L,

which says that minimum drag occurs when the drag divided by lift is a rninimum or,
inversely, when lift dinded by drag is a maximum.

This combination of parameters, L D , occurs often in looking at aircraft performance.

In general, it is usually intuitive that the higher the lift and the lower the drag, the better an
airplane. It is not as intuitive that the maximum lift-to drag ratio occurs at the same flight
conditions as minimum drag. This simple analysis, however, shows that


Note that since CL CD = L D we can also say that minimum drag occurs when CL CD is
maximum. It is important to note that minimum drag does not connote
minimum drag coefficient.

Minimum drag occurs at a single value of angle of attack where the lift coefficient
divided by the drag coefficient is a maximum:

Dmin when (CL CD ) max

As noted above, this is not at the same angle of attack at which CD is at a minimum. It is
also not the same angle of attack where lift coefficient is maximum. This should be rather
obvious since CLmax occurs at stall and drag is very high at stall.

 CL 
  ≠ CL max
 CD  max CD min

Since minimum drag is a function only of the ratio of the lift and drag coefficients and
not of altitude (density), the actual value of the minimum drag for a given aircraft at a given
weight will be invariant with altitude. The actual velocity at which minimum drag occurs is
a function of altitude and will generally increase as altitude increases.

If we assume a parabolic drag polar and plot the drag equation

D = CD0 V∞2 S + 2 KW SV∞2

for drag versus velocity at different altitudes the resulting curves will look somewhat like
the following:

Figure 4.6

Note that the minimum drag will be the same at every altitude as mentioned earlier and the
velocity for minimum drag will increase with altitude.

We discussed in an earlier section the fact that because of the relationship between
dynamic pressure at sea level with that at altitude, the aircraft would always perform the
same at the same indicated or sea level equivalent airspeed. Indeed, if one writes the drag
equation as a function of sea level density and sea level equivalent velocity a single curve
will result.

Figure 4.7

To find the drag versus velocity behavior of an aircraft it is then only necessary to do
calculations or plots at sea level conditions and then convert to the true airspeeds for flight
at any altitude by using the velocity relationship below.




We know that minimum drag occurs when the lift to drag ratio is at a maximum, but
when does that occur; at what value of CL or CD or at what speed?

One way to find CL and CD at minimum drag is to plot one versus the other as shown
below. The maximum value of the ratio of lift coefficient to drag coefficient will be where
a line from the origin just tangent to the curve touches the curve. At this point are the
values of CL and CD for minimum drag. This graphical method of finding the minimum
drag parameters works for any aircraft even if it does not have a parabolic drag polar.

Figure 4.8

Once CLmd and CDmd are found, the velocity for minimum drag is found from the
equation below, provided the aircraft is in straight and level flight


As we already know, the velocity for minimum drag can be found for sea level conditions
(the sea level equivalent velocity) and from that it is easy to find the minimum drag speed at

Ve MD =

It should also be noted that when the lift and drag coefficients for minimum drag are known
and the weight of the aircraft is known the minimum drag itself can be found from

Dmin =
( D)

For most of the examples considered in this text a parabolic drag polar will be assumed.
In such cases where we know the equation for drag, the minimum drag parameters can be
found analytically. For the parabolic drag polar


it is easy to take the derivative with respect to the lift coefficient and set it equal to zero to
determine the conditions for the minimum ratio of drag coefficient to lift coefficient, which
was a condition for minimum drag.



C 
d D 
 CL  CL (2KCL ) − CDO − KC2L
= =0

This gives

2K − K − =0





The above is the condition required for minimum drag to occur.

Now, we return to the drag polar


and for minimum drag we can write


which, with the above, gives

or CDO

From this we can find the value of the maximum lift-to-drag ratio in terms of basic
drag parameters

( L D)max = =

( L D)max

And the speed at which this occurs in straight and level flight is

2W 2W
VMD = =
So we can write the minimum drag velocity as

2W K
VMD = 4

or the sea level equivalent minimum drag speed

2W K
Ve MD = 4



At this point we know a lot about minimum drag conditions for an aircraft with a
parabolic drag polar in straight and level flight. The following equations may be
useful in the solution of many different performance problems to be considered later in this
text. There will be several flight conditions which will be found to be optimized when
flown at minimum drag conditions. It is therefore suggested that the student write the
following equations on a separate page in her or his class notes for easy reference.

Dmin = = 2W CDO K
( L D)max
2W K
VMD = 4
( L D)max = 12 CDO K


An aircraft which weighs 3000 pounds has a wing area of 175 square feet and an aspect
ratio of seven with a wing aerodynamic efficiency factor (e) of 0.95. If the base drag
coefficient, CDO, is 0.028, find the minimum drag at sea level and at 10,000 feet altitude,
the maximum lift-to-drag ratio and the values of lift and drag coefficient for minimum drag.
Also find the velocities for minimum drag in straight and level flight at both sea level and
10,000 feet.

We need to first find the term K in the drag equation.

Now we can find

Dmin = 2W CDO K = 220lb

CDMD = 2CDO = 0.056
CLMD = = 0.764
( L D)min = CLMD CDMD = =13.64

We can check this with

2 1
( L D) MAX = = = 13.64
2 CDO K 0.0733

The velocity for minimum drag is the first of these that depends on altitude.

2W K
VMD = 4

At sea level

ft 2 4 0.048
VMDS. L . = 14,430 = 137.5 ft sec.
sec 2 0.028

To find the velocity for minimum drag at 10,000 feet we an recalculate using the density at
that altitude or we can use

VMD10 K = SL
VMDSL = (137.5) =160 ft sec.
10 K 0.001756

It is suggested that at this point the student use the drag equation

D = CDO  V∞2 S + 2KW

2 V∞2 S

and make graphs of drag versus velocity for both sea level and 10,000 foot altitude
conditions, plotting drag values at 20 fps increments. The plots would confirm the above
values of minimum drag velocity and minimum drag.


One question which should be asked at this point but is usually not answered in a text
on aircraft performance is "Just how the heck does the pilot make that airplane
fly at minimum drag conditions anyway?"

The answer, quite simply, is to fly at the sea level equivalent speed for minimum drag
conditions. The pilot sets up or "trims" the aircraft to fly at constant altitude (straight and
level) at the indicated airspeed (sea level equivalent speed) for minimum drag as given in
the aircraft operations manual. All the pilot need do is hold the speed and
altitude constant.


For the purposes of an introductory course in aircraft performance we have limited

ourselves to the discussion of lower speed aircraft; ie, airplanes operating in incompressible
flow. As discussed earlier, analytically, this would restrict us to consideration of flight
speeds of Mach 0.3 or less (less than 300 fps at sea level), however, physical realities of
the onset of drag rise due to compressibility effects allow us to extend our use of the
incompressible theory to Mach numbers of around 0.6 to 0.7. This is the range of Mach
number where supersonic flow over places such as the upper surface of the wing has
reached the magnitude that shock waves may occur in flow deceleration resulting in energy
losses through the shock and in drag rises due to shock-induced flow separation over the
wing surface. This drag rise was discussed in Chapter 2.

As speeds rise to the region where compressiblility effects must be considered we must
take into account the speed of sound a and the ratio of specific heats of air, gamma.

a 2 = RT = P , = CP CV , P = RT

Gamma for air at normal lower atmospheric temperatures has a value of 1.4.

Starting again with the relation for a parabolic drag polar, we can multiply and divide
by the speed of sound to rewrite the relation in terms of Mach number.

D =  CDO V 2 S + 2KW 2 SV 2 
1 P
 2  P

where M2 = V 2 a2 = V2 P

or D= SPC DO M 2 + 2W 2 K SPM 2

The resulting equation above is very similar in form to the original drag polar relation and
can be worked with mathmatically in a similar fashion. For example, to find the Mach
number for minimum drag in straight and level flight we would take the derivative with
respect to Mach number and set the result equal to zero. The complication is that some
terms which we considered constant under incompressible conditions such as K and CDO
may now be functions of Mach number and must be so evaluated.

dD SPM2 dCDO 4W 2 K 2W 2 dK
= SPCDO M + − + =0
dM 2 dM SPM 2 SPM 2 dM

Often the equation above must be solved itteratively.


To this point we have examined the drag of an aircraft based primarily on a simple
model using a parabolic drag representation in incompressible flow. We have further
restricted our analysis to straight and level flight where lift is equal to weight and thrust
equals drag.

The aircraft can fly straight and level at a wide range of speeds, provided there is
sufficient power or thrust to equal or overcome the drag at those speeds. The student needs
to understand the physical aspects of this flight.

We looked at the speed for straight and level flight at minimum drag conditions. One
could, of course, always cruise at that speed and it might, in fact, be a very economical
way to fly (we will examine this later in a discussion of rang and endurance). However,
since "time is money" there may be reason to cruise at higher speeds. It also might just be
more fun to fly faster. Flight at higher than minimum drag speeds will require less angle of
attack to produce the needed lift (to equal weight) and the upper speed limit will be
determined by the maximum thrust or power available from the engine.

Cruise at lower than minimum drag speeds may be desired when flying approaches to
landing or when flying in holding patterns or when flying other special purpose missions.
This will require a higher than minimum drag angle of attack and the use of more thrust or
power to overcome the resulting increase in drag. The lower limit in speed could also be
the result of the drag reaching the magnitude of the power or the thrust available from the
engine; however, it will normally result from the angle of attack reaching the stall angle.
Hence, stall speed normally represents the lower limit on straight and level cruise speed.

It must be remembered that all of the preceding is based on an assumption of straight

and level flight. If an aircraft is flying straight and level at a given speed and power or
thrust is added, the plane will initially both accelerate and climb until a new straight and
level equilibrium is reached at a higher altitude. The pilot can control this addition of
energy by changing the plane's attitude (angle of attack) to direct the added energy into the
desired combination of speed increase and/or altitude increase. If the engine output is
decreased, one would normally expect a decrease in altitude and/or speed, depending on
pilot control input.

We must now add the factor of engine output, either thrust or power, to our
consideration of performance. It is normal to refer to the output of a jet engine as thrust
and of a propeller engine as power. We will first consider the simpler of the two cases,


We have said that for an aircraft in straight and level flight, thrust must equal drag. If
the thrust of the aircraft's engine exceeds the drag for straight and level flight at a given
speed, the airplane will either climb or accelerate or do both. It could also be used to make
turns or other maneuvers. The drag encountered in straight and level flight could therefore
be called the thrust required (for straight and level flight). The thrust produced actually
by the engine will be referred to as the thrust available.

Although we can speak of the output of any aircraft engine in terms of thrust, it is
conventional to refer to the thrust of jet engines and the power of prop engines. A
propeller, of course, produces thrust just as does the flow from a jet engine; however, for
an engine powering a propeller (either piston or turbine), the output of the engine itself is
power to a shaft. Thus when speaking of such a propulsion system most references are to
its power. When speaking of the propeller itself, thrust terminology may be used.

The units employed for discussions of thrust are Newtons in the SI system and pounds
in the English system. Since the English units of pounds are still almost universally used
when speaking of thrust, they will normally be used here.

Thrust is a function of many variables including efficiencies in various parts of the

engine, throttle setting, altitude, Mach number and velocity. A complete study of engine
thrust will be left to a later propulsion course. For our purposes very simple models of
thrust will suffice with assumptions that thrust varies with density (altitude) and throttle
setting and possibly, velocity. In fact, we will often assume that thrust is invariant with
velocity for a simple jet engine.

If we know the thrust variation with velocity and altitude for a given aircraft we can add
the engine thrust curves to the drag curves for straight and level flight for that aircraft as
shown below. We will normally assume that since we are interested in the limits of
performance for the aircraft we are only interested in the case of 100% throttle setting. It is
obvious that other throttle settings will give thrusts at any point below the 100% curves for

Figure 4.9

In the figure above it should be noted that, although the terminology used is thrust and
drag, it may be more meaningful to call these curves thrust available and thrust
required when referring to the engine output and the aircraft drag, respectively.


The intersections of the thrust and drag curves in the figure above obviously represent
the minimum and maximum flight speeds in straight and level flight. Above the maximum
speed there is insufficient thrust available from the engine to overcome the drag (thrust
required) of the aircraft at those speeds. The same is true below the lower speed
intersection of the two curves.

The true lower speed limitation for the aircraft is usually imposed by stall rather than the
intersection of the thrust and drag curves. Stall speed may be added to the graph as shown

Figure 4.10

The area between the thrust available and the drag or thrust required curves can be
called the flight envelope. The aircraft can fly straight and level at any speed between these
upper and lower speed intersection points. Between these speed limits there is excess
thrust available which can be used for flight other than straight and level flight. This excess
thrust can be used to climb or turn or maneuver in other ways. We will look at some of
these maneuvers in a later chapter. For now we will limit our investigation to the realm of
straight and level flight.

Note that at the higher altitude, the decrease in thrust available has reduced the "flight
envelope", bringing the upper and lower speed limits closer together and reducing the
excess thrust between the curves. As thrust is continually reduced with increasing altitude,
the flight envelope will continue to shrink until the upper and lower speeds become equal
and the two curves just touch. This can be seen more clearly in the figure below where all
data is plotted in terms of sea level equivalent velocity. In the example shown, the thrust
available at 22,000 feet falls entirely below the drag or thrust required curve. This means
that the aircraft can not fly straight and level at that altitude. That altitude is said to be above
the "ceiling" for the aircraft. At some altitude between 20,000 and 22,000 feet there will
be a thrust available curve which will just touch the drag curve. That altitude will be the
ceiling altitude of the airplane, the altitude at which the plane can only fly at a single speed.
We will have more to say about ceiling definitions in a later section.

Figure 4.11

Another way to look at these same speed and altitude limits is to plot the intersections of the
thrust and drag curves on the above figure against altitude as shown below. This shows
another version of a flight envelope in terms of altitude and velocity. This type of plot is
more meaningful to the pilot and to the flight test engineer since speed and altitude are two
parameters shown on the standard aircraft instruments and thrust is not.

Figure 4.12

It may also be meaningful to add to the figure above a plot of the same data using
actual airspeed rather than the indicated or sea level equivalent airspeeds. This can be done
rather simply by using the square root of the density ratio (sea level to altitude) as discussed
earlier to convert the equivalent speeds to actual speeds. This is shown on the graph
below. Note that at sea level V = Ve and also there will be some altitude where there is a
maximum true airspeed.

Figure 4.13


A very simple model is often employed for thrust from a jet engine. The assumption is
made that thrust is constant at a given altitude. We will use this assumption as our standard
model for all jet aircraft unless otherwise noted in examples or problems. Later we will
discuss models for variation of thrust with altitude.

The above model (constant thrust at altitude) obviously makes it possible to find a
rather simple analytical solution for the intersections of the thrust available and drag (thrust
required) curves. We will let thrust equal a constant

T = T0

therefore, in straight and level flight where thrust equals drag, we can write

T0 = D = CD  V∞2 S = CDqS

where q is a commonly used abbreviation for the dynamic pressure.

T0 = CDOqS + KW 2 qS

T0 qS = CDO ( qS) + KW 2

and rearranging as a quadratic equation

CDO (qS ) − T0 ( qS) + KW 2 = 0


Solving the above equation gives

1 T 1 T02 4KW 2
qS = V∞2 S = 0 ± 2

 T0 
T0 4KW 2
V = ±   −

CDO S  CDO S  CDO 2 S2

In terms of the sea level equivalent speed

 T0 
V =
±   − 4KW2 2

These solutions are, of course, double valued. The higher velocity is the maximum
straight and level flight speed at the altitude under consideration and the lower solution is
the nominal minimum straight and level flight speed (the stall speed will probably be a
higher speed, representing the true minimum flight speed).

There are, of course, other ways to solve for the intersection of the thrust and drag
curves. Sometimes it is convenient to solve the equations for the lift coefficients at the
minimum and maximum speeds. To set up such a solution we first return to the basic
straight and level flight equations T = T 0 = D and L = W.

= = =

CL2 − + =0
solving for CL

T0 1  T0  2 4CDO
CL = ± −
2KW 2  KW  K

This solution will give two values of the lift coefficient. The larger of the two values
represents the minimum flight speed for straight and level flight while the smaller C L
is for the maximum flight speed. The matching speed is found from the relation



The figure below shows graphically the case discussed above. From the solution of the
thrust equals drag relation we obtain two values of either lift coefficient or speed, one for
the maximum straight and level flight speed at the chosen altitude and the other for the
minimum flight speed. The stall speed will probably exceed the minimum straight and level
flight speed found from the thrust equals drag solution, making it the true minimum flight

Figure 4.14

As altitude increases T0 will normally decrease and VMIN and VMAX will move together
until at a ceiling altitude they merge to become a single point.

It is normally assumed that the thrust of a jet engine will vary with
altitude in direct proportion to the variation in density. This assumption is
supported by the thrust equations for a jet engine as they are derived from
the momentum equations introduced in chapter one of this text. We can
therefore write



Earlier in this chapter we looked at a 3000 pound aircraft with a 175 square foot wing
area, aspect ratio of seven and CDO of 0.028 with e = 0.95. Let us say that the aircraft is
fitted with a small jet engine which has a constant thrust at sea level of 400 pounds. Find
the maximum and minimum straight and level flight speeds for this aircraft at sea level and
at 10,000 feet assuming that thrust available varies proportionally to density.

If, as earlier suggested, the student, (yes you!) plotted the drag curves for this aircraft,
a graphical solution is simple. One need only add a straight line representing 400 pounds
to the sea level plot and the intersections of this line with the sea level drag curve give the
answer. The same can be done with the 10,000 foot altitude data, using a constant thrust
reduced in proportion to the density.
Given a standard atmosphere density of 0.001756 sl ft3 , the thrust at 10,000 feet will
be 0.739 times the sea level thrust or 296 pounds. Using the two values of thrust available
we can solve for the velocity limits at sea level and at l0,000 ft.

 T0 
V =
±   − 4KW2 2
 CDO SL S 

= 34357 ± 8.2346 × 108

= 63053 or 5661

VSL = 251 ft sec (max )

or = 75 ft sec (min)

Thus the equation gives maximum and minimum straight and level flight speeds as 251 and
75 feet per second respectively.

It is suggested that the student do similar calculations for the 10,000 foot altitude case.
Note that one cannot simply take the sea level velocity solutions above and convert them to
velocities at altitude by using the square root of the density ratio. The equations must be
solved again using the new thrust at altitude. The student should also compare the
analytical solution results with the graphical results.

As mentioned earlier, the stall speed is usually the actual minimum flight speed. If the
maximum lift coefficient has a value of 1.2, find the stall speeds at sea level and add them
to your graphs.


The engine output of all propeller powered aircraft is expressed in terms of power.
Power is really energy per unit time. While the propeller output itself may be expressed as
thrust if desired, it is common to also express it in terms of power.

While at first glance it may seem that power and thrust are very different parameters,
they are related in a very simple manner through velocity. Power is thrust multiplied by
velocity. The units for power are Newton-meters per second or watts in the SI system
and horsepower in the English system. As before, we will use primarily the English
system. The reason is rather obvious. The author challenges anyone to find any pilot,
mechanic or even any automobile driver anywhere in the world who can state the power
rating for their engine in watts! Watts are for light bulbs: horsepower is for engines!
Actually, our equations will result in English system power units of foot-pounds per
second. The conversion is

one HP = 550 foot-pounds/second.

We will speak of two types of power; power available and power required.
Power required is the power needed to overcome the drag of the aircraft

PREQ = D × V.

Power available is equal to the thrust multiplied by the velocity.

PAV = T × V.

It should be noted that we can start with power and find thrust by dividing by velocity,
or we can multiply thrust by velocity to find power. There is no reason for not talking
about the thrust of a propeller propulsion system or about the power of a jet engine. The
use of power for propeller systems and thrust for jets merely follows convention and also
recognizes that for a jet, thrust is relatively constant with speed and for a prop, power is
relatively invariant with speed.

Power available is the power which can be obtained from the propeller.
Recognizing that there are losses between the engine and propeller we will distinguish
between power available and shaft horsepower. Shaft horsepower is the power
transmitted through the crank or drive shaft to the propeller from the engine. The engine
may be piston or turbine or even electric or steam. The propeller turns this shaft power
(Ps) into propulsive power with a certain propulsive efficiency, P.


The propulsive efficiency is a function of propeller speed, flight speed, propeller design
and other factors.

It is obvious that both power available and power required are functions of speed, both
because of the velocity term in the relation and from the variation of both drag and thrust
with speed. For the ideal jet engine which we assume to have a constant thrust, the
variation in power available is simply a linear increase with speed.

Figure 4.15

It is interesting that if we are working with a jet where thrust is constant with respect to
speed, the equations above give zero power at zero speed. This is not intuitive but is
nonetheless true and will have interesting consequences when we later examine rates of

Another consequence of this relationship between thrust and power is that if power
is assumed constant with respect to speed (as we will do for prop aircraft) thrust
becomes infinite as speed approaches zero. This means that a Cessna 152 when
standing still with the engine running has infinitely more thrust than a Boeing 747 with
engines running full blast. It also has more power! What an ego boost for the
private pilot!

In using the concept of power to examine aircraft performance we will do much the
same thing as we did using thrust. We will speak of the intersection of the power required
and power available curves determining the maximum and minimum speeds. We will find
the speed for minimum power required. We will look at the variation of these with altitude.
The graphs we plot will look like that below.

Figure 4.16
While the maximum and minimum straight and level flight speeds we determine from
the power curves will be identical to those found from the thrust data, there will be some
differences. One difference can be noted from the figure above. Unlike minimum drag,
which was the same magnitude at every altitude, minimum power will be different at every
altitude. This means it will be more complicated to collapse the data at all altitudes into a
single curve.


The power required plot will look very similar to that seen earlier for thrust required
(drag). It is simply the drag multiplied by the velocity. If we continue to assume a
parabolic drag polar with constant values of CDO and K we have the following relationship
for power required:

1 3  1 2KW 2
P = DV = CD  V∞ S  = CDO V∞ S +

2 2 V∞ S

We can plot this for given values of CDO, K, W and S (for a given aircraft) for various
altitudes as shown in the following example.

Figure 4.17

We will note that the minimum values of power will not be the same at each altitude.
Recalling that the minimum values of drag were the same at all altitudes and that power
required is drag times velocity, it is logical that the minimum value of power increases
linearly with velocity. We should be able to draw a straight line from the origin through the
minimum power required points at each altitude.

The minimum power required in straight and level flight can, of course be taken
from plots like the one above. We would also like to determine the values of lift and drag
coefficient which result in minimum power required just as we did for minimum drag.

One might assume at first that minimum power for a given aircraft occurs at the same
conditions as those for minimum drag. This is, of course, not true because of the added
dependency of power on velocity. We can begin to understand the parameters which
influence minimum required power by again returning to our simple force balance
equations for straight and level flight

W C 2W
D= D =W D, V =
PR = DV = W V =W D

2W 3 CD
PR =
S CL3 2

Thus, for a given aircraft (weight and wing area) and altitude (density) the minimum
required power for straight and level flight occurs when the drag coefficient divided by the
lift coefficient to the two-thirds power is at a minimum.

PRmin when (CD CL3 2 )min

Assuming a parabolic drag polar, we can write an equation for the above ratio of
coefficients and take its derivative with respect to the lift coefficient (since CL is linear with
angle of attack this is the same as looking for a maximum over the range of angle of attack)
and set it equal to zero to find a maximum.

d  CDO + KCL2 
( CD CL3 2 ) =
 =0
dCL dCL  C3L 2 

CL32 (2KCL ) − ( CDO + KC2L ) C1L 2 = 0

3CDO = KCL 2

CLmin P =

Note that


The lift coefficient for minimum required power is higher (1.732 times) than that for
minimum drag conditions.

Knowing the lift coefficient for minimum required power it is easy to find the speed at
which this will occur.

2W 2W K
VMP = = 4

Note that the velocity for minimum required power is lower than that for minimum drag.


VMP =   VMD = 0.76 VMD


The minimum power required and minimum drag velocities can both be found
graphically from the power required plot. Minimum power is obviously at the bottom of
the curve. Realizing that drag is power divided by velocity and that a line drawn from the
origin to any point on the power curve is at an angle to the velocity axis whose tangent is
power divided by velocity, then the line which touches the curve with the smallest angle
must touch it at the minimum drag condition. From this we can graphically determine the
power and velocity at minimum drag and then divide the former by the latter to get the
minimum drag. Note that this graphical method works even for nonparabolic drag cases.
Since we know that all altitudes give the same minimum drag, all power required curves for
the various altitudes will be tangent to this same line with the point of tangency being the
minimum drag point.

Figure 4.18

One further item to consider in looking at the graphical representation of power required
is the condition needed to collapse the data for all altitudes to a single curve. In the case of
the thrust required or drag this was accomplished by merely plotting the drag in terms of
sea level equivalent velocity. That will not work in this case since the power required curve
for each altitude has a different minimum. Plotting all data in terms of Ve would compress
the curves with respect to velocity but not with respect to power. The result would be a
plot like the following:

Figure 4.19

Knowing that power required is drag times velocity we can relate the power required at
sea level to that at any altitude.

DVe = DV = DV
1 2KW 2
P = CDO SV +

2 SL e SL SVe

The result is that in order to collapse all power required data to a single curve we must plot
power multiplied by the square root of sigma versus sea level equivalent velocity. This,
therefore, will be our convention in plotting power data.

Figure 4.20

In the preceding we found the following equations for the determination of minimum
power required conditions:

PRmin when (CD CL3 2 )min , when 3CDO = KCL2

2W K
VMP = 4 = 0.76 VMD

We can also write



Thus, the drag coefficient for minimum power required conditions is twice that for
minimum drag. We also can write

( L D) MP = = = 0.866 ( L D) max

Since minimum power required conditions are important and will be used later to find
other performance parameters it is suggested that the student write the above relationships
on a special page in his or her notes for easy reference.

Later we will take a complete look at dealing with the power available. If we know the
power available we can, of course, write an equation with power required equated to power
available and solve for the maximum and minimum straight and level flight speeds much as
we did with the thrust equations. The power equations are, however not as simple as the
thrust equations because of their dependence on the cube of the velocity. Often the best
solution is an itterative one.

If the power available from an engine is constant (as is usually assumed for a prop
engine) the relation equating power available and power required is

1 2KW 2

2 VS

For a jet engine where the thrust is modeled as a constant the equation reduces to that used
when thrust was discussed.


For the same 3000 lb airplane used in earlier examples calculate the velocity for minimum

2W K
VMPSL = 4 = 14430 4 0.5714

VMPSL = 104.44 ft sec

It is suggested that the student make plots of the power required for straight and level
flight at sea level and at 10,000 feet altitude and graphically verify the above calculated
values. It is also suggested that from these plots the student find the speeds for minimum
drag and compare them with those found earlier.


Through the basic power and thrust performance curves considered in the last chapter
we have been able to investigate the straight and level flight performance of an aircraft. We
must now add another dimension to our study of performance, that of changes in altitude.
We know that from the straight and level data we can determine the theoretical maximum
altitude, or ceiling, for a given aircraft. The question to be answered now is how do we get
the aircraft from one altitude to the other? This discussion must include the investigation of
possible rates of climb and descent, the distance over the ground needed to climb a given
altitude and the range of the aircraft in a glide. How fast can I get from altitude A to altitude
B? How far can I glide after my engine fails? If I take off 600 feet from the end of the
runway, can I clear the trees ahead?

To look at altitude changes we need to think in terms of energy changes. In climb we

are turning kinetic and internal (engine) energy into an increase in potential energy. In a
glide we are converting potential energy into velocity (kinetic energy) which will give us
needed lift for flight.

One of the questions above involved the rate of climb. In climbing, the aircraft is
increasing its potential energy. Rate of climb then involves the change of potential energy
in a given time. The engine provides the needed energy for climb and the engine energy
output per unit time is power (work per unit time). We are aware that a certain amount of
power is required for straight and level flight at a given speed. To climb at that same speed
then requires extra power and the amount of that extra power will determine the rate at
which climb will occur. The maximum rate of climb at a given speed will then depend on
the difference between the power available from the engine at that speed and the power
required for straight and level flight. This can be determined from the power performance
information studied in the last chapter.

The concept of adding power to increase altitude (climb) is usually not intuitive. Most
of us are conditioned by experience with cars, boats and bicycles to think of speed increase
as a consequence of adding power. These, of course, are vehicles limited to the altitude of
the road or water surface. If we think about a car going over a hill, however, the process is
not hard to understand. If a car is traveling at, say, 55 mph (since none of us would think
of driving at speeds over the limit!) and we start up a hill holding the accelerator (throttle)
steady, the car will decelerate as it climbs the hill. To maintain our 55 mph as we move up
the hill we must add power. The same is true in an aircraft.

One of the most difficult things for a flight instructor to teach a new pilot is that the
throttle controls the altitude and the control stick or yoke controls the speed. This is, of
course, not entirely true since the two controls are used simultaneously; however, this is
the analogy that will best serve the pilot in a difficult situation. For example, on an
approach to landing the pilot is attempting to hold a steady descent toward the runway. If a
sudden downdraft causes a loss of altitude the pilot must take immediate action to regain the

lost altitude or run the risk of an unplanned encounter with the ground short of the runway!
Pulling back on the control to bring the nose of the aircraft up is the most common
instinctive response since the aircraft is descending with the nose down. This will,
however, merely increase the angle of attack and result in a reduction in speed, possibly
leading to stall and certainly leading to further loss of lift and altitude. The proper
response, adding power, will result in a climb to recover from the altitude loss. The
ultimate control of the aircraft in such a circumstance will require the coordinated use of
both controls to regulate both speed and altitude during this most difficult phase of flight.

The pilot in the above situation is not going to stop think about her or his aircraft's
power available or power required performance curves. This is the job of the engineer who
designs the airplane to be able to meet the pilot's needs in such a situation. This is our job
in the sections that follow. In this study we must add an angle to our previous illustration
of the balance of forces on the airplane. This will be the angle of climb, , which will be
considered positive in a climb and negative in a glide or descent.

Figure 5.1


The first case we will consider will be the simple case of non-powered descent, or
glide. This is a very important performance situation for an aircraft since all aircraft are
susceptible to engine failure. One of the first things a student pilot is taught to do is to
properly handle an "engine-out" in his or her aircraft; how to set up the best speed to
optimize the rate of descent in order to allow maximum time to call for help, restart the
engine, prepare for an emergency landing, etc. For some aircraft of course, the unpowered
glide is normal. Sailplanes and hang gliders come to mind immediately but one should also
consider that the Space Shuttle is nothing but an airplane with an "engine-out" in its descent
from orbit to landing!

In an unpowered glide there are only three forces acting on the aircraft, lift, drag and
weight. These forces must reach an equilibrium state in the glide. It is up to the pilot to
make sure that the equilibrium reached is optimum for survival and, in most aircraft, it is up
to the aircraft designer to make the airplane so that it will seek a reasonable equilibrium
position on its own. The airplane which stalls and goes into a spin upon loss of an engine
will not be very popular with most pilots! We must now determine what those optimum
conditions are.

Using the figure above and using a thrust of zero we can write the following two
simple force balance relations in the lift and drag directions:

L − W cos = 0
−D − W sin = 0.

Dividing the second equation by the first gives

Tan = − D L =
( )

There's that term again, L D !

This tells us a very simple and very important fact: the glide angle depends only
on the lift-to-drag ratio.

= − andTan =
( )
g g .

Something seems wrong here. Does this mean that glide angle has nothing to do with
the weight of the aircraft? It sure seems lice a heavy airplane wouldn't glide like a light
one. Will a Boeing 747 glide just like a Cessna 152? What about the Space Shuttle?

Yes, the equation doesn't contain the weight of the aircraft even though it was in the
original force balance equations. The glide angle depends only on the lift-to-drag ratio and
that ratio depends on parameters such as CD 0 , K and e as discussed in the last chapter.

But doesn't the fact that there must be sufficient lift to support the weight (or at least
most of it) mean that weight really is a factor? Not really, since drag is also seen to be a
function of weight and in the ratio of lift-to-drag, the weight "divides outs" of the
relationship. A Boeing 747 can indeed glide as well as a Cessna 152.

So, what are our concerns in a glide? Essentially we want to know how far the aircraft
can glide (range) and how long will it take to reach the ground (endurance).

We will look at the range assuming an absence of any natural wind. This is, of course,
rarely the case in real life but is the easiest case for us to examine. We will also assume a
steady glide, meaning that the pilot has set (or trimmed) the aircraft such that it will hold the
selected angle of glide during the entire descent. The geometry of the situation is rather
simple as shown below.

Figure 5.2

From the figure it is clear that the glide angle is the arctangent of the change in altitude
divided by the range.

h2 − h1
tan g =

This gives a range of:

h2 − h1
tan g

and since the tangent of the glide angle is simply the lift-to-drag ratio we have

R= (h − h1)
D 2
Maximum range in a glide occurs at the maximum-to-drag ratio; ie, at
minimum drag conditions! We already know how to find anything we may wish to
know about minimum drag conditions so we know how to determine conditions for
maximum range in an unpowered glide.

To the pilot this means that he or she must, upon loss of engine power, trim the aircraft
to glide at the indicated (sea level equivalent) airspeed for minimum drag, a speed which the
engineer has provided in the aircraft owner's handbook, if maximum range is
desired. The pilot would then fly the aircraft to hold the desired speed in the glide.

Usually, maximum range is not the most desirable goal in an "engine-out" situation.
The best solution is usually to optimize the time before "ground encounter" (hopefully a
landing!). This means going for minimum rate of descent rather than maximum range.
This is, again, one of those things which may not be intuitive to most people, even to
pilots, and there are many cases where planes have crashed as pilots tried unsuccessfully to
stretch their range after loosing an engine. Wind, which wasn't included in the above
calculations, can cut range to zero or can enhance it. Distances are hard to judge from the
air. Student pilots are taught that in an "engine-out" situation it is time that should be
optimized rather than range. The pilot needs to know the airspeed for minimum rate of
descent rather than for maximum range in order to trim the aircraft for a descent which will
allow the maximum time to try to restart the engine, to prepare for an emergency landing, to
radio for help, etc. This means we are interested in the rate of descent.

Looking at rate of descent is a little more complicated than looking at range. We will
consider two cases, the small glide angle case where we can make some simplifying
assumptions and the general or large angle case. In looking at the small angle case we will
use the usual mathmatical assumption that the cosine of an angle is close enough to unity
that we can approximate it as one. The usual limit of this assumption is about 5 degrees
since a check on our calculator will show that cos 5˚ = 0.099619. However, our angle of
interest is the glide angle which we already know is equal to the arc-tangent of D L . We
would also like to assume that the sine of that angle is approximately equal to its tangent.
Because of this we will stretch the applicability of the small angle rationalization to include
glide angles up to about 15 degrees.

(At fifteen degrees the cosine is 0.9659, so we are still within 5% to of our goal of
cosine = 1.0. This is usually pretty good in the real world. Also the tangent of fifteen
degrees is 0.2679 while the sine is 0.2588, making our sine = tangent assumption good
with less than 4% error.)

A useful result of the small angle assumption is that it will allow us to further assume
that lift is approximately equal to weight. Since we had

L − W cos = 0

and if

cos =˜ 1 then L =˜ W.

This might be referred to as "quasi-level" flight. The main advantage of this

assumption is that it allows us to continue to relate velocity to weight through

V =˜

even though flight isn't really straight and level.

dh ˙
Now we want to begin to look at rate of change of altitude, dh dt where =h.
This is the rate of climb when defined in terms of a positive change of

Figure 5.3

From the figure above we see that the rate of climb is equal to the plane's airspeed
multiplied by the sine of the angle of climb. Referring to our earlier force balance equations
for the glide case (no thrust) we can write

−D − W sin = 0
sin = −D W

and using the small angle assumption that weight is approximately equal to lift gives

h˙ = V sin = −VD W =˜ −V D L

Changing to a form which uses the force coefficients

C 
h˙ =˜ −V  D  .
 CL 

Now use the other small ande assumption for velocity

V =˜ ,

we have

 2W   CD 
h˙ ≅ −   
 SCL   CL 

or finally

 2W   CD 
h˙ =˜ −   
 S   C3L 2 

Note that this is a negative rate of climb since we are looking at the case of glide or descent
(we assumed no thrust).

From the above it is obvious that for the minimum rate of descent for a given aircraft
and altitude will occur when CD CL3 2 is at a minimum. Looking back at our study of
power in the previous chapter we find that this is the same condition found for
minimum power required.

In review, we have found the conditions needed for flight in an unpowered glide for
two optimum cases, minimum rate of descent and maximum range with no wind. These
are found to occur when the descending aircraft is trimmed to hold an indicated airspeed for
minimum power required conditions and for minimum drag, respectively. We know
everything about both of these conditions from the previous chapter's discussion.

We have found that for any glide, the range with no wind is

R= (h2 − h1) = L (h2 − h1),

and for glide angles of fifteen degrees or less the rate of descent is

2W  CD 
h˙ =˜ −  
S  CL3 2 

These can be used to find the range and rate of descent for any glide condition where
we know the appropriate lift and drag coefficients (angle of attack) and are not limited to the
optimum cases. In addition, we know that to optimize range we need to fly at minimum
drag conditions while for a minimum rate of descent, we need to fly at the conditions for
minimum power required.

Most aircraft in a glide will satisfy the fifteen degree small angle assumption used in the
above. A few, such as the Space Shuttle, will not. It is therefore worthwhile to back up
and briefly consider the case of steep glide angles. This is, of course, the general case
without the small angle assumption. We must use the force balance equations as developed
without the approximations. These become

L = W cos ,
D = −W sin .

The velocity equation cannot assume straight and level flight and the first of the above
two equations must be used to insert aircraft weight into the relationship.

V = 2L SCL , W cos = L

V = 2W SCL ( cos )
The glide angle definition is unchanged

tan = −D L =− CD CL

and we can use this relation with some simple trigonometry to find a relationship between
the cosine of the glide or climb angle and the lift and drag coefficients.

sin = , cos =
2 2
CL + CD2

The rate of climb (rate of descent) equation now becomes

h˙ = V sin =
( cos )sin
2W  CD 
h=−  
S ( CL2 + CD2 )3 4 

This is a relation which will determine the rate of descent for any glide angle. It is noted
that this equation is not really any more complicated mathmatically than that found using the
small glide angle approbation. The difference is that there is now no correlation between
the minimum rate of descent and the condition for minimum power required.


Using the rate of descent and the altitude change it is possible to determine the time
required for that descent.

dt = dh h˙

If the rate of descent is constant this can become

t = ∆h h˙
In reality we have already shown that for both the general and the small angle cases the
rate of descent is not constant but depends on altitude since it is a function of density. The
complete equation would therefore be
2W  
h2 CD
t = −∫h dh 
S  ( C2L + CD2 ) 
3 4

and by using the equations for density variation in the standard atmosphere one could insert
density as a function of h to give a general equation for time of descent. However, to get a
simpler picture of the time to descend problem we will assume that an incremental approach
can be used where the density, and thus rate of descent, can be assumed constant over
reasonably small increments of altitude during descent. For example, over an increment of
altitude of 1000 feet we can base our calculations on the density (rate of descent) half-way
between the upper and lower altitude without introducing much error. This can be repeated
incrementally to find the time of descent over larger altitude changes. A few simple
examples might help illustrate this process.

Example 1:
A sailplane weighs one-thousand pounds and has a wing loading (W S) of 12.5 pounds
per square foot with a drag polar given by CD = 0.010 + 0.022C2L . Find the time to glide
from 1000 feet to sea level at minimum rate of descent (minimum sink rate).

Solution: Minimum sink rate occurs at conditions for minimum power required

CLMP = = 1.17, CDMP = 4CD0 = 0.04

We can check the resulting lift-to-drag ratio to determine if the small angle approximations
are valid

1.17  1 
( L D) MP = = 29.2, = tan−1  L  = 1.96°.
0.04  D

Thus we can find the velocity from the "quasi-level" equation

VMP = ,

and using the density for a 500 foot altitude we have

500 = 0.002343sl ft 3 , VMP = 95.5 fps,

and the rate of descent becomes

h˙ = V sin = −3.27 fps,

giving a time to descend the 1000 feet
t = ∆h h˙ = 306sec.

Consider descent of the same sailplane from a much higher altitude. We can use a descent
from 20,000 feet to investigate the inaccuracies of using the incremental approach to the
time to descend problem. Suppose that in order to get a first guess for the time to descend
we assumed a single increment using the density at 10,000 feet. We will first find an

V10K = = 110.27 fps,

then a rate of descent

h˙ = V sin = −3.771 fps,

giving a time for descent of

−20,000 ft
t= = 5303sec = 88.4min.

We should expect improved accuracy if we use four increments of 5000 feet each,
calculating velocities and rates of descent at 17,500; 12,500; 7,500; and 2,500 foot
h(ft) h((mean) V(fps) h˙ = V sin ( fps)

20,000 17,500 0.5793 124.49 4.258

15,000 12,500 0.6820 114.74 3.924
10,000 7,500 0.7982 106.05 3.627
5,0000 2,500 0.9288 98.32 3.363

VSL = 94.752 fps

altitudes as shown in the following table.

The total time to descend is found by summing the incremental times from each of the 5000
foot descents.

∆h ∆h ∆h ∆h
t = ˙  + ˙  + ˙  + ˙ 
h  20 −15 h  15−10 h  10 − 5 h  5 − 0
t = 5313.8sec = 88.6min

This gives a time to descend from 20,000 feet of 88.6 minutes, a difference of only 0.2
minutes or 10.8 seconds from the gross, single increment solution.

Does the above show that there is little point in breaking the glide into increments to
find the time of descent or simply that the increments chosen were too large to make much
difference? A solution of the "exact" integral equation for the 20,000 foot descent will
result in a time of descent of 5426.5 seconds or 90.4 minutes. There is only a two minute
difference between the "exact" solution and the worst possible approximation; a 2% error!


As discussed earlier, the addition of power above that required for straight and level
flight at a given speed will make possible either an increase in altitude or a change in speed
or both. If speed is held constant while power (or thrust) is added the result will be a
climb. Since climb is best thought of as an increase in potential energy we can best analyse
it on an energy usage basis as reflected in power or energy addition per unit time. To begin
our look at climb we can return to the figure used earlier and again write force balance
equations in the lift and drag directions, this time adding the thrust vector.

L − W cos = 0
T − D − W sin = 0

It should be emphasized that we are assuming that climb occurs at constant speed. This
means physically that climb is a straight exchange of energy from the engine for a gain in
potential energy. It also means that our force balance equations sum to zero; ie, are static
equations with no acceleration. We will not, however, restrict ourselves too much. As
every good engineer should we will fudge a little by saying that we are flying at "quasi-
steady: conditions and tolerate very small accelerations which are inevitable in real flight.

The rate of climb relation is still

h˙ = V sin

From the Thrust/Drag force balance above we can write the angle of climb

sin = (T − D) W

The rate of climb is then

 T − D  P − PREQ
h˙ =  V = AV .
 W  W
Note from the above that the angle of climb depends on the amount of excess thrust
while the rate of climb depends on the amount of excess power. Not surprisingly, this is
the same kind of dependence we found in the gliding case except there we spoke of drag
instead of thrust.

Since the angle of climb and rate of climb both can be directly related to previously
discussed performance curves for an aircraft, we can take a look at these parameters as they
relate to these graphs. A typical plot of thrust and drag (thrust required) is shown below.
At any given velocity the difference between the thrust and drag curves can be divided by
the aircraft weight to determine the maximum possible angle of climb at that speed using the
relationship defined earlier. Of course, at any given speed, not all of the excess available
thrust need be used for climb if a lower angle of climb is desired. As the thrust and drag
curves move together to the left and right, the possible angle of climb narrows toward zero
at the velocities where thrust equals drag.

Figure 5.4

The velocity where the maximum possible angle of climb occurs is that for which the
vertical distance between the thrust and drag curves is maximum. This could be found
from an actual data plot by simply using a ruler or a pair of dividers to find this maximum.
It could also be found analytically if functional relationships are known for the thrust and
drag curves by taking the derivative of the difference in thrust and drag with respect to the
velocity and setting that equal to zero to determine the maximum.

A simple case occurs when it can be assumed that the thrust available from an engine is
constant, an assumption often made for jet engines. If the thrust is constant the maximum
difference between thrust and drag and, hence, the maximum angle of climb, must occur
when the drag is minimum. Once again minimum drag conditions become the optimum for
a performance parameter. It should also be obvious that when thrust is not a constant,
minimum drag is probably not the condition needed for maximum angle of climb.

The reader should note that no reference has been made in the above to a parabolic drag
polar and the conclusions reached are not restricted to such a case. In the case of the
parabolic drag polar we know how to determine the lift and drag coefficients and the speed
for minimum drag from our previous study.

A typical plot of power versus velocity is shown below. We know from above that the
rate of climb is equal to the difference in the power available and that required, at a given
speed, divided by the aircraft weight. Thus the power available / power required graph can
be used to graphically determine the rate of climb at any speed in the same manner as the
thrust curves were used above. In cases where the power available is assumed constant, as
is often the case in a simple representation of a propeller powered aircraft, the maximum
rate of climb will occur at the speed where power required is a minimum. We know from
the previous chapter how to determine the conditions for minimum power required. If
power available is not constant, maximum rate of climb will not necessarily occur at the
speed for minimum power required.

Note that the graph shown below plots P versus Ve since this allows the power
required data at all altitudes to collapse to a single curve as derived in Chapter 4.

Figure 5.5

It should also be noted that maximum rate of climb and maximum angle of climb do not
occur at the same speed.

It is interesting to compare the power performance curves, and hence the rate of climb,
for the two simple models we have chosen for jet and prop aircraft. In the plot which
follows, the prop aircraft is assumed to have constant power available and the jet to have
constant thrust. Since power available equals thrust multiplied by velocity, the jet power
available data lies in a diagonal line starting at the origin. The power required curve
assumes a common aircraft. In other words this is a comparison of the same airplane with
two different types of engine. It is obvious that at lower speeds the rate of climb for the
prop exceeds that for the jet while at higher speeds the jet can outclimb the prop. This
comparison, while fictional, is typical of the differences between similar jet and prop
aircraft. It shows one reason why one would not design a jet powered crop duster since
such an aircraft needs a high rate of climb at very low speeds.

Figure 5.6

Special Case: Constant Thrust

In the case mentioned above as a simple model for a jet aircraft, finding the maximum
angle of climb is easy since it must occur at the speed for minimum drag or maximum lift-
to-drag ratio. The conditions for maximum rate of climb are not as simple. Looking at rate
of climb again we recall

h˙ = V sin ,

and assuming quasi-level flight we can write

V= .

Thus, we have a relationship which has the lift coefficient as the variable.

 2W   T − D    T − D
1 2 12
2 2W
h˙ =     = C−1
L    .
 SCL  W   S  W 

Again rising the quasi-level assumption which assumes that lift is essentially equal to

D W = D L = CD CL .

We now have a relation which includes both lift and drag coefficients as variables.
However, we know that drag coefficient depends on the lift coefficient in the drag polar.
This gives

2W  T −1 2 CD 
h˙ =  C − 32
S W L CL 
2W  T −1 2 CD0 + KC2L 
or h˙ =  C − .
S W L C3L 2 

The above equation is for the constant thrust case and shows the rate of climb as a function
of only one variable, the lift coefficient. To determine the optimum rate of climb it is then
necessary to take the derivative of this equation with respect to the lift coefficient. Only the
terms in the brackets need be included in the derivative since it will be set equal to zero.

d  T −1 2 CDO + KCL2 
 CL −  = 0.
dCL W C3L 2 

This gives

KC2L + C − 3CD0 = 0

which can be solved via the quadratic equation to find the value of the lift coefficient which
will give the highest rate of climb for this special case of constant thrust.

± (T W ) +12CD0 K

CLh˙max = W , T = CONST.


A given aircraft has CDO = 0.013 , K = 0.157, W = 35,000 lb, S = 530 sqft, T W = 0.429
and thrust is constant with speed. Find the best rate of climb and the associated angle of

Before starting our solution we should make sure we understand what is being asked.
Note that the best angle of climb was not requested. The angle of climb sought was that for
the best rate of climb case. Students sometimes assume that the answer sought is always
for some optimum case.

To find the maximum rate of climb we use the relation found above to solve for the lift

−0.429 ± (0.429)2 +12(0.013)( 0.157)

CL = = 0.088.

This can then be used to find the associated speed of flight for maximum rate of climb.

Ve = = 794.1 fps.

The angle of climb for maximum rate of climb (not maximum angle of climb) can then be
found as follows:

T− D T
sin = = − CD CL
0.013 + 0.157(0.088)2
= 0.429 − = 0.267
= 15.51°

Finally, these are used together to find the rate of climb itself.

h˙ = V sin = 794.1fps (0.267)

= 212.4 fps = 12,743 ft min .

(units of feet per minute are traditional)

Now let's look at the other optimum, that of maximum angle of climb for this same aircraft.
Maximum angle of climb occurs at conditions for minimum drag or maximum L D.

 I CD  T 1
(sin )max =  −  = −
 W CL  mindrag W ( L D)max
( L D)max = = 11.067
2 KCD 0
sin = 0.429 − = 0.3386
max = 19.79°
We can then find the lift coefficient associated with maximum angle of climb and the
airspeed at which that occurs.

CLMD = = 0.288
Ve = = 438.96 fps.

Finally, the rate of climb for maximum angle of climb

h˙ = V sin = 148.63fps
= 8918 ft min.

Lets look at the answers above and make sure they are logical.

The maximum rate of climb should be higher than the rate of climb for maximum angle
of climb. Is that true?

The climb angle for the maximum rate of climb case should be less than the maximum
angle of climb. Is that true?

Maximum angle of climb should occur at a lower airspeed than that for maximum rate
of climb. Is that the case?

In all cases the above questions are satisfied. These are some of the questions that the
student should ask in reviewing the solutions to a problem. Often asking questions such as
these can catch errors which might otherwise be ignored.

One situation in which all pilots are interested in both rate of climb and angle of climb is
on takeoff. In a normal takeoff the pilot wants to initially climb at the speed which will
give the maximum rate of climb. This will allow the aircraft to gain altitude in as short a
time as possible, an important goal as a precaution against engine or other problems in
takeoff. Should an engine fail on takeoff, maximum altitude is desired to allow time to
recover and make an emergency landing. There are, however, some situations in which it
is in the pilot's best interest to forgoe best rate of climb and go for best angle of climb. An
obvious case is when the aircraft must clear an obstacle at the end of the runway such as a
tree or tower. The figure below illustrates both cases.

Figure 5.7

The airplane which flew at maximum rate of climb would have reached the desired
altitude faster than the plane which flew at maximum angle of climb if that darn tree hadn't
been in the way!


To find the time to climb from one altitude to another we must integrate over the time

t2 h2 dh h2 dh
∫ t1
dt = ∫h
1 h˙ = ∫h1 V sin

To integrate this expression we must know how V sin varies as a function of altitude.
We are usually going to be interested in the minimum time to climb as a limiting case. This
will, of course, occur at the speed for maximum rate of climb. This speed will be a
function of altitude.

If we can find the rate of climb at each altitude we can plot rate of climb versus altitude
as shown below. The area under the curve between the two desired altitudes represents the
time to climb between those two altitudes.

Figure 5.8

Either of the above methods can be used to find the time to climb. In reality they are the
same. The analytical method may not be as simple as it appears at first since the equations
must account for the velocity and climb angle variation with altitude, necessitating the
incorporation of the standard altitude density equations into the integral. The equations
could be simplified by the assumption of a constant velocity climb or a constant angle

Power Variation with Altitude

We dealt earlier with the variation of power required (to overcome drag) with altitude
and how the power required curves could be merged into one by plotting power multiplied
by the square root of the density ratio. The power available must also be multiplied by
the square root of the density ratio to be included on the same performance plot. In
addition to this we must be aware of how the power available actually varies with altitude.

For both jet engines (turbojet, fan-jet and turbo-prop) and piston engines the power
produced by the engine drops in proportion to the decrease in density with increased


PSL = Psl

For a turbocharged piston engine the turbocharger is designed to maintain sea level intake
conditions up to some design altitude. A simple model of power variation with altitude for
a turbocharged engine will have power constant at its sea level value up to about 20,000
feet and dropping in direct proportion to decreasing density at higher altitudes.

PAV = CONST ]SL Ph > 20 K = P20 K

20,000 ALT
, .
20 K
More complicated situations are possible with multiple stages of turbocharging.
It must be remembered that in plotting power data versus the sea level equivalent
velocity we must both account for the real variation in power available as just discussed
and multiply that result by the square root of the density ratio to make the power available
curves compatible with the power required curves. This is not redundant. The first change
is made to account for the real altitude effects and the second for a plotting scheme needed
to collapse all power required data to a single curve.


In earlier discussion we spoke of the ceiling altitude as that at which climb was no
longer possible. This would be the altitude where the power available curve just touches
the power required curve, indicating that the aircraft can fly straight and level at only one
speed at that altitude. Here the maximum rate of climb is zero. We define this altitude as
the absolute ceiling. This definition is, however, somewhat misleading.

Theoretically, based on our previous study, it would take an infinite amount of time to
reach the ceiling altitude. One could look at the rate of climb possible for an aircraft which
is, say, 500 feet below its absolute ceiling. A very low rate of climb would be found,
resulting in a very large amount of time required to climb that last 500 feet to reach the
absolute ceiling. Because of this we define a more practical ceiling called the service
ceiling. The definition of the service ceiling is based on the rate of climb; ie, at what
altitude is the maximum rate of climb so low as to make further climb impractical. This is
different for jet and piston powered aircraft. For the piston aircraft, the service ceiling
is the altitude at which the rate of climb is 100 feet per minute (or 0.5 meters per second).
For the jet aircraft, the service ceiling is the altitude at which the rate of climb is 500 feet
per minute (or 2.5 meters per second).

It should be noted that many fighter and high performance aircraft may, in reality, be
able to exceed even their absolute ceiling through the use of energy management
approaches. An aircraft may climb to its service ceiling, for example, and then go into a
dive, building up excess kinetic energy, and then resume a climb, using both the excess
power and the excess kinetic energy to climb to altitudes higher than that found as
"absolute". Also, at very high altitude it may be necessary to include orbital dynamics in the
consideration for climb and ceiling capabilities.



In the earliest days of powered flight the primary concern was getting the aircraft into
the air and back down safely (with safely meaning the ability to limp away after the
"landing"). The Wright's famous first flight was shorter than a football field and even for a
couple of years after December of 1903 they were content to circle around the family farm
The Wright's home built engines couldn't run for long periods of time and they simply
didn't envision the need or desire for flights over distances of over a few miles. In 1908,
however, Scientific American magazine challenged the fledgling aviation community of the
time to produce an aircraft or "aero-plane"* which could fly, in public view, over a distance
of one mile! While the Wright's claimed to be able to make such a flight, their obsession
with secrecy as they sought military sales and their egotistical belief that no one else could
approach their expertise in aviation led them to ignore the prize offered by Scientific
American for the one mile public flight.

It was Glenn Curtiss, a builder of motorcycle engines and holder of numerous world
speed records in motorcycle racing, who, in July of 1908, made the first public one-mile
flight. Curtiss, who had worked with Alexander Bell and others to develop their own
airplanes, made the flight with newspaper reporters watching and with movie cameras
recording the flight. Curtiss became the top aviator in America and the Wrights were
furious, leading to numerous legal suits as Wilbur and Orville sought to prove in the courts
that Curtiss and Bell had infringed on their patents. Curtiss went on to outperform the
Wrights and others in aviation meets in America and Europe. The Wright's subsequent
patent suits aimed at reserving for themselves the sole rights to design and build airplanes
in the United States, stagnated aircraft development in America and shifted the scene of
aeronautical progress to Europe where it remained until after World War I.

As aircraft and aviation continued to develop, range and endurance became the primary
objective in aircraft design. In war, bombers needed long ranges to reach enemy targets
beyond the front lines and by the end of World War I huge bombers had been developed in
several countries. After the war, European governments subsidized the conversion of these
giants into passenger aircraft. Some larger planes had even been built as passenger carrying
vehicles before the conflict. Sikorski's early designs are good examples In the United
States, however, with little government interest in promoting air travel for the public until
the late 1920's, long range aircraft development was more fantasy than fact. In 1927
Lindberg's trans-Atlantic flight captured the public's imagination and interest in long range
flight increased. Lindberg's

* The term "aero-plane" originally referred to a wing, a geometrically planar surface meant
to support a vehicle in flight through the air. By the time of the 1903 Wright flight the term
had become associated with the entire flying vehicle. Aviation publications of the first two
decades of the 20th century continued to write of "aeroplanes" then, by the 1920's,
flight, like that of Curtiss, was prompted by a prize from the printed media, illustrating the
role of newspapers and magazines in spurring technological progress.

By the late 1930's the public began to see flight as a way to travel long distances in
short times, national and international airline routes had developed, and planes like the
"China Clipper" set standards for range and endurance. World War II forced people and
governments to think in global terms leading to wartime development of bombers capable
of non-stop flight over thousands of miles and to post-war trans-continental and
trans-ocean aircraft. Since 1903 we have seen aircraft ranges go from feet to non-stop
circling the globe and endurances go from minutes to days!

Fuel Usage and Weight

In studying range and endurance we must, for the first time in this course, consider fuel
usage. In the aircraft of Curtiss and the Wrights, it was not uncommon for the engine to
quit from mechanical problems or overheating before the fuel ran out. In today's aircraft,
range and endurance depend on the amount of fuel on board. When the last drop of fuel is
gone the plane has reached its limit for range and endurance. One could, of course, include
the glide range and endurance after the aircraft runs out of fuel, but an airline that operated
that way would attract few passengers!

Fuel usage depends on engine design, throttle settings, altitude and a number of other
factors. It is, however, not the purpose of this text to study engine fuel efficiency or the
pilot's use of the throttle. We will assume that we are given an engine with certain
specifications for efficiency and fuel use and that the throttle setting is that specified in the
aircraft handbook or manual for optimum range or endurance at the chosen altitude. It is
assumed that the student will take a separate course on propulsion to study the origins of
the figures used here for these parameters.

Our primary concern in fuel usage will be the change in the weight of the aircraft with
time. Many of our performance equations used in previous chapters include the aircraft
weight. In those chapters we treated weight as a constant. Weight is, in reality, constant
only for the glider or sailplane. For other aircraft the weight is always changing, always
decreasing as the fuel is burned. This means that the aerodynamic performance of the
airplane changes during the flight. This does not, however, negate the value of the
methods used earlier to study cruise and climb. Those calculations will normally be done
using the maximum gross weight of the airplane which will lead to a conservative or "worst
case" analysis of those performance parameters. We can also use the methods developed
earlier to look at the "instantaneous" capabilities of the aircraft at a given weight, realizing
that at a later time in flight and at a lower weight, the performance may be different.

In considering range and endurance it is imperative that we consider weight as a

variable, changing from maximum gross weight at take-off to an empty fuel tank weight at
the end of the flight. To do this we will deal with fuel usage in terms of the weight of the
fuel (as opposed to fuel volume, in gallons, which we normally use for automobiles).
When our concern is endurance we are interested in the change in weight of the fuel per
unit time

and, when range is the concern we want to know how the weight of fuel decreases with
distance traveled.


Aircraft engine manufacturers like to specify engine fuel usage in terms of "specific
fuel consumption". For jet engines this becomes a thrust specific fuel consumption
and for prop aircraft, a power specific fuel consumption. Since thrust and power bring
different units into the equations we must consider the two cases separately.


We speak of the engine output of a jet engine in terms of thrust; therefore, we speak of
the fuel usage of the jet engine in terms of a thrust specific fuel consumption,
Ct . Ct , is the mass of fuel consumed per unit time per unit thrust. The unit of
time should be seconds and the unit for thrust should be in pounds or Newtons of thrust.

sl sec kg sec
[ Ct ] = lb − thrust or
N − thrust

The above is the proper definition of thrust specific fuel consumption, however, it is
not really exactly what we need for our calculations. We would prefer a definition based
on weight of fuel consumed instead of the mass. We will thus define a weight
specific fuel consumption, T , as the weight of fuel used per unit time per unit thrust.
This gives units of one-over-time.

lb − fuel sec N − fuel sec

= g(Ct ) in or .
lb − thrust N − thrust

The reader should be aware that many aircraft performance texts and propulsion texts
are very vague regarding the units of specific fuel consumption. Some even define it in
terms of mass and give it units of 1 sec onds, making it dimensionally incorrect. Part of
the confusion, particularly in older propulsion texts, lies in the use of the pound-mass as
the unit of mass. This gives a combination of pounds-mass divided by pounds-force,
which, in reality gives sec 2 ft . The situation is then further complicated by the author
seemingly throwing in a term called gc which is supposed to resolve the lbm lbf issue. At
any rate it is very important that the engineer using specific fuel consumption carefully
consider the units involved before beginning the solution of a range or endurance problem.
A correctly specified weight specific fuel consumption will have units of sec −1 and
will do so without the use of anything called gc.

Some sources of specific fuel consumption data use units of hours −1 since the hour is a
more convenient unit of time. The use of seconds is, however, correct in any standard
unit system and the student may be well advised to convert hours to seconds before
beginning calculation even though this will ultimately result in the calculation of endurance
in seconds, giving rather large numbers for answers.

To find endurance we want the rate of fuel weight change per unit time which can be
written in terms of the thrust specific fuel consumption

= T T.

And, in straight and level flight where thrust equals drag

= T D.

For maximum endurance we want to minimize the above term. This clearly shows that
for maximum endurance the jet plane must be flown at minimum drag conditions.
We will look at how to find that endurance after taking a brief look at range.

To find the flight range we must look at the rate of change of fuel weight with distance
of flight. We might pause a little at this point to realize that this may be more complicated
than endurance because range will depend on more than simply the aerodynamic
performance of the airplane. It will also require consideration of the wind speed. An
airplane can fly forever at a speed of 100 mph into a 100 mph head-wind and still have a
range of zero! For now, however, we will put those worries aside and look at the simple
mathmatics with which we begin consideration of the problem. We looked above at the
rate of weight change with time. We can combine this with the change of distance with
time (speed) to get the rate of change of weight with distance.

dWf dWf dt T D
= = T = T .
dS dS dt V V

Note that we still assume D = T or straight and level flight.

From the above it is obvious that maximum range will occur when the drag divided by
velocity ( D V ) is a minimum. This is not a condition which we have studied earlier but we
can get some idea of where this occurs by looking at the plot of drag versus velocity for an

Figure 6.4

On this plot a line drawn from the origin to intersect the drag curve at any point has a
tangent equal to the drag at the point of intersection divided by the velocity at that point.
The minimum possible value of D V for the aircraft represented by the drag curve must
then be found when the line is just tangent to the drag curve. This point will give the
velocity for maximum range. Note that it is a higher speed than that for minimum drag
(which, in turn was higher than the speed for minimum power).

In the above we have found the conditions needed to achieve maximum range and
endurance for a jet aircraft. We have not yet found equations for the actual range or
endurance. To find these we need to return to the time and distance differentials and
integrate them. For time we have

dt = .

We now wish to put the equations in a form which includes the weight of the aircraft
instead of the weight of the fuel. Since the change in weight of the aircraft in flight is equal
and opposite the weight of fuel consumed

dW = −dWfuel ,

we have

dt = − .

Finally, integrating over time to find the endurance gives
W2 dW
E = −∫ W

In a similar manner the range is found from the distance differential

dS =− ,

W2 Vdw
R = −∫W .

In the above equations we must know how the aircraft velocity, thrust and specific fuel
consumption vary with aircraft weight. At this point we need to make some assumptions
about the way the flight is to be conducted. This is sometimes called the "flight schedule".

Approximate solutions for range and endurance for a jet

The first assumption to be made in finding range and endurance equations is that the
flight will be essentially straight and level. In order to give ourselves some leeway we will
call this "quasi-level" flight, our desire being merely to use the L = W. T = D relations.

T = D= W =W D,

and we can also use


Substituting these into the range and endurance relationships above give

W2 1  2 
W2 dW W2 1 C dW C1L 2 dW
E = −∫W =− ∫W L
, R = − ∫W   .
TD T CD W T  s CD W 1 2
1 1 1

At this point we need to make some further assumptions about the flight schedule in
order to simplify the integration of these equations. For example, in the endurance
equation, if we assume that the flight is made at constant angle of attack, we are assuming

that the lift and drag coefficients are constant for the entire flight. If we also assume that
the specific fuel consumption is constant for the flight the only variable left in the integral is
weight itself and the integral becomes:

1 CL W2 dW 1 CL  W1 
∫ W1 W
 W2  ( const )

The range integral contains an additional variable, the density of the atmosphere. It is
still possible to make a couple of combinations of assumptions which will result in simple
integration and realistic flight conditions. The first case will be to assume cruise at both
constant altitude and constant angle of attack giving both density and the lift and drag
coefficients as constants in the integration.

2 2 C1L 2
( W1 − W2 )  const 
 constalt . 

A second simple case combines the assumptions of constant angle of attack and
constant speed, which can be used with the earlier form of the range equation.
W2 VdW W2 V C dW
R = − ∫W = − ∫W L
T T 1


V CL  W1 
R= ln   const 
T CD  W2   constV 

Note that the last equation above is simply the endurance equation multiplied by the
velocity. This should not be surprising since this is the case where velocity is constant.

In the final equations above for range and endurance we should note that if standard
units are used with specific fuel consumptions in sec −1, range will be given in feet or
meters and endurance in seconds. We may find it easier to ascertain the degree to which
our answers are realistic if we convert these answers to miles or kilometers and hours.

In finding the above equations for range and endurance we have looked only at special
cases which would result in simple integrations. If we know more complicated flight
schedules we can determine the functional relationships between the lift and drag
coefficients, velocity, density, etc. and weight loss during flight and insert them into the
original integrals to solve for range and endurance. The above cases are, however, very
dose to actual operational cruise conditions for long range aircraft and will probably suffice
for an introductory study of aircraft performance. Let's take a look at those simple cases.

Both range cases included our endurance assumption of constant angle of attack and
specific fuel consumption. The first case combined these assumptions with specification of
constant altitude. This appears to be the simplest case to actually fly but to see what it
actually means we need to go back to the straight and level flight velocity relation

V= , V∝ W .

If altitude (density) and angle of attack (lift coefficient) are both constant it is obvious that
the velocity must change as the weight changes. In other words, for this flight schedule as
fuel is burned and the weight of the aircraft decreases, the flight speed must decrease in
proportion to the square root of the weight.

The other case, constant speed combined with constant angle of attack, is seen from the
velocity relation above to require that density decrease in proportion to the weight.

= const ]CL =const .

V = const

This means that as the aircraft burns off fuel, the aircraft will slowly move to higher
altitudes where the density is lower. This is commonly known as the drift-up flight
schedule. This is actually very similar to the way that commercial airliners fly long distance
routes. Those of you who have been on such flights will recall the pilot announcing that
"we are now cruising at 35,000 feet and will climb to 39,000 feet after crossing the
Mississippi" or some such plan. While the FAA will not allow aircraft to simply "drift-up"
as they fly from coast-to-coast, they will allow schedules which incrementally approximate
the drift-up technique.

It must be noted that the two range equations above will give two different answers for
the same amount of fuel. Also note that the equations are based on only the cruise portion
of the flight. An actual flight will include take-off, climb to cruise altitude, descent and
landing in addition to cruise. Allowance also must be made for reserve fuel to handle
emergency situations and "holds" imposed by air traffic controllers.

The biggest assumption used in all the integrations above is that of constant angle of
attack. While this fits our conditions for optimum cases such as maximum endurance

occurring at maximum lift-to drag ratio (minimum drag), it may not fit real flight very well.
While the pilot can easily monitor his or her airspeed and altitude, the airplane's angle of
attack is not as easily monitored and directly controlled.

The equations above for range and endurance are valid for any flight condition which
falls within the assumptions made in their derivation. If we have a Boeing 747 flying at an
angle of attack of eight degrees and a speed of 250 miles per hour these equations can be
used to find the range and endurance even though this is obviously not an optimum speed
and angle of attack. Should we wish to determine the optimum range or endurance we use
the values of lift and drag coefficient and the velocity which we found earlier to be needed
for these optimums.

Earlier we found that for maximum endurance the aircraft needs to fly at minimum drag
conditions. Our actual endurance equation confirms this, showing endurance as a function
of the lift-to-drag coefficient ratio which will be a maximum if drag is a minimum.

We also found that range would be optimum if the drag divided by velocity was a
minimum. The correlation between this condition and the range equations derived is not as
obvious as that of minimum drag with the endurance equation. Using the straight and level
flight force relations which can be manipulated to show

 D C 
D = W   = W  D ,
L  CL 

the quantity V D can be written

V D= ,

Now using the velocity relation for straight and level flight


we find

V 2W 1 C1L 2
= .

Therefore, we find that the maximum range occurs when, for a given weight and altitude

C1L 2
is a maximum.
If we assume a parabolic drag polar with constant CD 0 and K we can write

C1L 2 CL12

To find when this combination of terms is at a maximum we can take its derivative with
respect to its variable (CL ) and set it equal to zero.

d CL 1 2 ( C D0 + KCL ) 2 C−1L 2 − CL1 2 (2KCL )
2 1

 = =0
dCL  CD  CD2

Solving this gives

(C + KC2L)CL−12 − (2KCL2 )CL−1 2 = 0

2 D0

CD 0 + KCL2 − 4KCL2 = 0


CD 0 = 3KCL2

and, finally

CL = CD0 3K

Thus, for maximum range

CD 0

Using this in the drag polar gives the value of drag coefficient for maximum range

CD 4
CDMAXR = CD 0 + KCL2MR = CD 0 + K = C .
3K 3 D0

These are referred to as the conditions for "instantaneous" maximum range. The term
instantaneous is used because the calculations are for a given weight and we know that
weight is changing during the flight. In other words, at any point during the flight, at the
weight and altitude at that point, the lift and drag coefficients found above will give the best


An examination of range and endurance for aircraft which have performance measured
in terms of power (propeller aircraft) by defining a power specific fuel consumption
similar to the thrust specific fuel consumption used for jets. The power specific fuel
consumpfion is defined as the mass of fuel consumed per unit time per unit shaft
power. The units are slugs per unit power per second in the English system
or kilogram per unit power per second in SI units.

[ CP ] = sl power ⋅ sec or Kg power ⋅ sec.

The power units used are horsepower in the English system and watts in SI units.

Just as in the jet (thrust) case we will often find an alternate definition of specific fuel
consumption given in terms of the weight of fuel consumed instead of the mass.

While the proper time unit is seconds we will often find such data given for an engine in
terms of hours. We will develop our equations in terms of the fundamental units (seconds
for time) and, as in the jet case, assume "quasi-level" flight which has


In dealing with prop engines we must consider the propulsive efficiency, P , which
relates the shaft power coming from the engine itself to the power effectively used by the
prop to transfer momentum to the air.

P = DV P

As for the jet, to find endurance we must consider

dWf DV
= P P= P ,
dt P

and for range are interested in

dWf dWf dt D
= = P
dS dS dt P

From the above equations it is obvious that, for a given specific fuel consumption and
efficiency, the rate of fuel use is a minimum (instantaneous endurance is a maximum) when
the power required (DV) is a minimum. It is also obvious that the fuel use per amount of
distance traveled is a minimum (instantaneous range is a maximum) when the drag is a

So we again run into our old friends minimum power required and minimum
drag as conditions needed for optimum flight. We already know how to find these
graphically from power versus velocity plots as shown below. This graphical
determination of minimum power and minimum drag speeds is valid for any drag polar,
even if not parabolic.

Figure 6.5

At this point we should pause and say: "Hey, wait just a minute! It was only a
couple of pages back that you said that maximum endurance occurred at
minimum drag conditions. Now you say it is maximum range that I get at
minimum drag conditions. Make up your mind, for Pete's sake!"

The problem is that in one case we are talking about jets and the other, prop aircraft. This
means that we must be very careful to see which type of plane we are
dealing with before starting any calculations. It is very easy to get into a big rush
and get the two cases mixed up (especially in the heat of battle on a test or exam!).

Now, as for the jet, we can develop integrals to determine the range or endurance for
any flight situation. For endurance we have
t2 W2 dw
E = ∫t dt =− ∫W P
1 1

and for range

S2 W2 dW
R = ∫S dS = − ∫W P
1 1

Approximate solutions for range and endurance for a prop aircraft

Once more we will assume "quasi-level" flight and manipulate the terms in our force
balance relations to give

D= W =W D.

This makes the endurance integral

W2 1 CL dW
E = −∫ W P
3 .
P V CD W 2

Using the straight and level velocity relation

W2 S CL3 2 dW
E = −∫ W P
P 2 CD W

The range integral can be written in a similar fashion as

W2 CL dW
R = −∫W P

Now we need to consider the same flight schedules examined in the jet case. Constant
angle of attack flight will give constant lift and drag coefficients and constant altitude will
give constant density. We will also assume constant specific fuel consumption.

For range we need only to use the constant angle of attack assumption to give a simple
integral. The resulting range is

CL  W1 
R= P
ln , (const∝).
P CD  W2 

For endurance we will consider tvo cases. The first holds both altitude and angle of
attack constant, giving

S CL3 2 W2 dW
2 CD ∫W1 W 3 2
E=− P

which integrates to

CL3 2  1 1   const ∝
E= P
2 S  − ,  .
P CD  W2 W1   const 

The second case has angle of attack and velocity constant

1 CL W2 dW
E=− ∫



1 CL  W1   const ∝
E= P
ln   ,  .
P V CD  W2   constV 

This is the "drift up" flight schedule.


The above range and endurance equations for both jet or prop aircraft were derived
assuming no atmospheric winds. The speeds in the equations are the airspeeds, not speeds
over the ground. If there is a wind the airspeed is, of course, not equal to the speed over
the ground.

Endurance calculations are not altered by the presence of an atmospheric wind. If our
concern is how long the aircraft can stay in the air at a given airspeed and altitude and we
don't particularly care if it is making progress over the ground we need not worry about
winds. We are doing endurance calculations based only on the aerodynamic behavior of
the airplane at a given speed and altitude in a mass of air.

Range is related to speed across the ground rather than the airspeed; thus, if there is a
wind our range equation results need to be re-evaluated to account for the wind. The logic
of this is simple: a headwind will slow progress over the ground and reduce range while a
tailwind will increase range. What is not so obvious is how to correct the calculations to
account for this wind. Since our usual concern is to find the maximum range, we will
examine the correction for wind effects only for this optimum situation.

Maximum range for a jet was found to occur when D V was a minimum while, for a
prop, maximum range occurred at minimum drag conditions. The velocities for both cases
can be determined graphically by finding the point of tangency for a line drawn from the
zero velocity origin on either the drag versus velocity curve in the jet case or the power
required versus velocity curve for the prop plane. We can use an extension of this
graphical approach to find the speed for best range with either a head wind or a tail wind.

The important first step in determining optimum range in the presence of an

atmospheric wind is to find a new airspeed for best range with a wind. This new
speed will then be used to calculate a new value of the optimum range. The new value of
best range airspeed is found as illustrated in the figures below. The first task is to draw a
conventional drag versus velocity (for a jet) or power required versus velocity (for a prop)
plot. To this plot is added a new origin, displaced to the left by the value of a
tailwind or to the right by the magnitude of the tailwind. A line is then drawn
from the displaced origin, tangent to the drag or power curve and the point of tangency
locates the new velocity for optimum range with a wind. The magnitude of this new
optimum range velocity is read with respect to the original origin (not the
displaced origin). This speed is an airspeed, not a ground speed.

Figure 6.6

This new optimum range velocity is then used to find a new range value from the same
equations developed previously. Using the new velocity, new values of lift and drag
coefficients are first calculated and these new coefficients and velocity are used to find the
optimum range with the wind. To this new range must be added another range which
results purely from the aircraft's time of exposure (endurance) to the wind. This endurance
is also found using the newly found optimum range velocity and associated coefficients.
The final corrected range for maximum range in a wind is





Airplane manufacturers, like those of automobiles and other products, like to do

anything they can to make their product look good and sometimes they hope that the buyer
doesn't look too closely at the contradictions in their specifications and advertising. A car
may be advertised as having seating for five, an EPA fuel economy rating of 38 mpg, the
ability to go 542 miles on a single tank of gas and a top speed of 120 miles per hour. Most
of us, however, know not to expect that car to go 542 miles on a single tank of gas while
carrying 5 people at a speed of 120 mph! Those who believe it will would also probably be
dumb enough to pay sticker price.

What about airplanes? Is this product of an industry which is regulated at every step by
the FAA just as subject to contradiction in specifications as a car?

Let's look at a few simple examples taken from the 1976 GAMA Aircraft Fleet
Directory (a little old, but things haven't really changed much). A Cessna 150, the most
widely used two place aircraft in the country, quotes a range of 815 nautical miles on 32
gallons (210 pounds) of fuel. The plane has an empty weight (no pilot, passenger,
baggage or fuel) of 1104 pounds and a maximum gross takeoff weight of 1600 pounds.
This means that with the full fuel tanks needed for maximum range there is only a 286
pound allowance for both pilot and passenger, hardly enough for two adults and luggage!
This is why one of the favorite questions of flight examiners who are preparing for a
private pilot check-ride in a Cessna 150 involves weight and balance of the aircraft and why
sometimes pilots may have to actually pump fuel out of an airplane before takeoff.

A Cessna 172, the most popular four place aircraft in the world, is a little better than the
150 cited above. It has an empty weight of 1387 pounds and to reach its advertised range
of 742 miles it has a fuel tank which holds 288 pounds of gas. This gives a total weight
for airplane and fuel of 1675 pounds. The maximum gross takeoff weight of the 172 is
2300 pounds, leaving 625 pounds allowance for four passengers and their stuff; an average
of 156 pounds each! It is beginning to look like airplanes are designed like those "four-
place" cars which have a rear seat about large enough to seat two small poodles!

With another Cessna product, the all around best of their 4 seat line , the Skylane,
things are a little better. Its listed empty weight of 1707 pounds, range of 979 nautical
miles on 474 pounds of fuel and max gross weight of 2950 pounds leave 769 pounds for
pilot, passengers and accessories (192 pounds each). Finally an airplane for real people!

Lest the naive get the idea that this is only a problem for small single engine airplanes,
let's look at one more example, one of my favorites, the Learjet 25C. It claims a range of
2472 miles, just the ticket for the rich young business tycoon to fill with seven of her
closest friends for a transcontinental weekend jaunt**. That fuel load, weighing 7393
pounds, adds to the "zero fuel" weight of 11,400 pounds to give a 18,793 pound airplane.
So how much is left for those 8 passengers? A max gross weight of 20,000 pounds would
allow about 150 pounds for each, perhaps enough if everyone has been on the latest Oprah
Winfrey diet. The listed max gross weight of the Learjet 25C is 15,000
pounds! With a full tank of gas the airplane is over its maximum allowable
takeoff weight! With a 160 pound pilot and no other passengers or load this airplane
can carry enough fuel for a real range of about 1150 miles, less than half that advertised.
Why claim a range of almost 2500 miles? Well, the fuel tanks are big enough to carry the
needed fuel. If only the airplane could get off the ground!

* Obviously a biased opinion since the author once owned a Cessna 182!

* * Did everyone catch the "politically correct" reference to the historically

underrepresented female of the species?


To this point, all of our discussion has related to static or unaccelerated flight where F =
ma = 0. Even in climb and descent we assumed "quasi-level" conditions where the forces
on the aircraft summed to zero. If we are to look at the performance of an airplane during
take-off and landing we must, for the first time, consider acceleration (during takeoff) and
deceleration (during landing). We will also have a couple of new forces to consider in the
ground reaction force and ground friction.

In take-off, the airplane accelerates from zero groundspeed (but not necessarily
airspeed!) to a speed at which it can lift itself from the ground. The thrust must exceed
drag for acceleration to take place and the lift won't equal weight until the moment of lift-

In landing, deceleration must be provided through braking and aerodynamic drag to

slow the plane to zero speed; hopefully before it reaches the end of the runway!

Any pilot will tell you that take-off and landing are what flight is all about. The thrill of
full throttle and maximum acceleration as the plane roars down the runway, followed by the
freeing of the soul which comes from cheating gravity and breaking the bond with the earth
is incomparable. Of course the pilot hopes this occurs before the end of the runway is
reached and in such a way as to allow clearance of the water tower at the end of the strip!

Landing is the ultimate challenge of man* against nature as the pilot once again attempts
to remain in control of a planned encounter with the ground in a vehicle moving at speeds
which can result in instant mutilation and death if there is the slightest miscalculation of
crosswind or downdraft. Of course, all of this must be done in such a manner as to assure
the passenger that every move is as safe and natural and controlled as a Sunday afternoon
drive to the golf course.

Wind will be a factor in take-off and landing and one would think it would be obvious
that the pilot should position the aircraft at the end of the runway which will result in
operation into the wind. This will result in a reduction in the length of the ground roll in
either take-off or landing. To some, however this may not be obvious.

The author once sat on a graduate committee of a student in Transportation Engineering

who had taken several courses in airport design. When asked what role the prevailing
winds played in the design of airports the student appeared puzzled. Given a hint that it
had something to do with the way the runways were aligned, he still drew a blank.

* The term "man" is here used in its pure and innocent generic sense without prejudice or
preference with regard to sex, race, creed or political affiliation!

Finally, when asked to draw a runway and show an airplane getting ready to take-off at one
end and to explain which way the wind would be blowing, the student's eyes lit up in an
apparent revelation of truth. He drew the runway horizontal across the center of the
blackboard with the airplane at the right end, ready to begin a take-off roll toward the left.
Then he triumphantly drew an arrow to indicate a wind moving from right-to-left, the same
direction as the motion of the aircraft!

As dispair and gloom settled over the faculty in the room I, rather reluctantly, asked
him why the airplane would take-off in the same direction as the wind blew. He replied
that the answer was obvious, "So the wind will carry the pollution away with the
airplane!" Watch out for environmentalists who design airports!

To study aircraft performance in take-off and landing we must make sure we have
proper definitions of what these phases of flight entail. Then we must consider the forces
acting on the airplane. We will begin this study by looking at take-off.


The definition used by the Federal Aviation Administration for take-off includes the
ground run from zero ground speed to the point where the wheels leave the ground, plus
the distance required to clear a 50 foot obstacle. The distance over the ground for all of the
above is computed at maximum gross weight at sea level standard conditions. The "worst
case" condition is often also calculated for a hot day at high altitude (100˚F in Denver).

We will concern ourselves only with the ground run portion of the take-off run,
knowing that we can find the distance to clear a 50 foot obstacle from our climb equations.
That climb would be calculated for maximum angle of climb conditions.

The first step in the calculation of the ground run needed for take-off is an examination
of the forces on the aircraft. In addition to the lift, drag, thrust and weight, we must now
consider the ground friction and the "Resultant" force of the ground in supporting all or
part of the weight of the aircraft. These are shown in the figure below.

Figure 7.1

A summation of the vertical forces in the preceding figure gives



R = W-L

Summing the horizontal forces gives

T − D − R = mdV dt.

Note that in the above relation we have, for the first time, an acceleration. These forces
change as the aircraft accelerates from rest to take-off speed.

Combining the two equations above we have a single relation

W dV
T − D − ( W − L) = ,
g dt

which can be rearranged to give

T  g dV
g  −  − (D − L) = .
W  W dt

Our desire is to integrate this or a related equation to get the time and distance needed
for the take-off ground run. To do this we must first account for the dependence of both
lift and drag on velocity. This gives

T  g 1 2
V S(CD − CLg ).
= g −  −
dt  W  W2

The above equation still contains thrust and weight, both of which may well change
during the take-off ground run. Thrust is known to be a function of velocity, however,
weight will be a function of the rate of fuel use (specific fuel consumption) and will be a
function of time rather than speed. In order to keep our analysis relatively simple we will
consider the weight change during the take-off roll to be negligible and treat weight as a
constant in the equation. We can assume a rather simple model for thrust variation with

T = TO − aV 2 .

In this equation TO is the thrust at zero velocity or the "static thrust", a is a constant (which
could be zero) and T is the thrust at any speed. Substituting this model for thrust into our
acceleration equation gives:
T  g 1 
 2 ( D
S C − CLg) + aV 2
= g O −  −
dt W  W 

It should be noted that the velocity in this equation is the airspeed and not the speed
relative to the ground. When we look at the take-off distance we will have to be concerned
with both the ground speed and the airspeed. The simplest case will be when there is no
ground wind; ie, when the airspeed and ground speed are equal.

In the above relation all of the terms in brackets and parentheses are essentially constant
for a given aircraft at a given runway altitude and for a given runway surface. The lift
coefficient is given the special designation of CLg to denote that it is the value for the
ground run only. In a normal take-off roll the airplane accelerates to a pre-determined
speed and then "rotates" to a higher angle of attack which will produce enough lift to result
in lift-off at that speed. Hence, the ground run lift coefficient will probably not be the same
as the take-off lift coefficient. The drag coefficient could be similarly subscripted;
however, since CD is a function of CL and will subsequently be written in that manner, this
will not be done at this point.

Since most of the terms in the equation can be treated as constants the equation can be
simplified as follows:

dV dt = A − BV 2


T  g 1 
A = g O −  , B=  S (CD − CL g) + a 
W  
W 2 

This can be integrated to obtain the time for the ground run of take-off.
t2 V2 dV
∫ t1
dt = ∫V
1 A − BV 2

Assuming that the airplane starts the take-off run from rest and that there is no ground wind
and that the other limit is the take-off velocity VTO, we have

1  B
t= tan h−1  VTO  = time for take-off.
AB  A

NOTE: This may be the first time that the student has ever seen an inverse hyperbolic
tangent. What should follow is a frantic search of the student's calculator to see if there
is any such key or combination of keys combined by an equally harried check of the indices
of high school and college trig and calculus texts to see just what the heck this thing is. In
reality, the student will probably shrug his or her shoulders at this time in the assumption
that this will never appear on a test or homework. The author will not be available at
midnight the night before the homework is due to answer these questions!

A question which should be considered here is "What is a good value for the take-off

The very lowest speed at which the airplane can possibly lift off of the ground is the
stall speed for straight and level flight at the runway altitude. It is, however, not safe to
attempt takeoff at this minimum speed with the airplane right on the verge of stall. A
somewhat higher than stall speed will give a margin of safety which will allow take-off at a
fairly low speed without risk of stall due to unexpected gusts or similar problems. A
commonly used value for take-off speed is a speed 20 percent higher than straight and level
stall speed.


Far more important than the time required for the take-off ground run is the distance
requited. It is always nice to know that the pilot can get the airplane into the air before it
reaches the end of the runway! To find the take-off distance we must integrate over
distance instead of time.

dV dV dt A − BV 2
= = .
dS dS dt V

Rearranging this gives

dS =
A − BV 2,

which is integrated to get

ln( A − BV 2 ) V
S2 − S1 = −
2B 1


1  A − BV12 
S2 − S1 = ln .
2B  A − BV22 

Now, assuming that the airplane starts from rest, no wind and lift off at VTO we have

1  A 
STO = ln  2 .
2B  A − BVTO 

We will later investigate the case of take-off in a wind.

Before going further with an analytical analysis of the takeoff ground run it is
worthwhile to pause and examine the physical aspects of the problem. These are too often
lost in the equations, especially when we have hidden a lot of terms behind convenient
terms like A and B. Let's first write the last equation for take-off distance in its full glory.

 
 O − 
W  W  
= ln  
[ ]
g S( CD − CLg ) + a  TO −  − 1 1 S(C − C ) + aV 2 
 W  W 2 D Lg
 TO 

It is obvious that a great number of factors influence the take-off distance.

It is, for example, intuitive that the ground friction will retard take-off. The retarding
force due to friction will decrease as the lift increases during the take-off run. So, it
appears that it might be to our advantage to move down the runway at a high angle of attack
such that high lift is generated which will result in a reduction in the friction force and
enhance the airplane's acceleration to take-off speed. On the other hand, a high angle of
attack will also give a high drag coefficient, retarding acceleration. At some point in the
take-off run the drag force will exceed the friction force. Does this mean the pilot should
begin the take-off run at a high angle of attack and then lower it to reduce drag so as to hold
some friction/drag ratio at an optimal value?

What about the value of the friction coefficient? Do we use one type of ground run on a
concrete runway and another on a grass strip? What about soft dirt? Typical values of
friction coefficient are:

Concrete, asphalt 0.02

Hard Turf 0.04
Normal turf, short grass 0.05
Normal turf, long grass 0.10
Soft ground 0.10 to 0.30

Indeed, for a "soft field" take-off such as on long grass or soft ground, pilots are taught to
do several things to reduce the role of ground friction on the take-off roll. Usually, the use
of flaps is recommended to increase the lift coefficient and, if the airplane has a tricycle type
of landing gear (nose wheel and two main wheels), the pilot is taught to keep the nose up,
which will both reduce the friction on that wheel and give a higher angle of attack and lift
coefficient. One reason for the popularity of the "tail dragger" style of aircraft in the early
days of aviation was it's natural superiority in soft field takeoffs, which were common at
the airfields of the day.

In a normal take-off, as mentioned earlier, the aircraft accelerates along the runway at a
fairly constant angle of attack until the desired take-off speed is reached. The plane is then
rotated to give an increased angle of attack and lift coefficient such that lift equals or
exceeds the weight, allowing lift-off. The angle of attack during that ground roll

and, hence the lift and drag coefficients, is largely determined by the relative lengths of the
landing gear and the angle at which the wing is attached to the fuselage.

Many factors influence the size and placement of the landing gear. It is nice if the gear
struts are long enough to keep the propeller from hitting the runway (this can be a real
problem with a tail mounted prop) and it is also good if the center of gravity of the aircraft
is between the main and auxillary gear. The main gear should be close to the CG to allow
ease of rotation but far enough away to prevent inadvertent rotation. There is also the
question of where the gear are stored in a retractable system

The wing angle of placement on the fuselage will primarily be a function of optimal
cruise considerations such that things like the fuselage drag is minimized and pilot visibility
is satisfactory when the wing is at the best combination of lift and drag coefficient for
cruise as determined by using relations of previous chapters.

An important task for the designer (perhaps you in a few years) is to find the wing
angle of attack which will minimize the take-off ground run and then to design the landing
gear such that under normal conditions the plane sits on its gear with the wing at that angle.
Let's try to find that angle or, more precisely, the lift and drag coefficients at that angle of

We first return to the equation for acceleration in the ground run.

T  g 1 
 2 ( D
S C − CLg ) + a V 2
= g O −  −
dt W  W 

Our desire is to maximize this acceleration at all times during the run. Assuming that the
only variable is angle of attack and thus CL and CD and assuming that we have a parabolic
drag polar and further assuming that the take-off speed VTO is independent of CLg, we can
find the maximum acceleration by taking the derivative with respect to CLg and equating the
result to zero. The assumption that VTO is independent of CLg means that the plane will be
rotated at VTO to achieve lift off rather than allowed to continue to accelerate until lift of f
occurs at CLg.

d  dV 
 =
dCL  dt  dCL
( CD − CLg ) =
(C + KCLg2 − CLg ) = 0


2KCLg − =0

This gives the best value of the ground run lift coefficient for minimum ground run length.

CLg = 2k

A factor not previously noted in this discussion is that we have accounted for the output
of the aircraft's propulsion system in terms of thrust and not power. This was natural
because we were dealing with force equations. What do we do when we have an aircraft
which has a power based propulsion system (propeller)? We know that thrust is equal to
power divided by velocity but how do we use that in the equations? Perhaps an example
will provide an answer


For an aircraft with the following properties find the minimum ground run distance at
sea level standard conditions.

W = 56,000 lb VTO = 1.15 V STALL = 75%


S = 1000 sq.ft. CD = 0.024 + 0.04C2L TO = 13000 lb

CL max = 2.2 = 0.025 Pshaft = 4800hp

Let's first find the stall speed and then the take-off speed.

Vstall = =146 fps.
SCL max
VTO = 1.15Vstall = 168 fps.

Now we must face the problem of having power information and equations that
demand thrust data. We have been given the static thrust and we can assume that the
power available which was given will be the power in use at the moment of take-off. We
then have to determine how thrust varies and how to fit it to our assumed thrust versus
velocity relation used in the take-off acceleration equation.

At take-off speed

PAVAIL = S = 0.75(4800hp) = 3600hp,

so, the thrust at take off is

PAV 3600hp
TTO = = = 11800lb
VTO 168 fps

Our thrust versus velocity relationship is

T = TO − aV 2

so, substituting the takeoff speed and thrust and the static thrust we can find the value for a.
11800lb =13000 lb − a(168 ft sec)

a = 0.0422lb( s ft)

Our thrust relationship to be used in the take-off equations is then

T = 13000 − 0.0422V 2

Now we need to determine the lift coefficient for minimum ground run.

CLg = = = 0.3125.
2K 0.080

The drag coefficient at the minimum ground run lift coefficient is:

CD = CD0 + KCLg2 = 0.024 + 0.04(0.3125) = 0.0279.


Finally we can use all of the above to determine the take-off ground run.

1  A 
S= ln 2 
2B  A − BVTO 
T   13000 
A = g O −  = 32.2 ft sec2  − 0.025 = 6.65 ft sec2
W   56000 
g 1 
B=  S(CD − CLg ) + a  = 3.80 ×10 −5 ft −1
W 2 
1 6.65
S= ft × ln
2(3.8 × 10 )
6.65 − (3.8 ×10 −5 )(168)2
S = 2314 ft.

Takeout without rotation

As described previously, a conventional take-off run would be made at the angle of

attack dictated by the airplane configuration and the landing gear geometry, all of which has
probably been designed to give near optimal ground run acceleration. When a
predetermined take-off speed is reached the pilot raises the nose of the aircraft to increase
the angle of attack and give the lift needed for lift-off. But, what would happen if, instead
of rotating, the airplane was allowed to simply continue to accelerate until it gained enough
speed to lift off without rotation?

Continued ground run acceleration to take-off without rotation is not an optimum way
to achieve flight. It will always require more runway than a conventional take-off. There
are, however, a limited number of aircraft which are designed for this type of lift-off. One
well know example is the B-52 bomber. This aircraft has what might be described as
"bicycle" type landing gear with the gear located entirely in the long fuselage and placed
well fore and aft the center of gravity. This placement and the long, low fuselage make
rotation virtually impossible. The result is the need for very long runways and very long,
shallow approaches to landing.

Optimizing the takeoff run for an aircraft like the B-52 is different from the maximum
acceleration optimum for a conventional take-off. Since the plane cannot rotate, the gear
design and wing placement on the fuselage must be arranged such that the wing angle of
attack is that desired for a safe and efficient lift-off. Too high an angle of attack might
result in take-off at conditions too near stall and too low an angle might require too much
runway. In the following example we look at such an aircraft where the design is such that
the ground run angle of attack of the wing is set to give take-off at a speed 20% above stall


The aircraft defined below is designed for take-off with no rotation, thus the ground
run angle of attack (and, therefore, CL and CD) is the same as that at take-off. Find the
take-off distance at sea level standard conditions.

W = 75,000 lb CD = 0.02 + 0.05CL2 = 0.02

S = 2500 sq.ft. CL max =1.5 T = TO = 12,000 lb

We must first find the stall speed, the take-off speed and the related take-off (and, thus,
ground run) lift coefficient.

Vstall = =129.7 fps
SCL max
VTO = 1.2Vstall = 155.7 fps

We can find the lift coefficient for this take-off speed.

CLg = CLTO = 1 =1.042.

Actually we could have skipped some of the above is we realized the following.:

 Vstall 
 1 

CLg = CLTO =  CL max =   (1.5) = 1.042.

 VTO  1.2

Using the above lift coefficient we find the drag coefficient.

CD = CD0 + KCL2 = 0.02 + 0.051.042 ) = 0.0742.

We are now ready to find the takeoff distance.

1  A 
S= ln 2 
2B  A − BVTO 
T 
A = g O −  = 4.54 ft sec2
W 
g 1 
B=  S(CD − CLg ) + a  = 6.85 ×10 −5 ft −1
W 2 

10  4.54 
S= ln  
2(6.85)  4.54 − (6.85 ×10 − 5 )(155.7) 2 
S = 3324 ft.

Thrust Augmented Take-off

Although not commonly seen today, a technique once regularly used by military cargo
aircraft and bombers like the B-52 to reduce the take-off distance involved the augmentation
of ground run thrust through the use of strap-on or built in solid rockets. This system was
often referred to as JATO for jet assisted take-off even though it used rockets and not jets.
Calculation of ground runs for this type of take-off require breaking the ground run
distance integral into two parts to account for the two different levels of thrust used in the
run. The resulting equation is as follows:

    VTO  

1   1  1  2  
STO = ln   + ln  ,
 VTO   2B  A1 − BVTO2 
2B 
A− B
  2    
T + TR
A1 = g O −  .
 W 

Let us return to the last example and see what happens if we try to shorten the ground
run of this airplane by the use of 15,000 pounds of extra thrust obtained from JATO units
which are fired for the first ten seconds of the ground run to boost the plane's initial

The total thrust during the first ten seconds of the ground run will be 27,000 pounds.
Thus, for that portion of the run the A term in the ground run distance equation will be

 T + TR   2700 
A = g O −  = 32.2 − 0.02 = 11.0 ft sec2
 W   7500 

The B term will not be changed.

Now we must determine the velocity of the aircraft at the end of this first ten seconds of
acceleration since the limits on the distance equation are velocities. To find this we go to
the relationship for take-off ground run time

1  −1
 B −1
 B 
t1 − t0 =  tanh  V1  − tanh  V0  .
AB   A  A 

Since the initial velocity is zero and t1 − t0 =10sec. sec we have

 B
10 AB sec = tanh − 1 V1 .
 A

Solving gives the speed at the end of the augmented thrust portion of the take-off run.

V1 = 107 fps

(The student should verify this answer by using the values of A and B found above and
working through the units.)

The entire distance for take-off can now be found as follows:

1  A 
S1 − S0 = ln  = 540 ft
2B  A − BV12 
1  A − BV12 
S2 − S1 = ln  = 1939 ft
2B  A − BV22 
STOTAL = 2480 ft.

The JATO boost in this example gave a 25% reduction in the ground run needed for
takeoff. This could be important for such an aircraft if it is operating out of short, remote
airfields often found in "third world" countries or in military operations.

Ground Wind Effects

Earlier we mentioned the importance of ground wind in the take-off of aircraft. It is

rare that a ground wind does not exist, thus, our "no-wind" equations are, hopefully, worst
case predictions since taking off into the wind will reduce the distance for the ground run.
Finding the distance required for take-off into a ground wind (assuming the pilot has the
good sense to fly into the wind and not attempt a "downwind" take-off) requires another
look at the equations. [There are conditions such as "downhill" runways or end-of-runway
obstacles which sometimes necessitate a downwind takeoff.]

In the take-off equations it is important to realize that, as noted when first presented, the
distance and acceleration are measured relative to the ground; however, the aerodynamic
forces in the equations are obviously dependent on airspeed and not ground speed. We
must consider this in our equations. In doing so we will use the following designations for
different speeds:




This gives

VA = VG ± VW, + if a head wind, - if a tail wind.

Returning to the basic equation of motion we have

= A − BVA2.


VG = VA m VW


= = A − BVA2
dt dt

So, to determine the time for take-off we use

dt = .
A − BVA2

To find take-off distance we use

dVG dVG dt dVA dt 1 dVA

= = =
dS dS dt dS dt VG dt


dVG dVA dV
VG = = VG A .
dS dt dS

This becomes

(VA m VW ) = = A − BVA2.
dS dt

Finally we have a differential which includes wind effects. We will write it only for the
case of the headwind since this would be the normal situation.

dS = 2 −VW
A − BVA A − BVA2

Now, we must also note that the take-off speed of the aircraft is airspeed and not
ground speed. The time and distance equations above may be integrated above to give

1   B  B 
t2 − t1 = −1
 tanh  VA2  − tanh  VA1
AB   A  A 

1  A − BVA1 

S2 − S1 = ln  − V (t − t )
2B  A − BVA22  W 2 1

Finally, realizing that take-off usually starts from rest at zero ground speed (at t = 0), we

1  −1  B −1  B
t= tan h  VATO  − tanh  VW 
AB   A  A 

1  A− BVW2 
S= ln  − Vwt.
2B  A − BVA2TO 

Note that the take-off speed in these equations is the airspeed for takeoff and not the
ground speed.


Landing, like take-off, is properly defined as having two parts; the "terminal glide"
over a 50 foot obstacle to touchdown and the landing ground run. We have already
considered gliding flight and should be able to deal with this portion of flight. This
"terminal glide" will usually not actually be a non-powered glide as studied earlier. The
normal approach to landing for most aircraft is a powered descent. The FAA definition of
the landing terminal glide over an obstacle is, however based on an unpowered glide as the
limiting case. A real descent can be the most interesting portion of the flight for a pilot as
he of she corrects for side-winds, updrafts and downdrafts while aiming for a hoped-for
touchdown point on the runway. All of this is done at a descent rate of about 500 feet per
minute (about 8 mph).

We will concern ourselves with only the touchdown through full stop portion of the
landing. Again our primary concern will be ground run distance with the hope that full
stop occurs before the end of the runway.

The equations of motion for the landing ground run are identical to those for takeoff,
however, the terms in the equations can assume very different magnitudes from those in
take-off. To slow the aircraft in its landing ground run high drag is desirable, negative or
"reverse" thrust may be used and certainly brakes will be used during much of the run to
greatly increase the friction term. The boundary conditions on the integrals are essentially
reversed with the initial speed being the touchdown or "contact" speed and the final ground
speed being zero.

Before we look at the equations let's look at a typical landing as seen by a small plane,
general aviation pilot. The approach-to-landing descent will probably be made using full
flaps, at least in its final "glide" (this will be true for almost any aircraft). This will lower
the stall speed and allow approach and touchdown at a lower flight speed. It will also
steeper the approach glide and, on the ground, add to the drag to help slow the aircraft.

As soon as the pilot feels that the aircraft is under full control after touchdown he or she
will probably raise the flaps. While this reduces the drag and contributes to a longer
ground roll, it also reduces the lift, increasing ground friction forces and allowing better
directional control of the aircraft in a crosswind. After this is done the brakes will be
applied to further slow the aircraft to a stop. Larger, jet aircraft may apply reverse thrust
very soon after touchdown and before use of brakes to improve deceleration.

Now, let's look again at the equations of motion for an aircraft on the ground. We can
still use

dS = VdV ( A− BV 2 ).

And, if we define VC as the speed of initial ground contact on landing at some point defined
as S1 and conditions at any other point in the ground roll as S2 and V2 we have the
following integrated equation:

S2 − S1 = −
[ ]
ln ( A − BV22 ) − ln( A − BVC2 )


1  A − BVC2 
S2 − S1 = ln  .
2B  A − BV22 

If the total ground run distance is our interest we have a final speed V2 = 0, giving

1  B 
S= ln 1 − VC2 .
2B  A 

The time for this landing ground roll is found from

= A − BV 2
V2 dV
t2 − t1 = ∫ dt = ∫V
1 A − BV 2

Integration of this equation can take several different forms depending on the relative
magnitudes and signs of A and B. Looking again at these terms

A = g O − 
W 
g 1 
B=  S(CD − CLg ) + a ,
W 2 

Note that A will almost always be negative since thrust will always be zero or negative, if
not at touchdown, then very quickly thereafter. Braking forces could also be large enough
to make B negative, depending on the relative magnitudes of the lift and drag coefficients.
In the previously considered take-off case, both A and B would both be positive under
virtually any condition. In various landing situations it may be possible to have any
combination of negative or positive terms and this affects the form of the integral. The
difficulty arises in the fact that integration gives a square root of the product of A and B as
well as other terms with square roots of A and B individually or ratios of A and B. The
result can be an imaginary answer if the correct solution is not chosen.

The time of landing ground roll solution is given for the four possible combinations of
A and B below.

1  A +V B
1. A > 0, B > 0 : t2 − t1 = ln  
2 AB  A − V B 
1  −B 
2. A > 0, B < 0: t 2 − t1 = tan−1  V 
− AB  A 
1  B
3. A < 0, B > 0: t 2 − t1 = tan−1  V 
− AB  −A 
1  V − B − −A 
4. A < 0, B < 0: t 2 − t1 = ln  
2 AB  V −B + −A 

Effect of Wind on Landing Ground Roll

As in the case of taking off, all landings should be made into the wind (with the same
exceptions noted for take-off). The equations must then be written to account for the
different velocity terms. This is done exactly as it was for the take-off case.

dVG dVG dt A − BVA2

= =
dS dS dt VG


dVG dV
VG = A − BVA2 = VG A
dS dS

For the headwind case this gives:

(VA − VW ) = A − BVA2

dS = 2 −VW .
A − BVA A − BVA2

Integrating and noting that when the aircraft has come to rest on the ground the velocity will
equal that of the wind component along the runway VW,

1  A − BVC2 
S= ln  − VW ( t2 − t1 ).
2B  A − BVW2 

The last term is evaluated using the time equation already discussed.


The following aircraft touches down in landing at a speed 30% above its stall speed. The
pilot applies the brakes when the plane has slowed to 80% of its touchdown speed. If there
is no wind, find the distance required for the aircraft to come to a complete stop on the

W = 30,000 lb B = 0.5 = 0.02

S = 750 sq.ft. CL max = 2.2 ( with flaps)

Assume that the lift-to drag ratio at 1.3 times the stall speed has a value of eight and is
constant throughout the ground roll and that thrust is zero at touchdown and throughout the
ground roll.

Since everything is related to the stall speed we will first find its value.

Vstall = =123.6 fps
SCL max

giving a touchdown speed of

VC = 1.3Vstall = 160.7 fps.

This speed gives a lift coefficient of

CLg = CLVC = =1.30.

We will assume this lift coefficient is constant through the ground run.

We were not given a drag polar equation or its constants but we do know the liftto-drag
ratio and can find the drag and drag coefficient as follows:

DVe = = 3750lb, CDg = 1 = 0.1627

Now we can find the A and B terms for the distance solution. We must solve for the
distance in two parts, the distance between touchdown and application of the brakes and the
remaining distance to full stop.

Before braking ( = 0.02)

A1 = g −  = −0.6434 ft sec 2

W 
g 1 
B1 =  S(CD − CLg ) + a  = 1.3085 ×10 −4 ft −1
W 2 

giving a distance of

1  A1 − B1VC1 
S1 = ln   = 1376 ft
2B1  A1 − B1 VB2 

After braking ( = 0.5)

A2 = g −
T  = −16.085 ft sec2
W B

g 1 
B2 = S(CD − CLg ) = 4.663× 10− 4 ft −1
W  2 

giving the rest of the ground roll distance as:

1  A2 − B2VB2 
S2 = ln  = 699.4 ft
2B2  A2 

The total ground roll in landing is the sum of the two distances above:

S = S1 + S2 = 2075.4 ft



As discussed earlier, there are many components which may be included in the
calculations of takeoff and landing distances. In the previous calculations only the actual
ground run distances were considered and these, especially during landing, may be
composed of multiple segments where different values of friction coefficient and thrust
apply. A complete look at takeoff must also include the distance between the initiation of
rotation and the establishment of a constant rate of climb and the distance needed to clear a
defined obstacle height as shown in the figure below.

Figure 7.2

Several different terms may be used in a complete discussion of takeoff. These include the

Ground Roll: The distance from the start of the ground run or release of
brakes until the point where the wheels leave the ground. This includes the
distance needed to achieve the needed lift to equal the weight during rotation.
The takeoff velocity must be at least 1.1 times the stall speed and is normally
specified as between 1.1 and 1.2 times that speed.

Obstacle Clearance Distance: The distance between the point of brake

release and that where a specified altitude is reached. This altitude is usually
defined as 50 feet for military or smaller civil aviation aircraft and 35 feet for
commercial aircraft.

Balanced Field Length: The length of the field required for safe
completion of takeoff should one engine on a multi-engine aircraft fail at the
worst possible time during takeoff ground run. This distance includes the
obstacle clearance distance. The balanced field length is sometimes also called
the FAR Takeoff Field Length because it is a requirement for FAA
certification in FAR 25 for commercial aircraft and includes the 35 foot obstacle
clearance minimum. In the early part of the takeoff ground run the loss of one
engine would usually lead to a decision to abort the takeoff, apply brakes and
come to a stop. The "worst possible time" for engine failure would be when it is

no longer possible to stop the aircraft before reaching the end of the runway and
the decision must be made to continue the takeoff with one engine out.

Decision Speed (V 1 ): The speed at which the distance to stop after the
failure of one engine exactly equals the distance to continue takeoff on the
remaining engines and to clear the FAA defined obstacles. In calculating this
speed one cannot assume the possibility of using reverse thrust as part of the
braking process.


As in takeoff, landing actually includes several possible segments as shown in the

figure below. Our previous calculations included only the actual ground roll distance but a
complete definition may also include the portion of the approach needed to clear a defined
obstacle and that needed to transition from a steady approach glide to touchdown (the "flare
distance"). Note that the landing ground run could also include portions with reversed
thrust used alone or with the brakes.

The weight of the aircraft at landing is normally less than that at takeoff due to the use
of fuel during the flight, however it is common to calculate the landing distance of trainer
aircraft and of most propeller driven aircraft at takeoff weight. For non-trainer jets, landing
weight is normally assumed to be 85% of the takeoff weight. Military requirements usually
assume landing with a full payload and about half of the fuel.

Figure 7.3

As in takeoff, there are several definitions associated with landing which should be
familiar to the performance engineer:

FAR 23 Landing Field Length: This distance includes that needed to

clear a 50 foot obstacle at approach speed flying down a defined approach
glidepath (normally about 3 degrees). Touchdown is usually at about 1.15
times the stall speed. This total distance is usually about twice that of the
calculated ground roll distance. This distance is normally about the same as that
specified in requests for proposals for military aircraft.

FAR25 Landing Field Length: This distance adds to that of FAR 23

above an arbitrary twothirds as a safety margin.


Thus far all of our performance study has involved straight line flight. Unfortunately,
unless our airplane is flying from a runway that is exactly in line with our destination
runway and there is no wind on the route, straight line flight isn't very practical! We need
to be able to turn.

While the need to be able to turn is fairly obvious to us, a look at early aviation will
show that it often was the last thing on the mind of many aviation pioneers. The
uniqueness of the Wright Flyer was not its ability to fly a few feet in a straight line over the
sand at Kitty Hawk. It was unique in its ability to turn and maneuver. There are claims for
several other early aviators in this country and abroad who may indeed have made short,
uncontrolled "hops" or even legitimate straight line "flights" in powered vehicles before
December 17, 1903 but there are no claims for "controlled" flight of a powered, heavier
than air, man (or woman) carrying vehicle prior to this date.

There are several ways to turn a vehicle in flight. Early experimenters such as Otto
Lilienthal in Germany and Octave Chanute in this country knew that shifting the weight of
the "pilot" suspended beneath their early "hang gliders" would tilt or "bank the wings to
allow turns. Others such as Samuel P. Langley, the turn of the century director of the
Smithsonian who had government funding to build and fly the first airplane, designed their
craft to be steered with a rudder like a ship. Neither method of turning was very efficient.
Langley's heavier than air powered models, for example, flew very well but couldn't adjust
for winds and flew in long circles instead of a straight line as they had been designed to do.

Banking the wings (called the aero-planes in the 1890's) tilts the lift force to the side
and the sideward component of the lift results in a turn. Using a rudder alone results in a
side force on the fuselage of the aircraft and, hence, a turning force. Neither method,
employed alone, provides a very satisfactory means of turning and the result is usually a
very large radius turn.

The Wright brothers designed a complex mechanism involving coordinated rudders and
twisting of wings to combine both roll and yaw in a "coordinated", efficient turn. When
the Wrights took their aircraft to Europe in 1908 they amazed European aviators with their
craft's ability to turn and maneuver. French airplanes, which were the most sophisticated
in Europe, used only rudders to turn. The Wright Flyer, with its "wing warping" system
and coordinated rudder, was literally able to fly circles around the French aircraft.

The Wrights had made this system of ropes and pulleys which connected rudder to
twisting wing tips to a cradle under the pilot's body, the central focus of their patent on the
airplane. When world motorcycle high speed record holder and engine designer Glenn
Curtiss, with funding from Alexander Graham Bell and others, built and flew an airplane

with performance as good as or better than the Wright Flyer, the Wrights sued for patent
violation. The Curtiss planes, which used either small, separate wings near the wing tips
or wingtip mounted triangular flaps (later to be called ailerons) and which relied on pilot
operation of separate controls like today's stick and rudder system, were able to achieve the
same turning performance as the Wrights Flyer. Curtiss, a much more flamboyant and
public figure than either of the Wrights, quickly captured the attention and imagination of
the American public, infuriating the Wrights who had shunned public attention while
convincing themselves that no one else was capable of duplicating their aerial feats.

The decade long court battle between Curtiss and the Wright family over patent rights to
devices capable of efficiently turning an airplane is credited by most historians as allowing
European aviators and designers to forge far ahead of Americans. The Wrights were so
absorbed with protecting their patent that they made no further efforts to improve the
airplane and the threat of a Wright lawsuit kept all but Curtiss out of the business. Curtiss,
whose lack of respect for caution had earlier enabled him to set the world motorized speed
record on a motorcycle with a V-8 engine, with moral and financial support from Bell and
Henry Ford and others, kept the patent suit in court through appeal after appeal and
continued to build and sell airplanes. To get around the Wright patent, Curtiss, at one time
built his aircraft without ailerons or other roll controls and then shipped them to nearby
Canada where one of Bell's companies added the ailerons before the planes were shipped
to customers in Europe! Meanwhile, Curtiss continued to experiment and innovate and it is
no accident that when the first World War drew American participation it was Curtiss and
not Wright aircraft that went to war. After the war it was the famed Curtiss "Jenny" that
brought the "barnstorming" age of aviation to all America.

I hope the reader will pardon the above slip into historical fascination. By now some of
you are asking what the heck all of this has to do with aircraft performance in turns? The
facts are, however, that the first ten to fifteen years of American flight really were
dominated by the airplane's ability to turn.

To keep the physics of our discussion as simple as possible, lets consider only turns at
constant radius in a horizontal plane. This is the ideal turn with no loss or gain of
altitude which every student pilot practices by flying in circles around some farmer's silo or
other prominent landmark.

Our objectives in looking at turning performance will be to find things like the
maximum rate of turn and the minimum turning radius and to determine the power or thrust
needed to maintain such turns. We will begin by looking at two types of turns.

Today's airplanes, in general, make turns using the same techniques pioneered by the
Wrights and improved by Curtiss; coordinated turns using rudder and aileron controls to
combine roll and yaw. The primary exception would be found in some evasive turning
maneuvers made by military aircraft and in the everyday turns of most student pilots!

Non-winged vehicles such as missiles, airships, and submarines still make turns like
those of early French aviators and of Langleys "Aerodrome", using rudder and body or
fuselage sideforce to generate a "skiding" turn. We will examine this technique before
looking at the more sophisticated coordinated turn.

The acceleration in any turn of radius R is given by the following relation:

ar = V2 R.

This acceleration is directed radially inward toward the center of the circle.

We can also consider the acceleration from the perspective of the rate of change of the
"heading angle", as shown in the figure below.

ar = V ˙

Figure 8.1

The "skid to turn" technique is illustrated below for a constant radius, horizontal
turn. A rudder (or even vectored thrust) is used to angle the vehicle and the sideforce
created by the flow over the yawed body creates the desired acceleration.

Figure 8.2

The equations of motion become

L− W = 0
mV 2
Y = mV =
˙ .

For the skid turn examined above, the turning rate and radius depend on the amount of
side force which can be generated on the body of the vehicle. Note that the lift (or
buoyancy in the cases of submarines and airships) does not enter into the problem.

WV 2
R= , ˙ = gY
gY WV .

Now let's look at the coordinated turn. In the ideal coordinated turn as illustrated in
the figure below, the aerodynamic lift is used to both balance the weight such that
horizontal flight is maintained and to provide a side force which produces the desired
turning acceleration. No actual side force is generated on the fuselage of the aircraft.

Figure 8.3 Coordinated Turn

In reality the pilot uses both aileron (roll) and rudder (yaw) to enter such a turn. If the
turn is properly coordinated the resulting combined acceleration and gravitational force felt
by both airplane and pilot will be directed "down" along the vertical axis of the aircraft and
will be felt by the pilot as an increased force into the seat. The improperly coordinated will
be felt as including a side force pushing the pilot left or right in the seat. These same forces
act on the "ball" in the aircraft's "turn-slip" indicator, moving the ball off center in an
uncoordinated turn.

If a turn is not coordinated several results may occur. The turning radius will not be
constant with the airplane either "skidding" outward to a larger radius turn or "slipping"
inward to a smaller radius. There could also be a gain or loss of altitude.

In the coordinated turn, part of the lift produced by the wing is used to create the
turning acceleration. The remainder of the lift must still counteract the weight to maintain
horizontal flight. Now we look at our only situation where lift is not assumed equal to
weight. Lift must be greater than the weight.

We must now define a load factor, n, where

L = nW.
This load factor can then be related to the bank angle used in the turn, to the turn radius
and to the rate of turn. Returning to the vertical force balance equation we have

Lcos − W = nW cos − W = 0

cos =1 n.

Using the other equation of motion we can find the turn radius

mV 2 mV 2 V2 1
R= = =
Lsin nW sin n sin

Knowing that the cosine of the bank angle is equal to 1 n we can find the value of the
sine of the bank angle by constructing a right triangle


n2 −1
sin = 2 , tan = n 2 −1

and the turning radius becomes

V2 1
R= .
g n2 − 1

In dealing with turns we must remember that lift is no longer equal to weight. The lift
coefficient is then

L 2nW
CL = 1 = 2 ,
V2 = .

The above allows us to write the turning radius in another manner,

2W  n 
R=  .
gSCL  n2 − 1 

It should be noted here that if a small turning radius is desired a high load factor and lift
coefficient are needed and low altitude will help. High wing loading (W S ) will also allow
a tighter turn.

The rate of turn in a coordinated turn is

n2 − 1
˙ = Lsin = nmg sin = ng
mV mV V n

˙ = g n 2 − 1.

g SCL n2 − 1
˙ = .
2W n

The same factors which contribute to small turning radii give high rates of turn.

Load factor (n)

From the above equations it is obvious that the load factor plays an important role in
turns. In straight and level flight the load factor, n, is 1. In maneuvers of any kind the
load factor will be different than 1. In a turn such as those described it is obvious that n will
exceed 1. The same is true in maneuvers such as "pull ups".

The load factor is simply a function of the amount of lift needed to perform a given
maneuver. If the required bank angle for a coordinated turn is 60° the load factor must
equal 2. This means that the lift is equal to twice the weight of the aircraft and that the
structure of the aircraft must be sufficient to carry that load. It also means that the pilot and
passengers must be able to tolerate the loading imposed on them by this turn, a load which
is forcing their body into their seat with an effect twice that of normal gravity. This "2g"
load or acceleration is also forcing their blood from their heads to their feet and having
other interesting effects on the human body.
If we look at the lift relation

1 
Lmax = nmaxW = CL max  V 2 S
2 

we see that the maximum lift and therefore the maximum load factor that may be generated
aerodynamically is a function of the maximum lift coefficient (stall conditions).

One must realize that the aircraft, or, more precisely, its wings, may be capable of
generating far higher load factors than either the pilot and passengers or the aircraft
structure may be able to tolerate. It is not hard to design aircraft which can tolerate far
higher "g-loads" than the human body, even when the body is in a prone position in a
specially designed seat and uniform. Engineers in the industry will tell you that they could
design far more agile fighters at much lower cost if the military didn't insist on having
pilots in the cockpit!

All aircraft, from a Cessna 152 to the X-31, are designed to tolerate certain load factors.
The aerobatic version of the Cessna 152 is certified to tolerate a higher load factor than the
"commuter" version of that aircraft.

The FAA also imposes certain flight restrictions on commercial aircraft based on
passenger comfort. It is possible to do aerobatics in a Boeing 767 but most of the
passengers wouldn't like it. Passenger carrying commercial flight is therefore normally
restricted to "g-loads" of 1.5 or less even though the aircraft themselves are capable of
much more.

The two-minute turn

General aviation pilots are usually familiar with the "standard rate" or "two-minute"
turn. This turn, at a rate of three-degrees per second (0.05236 rad/sec) is used in
maneuvers under controlled instrument flight conditions. To make such a turn the pilot
uses an instrument called a "turn-slip" indicator. This instrument, illustrated below,
consists of a gyroscope which is partially restrained and attached to a needle indicator, and
a curved tube containing a ball in a fluid. As the airplane turns, the gyroscope deflects the
indicator needle as it attempts to remain fixed in orientation. The force of the gyroscope
and the resulting needle displacement is proportional to the turn rate. The accuracy of this
indication is not dependent on the degree to which the turn is coordinated. The ball in the
curved tube will stay centered if the turn is coordinated while it will move to the side (right
or left) if it is not coordinated. There is a mark on the face of the instrument which denotes
the needle position for the two-minute turn rate.

Figure 8.4 Turn-Slip Indicator

To make a two-minute turn the pilot need only place the aircraft in a turn such that the
needle is at the standard turn indication in the desired direction. To turn 90˚ the turn rate is
maintained for 30 seconds, one minute for 180˚, etc. The vertical speed indicator (rate of
climb) is used to maintain altitude and the ball is kept centered to coordinate the turn.

Many pilots are taught, incorrectly, that the two-minute turn mark on the turn-slip
indicator is an indication of a 15 degree bank angle, with the next mark being 30˚ and so
on. Some pilots even refer to the turn-slip indicator as the "turn-bank" indicator when the
instrument has absolutely no way to detect bank. It is possible, using a "cross control"
technique, to turn the aircraft via yaw with no bank (much like a missile turns) and see that
the instrument indicates the correct rate of turn even though there is no bank and, similarly,
the aircraft may be placed in roll without turning and the indicator will remain centered.

Why would this error in flight instruction occur? The answer lies partly in the difficulty
in erradicating longstanding lore and partly in the fact that, for a small general aviation
trainer, a coordinated two-rninute turn does occur at about a 15 degree bank angle. Let's
look at the numbers.

From our previous equations we have

tan = V .

Inserting fifteen degrees as the bank angle and a two minute turn rate (0.05236 rad/sec)
gives a velocity of 165 ft/sec or 112 mph.

This is indeed close to the speed at which such an airplane would fly in a turn. If we,
however, look at a faster aircraft, lets say one that is operating at 350 miles per hour, and
use the two-minute rate of turn we get a very different bank angle of 30 degrees!

Suppose you are a passenger in a Boeing 737 traveling at 600 mph and the pilot set up
a two minute turn. This would give a bank angle of 55 degrees. It would also give a load
factor of 1.75! This is higher than the FAA allows for airline operations. For this reason
airliners use turn rates slower than the two minute turn.
Instantaneous versus sustained turn conditions

The previously derived relations will give the instantaneous turn rate and radius for a
given set of flight conditions. In other words, for a given set of flight conditions we can
determine the turn rate and radius, etc. Another question which must be asked is "Can the
airplane sustain that turn rate?" The pilot may be able to, for example, place the plane in a
60 degree bank at 250 mph but may find that there is not enough engine thrust to hold that
speed, bank angle and maintain altitude.


For the airplane with the specifications below find the main turn rate and minimum
radius of turn and the speeds at which they occur. Also determine if this turn can be
sustained at sea level standard conditions.

W / S = 59.88lb ft 2 S =167sq ft CL max = 1.5

nmax = 6 CD = 0.018 + 0.064CL2
Tmax = 5000 pounds

The maximum turning rate is

SCL max nmax
˙ max = g
2W nmax
˙ max = 0.424rad sec = 24.29° sec.

The velocity for this turn rate is

V= = 448.6 ft sec.

The minimum turning radius is

2W n
Rmin = =1058 ft = V ˙ .
gSCL n −1

Now we must see if the plane has enough thrust to operate at these conditions. The drag
coefficient at maximum lift coefficient is

CD = 0.018 + 0.064(CL max ) = 0.162.


At the speed found above the drag is then

1 2
D = CD V S = 6479lb.
This drag exceeds the thrust available from the aircraft engine!

If the above aircraft enters a coordinated turn at the maximum turn rate it will quickly
slow to a lower speed and turning rate with a larger turn radius or it will loose altitude.

The V-n or V-g Diagram

A Plot which is sometimes used to examine the combination of aircraft structural and
aerodynamic limitations related to load factor is the V-n or V-g diagram. This is a plot of
load factor n versus velocity.

We know that when lift exceeds weight

L = nW = CL V 2 S.

We know that one limit is imposed by stall

L = nW = CL max V 2 S.

Rearranging this we can write

1 C
n= V 2 L max ,
2 W S

and we can rearrange this as

2n W
V= .
CL max S

Plotting n versus V will then give a curve like that shown below.

Figure 8.5

We can also consider negative load factors which will relate to "inverted" stall; ie, stall at
negative angle of attack. At negative angle of attack, unless the wing is untwisted and
constructed of symmetrical airfoil sections, will have a CLmax different from that at
positive angle of attack. This will give a different but similar curve below the axis.
Combining this with the plot above gives the following plot.

Figure 8.6

To the left of this curve is the post-stall flight region which, with the exception of high
performance military aircraft, represents a out-of-bounds area for flight.

Other limits must also be considered. There will obviously be an upper speed limit
such as that found earlier for straight and level flight. There will also be limits imposed by
the structural design of the aircraft. Depending on the aircraft's structural category (utility,
aerobatic, etc.) it will be designed to structurally absorb load factors up to a given limit at
positive angle of attack and another limit at negative angle of attack. Once these are
defined, the complete V-n diagram denotes an operating envelope in terms of load factor

Figure 8.7

The point where the structural limit line and the stall limit intersect is termed a "corner
point". The velocity at this point is limited by both maximum structural load factor and
CLmax. The velocity at that point is

2nmax W
Vcorner = .
CL max S

At speeds below the "corner velocity" it is impossible to structurally damage the airplane
aerodynamically because the plane will stall before damage can occur. At speeds above this
value it is possible to place the aircraft in a maneuver which will result in structural damage,
provided the plane has sufficient thrust to reach that speed and load.

It is possible for a wind "gust" to cause loads which exceed the above limits. Such
gusts may be part of what is referred to as wind shear and are common around
thunderstorms or mountain ridges. Gusts can be in either the vertical or horizontal
direction. The primary effect of a horizontal gust is to increase or decrease the likelihood of
stall due to the change in speed relative to the wing. This is often the cause of wind shear
accidents around airports where the aircraft is operating at near-stall conditions.

If a gust is vertical, we can look at its effect in terms of change of angle of attack.
Suppose we have a vertical gust of magnitude wg . Its effect on the angle of attack and CL
is seen below. If, for example, an aircraft in straight and level flight encounters a vertical
gust of magnitude wg the new load factor is

∆ ∝≅
∆CL = ∆∝
∆CL = a∆ ∝≅ a
Figure 8.8

so the change in lift is

∆L =∆ CL V∞2 S
≅ SV∞wg .

∆L a SV∞
∆n = = wg.
W 2 W

If, for example, an aircraft in straight and level flight encounters a vertical gust of
magnitude wg the new load factor is

a V∞wg
n1 = n + ∆n = 1+ .

(for straight and level flight n = 1)

The effect of the gust on the load factor is therefore amplified by the flight speed V. This
effect can be plotted on the V-n diagram to see if it results in stall or structural failure.

Figure 8.9

For the case illustrated above, the gust will cause stall if it occurs at a flight speed
below Va and can cause structural failure if it occurs at speeds above Vb .




Read Chapter 1 in the text

1. Write a computer program in either BASIC or FORTRAN to calculate standard

atmosphere conditions (pressure, temperature and density) for any altitude in the
troposphere and stratosphere in both SI and English units. Turn in a listing of the
program and a print-out for conditions every 1,000 meters (SI units) and every 1000
feet (English units) up to 100,000 feet or 30,000 meters.

2. A compressed air tank is fitted with a window of 150 mm diameter. A U-tube

manometer using mercury as its operating fluid is connected between the tank and the
atmosphere and reads 1.80 meters. What is the total load acting on the bolts securing
the window? The relative density of mercury is 13.6.

3. On a certain day the sea level pressure and temperature are 101,500 N m2 and 25°C,
respectively. The temperature is found to fall linearly with altitude to -55°C at 11,300
meters and be constant above that altitude.

An aircraft with no instrument errors and with an altimeter calibrated to ISA

specifications has an altimeter reading of 5000 meters. What is the actual altitude of
the aircraft? What altitude would the altimeter show when the plane lands at sea

1. Which of the following flows satisfy conservation of mass for an incompressible

u = − x 3 sin y
v = −3x 2 cosy

u = x 3 sin y
v =− 3x 2 cosy

Ur = 2r sin cos
U = −2r sin 2

2. A model is being tested in a wind tunnel at a speed of 100 mph.

(a) If the flow in the test section is at sea level standard conditions, what is the
pressure at the model's stagnation point?

(b) The tunnel speed is being measured by a pitot-static tube connected to a U-

tube manometer. What is the reading on that manometer in inches of water.

(c) At one point on the model a pressure of 2058 psf is measured. What is the
local airspeed at that point?


The following information pertains to the flow of air and fuel through a jet engine:

inlet velocity 300 fps

inlet flow density 0.0023 sl ft3
inlet area 4 ft2

exit flow velocity 1800 fps

exit flow density unknown
exit area 2 ft2

fuel flow rate 5lbm sec

Use the momentum theorem to find the thrust from this engine. The solution should
include finding the entrance and exit mass flow rates and the exit flow density.


1. To tow a certain body through the atmosphere at sea level requires a power PO
Power required is equal to the drag multiplied by the velocity. Calculate the
power needed to tow the same body under aerodynamically similar conditions
(same Reynolds Number) at the base of the stratosphere where the density is
0.0007103sl ft3 and viscosity is 2.97 ×10 − 7 sl ft.sec.

2. A certain aircraft is designed so that when on the runway during takeoff its
wing will be at an angle of attack of five degrees. If the lift curve slope is 0.08
per degree and the angle of attack for zero lift is minus one degree, what speed
would the aircraft have to obtain before it lifts off the runway without "rotation"
when its "wing loading" (W/S) is 75 lb ft 2 . Solve the problem at sea level
standard conditions and at a standard altitude of 5000 ft.


An aircraft weighs 3000 lb and has a wing area of 175 ft 2 , AR = 7, e = 0.95. If CD 0 is

0.028, plot drag versus velocity for sea level and 10,000 feet altitudes, plotting drag in 20
fps intervals. Confirm that Dmin and VMD are the same as those calculated in the text.
Also, using TSL = 400 lb (constant) and the proportional value of thrust at 10,000 ft, find
the maximum and minimum speeds at sea level and 10,000 ft and compare those with the
values calculated in the text examples.


1. An aircraft weighs 56,000 pounds and has a wing area of 900 ft 2 . Its drag
equation is given by

CD = 0.016 + 0.04 CL2 .

The airplane is powered by a turbojet engine whose thrust is constant at altitude

as follows:

altitude (ft 0 5000 10,000 15,000 20,000 25,000 30,000

thrust (lb) 6420 5810 5200 4590 4000 3360 2700

a. Calculate the minimum thrust required for straight and level flight and the
corresponding true airspeeds at sea level and at 30,000 ft.

b. Calculate the minimum power required and the corresponding true

airspeeds at sea level and 30,000 ft.

2. For the above aircraft:

a. plot thrust and drag vs Ve for straight and level flight.

b. plot altitude vs Ve max and Vmax for straight and level flight.

c. find the altitude for maximum true airspeed.

d. find the maximum obtainable altitude.

e. compare V at minimum drag from the plot with that calculated above.
f. calculate ( L D)max .

1. An aircraft has the following specifications:

W = 24,000 lb
S = 600 p,2
CD 0 = 0.02

This aircraft has run out of fuel at an altitude of 30,000 ft. Find the initial and
final values of its airspeed for best range, the glide angle for best range, its
rate of descent at this speed and find the time taken to descend to sea level at this

2. For the aircraft above, assume a sea level thrust of 6000 pounds and assume
that thrust at altitude is equal to the sea level thrust times the density ratio
(sigma). Find the true airspeeds for best rate of climb at sea level, at 20,000 ft,
30,000 ft and 40,000 ft. Also find the ceiling altitude.

3. For an aircraft where:

W = 10,000 lb
W S = 50 psf
CD 0 = 0.015

find the best rate of climb and the velocity for best rate of climb at sea level
where T = constant = 4000 lb and at an altitude of 40,000 ft where T = 2000 lb.


We wish to compare the performance of two different types of "General Aviation"

aircraft; the popular Cessna Citation III business jet and the best all-around, four place,
single engine, piston plane in the business, the Cessna 182. Approximate aerodynamic and
performance characteristics are given in the table below:


Wingspan 53.3 ft 35.8 ft

Wing area 318 ft 2 174 ft 2

Normal gross weight 19,815 lb 2,950 lb

Total thrust at sea level 7300 lb ----------

Usable power at sea level --------- 230 hp

CD 0 0.02 0.025

Oswald Efficiency Factor (e) 0.81 0.80

1. Calculate and tabulate the thrust required (drag) versus Ve data for both aircraft
and plot the results on the same graph. Plot the sea level thrust available curves
for both aircraft on the same graph.

2. Calculate the maximum velocity at sea level for both aircraft and compare with
that indicated on the graph.

3. Calculate and tabulate the power required versus Ve data for both aircraft and
plot each on a separate graph. Plot the sea level power available on the same

4. Calculate and tabulate the rate of climb (in ft min ) versus velocity data at sea
level for both aircraft for normal gross weight and plot the data on the same

5. Calculate and tabulate the maximum rate of climb versus altitude data for both
aircraft and plot it on the same graph. Determine the absolute ceilings of both

6. Calculate the time required to climb from sea level to 20.000 ft for both aircraft.
Assume that the curves in (5) are close enough to linear to use a linear
approximation for the calculation.


1. A jet aircraft with a max gross weight of 18,000 pounds can carry one third of
its weight in fuel (fuel weight = 6000 lbs.) and has a 400 ft2 wing area. If the
specific fuel consumption at an altitude of 30,000 ft is 1.3 lb per pound thrust
per hour and if CD 0 = 0.02 and K = 0.06, what is the plane's maximum range
and maximum endurance at 30,000 feet? Check to make sure the plane is not
exceeding its critical Mach number of 0.85 at its CL for best range.

2. Determine the maximum range, maximum endurance and their related speeds at
an altitude of 10,000 feet and a max gross weight of 10,000 lb. The aircraft has
a wing area of 200 ft 2 , a fuel and oil load of 4000 pounds, an oil consumption
of one gallon for every 25 gallons of fuel consumed, a specific fuel
consumption of 0.5lb hp − hr and a propeller efficiency of 90%. The drag
polar is not necessarily parabolic but the power required characteristics are
tabulated as follows for flight at max gross weight at an altitude of 10,000 ft.:

V (mph) Preq( hp)

403 1350
350 925
300 600
250 400
200 250
175 215
150 200
140 205
130 220
125 240

Obtain the speeds for best range and endurance from the power required curve
and then find the lift and drag coefficients from the velocity and power required.

Use fuel = 6 lb gal and oil = 7.5 lb gal .

Note: A very large portion of the aircraft's weight is fuel and the
result will be a rather incredible range and indurance.

3. For the airplane in problem 2 find the maximum range with a 30 knot tailwind.

1 Knot = 1.15 mph


1. An aircraft has a drag polar where CD 0 = 0.02 and K = 0.04. The wing's
maximum lift coefficient is 1.5. The plane weighs 115,000 pounds, has a 59
psf wing loading and has four jet engines with 6900 pounds of thrust from each
engine. Find the takeoff ground run for this aircraft with a takeoff speed of 1.2
times the stall speed and a runway friction coefficient of 0.02 for the following
two cases:

(a) The takeoff angle of attack is used during the entire ground run

(b) Optimum ground run conditions.

2. Find the ground run time for the two cases in the above problem.

3. For commercial aircraft the load factor is limited to a value of 1.5. For the
aircraft described in problem 1 find:

(a) the maximum radius for a coordinated turn.

(b) the speed for this turn.

(c) the time required for a 360˚ turn.