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Fluid Mechanics: Airplane Wing Design

One of the most important applications of fluid dynamics is in the design of airplane wings. In this SLP, we'll introduce some basic terminology and take a quick look at the relationship between angle of attack, airspeed, and lift.

Go to the NASA GRC (2010) link on the Background page, which is a simulation called FoilSimII, created and maintained by the NASA Glenn Research Center.

Basic terminology (click "Geometry" in the upper left-hand view.)

Airfoil: The wing.

Leading edge: The forward (rounded) part of the wing.

Trailing edge: The aft (thin) part of the wing.

Chord: The distance between the forward and aft edge of the wing.

Angle of attack, AOA (In the simulation, it's called Angle): The angle in degrees between the chord and direction of flight, relative to the air. At higher values of AOA, the wing is taking a bigger "bite" of the air.

Camber: The downward curvature of the airfoil, measured as a percent of chord.

Thickness: The maximum distance between the upper and lower surface of the airfoil, measured as a percent of chord.

Read all the instructions carefully. Set up the simulation as follows:

Student version: Stall model

Metric units



Chord = 2.00 m.

Span = 10.0 m (Distance from wingtip to wingtip.)

Area = 20 m^2

Aspect ratio (AR, defined as span / chord) = 5

AR correction = ON


AOA (Angle) = 5 deg.

Camber = 5%

Thickness = 10%

Flight test:

Earth - Average day

Assume that the lift needed to maintain level flight is 20,000 N. On the "Flight test" page, adjust the speed (km/h) until lift is just over 20,000N (it won't be exact.) Record the speed.

Go back to the "Shape/Angle" input page, and change the AOA to 6 degrees. Go back to the "Flight test" page and find the airspeed necessary to maintain just over 20,000 N of lift. (It will be lower than it was at AOA = 5 deg.) Repeat for the following increments of AOA: 7, 8, 9, and 10 degrees. Notice that the wing stalls just before 10 degrees. At this point, the lift drops (the simulation is wrong) and the aircraft begins to lose altitude. Record your data in a table.

Repeat all of the above for camber = 20%. Record your data in a table. After you've collected all your data, plot speed (Y-axis) vs. AOA (X-axis) for camber = 5% and camber = 20%. Discuss the advantages of a high-camber wing when an airplane is operating near stall speed. (Note that the flaps that extend from the trailing edge of jetliner wings increase the effective camber.)

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Solution Preview

The plot for Speed vs. AOA is given in the attached excel file. There are some points we can observe from this plot. you can see that the stall speed for required lift is almost constant for high chamber (20% chamber) with little variation in stall speed on change in AOA while for ...

Solution Summary

All steps are followed for running the simulation and the result is provided in tabular format. Attached excel file contains result in Graphical form.