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# Malaysian Institute of Aviation Technology

## Theory of Flight and Control

TOPIC 11
HIGH SPEED FLIGHT
(PART 2)

SR-71 Blackbird

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## 11.8 Flying through the Transonic Range

Subsonic aircraft usually do not cruise at Mach numbers much beyond the critical value. For
supersonic flight, however, the aircraft must have sufficient power to overcome the high drag in
the transonic speed range and be capable of controlled flight through this variable Mach number
range.
At transonic range the aircraft experiences a considerable change in the longitudinal trim - usually
a nose down pitch. This is accompanied by buffeting; lack of effectiveness of the trimming devices
and a considerable increase in the force required moving the controls.
11.8.1 Increasing Critical Mach Number
As mentioned earlier, buffeting, loss of lift and control is due to compressibility effect of air
flowing at critical Mach number or Mcrit. Increasing the critical Mach number would delay the
compressibility effect and thus the controllability of the aircraft in the transonic range.
An increase of the critical Mach number or
Mcrit on a wing can be achieved by:
a decrease in airfoil thickness (increase
finesse ratio)
a decrease in airfoil camber (slimness)
a shift of the location of maximum thickness
towards the trailing edge (or a combination
of the above measures)
the use of swept--back wings.
Figure 10: Supercritical Laminar Airfoil
Supercritical Laminar Airfoils are specially shaped transonic airfoils with the overall thickness
are reduced, its upper camber is less curved and the location of maximum thickness is further
aft. As a result, the shock wave on the upper surface forms at a higher speed is further aft and
the pressure increase is not as abrupt. This causes the typical compression effects such as the
drag increase, high speed buffeting and flow separation to take place at speeds beyond Mach
critical which is then called supercritical airspeed. (Refer figure 10)
Swept-back wings increase the critical Mach number by dividing the air flow over the wing
into speed vectors. The vector that is perpendicular to the wing LE is called the Normal
component, the one parallel to the wing LE is spanwise component and the true airspeed
component. Only the vector flowing perpendicular to the leading edge is responsible for the
formation of shock waves.
By sweeping the wing back at an angle, when flying at the speed of sound, e.g. at Mach 1,
the air flowing directly across the wing perpendicular to the leading edge is only moving at a
speed of Mach 0.7.
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## Theory of Flight and Control

Besides the increase of the critical Mach number the sweepback has the additional advantage of
reducing the total drag in the
transonic speed range. The greater the angle of sweepback the lower the total drag will be.
(Refer figure 11)

## 11.8.2 Kinetic or Aerodynamic Heating

Kinetic or Aerodynamic heating is created
when the aircraft moves through the air at
high speed. The heat comes from three
sources; namely skin friction, air compression
and shock waves.
Skin friction is generated by friction between
the air and the surface of the aircraft. When
air is compressed, its temperature rises and
this form of heating accounts for why the
leading edges tend to get hotter than the rest
of the aircraft. Shock wave heating tends
mostly to heat the air and has only a small
effect on the aircraft skin temperature. So the
faster the aircraft flies the more acute the
problem of kinetic heating becomes. (Refer
figure 12)
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## Theory of Flight and Control

Figure 11: Kinetic or Aerodynamic Heating
In the design of the aircraft, to reduce kinetic heating, it is better to have wave drag than
boundary layer drag and to avoid all sharp corners. At supersonic speeds the boundary drag is
relatively unimportant compared to its effect at low speed.
11.8.3 Area Rule
In an attempt to keep the drag as low as possible during the transonic period the area rule may
be applied to the design of the aircraft. This states that the total frontal cross sectional area of
the aircraft (including wings, tailplane, and engines) should increase gradually from the front of
the aircraft to the middle, then reduce slowly to zero at the rear. Thus where additions are fitted
to the fuselage, such as wings and tailplane, the fuselage should be wasted. (Refer figure 12)

## Figure 12: Area Rule

11.9 Requirements of Airflow at Engine Inlet Duct
The requirements of airflow for the proper operation of a high performance turbine engine are:
the provision of airflow as required by the compressor during different aircraft attitudes and
airspeeds.
the provision of this airflow at a speed corresponding to compressor performance.
the establishment of airflow that is undisturbed and uniform in speed and pressure across the
compressor diameter.
the increase of air pressure with minimum temperature increase.
the supply of air with minimum losses of dynamic energy in the inlet duct.

## 11.9.1 Supersonic Inlet Ducts

The air approaching a turbine engine compressor must always be at a speed below the speed of
sound to prevent a high--speed stall of the compressor blades. When the aircraft is flying at
supersonic speed the inlet air must be slowed to subsonic speed before it reaches the
compressor. This can be done by using a convergent/divergent (or: CD) inlet duct.
Air enters the convergent portion of the duct at supersonic speed, and the velocity decreases
until the narrowest part of the duct is reached. At this point, the air velocity has been reduced to
the speed of sound and a normal shock wave forms. Beyond this point the duct becomes wider
again. The air which passed through the shock wave is now flowing at subsonic speed and is
further slowing down as it flows through the divergent portion of the duct. By the time the air
reaches the compressor its speed is well below the speed of sound and the pressure has been
increased. (Refer figure 13)

## Figure 13: Effect of Airflow in Convergent-Divergent Duct.

11.9.2 Variable Air Inlets
Aircraft that operate at subsonic and supersonic speed normally have variable inlet ducts that
change their shape as the airspeed changes. This is either done by lowering and raising a wedge
or by moving a tapered plug in and out of the duct. Variable air inlets are usually controlled
automatically by the engine control unit. (Refer figure 14)

## Figure 14: Variable Air Inlet

Below is an example of a variable engine inlet operation of Concorde Aircraft.
TAKE-OFF: (Refer figure 15)
As the SECONDARY AIR DOORS are all shut, the engine bay is isolated from the intake airflow,
and so ALL of the intake air flows into the engine. The intake ramps are fully raised and also the
AUXILIARY INLET VANE which is part of
the SPILL DOOR assembly is sucked in,
to admit extra airflow into the engine.
Airflow is admitted into the engine bay
via the sprung loaded open GROUND
RUNNING FLAP.
Figure 15: Variable Inlet during Take-off.

## SUPERSONIC CRUISE: (Refer figure 16)

The ramps have automatically lowered to their cruise position (it all starts at Mach 1.28) and the
shock system is established. The MACH NUMBER of the air has reduced from MACH 2 to MACH
0.49 at the face of the engine
compressor. The SECONDARY AIR
DOORS are now open, permitting intake
bypass air to flow into the engine bay
via the SECONDARY AIR DOORS which
are fully open.

## REVERSE THRUST: (Refer figure 17)

When landed, the SECONDARY NOZZLE
buckets have closed up to the reverse
position. The SECONDARY AIR DOORS,
AUXILIARY INLET VANE and GROUND
RUNNING FLAP are all open again.
The PRIMARY NOZZLE closes to a
minimum position once the buckets
have closed up.
Figure 17: Variable Inlet in Reverse thrust mode.