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Altitude Hold Controlling of Lockheed NT-33A Using Different Controlling


Ahmad Ali Ansari & Jazib Hassan
Aeronautics and Astronautics Department
Institute of Space Technology
Islamabad Expressway, Islamabad 44000

The paper focuses on the development of the controller
for altitude hold due to the change in pitch which
occurs due to any disturbance say gust or air pocket in
the flying regime. The first step is the development of
the transfer function for the desire purpose which
includes the altitude and pitch changes due to elevator
deflection, then applying the two different controlling
techniques to make the transient effect as stable as
possible. The primary controller is the PID controller
in which gain tuning is done to set the response and the
other controller technique is compensation of response
by adding pole and zeroes according to the desire
result which is wanted. In the end both of the
controllers are compared and proper
recommendations are given.

Key Words: NT-33A, PID Controller, Lead
Compensator, Stability, MATLAB, Simulation

i. Introduction
The Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star is an American-built
jet trainer aircraft. It was produced by Lockheed and
made its first flight in 1948, piloted by Tony LeVier.
The T-33 was developed from the Lockheed P-80/F-80
starting as TP-80C/TF-80C in development, then
designated T-33A.

Figure 1. Lockheed NT-33A
A trainer is a class of aircraft designed specifically to
facilitate in-flight training of pilots and aircrews. The
use of a dedicated trainer aircraft with additional safety
featuressuch as tandem flight controls, forgiving
flight characteristics and a simplified cockpit
arrangementallows pilots-in-training to safely
advance their real-time piloting, navigation and/or war
fighting skills without the danger of overextending
their abilities alone in a fully featured aircraft.
Lockheed is a famous industry in aircraft making and
their main aim is to satisfy the customer about the
quality of the product. The altitude holding is an
important issue in the controlling of an aircraft. It is
commonly used during the cruise operation. In Altitude
hold mode the aircraft is made to fly at a constant
Altitude by automatically controlling the flight path
angle through elevators. For this mode of operation the
aircraft is first trimmed to fly straight and level and the
power is adjusted to yield the desired Altitudes.
For the purpose of controlling two different controlling
techniques are applied more specifically PID controller
and a compensator is designed to get the desire results.
For this purpose MATLAB and Simulink is used and
the responses are then plotted.

ii. Use of control surface (Elevator)
Control of modern aircraft is a complicated process and
requires many considerations. Maneuverability and
stability being one of the basic aircraft requirements, is
extensively achieved through the use if control surfaces
like elevators, rudders and ailerons. For the required
purpose primary controlling surface is elevator.
As the aircraft cruises, fuel is consumed, the weight of
the aircraft decreases, and the altitude tends to increase
(in case of jet aircraft).
The increase in altitude is
sensed by the control system and corrected for by an
down-elevator signal causing the aircraft to descend.
So keeping in view the application and usage of control
surface in controlling the altitude, main importance
will be given to the response of aircraft for a deflection
of control surface.

iii. Evaluation of uncontrolled response
The evaluation of uncontrolled response is necessary
for the purpose of control designing.

Initially the stability derivatives are evaluated from the
given flight data and structural dimensions, and they
are given in Table I.
Table 1. Values of Stability Derivatives
Symbol Value Symbol Value
-0.27 C
0.273 C
-0.813 C
-1.626 C
-1.05 C
Major effects in the Altitude hold are of the pitch rate
due to the elevator deflection and due to change in the
pitch rate. How the altitude is settled to its initial or
desired position is of primary interest. Using equation
of motion for longitudinal mode which is given below:

Following transfer functions are obtained for pitch
response keeping elevator deflection as an input
-1u.S7 s
- 16.7 s - 1.649
u.u62S s
+ u.98S s
+ S.677 s
+ u.497S s + u.SSu1

And altitude variation with respect to pitch angle is
evaluated by using the given set of equations

Where gamma is flight path angle and, alpha and theta
have usual meanings.

For simplification, we can use short period
approximation in determination of transfer function for
altitude hold mode. All the relevant transfer functions
are evaluated using short period approximation (Details
can be seen in appendix I). Thus the required transfer
function is
-u.uuuS4S9 s
- u.uu947Ss
u.uSSS9 s
+ u.9S22 s
+ 6.29 s
+ 7.6uS s

The above transfer function depicts the effect of
change of pitch angle on altitude, whereas direct effect
of elevator on altitude can also be determined by
simple calculation. The result is
+ u.uSuS1s
-SS8.4s -411.1
u.uu1u12 s
+ u.uSS2S s
+ u.4781 s
+ S.497s
+12.47s +12.44

To find the fact that is the system which is going to
controlled is naturally stable or not. For this reason root
locus study is done and the root locus for altitude with
respect to elevator deflection is given by Figure 2

Figure 2: Root Locus for

And its response to impulse elevator deflection is given
as an open loop response by Figure 3

Figure 3: Impulse response

The root locus for altitude with respect pitch angle is
given by Figure 4.

Figure 4: Root Locus for

And its response to impulse elevator deflection is given
as an open loop response by Figure 5

Figure 5: Impulse response

In a similar manner MATLAB Simulink module is
used for simulating the uncontrolled response for the
altitude and is illustrated in Figure 6

Figure 6: Simulink Model for uncontrolled response
And the obtained result is demonstrated in Figure 7

Figure 7: Scope Results

iv. PID Controlling
After having complete results for altitude variation
with pitch angle and elevator, the next step is the
controller designing according to the nature of the
system i.e. how much instability it has inherently. So
by studying the root locus for the altitude (variation
with pitch angle) it comes to know that the system is
conditionally stable and the impulse response is also
getting stable after taking some time but having a
certain value of steady state. So there is proposed the
simplest controlling technique which is PID
By simply adjusting the gains the system
will be brought to the desire condition. Again Simulink
is used to draw the model of the system; it is shown in
Figure 8.

Figure 8: Simulink model for PID controller of
Altitude hold
Table 2: Gains for PID
PID Controller Gains
It means a PD controller is used and the gain value for
integral term is zero.
The resulting response is given in Figure 9

Figure 9: System response for PID controller of
Altitude hold
Altitude response w.r.t. elevator
Pulse Input

Pulse Input

Altitude response w.r.t. pitch
There is a overshoot of about 15% and the settling
time is less than 25 seconds which is desired and the
undershoot value is negligible (approx 5). So a PD
controller is working quite efficiently.
v. Lead compensator controlling
Lead compensation is used when there is need to
control the transient of the response. So in this case the
value of damping ratio and natural frequency is some
bit out of the box so a need of lead compensator arises
along with PD controller to settle the response
according to the desire.
The following block diagram is made in the Simulink,
to have the pictorial representation of the system the
Figure 10 is given

Figure 10: Simulink model for Lead compensation
along with PD controller
And the resulting response from this model after
incorporating the controller is shown in Figure 11

Figure 11: System response for the designed
From the above response it is clear that the percent
overshoot is increased by 2% but on the other hand the
settling time and the undershoot values are decreased.

vi. Comparison of two controllers
After the completion of the step of making the
controllers for Altitudes hold, here comes the next step
of comparing the performance of two controllers and
the some of the facts about the results of the controller
are given in the table below

sTable 3: Comparative Study
PD Controller Lead Compensator
15% -5% <25 sec 17% -4% <22 sec
From this comparative study, it is crystal clear that
both the controllers are behaving almost the same
(having close values). That is both have almost the
same performance with little deviation. The close
observation depicts that PD controller will have a bit
superiority to Lead compensator along with PD
controller. The reasons being that PD has
comparatively less overshoot and also it is simple to
implement on the physical hardware.

v||. Conc|us|on:
Different type of controllers can be used for aircraft
Altitude hold control. For example transient response
can be improved by using lead compensator, steady
state response by lag compensator or both can be
achieved by simply utilizing concept of lead lag
compensator. These are classical approaches of
controls. Modern control theory can also be applied for
deigning controller. But the flaw is, system becomes
more complicate and difficult to understand. On the
other hand PID is simple to design as well as feasible
to implement on the aircraft. Because of its simplicity
PID controller is easy to design and good results can be
In the text of Blacklock controller for the same
purpose is made but a different technique is employed
in which lead compensator and PD controller mixture
is used to get the desire response. So hereby it can be
concluded controller may be of several type it is just
the technique used by designer. In the near future more
work will be done on the mach holding which is an
important feature in cruise flight. The advantages of
doing these researches make us keener to learn new
things and will encourage the undergraduate students to
do it on regular basis.

Firstly, we would like to thanks Almighty Allah for
giving us the strength of completing the research, then
our most sincere thanks to our instructor Mr. Waheed
for his continued support and guidance. Also we would
like to express my thanks to our dear friends Mr.
Ahmad Abdullah Fayyazi and Mr. Usman Manzoor for
their continued support. And most of all our deepest
love and servitude to our parents without whom

Pulse Input

prayers and support we would have never reached this


[1] Jhon H. Blacklock, Automatic Control of
Aircraft and Missiles, second edition (New York:
A Wiley-Interscience Publication, 1991)
[2] Katsuhiko Ogata, Modern Control Engineering,
fourth edition (University of Minnesota)
[3] John D. Anderson,Jr., Fundamentals of
Aerodynamics, fourth edition (New Delhi:
McGraw-Hill Publishing Company Limited,
[4] James D. Lang, Aircraft Performance, Stability
and Control, Vol I (United States Air Force
Academy, Department of Aeronautics)

Appendix I

M File (MATLAB Coding) for evaluating different transfer Functions

%Writing Main Matrix [A B C; D E F; 0 G h]
A = [0 3.42 0.27];
B = [0 0 -.273];
C = [0 0 .813];
D = [0 0 1.626];
E = [0 3.414 5.355];
F = [0 -3.41 0];
G = [0 0.02515 .401];
H = [.005353 .0503 0];
%Control part i.e. RHS
I = [0 0 0];
J = [0 0 -.302];
K = [0 0 -.89];
%Finding characteristic equation DET = 0
a = conv(A, conv(E,H));
b = conv(C, conv(D,G));
c = conv(A, conv(F,G));
d = conv(B, conv(D,H));
DET = (a+b)-(c+d);
%Evaluting numerators
a1 = conv(J, conv(G,C));
b1 = conv(K, conv(B,F));
c1 = conv(J, conv(B,H));
d1 = conv(K, conv(C,E));
num_velocity = (a1+b1)-(c1+d1);
velocity = tf(num_velocity,DET);
a2 = conv(A, conv(J,H));
b2 = conv(D, conv(K,C));
c2 = conv(A, conv(K,F));
d2 = conv(0, conv(0,0));
num_aoa = (a2+b2)-(c2+d2);
aoa = tf(num_aoa,DET);
a3 = conv(A, conv(E,K));
b3 = conv(0, conv(0,0));
c3 = conv(A, conv(G,J));
d3 = conv(D, conv(B,K));
num_pitch = (a3+b3)-(c3+d3);
pitch = tf(num_pitch,DET);

%short period approximation transfer funtions
determinant_short = (conv(E,H))-(conv(F,G));
num_short1_alpha= (conv(J,H))-(conv(F,K));
num_short2_theta= (conv(E,K))-(conv(J,G));
short_alpha = tf(num_short1_alpha,determinant_short)
short_theta = tf(num_short2_theta,determinant_short)
%finding gamma by theta
alpha_theta_glide = (short_alpha)/ (short_theta);
gamma_theta = 1 - (alpha_theta_glide)
h_theta = (667/57.3)*(series(gamma_theta,tf([1],[1 0])))
h_deltae = series(h_theta,short_theta)