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Introduction to Aeronautical Engineering

Introduction to Aeronautical Engineering

EGN1007: Engineering Concepts and Methods

The Bottom Line

In normal flight a light
aeroplane derives
its forward motion
from the thrust
provided by the
If the aircraft is maintaining a constant height,
direction and speed then the thrust force will
balance the air's resistance (drag) to the
aircraft's motion through it. The forward motion
creates an airflow over the wings and the
dynamic pressure changes within this airflow
create an upward acting force or lift, which will
balance the force due to gravity weight acting

The Bottom Line

Thus in normal
unaccelerated flight
the four basic forces
acting on the aircraft
are approximately in
equilibrium. The pilot
is able to change the
direction and
magnitude of these
forces and thereby
control the speed,
flight path and
performance of the

The property of resisting any

change in motion: INERTIA
The mass of a body is a measure of its inertia i.e. its resistance to being accelerated or decelerated by an applied force increases with mass.
The unit of mass we will be using is the kilogram [kg].

The air also has mass and thus inertia and will resist being pushed aside by the passage of an aeroplane. That resistance will be felt as pressure
changes on the aircraft surfaces.

Airspeed depends on Inertia

An aircraft in flight
is 'airborne' and
its velocity is
relative to the
surrounding air,
not the Earth's
When the aircraft encounters a sudden change in the ambient air
velocity a transient gust inertia comes into play and
momentarily maintains the aircraft velocity relative to the Earth or
more correctly relative to space. This momentarily changes
airspeed and imparts other forces to the aircraft. (The fact that
inertia over-rides the physics of aerodynamics is sometimes a cause of

Direction of forces are relative

to the flight path
Although we said that lift acts
vertically upward with
thrust and drag acting
horizontally, this is only
true when an aircraft is in
straight and level flight. In
fact, lift acts perpendicular
to both the flight path and
the lateral axis of the
aircraft, drag acts parallel
to the flight path and
thrust usually acts parallel
to the longitudinal axis of
the aircraft.

The lift equation

Aerodynamicists have found it convenient to resolve

that resultant force into just two components, that part
acting backward along the flight path is the wing drag
and that acting perpendicular to the flight path is the
lift. The amount of lift, and drag, generated by the
wings is chiefly dependent on:

Lift, Pressure, and Angle of Attack

Is there a way to calculate the lift and drag?

The lift equation

The amount of lift, and drag, generated by the wings is chiefly
dependent on:

the angle at which the wings meet the airflow or flight

the shape of the wings particularly in cross section
the aerofoil,
the density (i.e. mass per unit volume) of the air,
the speed of the free stream airflow i.e. flight
and the wing plan-form surface area.

Lift C L 1 v 2 A

The lift equation

Lift C L 1 v 2 A
The values in the expression are:
(the Greek letter rho) is the density of the air,
in kg/m
v is the flight speed in meters per second
A is the wing area in square meters
CL is a dimensionless quantity the lift
coefficient. Mostly depends on the ANGLE of
attack and the SHAPE of the wing.

Angle of attack and the lift

The diagram shows a
typical CL vs. angle of
attack curve for a
light aeroplane not
equipped with flaps
or high-lift devices.
From it you can read
the CL value for each
aoa, e.g. at 10 the
ratio for conversion of
dynamic pressure to
lift is 0.9

The lift equation: An Example

Lift C L

v A

Calculate CL for the an 408.2 kg aircraft

cruising at 6500 feet at 97 knots ( 1 knot
0.5148 m/s). The wing area is very
close to 8 m:
lift = weight
= 1.0 kg/m (the approximate density
of air at 6500 feet altitude)

The Drag Equation

Drag C D 1 v A

The drag equation is

similar to the lift
equation with
the exception that we
have a DRAG
rather than a LIFT
depending on
aoa, the CD depends
on the SQUARE of the
aoa. We can make
this assumption based
on graphical data.

What effect does decreasing

speed have?
So the result of decreasing airspeed, while maintaining
straight and level flight, is an increase in the lift
coefficient; and that has two contributors the shape
of the wing and the angle of attack

As the pilot can't change the wing shape (unless she/he extends
flaps) the angle of attack must have changed. How? By the pilot
adjusting control pressure to apply an aerodynamic force to the
aircraft's tailplane ( or some other control surface) which has the
effect of rotating the aircraft a degree or so about its lateral axis.


Without the needed thrust, weight has more influence

than lift and pulls the airplane toward the ground.
Helping the force of weight is drag. Drag is present
at all times and can be defined as the force which
opposes thrust, or, better yet, it is the force which
opposes all motion through the atmosphere and
is parallel to the direction of the relative wind

INDUCED DRAG: Newtonian &

Pressure Induced
Induced drag is the unavoidable by-product of
lift and increases as the angle of attack
Newtonian or DYNAMIC
DRAG is caused by the
Pressure Induced Drag
occurs when the aoa
Is too large and the air
Flow becomes turbulent.

There are also skin-friction drag and form drag, which
are referred to as parasite drag. All drag other than
induced drag is parasite drag.

Skin-friction drag is caused by the friction between

outer surfaces of the aircraft and the air through
which it moves. It will be found on all surfaces of the
aircraft: wing, tail, engine, landing gear, and fuselage

Putting it all together: Lift and

The LIFT/DRAG ratio can be found by
taking the lift coefficient and dividing by
the drag coefficient.

L / D ratio

The L/D ratio is a measure of EFFICIENCY!!!

L/D Ratio

The tangent of the glide angle is equal to the

vertical height (h) which the aircraft
descends divided by the horizontal
distance (d) which the aircraft flies across
the ground.

L/D Ratio
What good is all this for aircraft design?

D C D tan
From the last equation we see that the higher the
L/D, the lower the glide angle, and the greater the
distance that a plane can travel across the ground for
a given change in height

L/D Ratio
Because lift and drag are both aerodynamic
forces, we can think of the L/D ratio as an
aerodynamic efficiency factor for the aircraft.
Designers of gliders and designers of cruising
aircraft want a high L/D ratio to maximize the
distance which an aircraft can fly. It is not
enough to just design an aircraft to produce
enough lift to overcome weight. The designer
must also keep the L/D ratio high to maximize
the range of the aircraft.