Aircraft Design Projects

There are many excellent texts covering aircraft design from a variety of perspectives.1

Some of these are aimed at specific audiences ranging from practising aerospace engineers, to engineering students, to amateur airplane builders. Others cover specialized

aspects of the subject such as undercarriage or propulsion system design. Some of these are quite detailed in their presentation of the design process while others are very general in scope. Some are overviews of all the basic aeronautical engineering subjects that come together in the creation of a design.

University faculty that teach aircraft design courses often face difficult choices when evaluating texts or references for their students’ use. Many texts that are suitable for use

in a design class are biased toward particular classes of aircraft such as military aircraft,

general aviation, or airliners. A text that gives excellent coverage of design basics may prove slanted toward a class of aircraft different from that year’s project. Alternatively, those that emphasize the correct type of vehicle may treat design fundamentals in an unfamiliar manner. The situation may be further complicated in classes that have several teams of students working on different types of designs, some of which ‘fit’ the chosen text while others do not. Most teachers would prefer a text that emphasizes the basic thought processes of preliminary design. Such a text should encourage students to seek an understanding of the approaches and constraints appropriate to their design assignment before they venture too far into the analytical processes. On the other hand, students would like a text which simply tells them where to input their design objectives into a ‘black-box’ computer code or generalized spreadsheet, and preferably, where to catch the final design drawings and specifications as they are printed out. Faculty would like their students to begin the design process with a thorough review of their previous courses in aircraft performance, aerodynamics, structures, flight dynamics, propulsion, etc.

Students prefer to start with an Internet search, hoping to find a solution to their problem that requires only minimal ‘tweaking’.  The aim of this book is to present a two pronged approach to the design process. It is expected to appeal to both faculty and students. It sets out the basics of the design thought process and the pathway one must travel in order to reach an aircraft design goal for any category of aircraft. Then it presents a variety of design case studies.

These are intended to offer examples of the way the design process may be applied to conceptual design problems typical of those actually used at the advanced level in academic and other training curricula. It does not offer a step-by-step ‘how to’ design

guide, but shows how the basic aircraft preliminary design process can be successfully

applied to a wide range of unique aircraft. In so doing, it shows that each set of design objectives presents its own peculiar collection of challenges and constraints. It also shows how the classical design process can be applied to any problem.

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