THE primary duties of an aircraft design team are to design an aircraft capable of meeting a certain specification of performance and manoeuvrability with suitable flying qualities, and to ensure that it will be strong enough to withstand any aerodynamic loads it may suffer in flight. It will be found that the aircraft when built is not a rigid structure, but this in itself is not important. We are all familiar with the flexing of an aircraft's wings when struck by a sharp gust of wind in flight, but as long as the wings are strong enough no harm is done. On the contrary, in a passenger aircraft the flexibility of the wings in bending will have a favourable effect, as it will cushion the passengers to some extent from the suddenness of the gust. Flexibility of the structure, however, is not always beneficial and it often introduces new difficulties in the designer's problems. These difficulties arise when the deformation of the aircraft structure introduces additional aerodynamic forces of appreciable magnitude. The additional forces will themselves cause deformation of the structure which may introduce still further aerodynamic forces, and so on. It is interactions of this type between elastic and aerodynamic forces which lead to the oscillatory phenomenon of flutter, and to the non‐oscillatory phenomena of divergence and reversal of control. The study of these three aero‐elastic problems becomes more important as aircraft speeds increase, because increase of design speeds leads to more slender aircraft with thinner wings, and therefore to relatively greater flexibility of the structure. The dangers, in fact, are such that the designers of a modern high‐performance aircraft have to spend considerable effort on the prediction of aero‐elastic effects in order that suitable safeguards can be included in the design. By far the greatest part of this effort is spent on flutter, which will be discussed in Parts II, III and IV of this series, but any of the three problems may force the designers to increase the structural stiffness of parts of the aircraft. The wing skin thickness on a modern aircraft, for example, is nearly always designed by consideration either of aileron reversal or wing flutter. Divergence is usually less important but as it is the simplest of the three phenomena to treat analytically, we shall study it first.
Broadbent, E.G.M. and A.F.R.Ae.S., (1954), "The Elementary Theory of Aero‐Elasticity: A Series of Articles Written from the Standpoint of a Structural Engineer for Students and junior Members of Aircraft Design Teams", Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology, Vol. 26 No. 3, pp. 70-79. https://doi.org/10.1108/eb032400
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