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The Use Of Flight Simulators For Experiments In Aerodynamics Courses

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



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Page Numbers

6.1044.1 - 6.1044.7

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Jr., Eugene Niemi

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1302

The Use of Flight Simulators for Experiments in Aerodynamics Courses

Eugene E. Niemi, Jr. University of Massachusetts Lowell


This paper summarizes the results of a novel approach to introduce flight simulators into an aerodynamics and flight mechanics course as a kind of virtual laboratory. Student response to this approach has been excellent, with many students willing to put in extra time above and beyond usual course requirements to participate in this part of the program. Four hardware and software packages are described, and are evaluated relative to the course objectives. The simulator selected is a personal computer aviation training device (PC-ATD), not a full motion simulator. Students calculate the performance of a typical four place lightplane and then fly the simulator through a series of flight profiles to compare theory with experiment. The simulator is treated as if the students were flight testing an actual aircraft. Performance measured includes stalling speed, maximum speed, and rate of climb versus velocity. The results obtained are good enough to justify the use of an inexpensive simulator to provide an effective flight test program. The project has turned out to be highly motivational for the students, as well as a good educational experience in aircraft performance calculation verification

I. Introduction

Laboratory experiments in aerodynamics courses have traditionally consisted of wind tunnel experiments of aircraft or wing models. Certain types of simulated “experiments” can be conducted in “virtual” laboratory type environments, as described by Henning and Higuchi1 . Computer programs2 can also be used to simulate wind tunnel experiments in a virtual laboratory type environment. Schools with associated aircraft flight programs and high budgets occasionally use actual aircraft for flight test purposes.

This paper describes an evaluation of flight simulators to provide a virtual laboratory simulating a flight test program, and summarizes experiences and results with the introduction of a flight simulator into an aerodynamics course. The procedure is suitable for use in basic aerodynamics courses or in flight dynamics courses.

II. Course Structure

The course described here is titled “Aerodynamics and Flight Mechanics.” It is a three semester hour senior year technical elective offered as part of the Mechanical Engineering program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. The course consists of 80% basic aerodynamics and 20%

“Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition, Copyright  2001, American Society for Engineering Education”

Niemi, J. E. (2001, June), The Use Of Flight Simulators For Experiments In Aerodynamics Courses Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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