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AERO5510: Foundations of Flight Mechanics (2014 - Semester 1)

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Unit: AERO5510: Foundations of Flight Mechanics (6 CP)
Mode: Normal-Day
On Offer: Yes
Level: Postgraduate
Faculty/School: School of Aerospace, Mechanical & Mechatronic Engineering
Unit Coordinator/s: Dr Gibbens, Peter
Session options: Semester 1
Versions for this Unit:
Site(s) for this Unit:
Campus: Camperdown/Darlington
Pre-Requisites: None.
Brief Handbook Description: This unit aims to develop an understanding of aircraft longitudinal equilibrium, static stability, dynamic stability and response. Students will develop an understanding of the importance and significance of flight stability, will gain skills in dynamic system analysis and will learn mathematical tools used for prediction of aircraft flight behaviour. Students will gain skills in problem solving in the area of flight vehicle motion, and learn the fundamentals of flight simulation.

At the end of this unit students will be able to understand: aircraft flight conditions and equilibrium; the effects of aerodynamic and propulsive controls on equilibrium conditions; the significance of flight stability and its impact of aircraft operations and pilot workload; the meaning of aerodynamic stability derivatives and their sources; the effects of aerodynamic derivatives on flight stability; the impact of flight stability and trim on all atmospheric flight vehicles. Students will also be able to model aircraft flight characteristics using computational techniques and analyse the aircraft equations of rigid-body motion and to extract stability characteristics.

Course content will include static longitudinal aircraft stability: origin of symmetric forces and moments; static and manoeuvring longitudinal stability, equilibrium and control of rigid aircraft; aerodynamic load effects of wings, stabilisers, fuselages and power plants; trailing edge aerodynamic controls; trimmed equilibrium condition; static margin; effect on static stability of free and reversible controls.
Assumed Knowledge: Mathematics, Physics and Dynamics assumed knowledge at the level of Bachelor of Science or equivalent.
Lecturer/s: Dr Gibbens, Peter
Timetable: AERO5510 Timetable
Time Commitment:
# Activity Name Hours per Week Sessions per Week Weeks per Semester
1 Independent Study 6.00 13
2 Laboratory 2.00 1 1
3 Lecture 3.00 2 13
4 Tutorial 2.00 1 13
T&L Activities: Lecture: This course involves 5 hours of teaching contact per week. At times when there are no active assignments, there may be up to 5 hours per week of lectures. When assignments are active, there will be fewer hours of lectures and more of tutorials in the PC lab. Average contact will be three hours of lectures per week and two hours of tutorials per week. Lectures normally involve one 2 hour session and one 1 hour session.

Tutorial: Tutorials will average 2 hours per week and will be conducted in the computer laboratory. These involve instruction on methods and approaches to solution of assessable problems.

Independent Study: Problem based learning approach via solution of assessable problems. On the basis of 1 hr per week per CP

Laboratory: Flight simulation laboratory in the AMME VSFS involving demonstration of aircraft stability and handling qualities. This is experiential learning used to reinforce problem based learning of problems associated with assignments. Note: This is done towards the end of Semester 2 subject to availability of the simulator.

Attributes listed here represent the key course goals (see Course Map tab) designated for this unit. The list below describes how these attributes are developed through practice in the unit. See Learning Outcomes and Assessment tabs for details of how these attributes are assessed.

Attribute Development Method Attribute Developed
Learn mathematical tools for the prediction of aircraft flight behaviour and dynamic system analysis, and solve problems in the area of flight vehicle motion. Design (Level 4)
Understand the specifics of aircraft flight dynamics and stability. Engineering/IT Specialisation (Level 4)
Emphasis on use of information technology, capability to collect, correlate, interpret, display and analyse results and observations, and capability to apply appropriate technical skills. Information Seeking (Level 3)
Development of a professional approach to reporting of findings. Submissions are expected to be professionally prepared and presented. Communication (Level 3)
Particular emphasis on the ability to plan and achieve goals. Professional Conduct (Level 3)

For explanation of attributes and levels see Engineering & IT Graduate Outcomes Table.

Learning outcomes are the key abilities and knowledge that will be assessed in this unit. They are listed according to the course goal supported by each. See Assessment Tab for details how each outcome is assessed.

Design (Level 4)
1. To analyse the aircraft equations of rigid-body motion and to extract stability characteristics.
2. To model aircraft flight characteristics using computational techniques.
Engineering/IT Specialisation (Level 4)
3. To understand aircraft flight conditions and equilibrium.
4. To understand the effects of aerodynamic and propulsive controls on equilibrium conditions.
5. To understand the significance of flight stability and its impact of aircraft operations and pilot workload.
6. To understand the meaning of aerodynamic stability derivatives and their sources.
7. To understand the effects of aerodynamic derivatives on flight stability.
8. To understand the impact of flight stability and trim on all atmospheric flight vehicles, including launch and re-entry of space vehicles.
Communication (Level 3)
9. Develop capabilities in written communication through preparation of reports.
Project and Team Skills (Level 3)
10. Develop skills in group interaction and interactive problem solving
Assessment Methods:
# Name Group Weight Due Week Outcomes
1 Assignment No 10.00 Week 5 3, 9,
2 Assignment No 15.00 Week 8 3, 9,
3 Assignment No 10.00 Week 10 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10,
4 Project Yes 15.00 Week 13 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10,
5 Final Exam No 50.00 Exam Period 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8,
Assessment Description: Assignment: Longitudinal flight stability and control

Assignment: Coordinate Systems and Transformations

Assignment: Equations of Motion and Stability Analysis

Project: Major Project: Flight Simulation

Final Exam: The final exam covers all material examined in this course. It is a requirement that to pass the course you must pass the exam.
Grade Type Description
Standards Based Assessment Final grades in this unit are awarded at levels of HD for High Distinction, DI (previously D) for Distinction, CR for Credit, PS (previously P) for Pass and FA (previously F) for Fail as defined by University of Sydney Assessment Policy. Details of the Assessment Policy are available on the Policies website at . Standards for grades in individual assessment tasks and the summative method for obtaining a final mark in the unit will be set out in a marking guide supplied by the unit coordinator.
Policies & Procedures: See the policies page of the faculty website at for information regarding university policies and local provisions and procedures within the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies.
Recommended Reference/s: Note: References are provided for guidance purposes only. Students are advised to consult these books in the university library. Purchase is not required.
  • Airplane Flight Dynamics and Automatic Flight Controls
  • Dynamics of Atmospheric Flight
  • Dynamics of Flight: Stability and Control
  • Flight Stability and Automatic Control
  • USAF Stability and Control Datcom
Online Course Content:
Note on Resources: There is no specific text book required for this course, though Nelson is the preferred reference book. Reference material sufficient to pass this course is provided in the Lecture Notes for this course that can be found under the Flight Mechanics teaching page on the department`s web site

Note that the "Weeks" referred to in this Schedule are those of the official university semester calendar

Week Description
Week 1 Basic aerodynamic relationships.
Axis systems and state variable definitions.
Aircraft component and control identification.
Aircraft axis and state definitions:
Week 2 Introduction to stability concepts:
Equilibrium and Phase plane concepts.
Wing contribution to longitudinal stability.
Mean aerodynamic chord and aerodynamic centre.
Aerodynamic forces and moments.
Week 3 Control effects on equilibrium.
Neutral point and Static Margin.
Total longitudinal stability.
Contribution of the tail.
Longitudinal aircraft stability:
Week 4 Stick forces and trim.
Stick-fixed and stick-free stability.
Longitudinal aircraft stability cont'd:
Week 5 Axis systems and coordinate transformations.
General equations of aircraft motion:
Newton and Euler laws of motion.
Assessment Due: Assignment
Week 6 General nonlinear equations of motion in six DOF.
General equations of aircraft motion cont'd:
Moments and products of inertia.
Week 7 Aerodynamic force and moment derivative definitions.
Control force and moment derivatives.
Manifestations of aerodynamic force and moment derivatives.
Sources of aerodynamic forces:
Week 8 Linearisation about an equilibrium.
Linear equations of motion.
Linearised equations of aircraft motion:
Assessment Due: Assignment
Week 9 Longitudinal equations of motion.
Relationships with time-domain behaviour.
Eigen vector and Argand diagrams.
Eigen values and modes of motions.
Lateral-directional equations of motion.
Longitudinal and lateral-directional motion subsystems:
Week 10 Time-domain solution of equations of motion:
Order and flow of simulation tasks.
State-space representations. Flight simulation architectures and procedures.
Integration techniques.
Assessment Due: Assignment
Week 11 Major project – flight simulation.
Week 12 Major project – flight simulation.
Week 13 Summary and sample problems.
Assessment Due: Project
Exam Period Assessment Due: Final Exam

Course Relations

The following is a list of courses which have added this Unit to their structure.

Course Year(s) Offered
Master of Professional Engineering (Aerospace) 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014

Course Goals

This unit contributes to the achievement of the following course goals:

Attribute Practiced Assessed
Design (Level 4) Yes 17.72%
Engineering/IT Specialisation (Level 4) Yes 64.56%
Information Seeking (Level 3) Yes 0%
Communication (Level 3) Yes 15.11%
Professional Conduct (Level 3) Yes 0%
Project and Team Skills (Level 3) No 2.61%

These goals are selected from Engineering & IT Graduate Outcomes Table which defines overall goals for courses where this unit is primarily offered. See Engineering & IT Graduate Outcomes Table for details of the attributes and levels to be developed in the course as a whole. Percentage figures alongside each course goal provide a rough indication of their relative weighting in assessment for this unit. Note that not all goals are necessarily part of assessment. Some may be more about practice activity. See Learning outcomes for details of what is assessed in relation to each goal and Assessment for details of how the outcome is assessed. See Attributes for details of practice provided for each goal.