You are on page 1of 8

AIRCRAFT BASICS

3.1 INTRODUCTION

Figure 3.1: Airplane.


3.1.1 What Is Aeronautics?
Aeronautics is typically defined as the art or science of flight, or the science of operating
aircraft. This includes a branch of aeronautics called aerodynamics. Aerodynamics deals with the
motion of air and the way it interacts with objects in motion, such as an aircraft. Both of these
branches are a part of the tree of physical science. Aviation, however, refers to the operation of
heavier-than-air craft.
3.1.2 How Did Aeronautics Begin?
The theoretical basis for these branches stems from the work of Sir Isaac Newton in the
1600s. Newton developed laws that defined the effects of forces acting on objects in motion or at
rest. He also developed the concept of viscosity, or fluid friction, which is the resistance of air or
any other fluid to flow. Daniel Bernoulli, in the 1700s, developed the principle that the speed of a
fluid is directly related to pressure. That is, the faster the flow of a fluid, the lower the pressure
that is exerted on the surface it is flowing over. For example, if air is flowing faster over the top
of a surface than under a surface, the pressure on the top of the surface will be less than that
underneath. Understanding of these concepts was necessary to the development of flight.
Without understanding the aerodynamic principles of flight, humans would simply be mimicking
the actions of birds. It was demonstrated through many spectacular yet often disastrous attempts,
that pure imitation would not enable humans to fly.
3.1.3 What Is An Airplane?
What is the difference between aircraft and airplane? Aircraft is the more general term,
and refers to any heavier-than-air craft that is supported by its own buoyancy or by the action of
air on its structures. An airplane is a heavier-than-air craft that is propelled by an engine and uses
fixed aerodynamic surfaces (i.e. wings) to generate lift as shown in Fig.3.1.So, every airplane is
an aircraft, but not every aircraft is an airplane! Gliders are aircraft that are not airplanes. The
Space Shuttle is definitely an aircraft, but it is not an airplane. It does not carry engines for
propulsion. Helicopters are also aircraft that are not airplanes because their aerodynamic surfaces
are not fixed - they rotate.

3.2 AIRCRAFT STRUCTURES

Figure
[8]
3.2: Aircraft structure.
3.2.1 Fuselage
The main body structure is the fuselage to which all other components are attached as
shown in Fig.3.2. The fuselage contains the cockpit or flight deck, passenger compartment and
cargo compartment. While wings produce most of the lift, the fuselage also produces a little lift.
A bulky fuselage can also produce a lot of drag. For this reason, a fuselage is streamlined to
decrease the drag. We usually think of a streamlined car as being sleek and compact - it does not
present a bulky obstacle to the oncoming wind. A streamlined fuselage has the same attributes. It
has a sharp or rounded nose with sleek, tapered body so that the air can flow smoothly around it.
Unlike the wing, which is subjected to large distributed air loads, the fuselage is
subjected to relatively small air loads. The primary loads on the fuselage include large
concentrated forces from wing reactions, landing gear reactions and pay loads. For airplanes
carrying passengers, the fuselage must also withstand internal pressures. Because of internal
pressures, the fuselage often has an efficient circular cross-section (as shown in Fig. 3.3). The
fuselage structure is a semi-monologue construction consisting of a thin shell stiffened by
longitudinal axial elements (stringers and Longerons) supported by many traverse frames are
rings (Bulkheads) along the length. The fuselage skin carries the shear stresses produced by
torques and transverse forces.

Figure 3.3: Fuselage skin.


3.2.2 Wings
The amount of lift produced by an airfoil depends upon many factors:
• Angle of attack
• The lift devices used (like flaps)
• The density of the air
• The area of the wing
• The shape of the wing
• The speed at which the wing is traveling
The wings are the most important lift-producing part of the aircraft. Wings vary in design t he shape
of a wing greatly influences the performance of an airplane. The speed of an airplane, its
maneuverability, its handling qualities, all are very dependent on the shape of the wings. There
are four basic wing shapes that are used on modern airplanes: straight, sweep (forward and
back), delta and swing-wing as shown in Fig.3.4.
The straight wing is found mostly on small, low-speed airplanes. General Aviation
airplanes often have straight wings. These wings provide good lift at low speeds, but are not
suited to high speeds. Since the wing is perpendicular to the airflow it has a tendency to create
appreciable drag. However, the straight wing provides good, stable flight. It is cheaper and can
be made lighter, too. Depending upon the aircraft type and its purpose. Most airplanes are
designed so that the outer tips of the wings are higher than where the wings are attached to the
fuselage. This upward angle is called the dihedral and helps keep the airplane from rolling
unexpectedly during flight. Wings also carry the fuel for the airplane.
The sweepback wing is the wing of choice for most high-speed airplanes made today.
Sweep wings create less drag, but are somewhat more unstable at low speeds. The high-sweep
wing delays the formation of shock waves on the airplane as it nears the speed of sound. The
amount of sweep of the wing depends on the purpose of the airplane. A commercial airliner has a
moderate sweep. This results in less drag while maintaining stability at lower speeds. High speed
airplanes (like fighters) have greater sweep. These airplanes are not very stable at low speeds.
They take off and descend for landing at a high rate of speed.
The forward-sweep wing is a wing design that has yet to make it into mass production.
An airplane (like the X-29) is highly maneuverable, but it is also highly unstable. A computer-
based control system must be used in the X-29 to help the pilot fly.

Figure 3.4: Different types of wing.


A delta wing looks like a large triangle from above. Because of the high sweep, airplanes
with this wing can reach high speeds - many supersonic airplanes have delta wings. Because of
the high sweep, the landing speeds of airplanes with delta wings are very fast. This wing shape is
found on the supersonic transport Concorde.
The swing-wing design attempts to exploit the high lift characteristics of a primarily
straight wing with the ability of the sweepback wing to enable high speeds. During landing and
takeoff, the wing swings into an almost straight position. During cruise, the wing swings into a
sweepback position. There is a price to pay with this design, however, and that is weight. The
hinges that enable the wings to swing are very heavy
The wing cross-section takes the shape of an airfoil, which is designed based on
aerodynamic considerations. The wing as a whole performs the combined function of a beam and
the torsion member. It consists of axial members in stringers, bending members in spars and
shear panels in the cover skin and webs of spars. The spar is a heavy beam running span wise
to take transverse shear loads and span wise bending. It is usually composed of a thin shear panel
(the web) the heavy cap or flange at the top and bottom to take bending. Wing ribs are planer
structures capable of carrying in-plane loads. They are placed chord wise along the wingspan. It
decides serving as load redistributes, ribs also hold the skin stringer to the designed counter
shape. Ribs reduce the effective buckling length of the stringers (or the stringer-skin system) and
thus increase their compressive load capability.
The cover skin of the wing together with the spar webs forms an efficient torsion
member. For subsonic airplanes, the skin is relatively thin and may be design to undergo post
buckling. Thus, the thin skin can be assumed to make no contribution to bending of the wing
box, and spars and stringers take the bending moment. Supersonic airfoils are relatively thin
compared with subsonic airfoils. To with stand high surface air loads and to provide additional
bending capability of the wing box structure, thicker skins are often necessary. In addition, to
increase structural efficiency, stiffeners can be manufactured (either by forging or machining) as
integral parts of the skin.

Figure 3.5: Components of wings.


Some terminologies with respect to wing are listed below.
Airfoil: any surface such as airplane wing, aileron or rudder designed to obtain reaction from the
air through which it moves.
Chord line: chord line is line joining the centers of curvature of leading and trailing edge.
Chord length: the chord length is the distance between the leading and trailing edges measured
along the chord line.
Mean Aerodynamic Chord (MAC): the chord of an imaginary airfoil, which would have
force, vectors throughout the flight range identical with those of an actual wing or wings.
Aspect ratio: Aspect Ratio which is defined as Span / Chord or Span Square / Area is an
important feature of the plan form as shown in Fig. 3.6. With high aspect ratio the induced drag is
less. A high aspect ratio (8 to 10) is often adopted for transport aircraft. For fighter it is not
practicable since long spar wing would not be stiff at very high speeds. Other aerodynamic
considerations also dictate the choice of a low aspect ratio (2 to 4) for high-speed aircraft.

Figure 3.6: Wing geometry.


Spar: spar is a primary beam, which extends to the full length of the wing. It is a principle span-
wise member of the wing structure of an aircraft.
Span: it is the distance measured from wing tip to the other wing tip in the plan.
Rib: a light structure conforming to the shape of the airfoil over which the skin is attached and
which transfers the air load to the spars.

Figure 3.7: Wing rib.


Nose rib: rib between front spar and the leading edge of the airfoil.
Inter-Spar rib: Rib between the adjacent spars.

3.3 AIRCRAFT LOADS


During flight the four forces acting on an aircraft are Lift, Drag, Weight and Thrust as
shown in Fig.3.8.
Figure 3.8: Aircraft loads.
3.3.1
Lift
Lift is the upward force created by the airflow as it passes over the wings. This force is
the key aerodynamic force, and is opposite the weight force. In straight-and-level, un-accelerated
flight, the aircraft is in a state of equilibrium. The lifting force is equal to the weight of the
aircraft; therefore the aircraft does not climb or dive. If the lifting force were greater than the
weight, then the aircraft would climb. If the aircraft were to lose some of its lift, it would
continue to climb unless the weight of the aircraft was more than the lifting force. In this
instance, the aircraft would begin to descend back to earth. Of course these observations are very
simplified. In the true world of aerodynamics, all the forces are heavily dependent upon each
other.
3.3.2 Drag
Drag is the retarding force (backwards force) that limits the aircraft's speed. It is caused
by the production of lift. Anytime the aircraft is producing lift, it is also producing drag as shown
in Fig.3.9. Any deflection or interference with a smooth airflow around the airplane will cause
drag.

Figure 3.9: Drag.


3.3.3 Thrust
Thrust is the forward force that "propels" the aircraft through the air as shown in
Fig.3.10. Usually, it is provided by an engine that turns a propeller. Each propeller blade is
similar to a wing on an aircraft. The shape and angle-of-attack of the blades produces a low
pressure region in front of the propeller and increased pressure behind it. Going back to the
Bernoulli Principle and Newton's Third Law of Motion, the aircraft has a great tendency to move
forward.

Figure 3.10: Thrust.


3.3.4 Weight
Weight is the opposing force to lift. It is caused by the downward pull of gravity on
the aircraft's mass. The weight of an airplane is not constant. It varies with the
cargo on board, the different type of equipment, passengers, and most importantly,
the fuel. As an airplane flies along, it is getting lighter because it is burning of fuel.
Crop dusters, military cargo planes, and sky diving planes also decrease their
weight during flight by either losing their cargo or some passengers.