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2002 Traplet Publi cations Limited

All rights re serv ed . All trad em ark s and register ed nam es ac kno w ledge d . No part o f th is book ma y be co pie d,
reprodu ced or tran smitt ed in any fo rm w ithout the wri tte n co nsen t o f the Publish e rs.
The informati on in this book is tru e to the best o f o ur kn owl ed ge at the time o f co mpilatio n. Recommendati ons
are made without any gua rantee, impli ed or o the rwise , o n the part o f the a utho r o r publish er, wh o also discl aim any
liability incurred in co nnec tion with the use o f d ata o r specific informatio n co ntaine d within th is publicat ion .

First ed ition publish ed by Trapl et Publi cat ions Limited in 1995

Publi sh ed by Tra plet Publi cation s Limited 2002
Traplet House ,
Severn Drive ,
Up to n-up o n-Seve rn,

Wo rces te rsh ire . WR8 OJ L

United Kingdom .

ISBN 1 9003 7 1 41 3

Front Couer. Stefan If/u rlll seen bere exercising some ofb is considerableflying skills ioitb b is 1:2 scale Pitts 51.
Stefa n brought tbe Pitts backwards, balancing the thrust oftbe engine against tbe stlffbrecze, until tbe rudder
tou ched b im! (Photo: Peter Dauison)

Tecbnical D ra uiings by Lee \\7isedale

Ca rtoons by Simo n Bates





Printed and bo u nd by Stephen s & George Limited ,

Merrh yr Industrial Estate , Dowlais, Merthyr Tydfil , Mid Glamorga n CF48 31'D

o n ve n tio n a lly th is is a p a ge o f syco p ha n tic
ramblings wh er ein I thank everyo ne in my life
from th e midw ife wh o d elivered m e to my
dent ist's rece ptio nist. Well , thank yo u o ne and all.
I o we my parents a small a po logy , as I rem ember
bu ying a mod el ae ro plane a nd then promi sin g that it
would be my last ; not o nce but thr ee o r four times. I
made no suc h rash pr omi ses to my wife Ann e who
unwittingly made th e mistake o f marr yin g a dormant
Ae rom od elle r, who ever since then has been e rupting
with increasing magnitude and frequen cy, sprinkling the
hou se with successive layer s o f styrene bead s, wood
shav ings, balsa dust, glass fibre stra nds and Solarfilm
fragmen ts. Sorry Anne .
As for my daughters Ron a and Shee na , if the y ever
live in Ame rica th e ir a nalysts w ill ma ke mu ch of the
socia l a nd paternal deprivat ion the y have e ndured by
being the offspring o f a fervent aero mode ller.
Passi ng q uic kly over m y educat io n a t Le n zie
Acade my, Glasgow Universi ty a nd the Hambl e College
of Air Training, the grea t mileston e in my modellin g life
was when Jo hn Mich ie had the time a nd p at ien ce to
teach me to fly proporti on al R/C aeroplanes. And it was
Brian Davies who introduced me to aeroba tics and wo rd
p rocessing, which is whe n this book ge rmina ted . I have
learn ed a grea t deal from my frie nds in the Alde rsho t
club and W'indsor Park, a nd co ntinue to learn from my
present circle of friends in Scotland . It was du e to one of
th ese , Bob McGill , th a t I became imme rsed in wa ter
plan es.
Finally , th ank yo u to Dr. Fra n k Cot on of th e
Depa rtment of Ae ro s pace Eng inee ring at Glas g o w
University wh o read throu gh th e manuscript to check
th at I wo u ld not e m ba rr ass th e Dep artm ent to o
e xte ns ive ly b y preach ing fund am enta l ae ro dy na mic

ne of the first technical qu estions my son ever
aske d me was "How do plan es fly?" Well, we all
know how plan es fly .. . don't w e? Th ink again!
If you were asked that simpl e qu estion , co uld yo u give a
co ncise comprehensible a ns wer? If yo u co u ld, how
would yo u deal with the retor t, delivered by the son of
on e of my colleagues . . . "How do plan es fly upside
On e of the most fascinating as pec ts of th e modern
w orld is th e science of flight. Wh ether it be a bird ,
heli co pter , fighter aircr aft or e ve n th e marvellous
bumble bee, people ha ve always been intrigued by the
same basic qu estion - "How does it fly?". Unfortunately,
th e a nswe r is n ot a lways s traig h tfo rward a n d is
co mp lica te d b y the w id e varie ty of mechanisms a nd
physical ph enomena which interact to produce flight.
Man 's interest in model aircra ft is a lon g stand ing one.
Over the yea rs, the mot ivation for this has largely be en
recreation al altho ugh since scientific studies ha ve been
co nduc ted, most notabl y those in Ge rmany between the
Wor ld Wars. As a res ult, tod ay's aeromo de ller is a fairly
well info rmed ind ivid ua l w ho , inste ad of ask ing th e
bas ic nature of flight qu estion, is more inter est ed in how
to improve the performance of a n ai rcraft o r how to
avoid problems during fligh t. The answers to most of
these question s can be found in Basic Aeronautics for
Mod ellers.
Thi s book skillfully guides th e reade r through th e
bas ics o f a irc raft flight a n d p erform anc e before
addressing issues specific to model aircraft. Alasdair
Su the rl a n d draws on his p e rs onal e xperience as a
stude nt, a pilot, and most imp ortantly a n aeromodeller,
to pr esent fundamental informati on in a friendly and
eas ily accessib le form . He does so b y building th e
kn owled ge bas e of the read er in a steady progressive
m ann er, h ighlightin g a numb er o f co m m o n
miscon ception s along the way. In this wa y, he en sures
that the rea de r is prepared for each new sectio n of th e
book as it is reache d. Thankfully, the use of complicated
equa tions or tedi ou s derivation s wh ich, if excessive, can
ofte n det er th e laym an , is either avoided o r they a re
provided in appendices .
Th rou gh ou t th e book, use is mad e of observat ions
from flow visua lisation ex peri me nts to illustrate asp ects
of fluid be hav iour. Over the years, flow visua lisation has
been o ne of the mo st p owerful too ls in the development
of our current understanding of fluid dynam ics. Ind eed ,
smo ke flow visua lisatio n w ind tunnels are still used in
ma ny un ive rsitie s for resea rc h a n d s tu d e n t
dem on str ations. It is o bvio us th at the demonst rations
given to Alasdair Sutherland in his stude nt days had a
co nsiderable impact; after all seeing is believing!
Whether you consider yoursel f to be a novice or a

well-season ed ae rornode ller, there is so meth ing in this

b ook fo r yo u . Beginner s ca n le arn a bou t th e ba sic
mech ani sms of lift generation and the manner in which
for ces act on an aircraft. The more ex perience d , o n the
othe r hand, can contemplate the detailed influ ence of
model sca le and the role of the Re ynold s number. The
book may even encou rage so me to raid the library for
mor e informatio n or carry o ut so me res earch of their
own. Most importantly though , this book was written by
an e nthus iast for its readers to enjoy. I hope yo u do!
Dr. Frank Cotton
Department of Aerospace Engineering
University of Glasgow.
Alasd a ir Sutherl and w as b orn a n d e d ucated in th e
Glasgow area , progressing from Lenzie Aca demy to
Glasgow Univers ity wh ere he ea rned a B.Sc. w ith
Honours in Aero nautical Engineering. Afte r training for a
career as an airlin e pilot at Ham ble , near Southampton,
he joine d BEA in 1973 to fly Trident aircraft arou nd
Euro pe and Lockheed LlD11 aircraft wo rldwide.
An aerorno delle r sinc e th e age of eleven, he flies
most types of radio co ntrolled airc raft especi ally spo rts
and aerobatic, and particul arly enjoys designin g models
of va rio us typ e s. After man y years as a member o f
Alder sh ot Mod el Club he mov ed back to Scotland as
Captain o f British Airw ays turboprop aircra ft, first th e
H.S. 748 a nd latt erly th e British Aerospace ATP. He is
now a member of both the Clyde Valley Fliers and the
Garn ock Valley !vIAe.

Tbe Author: Alasdair Sutherland



Chapter 1

The Aeroplane's Environment

Tbe air. Mass toeigbt and grauity. Newton

Chapter 2

Requ ireme nt for Flight - Lift

\fiatcbing tbe a irfloto. Pressure variation . Pressure exerts a force . Wind tunnel testi ng.


Chapter 3

The Stall's the Limit

The lift cu rve. 17Je stall, tbe reason . Variation in sta lling cbaracteristtcs.


Chapter 4

The Drawback
17Je boundary lay er. Wing drag; drag polar , effect of tbickness and ca m ber,
la m tn a rfloui sections. Fuselage drag , strea mlin ing . A bit for golfers.


Cha pter 5

Have you a Moment?

17Je m om ent on tbe wing . Centre ofpressure. Aero dyna mic centre.
A erofoil section su m m a ry, tbe effect oftbickness and ca m ber. Section classification and use.


Chapter 6

The Vortex Syste m

The uortex around tb e wing. Seeing tb e cortices. Even m ore drag, tbe reason .
Complications. Simp lifica tio ns. 17Je importa nce ofAspect Ratio.
Lessons forpra ctical modellers . Ground effect,


Chapter 7

Planform and Twist

Elliptical lift distribution. Local angle ofattack. Different planform shapes.
Tipstalling . Wasbout, aerodynamic ioasbout. Sweep ba ck. Mean cho rd . Horses for courses.


Chap ter 8

CG and Stability
17Je CG. Stability in gen eral. Motio n ofan aeroplane. Stability ofaerop lan es in Pitcb ,
CG Position . Complica tion s. We can work it out? Simpler equations.
Va riations on tbe formu la .


Chapter 9

Directional and Late ral Stability

Directional sta bility , the fin. Lateral sta bility, sideslip. Fin sideforce, wing p osition ,
d ihedral, sweep back . Aspects ofdesign . Directional and lat eral interaction,
spiral divergen ce, dutch ro ll.


Chapter 10

Rudder. Elevators. A ilerons, a ileron drag, aileron alternatives. Control su rface balances.
Control effective ness, rotational inertia, sta bility, a erodynamic damping.
Otberflying con trols, throttle, air brakes, flaps, sla ts. Control combinations, ta ilerons,
flaper ons, eleuons, V-ta il.


Cha pter 11

Turning Flight
Mecbanics of turning . Turning aeroplan es, loa d f a ctor in a turn, refinem ent,
stdeslipp tng and skidd ing, drag in a turn, stalling speed. Higb aspect ratio.
Turning using rudder. Specia l effects. Wben is a rudder an eleva tor?


Chapt er 12

A Delicate Balan ce
Equilibrium. Tail lift to trim. Elevator ang le to trim . Ta il Setting angle .
The effec t of thru st o n trim.


s Laws. Inertia . Vectors. Moments.

Cha p te r 13

Glid er Performance
Lift/Drag rati o. Speed ra nge. Ae rodyna m ic da ta . Optimising performance, strea mlin ing ,
toeigbt. Iiffect ofto ind on perfo rmance, down trim , ballast.


Cha p te r 14

Power ed Performance
Propeller thrust, slipstrea m effects. Level flight, top speed, sta lling speed,
effect on toeigbt. Take oJ(. Clim b. Descent and landing .


Cha p ter 15

Th e Ae ro dyn am ics of Aeroba tics

77Je sta ll. Sp in . Snap . Loop . In oerted. Roll. Yatu. Aero bat ic trim set up.


Chap te r 16

Special Cases
Low asp ect ratio, handling, CG position . Ca na rd . sta bility, CG Position ,
Tail-less aeroplane, sta bility, trim, co n trol. Multitoing, performance, CG p osition .


Cha p te r 17

Reyn olds Number

Definition, importance, n ontogra nt. In tbe bou ndary lay er, situation normal,
laminar separation , separation bu bble, tbe underside. Re-eff ect on a erodynamic da ta .
77Je p roblem area . Hysteresis loop . 77Je effec t 0 11 m odel desig n a nd performance,
wing tips, class rules, optim u m weigbt. Tu rbu lator strips. surface fi nish ,
Using publisbed data .


Chapte r 18

Effect on stability , ta il bend, wing twist. A ileron reversal. Wi ng divergen ce.
Aileron flutter , tbe ca use, tbe cure. 117ingflutter. Tail Flutter .


Cha p te r 19

Tu ck Under
Description . 77Je villa in unmasked. Wing twist. ta il bending.flexible con trols.
77Je elevator trim g rap h . Critica l speed . Tuck under speed . Getting away witb it.
Tailplane insta bility. Rem edies/or tu ck under. Conclusions .


Cha p te r 20

Th e Air o n th e Move
Navigatio n . Slop e lift . Tbennal lift , Windsbear a nd Win d Grad ien t. Gusts.
Mytbs a nd miscon ceptions. Momentum . Kin etic energy . A nalogies. 77Je meaning ofl ife?


Cha p te r 21

Mod el Aircraft Structures

Defining some words, composite structures, tobat a ir does to wings,
bending m om ents, stru tted wings, torsional stiff ness, fuselages, tailplanes.


Cha p te r 22

Centre of Grav ity Pos ition

Rigbt and wrong CGs, Fligb t testing, p opula r m isu nderstand ings, tobat m a tters,
m ean cbo rds, tbe flying toing , biplanes, tb e neutral point , adjustm ents,
p u tting it togeth er, sta bility m arg in .



A Bemoulli 's equation
B Boundary Laye r
C vortices
D Dib edral and sweep
E Usefu l Nomogra ms


Glos sary
Symbols, Abb rev iations a nd Co mmo n Aero dy na m ic Terms
Ind ex


No tes


hen the cold raw wind howls down from the
North bringing grey fragme nted clouds which
sc ud low o ver th e d amp d a rk fo rbidd in g
landscap e like a demon arm y. When sheets of icy rain
deluge incessantly from a leaden sky and the puddles
join fo rces to threaten us with an oth er great flood . When
the gre at oak trees bow down to the un seen forces of
th e w ind like frightened peasants befor e th eir Gods .
When ever the outside environment beco mes hostile to
man and his aeroplane, I curl up in a cha ir by the fire
with so me books and magazines, to absorb all the fact,
fiction and folklore of o ur fascinating hobby.
It is o n nights like the se as I lie in be d listening to the
w ind howlin g or the rain lash ing o r the deathl y silence
of th e s nowfa ll that I h e ar voices , vo ices from my
pas t. They are the vo ices of aerodyna mics lecturers and
au thors a n d the y remi nd m e h o w littl e acc u ra te
knowledge of aerodyna mics is ava ilable to the ave rage
modeller, and they tell me w hose fault it is. Mine! My
fault for not writing this book soone r!
I have three main aims in wri ting this boo k. The first
is to disp el the half-truths and old wives tales passed on ,
usu ally in go od faith , into the folklore of the hobby.
I o nce ha d a very pu zzling conversa tio n w ith a
modell e r a bout th e u se of "flap s", until he cla rifi ed
matt e rs by explai ni ng that he me ant th e "bac k flaps"
(e leva tors) . So the se cond aim is to ge t us all speaking
th e sa me langu age a s fa r as p o ssible so that our
in e vit able di s cussions and a rg u me nts can b e more
The third aim of my book is an introduction to aerodynam ics so that you ca n understand how to make use
of th e data available elsewhere wh en designing your
own mod els . Und erstanding some simp le theory will not
turn you o vern ight into the design e r of the most elegant
and super-efficient models (that still requires experience,
in s piration a n d talent) , but yo u ca n le arn what is
p o ss ibl e und er the laws of Ph ys ic s , a n d w h a t is
impossible - unlike the alche mists of o ld w ho was ted
their lives trying to turn lead into go ld .
Now let me plea for pati ence es pecially fro m th e
more knowledgeable readers. I have started off with a
simple , rosy , idealised view of the wo rld and I introduce
the rea l co mplications little by little.

Basic Aeronautics for Modellers


Chapter I

The Aeroplane's Environment

The Air
Please try this simple experiment. Take a can of beer,
open it, and drink the contents. Now w ha t are you left
with? Most peopl e say "an e mpty can " but th at is wrong .
If you answered "a can full of air" give yo urself a pat o n
the back . We ae ro mode llers mu st be co nscious of the
air. We are depending o n it to su pp ly the lift for our
aerop lanes. Next time yo u see a Jumbo jet lumberin g off
th e runw a y reme m ber t ha t th e air is provi di ng th e
upward force of up to 400 to ns.
So how heavy is, say a room full of air, 4 met res by 3
an d 2.36 metres high? Wo uld yo u believe 35 kg or 77 Ib?
At abou t 1.22 o u nces p e r c ubic foot ai r is not very
d ens e , b u t yo u w ou ldn 't ca ll a roo m empty if it
co nta ine d 77 Ib of balsa wood!
Now, how stro ng is the air? In a school ex periment
the halves of a four inch (lOO mm) diamet er hollow stee l
sphere were pla ced togeth er and as mu ch as possible of
the air ins ide wa s remo ved. The air hel d th e halv es
togethe r. It too k a lot of effort from the four strongest
lad s in the class to pull the tw o halves apa rt. Pres sure is
defined as a force per un it area . The force which the air
pressu re exerts on a surface wi th a vacu um o n th e ot he r
side is 14.7 pounds per square inch or nearly a ton pe r
sq u are foo t! Th e pull n e ed ed to se pa rate the
h emispheres in sc hool was almost 180 Ib (8 00 N).
Natura lly the air exerts its fo rce on a surface w he ther
the re is a vac uum on the other side or not. Hold up a
sq uare foot of paper and there is a ton of force on ea ch
side , but so wh at? Th e two forces cancel o ut. Pressure is
not direction al, or rather it is omnidirection al; it acts in
all direction s at on ce . And it acts perpendicular to the
surface at every point. So w hichever way up yo u hold
the paper th e re is exactly th e sa me o ne ton for ce o n
each side .
You can see the air pressure vary ing slightly from day
to day o n yo ur barometer. Both density and p ressure
reduce w ith altitude but we aeromo de lle rs can igno re
these small differences. The reduction in air pressure is
about a tenth of one p er ce nt for every 30 feet climb ed .
Incid entally it is by measuring that reduction in pressure
that an aeropl an e's altim eter works.
Low sp eed airflow is called "incompressible " because,
although the pressure wiII vary, density does not. We all
kno w air ca n be co mpressed, and its den sity change d,
but only in a co ntainer. Aeroplanes in free air do no t
co mpress it unl ess they travel at ne ar so nic speeds .

Mass, Weight Gravity

An o bject's mass is the amo unt of mate rial which it
contain s. Becau se we live o n the earth's surface we tend

Basic AeronauticsforModellers

to use the word weight instead and to us there is no

differ ence. Whe re a n object's mass (as opposed to its
weig h t) s hows itse lf is in its resistan ce to b e ing
accelerate d . Take an iron ca nno nba ll into space and it
wiII be "weightless" but try kicking the ca nno nball and
yo u will bre a k yo u r fo ot. It s resistan ce to being
accelerated , its mass, has not changed . Th e weight of
th e ball is just th e for ce o f th e earth 's gra vi tatio n al
a ttractio n o n its ma ss. To ge t th e w eight o f a body,
multiply its mass times "g", the "gravitatio nal co nsta nt"
which on th e earth' s surface is 32.2 It/ sec/ sec or 9.8 1
m/ sec/ se c. The we ight of a "kilogram" of mass is a force
of 9.81 Newtons an d the we ight of a "slug " (yes really)
of mass is a force of 32.2 pounds. (But you don 't ne ed
to remember all th at) .

Newton's Laws
If a body is in "equilibrium" it is e ither at res t or
moving at co nstant speed in a straight line (tha t is, not
acc elerating). Man y years ago Sir Isaac Newto n put into
wo rds three funda mental Law s of Motion .
1. The first says that a bo dy wiII be in eq uilibri um if
a ll the fo rces o n it cancel ou t, Le . if there is n o
resultant force .
2. The second says th at the force nee ded to cause an
acceleration equals the mass times the acce leration .
3. Th e th ird is the old favo uri te ab o u t each fo rce
ha ving an eq ua l and opposite rea ction.

When yo u kicked the canno nba ll in sp ace , it app lied
an eq ua l and opposite fo rce to yo ur foot. Tha t kind of
for ce is ca lled an "inertia force", and is the for ce w ith
which a body res ists being accelera ted . Similarly, w hen
yo u catc h a ba ll yo u appl y a force to s low it do wn ,
overcoming its "ine rtia" which makes it wa nt to carry on
the way it was go ing .

A riddl e! The re was a car sitting on a level roa d with
th e brakes off and three men pu shing it but it wasn't
mo ving! Why not? One w as pu shing the front, o ne the
back , and o ne was pushing the side. An important little
de tail!
Any quantity w hos e direct ion must be specified as
well as its a mou n t, for exa m p le for ces, is ca lle d a
"Vector". O the r examp les of vec tors are distance moved,
acceleratio n and velocity. I prefer the word velocity to
speed because it is a rem ind e r that it is a ve ctor.




. .: . .......

Vec to rs ca n b e added to g eth er b y a d d ing th eir

am ounts o n ly if th ey are in th e sam e d irec tion . If two
Fig u re 1.1


force s are in o p pos ite

dir ections, like tw o men
pu s hin g a t e ithe r e n d
o f a c a r, th e y w ill
ca nce l each o ther o ut. If
ve ct ors a re at a n a ngl e
to ea c h o the r th e y ca n
b e added by drawing a
"vecto r di agram" using a
ru ler a n d protract or. A
vecto r dia gr am is a scale
drawin g in whi ch th e
len g th o f th e lin e s
re p rese n ts th e a mo u n t,
and th e direction represe nts the d irection o f th e
vectors . Figure 1.1 co u ld
re prese n t a trea sure
map . "Starting at A wa lk
ten metres n o rth to B,
th en go ten metres ea st
to c." The e q uivale nt, or
re s u lt ant , o f the tw o
vec to rs AB and BC
a d de d to get h er is the
vecto r AC which is 14.14
metres to the northeast.
Figure 1.1 co u ld just as
ea sily hav e represented
t h e addit ion of two
for ces or veloci ties .
Ve ctors ca n al s o be
s p lit up , or "reso lve d" ,
int o two o r more "co mpon ents " whi c h wil l
h a v e th e s a m e e ffec t
(F ig u re 1. 2) . The tr e a sure is in a ca v e , "C ". The
ins c rip tio n o n th e Azt e c Temp le , "A" says ; Go five
kilometres on a bearing 037 0 East of No rth (b ut beware
of th e Dragon at "0 "). Preferring an ea sy life to he ctic
adve ntur e, o ur hero "Tri gon o metry" ]ones instead goes 4
km du e No rth, sto ps for a few beers at "B", and th en
goes 3 km du e East w here he finds th e cave , treasure
et c . e tc . Very precise and sc ie n tific but no u se for a
mo vie script.
From th e vector d iagram in Figure 1.2, vec to r AC can
b e s p lit in to its tw o co m p o ne n ts , AB th e No rthe rly
co mpo ne nt and BC the Easte rly co mp onent. The bigger
a ng le A is, th e smaller AB become s as a proportion of
AC and th e bigger BC become s as a p roportion of AC.
The ratio of BC to AC is called th e sine of th e angl e , the
ra tio of ve ctor AB to AC is ca lle d the co s in e of the
a ngle , and the rati o of BC to AB is called th e tange nt of
th e angle A. These ratios are usually sho rte ne d to sin,
cos a nd tan a n d ca n be lo o ke d up in table s for an y
Us ing his ma themat ica l tabl e s "Tr ig " jones co u ld
work out t he c omponents for a n y a n gl e with ou t
reso rting to sca le drawi ng . Th e sine of 37 d egrees is 0.6
a nd cos 37 0 = 0.8. Of co urse th e same go es fo r other
vecto rs like force s or ve locities e tc.



Th e "mo ment " of a forc e abo ut a point is the size of

the force times the di sta nce of the for ce from the p oint.

eastc Aero nauticsfor Mode/!el :~

Figure 1.3

Figure 1.2


Easterly Co mponent





Figure 1.4



~- - - - --- -- -- --- - - --- --- ------- - ---- - --~

P ivo t

Mo ment = 5 .'\" 10 = 50

groundsp eed vec tor. Wind ha s no o ther e ffec t (b ut se e

the cha pte r o n wind near the e nd anyway). To save any
argument I shall I ass ume still air conditions in all th e
cha pte rs until th en.

Figure 1.3 represents a seesaw th e pl ank o f w h ich is

exactly balan ced . Th er e is a ch ild w eighing 100 lb 5 feet
from th e pivot and a ch ild w eighing 50 Ib 10 feet from
th e pi vot. Th e ch ild o n the right has a moment o f 500 ft.
Ib clock wise abo ut th e pivot , and th e ch ild o n th e left
has a mom ent of 500 ft. lb anticloc kw ise ab out th e piv ot.
Th e tw o moments are equa l but in opposite d irections
a nd so th e y c a nce l o u t whi ch le a v e s th e seesa w
balan ced . It is in eq u ilibr ium as th er e is zero resu ltant
mom en t.
In Figure 1.4 two eq ua l but opposite fo rces act o n a
b od y. Th e two fo rce vec tors ca nc el out, th ey h ave no
resultant but th ey will o bvious ly tend to turn th e body.
Th e turning effect , o r moment, o f the pair o f for ces is
th e sa me about any p o int yo u care to choose. The tot al
moment is Force tim es th e d istan ce b etween th em . Th is
kind o f syste m is called a co up le and its moment is th e
sa me 5 x 10 = 50 about a ny pi vot point. In Cha p ter 5 I'll
remi nd yo u th at you ca n hav e a for ce sys te m w ith no
res u lta nt excep t a mom ent wh ich is the sa me about an y
You will ofte n see so me qu anti ty lik e a irspeed (V)
w ith a number s u persc rip t. Fo r exam p le V3 me an s V
"c u bed " o r V "to th e p owe r 3" or s peed x s peed x
speed. Similarly th e "cu be root" of V (w ritte n 3jV) is th e
numb er which , when mu ltiplied together th re e tim es , .
gives V.

Win d
I co uld have used th e w ind as another exam p le on
vec tors. To find the e ffec t of th e wind , just ad d th e wi nd
vector to th e ae ro p la ne 's ve loci ty ve ct or to ge t th e

Basic Ae rona utics f or Modellers


Chapter 2

Requirementfor Flight - Lift

hat makes a n aer oplane s pecia l is its wing.
The qu estion is, ho w does it produce lift? I
wish I co uld tak e yo u to a wind tunnel with
a p prop riate mode ls and mea surement eq u ip me n t. I
co uld then dem on strate ho w lift is produced just as it
wa s shown to me . Instead I sha ll have to att empt to
describ e it in words and diagrams.

Wa tching th e Airflow
It is interesting to watch the flow in a smo ke tunnel ,
wh ich is a specia l low speed wind tunnel in w hich many
s ma ll s tre a ms o f s mo ke a re fe d in to t he ai rstream
up wind o f th e wi ng. T h e t h in s t re a ms o f s m o ke
travellin g wit h the air as it flows over the wi ng help to
visualise the airflow . Figure 2.2 is a dia gram sho wing a
typ ical flow pa ttern aro und a win g. Th e lines sho w the
position of the smo ke streams . Th is is a co mmo n way o f
s ho w ing a n airflow a nd th e lin e s drawn a re ca lle d
"streamlines" .
Strea mlines are lines drawn in the direction of th e
airflow suc h th at no wh er e does th e air flo w across a
As the airflow approaches the Lead ing Edge (L.E.) of
th e w ing it s p lits in two, part going a bove a nd p a rt
below. The strea mline which d ivides the air w hich w ill
go over the w ing fro m the air whic h w ill flow unde r it
meets the w ing at poi nt A. Air molecules flo win g exactly
alo ng th is line will me et th e wi ng hea d on a n d be
b rou ght to a d e ad s top a t A. Po int A is ca lled th e
"stagnatio n poi nt" becau se the air's ve locity is red uced
to ze ro.
Wa tching th e s mo ke st rea ms over th e top surface
very closely, it ca n be seen that the air speeds up as it

Figure 2.1 sho ws th e cross-sectio n o f a wing. Th e
straig ht line from the ce ntre of the leadi ng edge (L.E.)
the trailing edge (T.E.) is the chord line . The len gth of
the chord line is the cho rd of the w ing (the w ing tip to
wi ng tip distan ce is the spa n) . Th e maximum distan ce
b et w e en th e to p a n d b ottom su rfaces is th e win g
th ickness , usu all y ex p ressed as a percen tage o f th e
cho rd. The line drawn midway be tween top an d botto m
surfaces is ca lle d th e mean line or ca mber lin e . Th e
maximu m distan ce between the mean line and the cho rd
line is the ca mbe r of the sec tio n and it too is give n as a
pe rce ntage of th e chord.
Th e leading edge is always smoothly ro unded and
the trailin g edge is always sha rp.
A typica l test wing fo r a w ind tunnel has a uniform
chord and aerofoil sectio n from o ne e nd to the o the r
and fits e xactly in th e
width of th e tunn el
F ig ure 2.2
wh ich do es a wa y with
th e co mp licat ion of tip
effec ts w hich w e don 't
need at this stage.
I s ha ll give you fair
w arning w he n I come
to a win g w ith tips. For
the mom ent the flow is
ass ume d to be the same
a t an y p o sit ion a lo ng
th e s pa n ( two dimensional flow).

Figure 2.1
Cam ber L ine

Ca ll/be"

. L E.

Chord Lbw


~--------------- ----- -------- --------- - - ---- ------- ----- - -~



Basic Ae rona uticsfar Modellers

pa sses over th e thick

Figure 2 ,3
pa rt of the w ing a nd
resumes its p re vi o u s
speed by th e Trai ling
Edge (T.E .) . Under th e
wing the smoke bu nches
u p as it slows down , an d
then it accelerates to its
or iginal speed at the T.E.
If the smoke strea ms are
pu lsed, Le. re leased in
s ho rt burs ts , it ca n be
seen that the start of the
smoke pulse above the
w ing re ach es the trailing
edge before the smo ke
Figure 2.4
be low th e w ing a s
illustrated in Figure 2.3.
Obv io us ly the air over
the top surface has had
to speed u p to cover a
longer pat h in the same
ti m e . No tice a lso t h a t
w here th e f low h a s
speede d up the streamlin e s a re close r a nd
w he re t he flo w is
slo we r th e streamlines
are furthe r apart.
As th e a ng le o f a ttack is in cre ased th e stag nat io n
p o int A mov es down around the cu rve of the leading
edge increasing the dis tance the air travels over the to p ,
a nd re duci ng the dis tance alo ng the unde rside . On a
w ing w ith a symme trica l sectio n a t a n ang le to th e
airflow, the stag na tio n poi nt is be low the ce nt re of the
le ad ing e dge (as in Figure 2.4) so jus t as wi th th e
cambered sect ion the air flowi ng over the to p surface
has fu rther to go in the same time , and must therefore
speed up .


Pressure Variation
You can 't get a change in velocity wi thou t a pp lying
a force (Newton's First Law). The on ly force ava ilable to
t h e free air is its press u re so th e p re s su re mu st
be changing as speed cha nges across the chord of the
wing (See App en dix A, Bern oull i's equation) .
If we wish to measur e accurately the pressure cha nges
we have dedu ced mu st
b e occurri ng o ve r o ur
Figure 2.5
aerofo il, we ca n drill a
row of tiny holes in the
top and bo ttom surfaces
and connec t eac h one to
a p re ss u re measur ing
d e v ice . Eac h pres su re
meas ured ac ts at right
ang les to th e surface at
th e po int w he re it was
measured . The pressur e
is, as ex pected , less on
th e upper surface th a n
on th e und e r s u rf ace
a n d th e re is a h igh
pre s su re p e ak a t t he
stag na tio n p oint w here

Basie Aero nalilies fo r Modellers


the ai r me ets the wing head o n. See Figure 2.5 in whic h

the len gth of each arrow represents the pr essure at tha t
po int.

Pressure Exerts a Force

Pressure is de fine d as force per uni t area . Imagine in
Figure 2.5 that th ese pr essure arrows , o ne inch apart,
each represent the fo rce o n the o ne squa re inch around
eac h hole . If all those force vecto rs are added togeth er,
the resu ltan t will be the total force on a o ne inc h wide
strip of w ing . Its size and di rec tion de pend upon th e
aerofoil section , the ang le to the air flow , the speed of
the a irflow , ete. See Figure 2.6 in wh ich the res ultant
force is sho w n as force F. Th e p o int where th is force
crosses the chord line of the section is ca lled the Centre
of Pressur e (or C P.) . It is the poi nt th rough w hich the
total pressure effec t on the w ing ca n be repl aced by a
sing le force .


Figu re 2.6

Ail flow

Figure 2. 7





Figure 2.8


It is in c on veni ent to hav e a fo rc e ac ting in an

arbitrary direction like that and so it is split up into two
co mpone nts at right an gles to each othe r.
Th e d ire cti ons chose n a re th e obvio us on es fo r a
w ind tunnel. Th e co mpone nt in th e dire cti on o f th e
airflow is called Drag, and the co mpo ne nt at right ang les
to the a irflow is called Lift (See Figure 2.7) . No te that I
d id not sa y ve rtical and hor izontal! It is tru e if the w ind
tunne l is built horizontal , but lift w ill not b e ve rtical
wh en we co me to an aeroplane climbing or desce ndi ng
o r ban kin g. Figures 2.8 and 2.9 show what I mean . No te
that it is a mat hematical co nven ience to sho w forces like
F, or L and D at the ce ntre of pressure . They are merel y
representing the tru e situa tion of Figure 2.5.
So me p re ssure m ea suring d e v ic e s m ea sure the
diffe rence in p ressur e between the desired point and the
static pr essure of the a ir in the room . Or if you like the
pressure differen ce between the insid e and outside of a
hollow win g. Figure 2.10 is simila r to Figure 2.5 but this
tim e sho w ing th e pr essure difference betwe en inside
and outside . Th e reduction in pressure whe re the air is
speeded up ca uses an upward force over the top surface
and w he re the air is slowed down ther e is an upward
force on the lo wer surface . Thi s is a co mmo n meth od of
sho w ing the lift d istribution whi ch yo u may have co me
across before (so me times o nly the line joining the tops


of the arrows is shown) . The resultant of all thes e force s

(o r pressur es ) is exac tly the sa me as in Figure 2.6.
Ju st to get all this in perspective , co nsider how mu ch
pressure cha nge is needed to su pport the w eight of a
m od e l with a typ ical win g lo a d in g of 20 o z./ft -.
Atmospheric pressure is ab out 14.7 pounds per sq uare
inc h . An ave rage press ur e rise on th e und ers id e of
0.02%, and an averag e pr essure reduction of 0.04% on
the top surface will suffice.
We are n ot asking mu ch a re w e ? To ca ll t hi s a
"va c u u m" w ou ld b e mi sleadin g. I ex ag gera te d
enormously the arrows o n my diagram s 2.5 and 2.10 to
mak e them mean ingful.

Wind Tu nnel Testing

Of c o urse w e don 't real ly g o th rou gh a ll thi s
r ig m a ro le o f m e a surin g pre ssure s a n d in vol v ed
ca lc u la tio n to w ork out th e lift and dra g in a wind
tunn e l. Beside s th e co mp lica tio n in volved , th e s kin
friction drag has been igno red .
The w ing co uld simply be mounted o n a bal an ce to
mea sur e the forces directly.
The force mu st be mea sured through the attac hme nt
point (e .g. the L.E. or qu arte r cho rd point) together with
the mom ent abo ut this poin t. This mom ent is ca lled the

Basic Ae rona uticsfor Modellers

Pitch in g Mom ent. As m om ent e q ua ls fo rce tim e s

di st a nce , if th e lift a nd moment a re kn o wn th en th e
position whe re the lift ac ts (the Centre of Press ure) can
be calculated . Th e w ind tunnel sho uld be eq uipp ed w ith
a ba la nce ca pa b le o f me asu rin g h o ri zontal force s ,
vertica l forces , an d p itch ing moments a ll at th e sa me
time .
Thi s eq uipment can be used to test a wing, adjus ting
o ne variable at a time and kee ping everythi ng else the
same to find out the effect of each variable. For instan ce
test ing the sa me wing in the sa me position at d ifferent
airs peeds s hows th at Lift, Dr ag a nd Moment are a ll
prop ort ional to the sp eed sq uared.
In o ther words at twic e the speed yo u ge t four times
the force , and at three times the speed, nine times the
force etc.
By s imilar means it is found th at Lift a nd Drag are
also proport ion al to the air den sity p and the wing area.
The mom ent is proportional to the sp eed squared, the
air den sity and the wing are a times the chord .
To turn these relationships into use ful eq ua tions for
es tima ting the lift from a wing , a co ns ta nt has to be
intro duced and its valu e mu st be found ex pe rime ntally.
50 for exa mple

A d ifferent co ns tant is ne ed ed in each case but to sa ve

running o ut of suitable lett ers, the letter C is used in all
three equations w ith a d ifferent subscri pt. The people
w ho mad e up the eq ua tions put in a !1 as we ll becau se
the te rm !1 p V2 had turn ed up in Berno ulli's equ ation
(see Appendix A agai n).
We e nd up with these three familiar eq ua tions
L = !1 P V2 5 CL
D = !1 pV2 5 CD
M = !1 P V2 5 C C~ I

Wh ere CL is th e lift coe ffic ie n t a nd CD is th e dra g

coefficie nt an d CM is th e pitching mom ent coefficient.
Th ey all vary with ang le of attack as you w ill see.

P V2 5 x co nst.

Figure 2.9

Figure 2.10

! 1I t
Basic Aeronautics forModellers

t t t t


Chapter 3

The Stall's the Limit

n w ind tunn els the win g is stationa ry and the air is
drawn over it, so that is how it is usu ally describ ed in
th e ory. It is just as valid to th ink of the a ir as
stat ionary and the wing moving. Its directio n of motion is
exact ly opposite to th e arrow marked "a irflo w ". The
dir ection of the a irflow must be measured far enough
ahead o f the wing so that it is not affected by the wing's

Figure 3.1 s ho ws a wing se ctio n in an airflow. Th e
angl e between the chord line and and the airflow is called
the angle of attack . It is usually represent ed by the greek
lett er a (alpha). Occa sionally a different datum line is
used instead of the cho rd line. It may be a straight line o n
the und erside of a flat bottom ed or und ercarnbered Wing,
or the wing 's zero lift line. As the nam e suggests, if the
airflow is parallel to the ze ro lift line, the lift is zero (usefu l
in mathem atical formulae).
Th e inciden ce of the wi ng is the a ng le betwe en its
cho rd line (or oth er datum line) and the fuselage datum
line . It bears no relation to the airflow and angle of attack
at all. It is just a riggin g angle. It may be measured o n the
aeroplane with an incidence meter or on the plan with a
protractor. Those are the usu al definition s and I shall stick
to t he m , but it is not uncommon to see th e w ord
incide nce used mea ning angl e of atta ck .

Notice the shape of the graph! It is straight from A to

C and then curves up to a maximum at D th en down to
E a nd be yond .
At point B the an gle of attack is ze ro as the wing has
be en arranged as in Figure 3.3 suc h that the chord line is
paralle l to the airflow. Although the an gle of attack is
ze ro , the wing is still producing lift.
At point A the wing has been tilted further le ad ing
edge down as in Figure 3.4 and is now producing no
lift. Th e ze ro lift angle of attack is written as a o (the
s u bsc rip t 0 den oting n o lift ) . T he normal wa y of
measuring a ng le o f atta ck is to mea sure UP from the
direction of moti on to the cho rd line . Because the chord

The Lift Curve

Testing a wing at man y different ang les of attack and
worki ng out th e Cl. e ac h time ( fro m the for mu la in
Chapter 2) enables a graph of lift coefficient again st angl e
of attack to be drawn for that particular section . For most
normal sectio ns the graph loo ks like Fig ur e 3.2. Th is
g ra p h is true for this sectio n regardless of the size or
s pee d a nd c a n b e u s ed to es tim a te th e lift in an y
co nd ition.

0< =0

Figure 3.1

--- - -Cb';;"';-;' - - - - - - Airflo w

~"~ _ _ ~

Zero lift l .

Direction of Motion


A ng le ofAttack
(measured from z ero lift U1Ie)


, ,
A ngle ofA tta ck
(measur ed f rom
c h o r d U1Ie)

Basic Aerol/l/ /Ifics/or Modellers

li n e is DOW N in t h is
case the ang le of attack
is a negative ang le (for
e x a m p le th e a ng le o f
attack for ze ro lift on an
Eppl e r 19 5 s ectio n is
g ive n as - 3 d e gre es) .
The zero lift line (ZLL)
d rawn on the w ing is by
definitio n parallel to the
airflow .
At p o int D th e lift
c oe ffic ie n t is C Lm a x
w hich is the maximum
lift coe fficient wh ich the
section ca n prod uce and
oc curs at as the stalling
angle of attac k.

The Stall

Figu re 3.3

Figu re 3.4

----:----c-_ _ _.~~


-0<;[ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Figure 3.5

At points C, D and E
the w ing is mounte d as
in Figure 3. 5 wi t h a
la rge p osit ive an gle o f
a ttack but s o m e t h in g
stra nge happe ns to the
lift in this a rea. As a has
be e n incre ase d , th e lift
Di rection Of Mo tioll
h a s bee n increa si ng
s te a d ily in proportion
but now it su ddenly reaches a peak and drops off again .
towa rds the lead ing edge , Figure 3.7. At this poi nt the
The p henomenon whereby lift d rop s beyond a certain
wing is fully sta lled (p o int E on Figure 3.2) . The a ir
angle of attack, rather than incre asing as before, is called
makes no atte mp t to fo llow the w ing's top surface but
the "STALL". The wing is said to have sta lled be cause it
breaks up into tur bu lence. The result is a reductio n in
c a n n o t be p e rsu a d e d to pro d u ce a ny grea te r lift
lift coefficient. Note that there is still q uit e a lot of lift,
b ut less th an the re was when the ang le of attack was
coe fficient.
just less than the sta lling angle.

The Reason
To find th e reasons in the ai rflow fo r th e stall it is
back to the smo ke tunne l. At sma ll ang les of attack the
airflow over the wing is smooth but as an g le of atta ck is
incre ased there co mes a po int wh en the flow starts to
break away be fore it gets to the trailing edg e , Figure 3.6.
The air ca n't quite mak e it down the back of the ae ro foil
so th e smooth flow e nds as the st rea m lines a bru p tly
br e a k away , o r "se p a ra te ", fro m th e s urface a t th e
"separatio n point".
If th e angle o f att ac k is increased e ve n mo re the
se pa ration point mo ves progressive ly fu rthe r for wa rd

Different sec tio ns have different sta lling characteristics
d ep endin g u p on th e ir th ick n e s s , ca mber an d th e
s harpness o r b lun tness o f th ei r le ad ing edges . So me
s e ctio ns mi ss o u t th e Figu re 3.6 stage a nd th e flo w
se pa ration starts suddenly at the le ading edge giving a
ve ry abr up t s ta ll as in Fig u re 3.8 (NAC A 230 12 for
ex a mple). Ot hers hav e a mor e progressive sta ll as in
Figure 3.9 (fo r exa mple NACA 4415).
In th e specia l case of a n un c a mb ered ( i .e .
sy mme trical) wing sectio n, the graph of lift coefficie nt

Figure 3. 6

Basic Aero na uticsfo r Modellers


Figure 3. 7

is just w hat yo u expect, and of co urse it perform s just as
we ll inverted .
Any sec tion will have a graph like Figure 3.10 if the
ang le of attack is measured from the sectio n's ze ro lift
line. It is merely a case of mov ing the vertical axis alo ng
to where the lift is zero . Then, for the straight bit of the
graph below the stall, the lift coefficie nt equals the slope
of the line times the angle of atta ck . Co nve nie ntly it is
found that CL = 0.1 per degree (a pprox) for all aerofoil
sections. I sha ll use this idea in th e cha pte r on Pitch

F igure 3 .8

Notice To Airmen

against ang le of atta ck will look like Figure 3.10. Th at is,
the lift coefficient is zero at ze ro angle of attack , which
F igure 3.9

Figure 3 .10



I hate to lab our the po int but not ice w ha t is o n the

graph o n Figure 3.2, not speed bu t a ng le of attac k. A
win g does not have a stalling speed . It has a stalling
a ng le o f att ac k a t w h ic h it will s ta ll m ore o r le ss
re gardl ess of th e speed. Tha t is o ne reaso n why lift
coefficie nt is plotted , to ge t rid of airspeed and den sity
variables which are unimportant to the prop ert ies of a
sec tion . It is true that an aeroplan e has a stalling speed,
but it is o nly a little true .
When I come to mention th e stalling spe eds of an
aeroplane I sha ll remind you that it is the stalling an gle
of the win g which matters.


Basic Aero nautics for Modellers

Chapter 4

The Drawback Drag

n my book Drag is no thin g to do with d ressing up .
It is a force resisting mo tio n. To be mo re exact,
DRAG is a force exerted by th e a ir o n a moving
aeroplane, and it ac ts in exactly the opposite d irection to
the di rec tion of motion of the aeroplane .
Drag as measu red in the w ind tunnel is made up of
tw o pa rts . First the re is the drag from the p ressu re
d ist ributio n me n tio ned in Chapte r 2. If th e pressure
d ist ributi on d ep ict e d in Figure 2.4 is a dde d up to
produce a single resul tant force o n th e wi ng (Fig u re
2.5), then the co mponen t in the direction of the airflow
is the Pressure Drag . That is one part, the ot her is good
o ld friction.
\V'he n o ne object s lides over a no ther , th e re is a
friction force resisting mo tion. A friction force Cal; ex ist
even witho ut mo tion whic h is w hy the ha nd brake ca n
hold the car o n a hill. In fluids (e .g. helium, air, water,
.o il, treacle) the friction effect is called "viscosity" an d the
d ifference in th is case is that the visco us forces can not
exis t withou t mot io n. The visco us dr ag o n an aeroplane
is, for tunately, sma ll due to the air's low viscosity an d it
occurs in the "boundary laye r".
The bo unda ry layer is a ve ry thi n layer of ai r, th e
bott o m of which is stuc k to the aeroplane 's surface, and
th e to p of w hich is
m o v in g wi th the airst rea m (See appe ndix
B) . T he flow in th is
re g io n may be smooth
o r ro ug h ( larn ina r or
tu rb ul e n t in te c h n ical
jargo n) or more usually
a b it of each. It s tarts
off la m in ar a nd th e n
u su al ly ch anges into
a tu rb ule nt bound a ry
la yer fu rt h e r dow nstream.
A lami nar bo undary
layer has less drag bu t is
more prone to separate
from the surface.

ca lcu lated. In the case of a test on a w ing section, the

d rag is divided by Y, pVl and th e w ing area, and th e
result ing Drag Coefficient , CD is a p roperty of th e
section, inde pendent of speed and size , and can be used
to es timate th e drag of a ny o the r wing usi ng th a t
section . It w ill vary wi th the angle o f attack ho wever, so
it is normal to tes t it at a w ide range of angles of attack
and then p lot a grap h of drag coefficient against ang le of
attack for that section .
The typica l shape of such a graph is shown in Figure
4.1. Drag coefficient turns ou t to be a very sma ll nu mbe r
which at small angles of a ttack does not vary muc h .
There is a min im u m drag ang le of attack (point A)
which is no t necessarily where (J. is zero. Approaching
the stalling angle of attack (point B) the drag increase is
more rapid wh ile above the sta lling angle the d ra g
increases ve ry rapi dly indeed .
Whe n the wing stalls at poi nt B, the drag increase is
pro ba b ly mo re significa nt than the reduc tion in lift

Drag Polar
Knowi ng the drag of a wing at a ce rtain angle o f

Wing Drag
In th e w ind tun ne l
eac h aerofo il sec tion
ca n be tested to find its
drag by s im p ly me asu rin g it o n a ba la nce .
Using the formu la at the
e nd of Chapter 2 the
drag coefficient can be

Basic Aero na utics for Mode llers


the resulting graph would look rather squashed so the

drag is always show n greatly ex aggerated. From the
drag polar you can read off the value of CLrnax and CDrnin
Notice that the minimum drag does not ne cessarily
occur where lift is zero.
The Lift/ Drag ratio is often taken as a measure of the
"efficiency" of a section, and it can easily be worked out
from the polar diagram. At any point on the graph
div ide the lift coefficient by the drag coefficient. The
best VD ratio occurs at the point C wh ere the straight
line just touches the graph.

Figure 4.1

Thickness and Camber



Figure 4.2

..- - - _.. _.... -- -- - .. .. ---:..;--..,---....

The amount of the minimum drag depends mainly

upon the section thickness. The less the thickness, the
less the minimum drag, but thin wings are not strong so
a compromise has to be reached. In addition, a very thin
wing has a sharp leading edge, and that is one of the
things which can cause an abrupt leading edge stall as
on Figure 3.8, in the previous chapter.
The angle of attack, or lift coefficient, at which the
minimum drag occurs varies with the section's camber.
The more the camber, the higher the angle of attack at
which the minimum drag occurs. Therefore the drag on
an aeroplane which usu ally flies slowly can be
minimised by using a section with quite a lot of camber.
There is however a large increase in drag if the
aeroplane is flown fast. In other words it does not
penetrate well. Highly cambered sections are often
called "low speed sections".

Laminar Flow Sections

attack is only part of the story. The "drag polar" (as in

Figure 4. 2) is useful in showing how much drag the
wing produces when generating a certain amount of lift.
If lift and drag coefficients were shown to the same scale

Figure 4,3


Certain sections have a drag curve like Figure 4.3,

with a region of particularly low drag from point A to B.
This is known as the "drag bucket", and it takes little
imagination to see why . The drag coefficient is virtually
constant in the drag bucket and rises stee p ly on either
By careful design , and keeping the surfa ce very
smooth, the designers of the sections have managed to
keep the boundary layers laminar (se e Appendix B) as
long as possible to take maximum advantage of the
lower drag. If the section is not built accurately, or if it is
not kept smooth and clean, the drag bucket will
As with other sections the more the camber the larger
the angl e of attack where the minimum drag occurs, and
the mor e the thickness the more the minimum drag will
be. Curiously also, the thicker the section, the wider the
drag bucket will be.

Fuselage Drag


A wind tunnel can be used to me asure the drag of a

fusel ag e (o r undercarriage or any other part of an
aeroplane) . It too will consist of two parts . Surface
friction drag will depend on the surface roughness, and
on the surface area.
The mo re surface area exposed to the airflow (the
"w e tt e d area ") , and the greater the proportion of
turbulent boundary layer, the more the surface friction
drag, but more important is the pressure drag which will
depend on the shape of the body.

Basic AeronClutics/orModellers

Pressur e drag ca n be
m in im is ed b y c a re fu l
"s tre a m lin in g " of th e
b o d y , that is sh apin g
th e bod y s uc h that th e
stre amline s in th e a irflo w foll ow th e sha pe
of the bod y rath er than
break ing away from the
s u rface to leav e a
turbulent wa ke.
For ex ample su ppose
the dra g o f a flat disc at
right an gles to th e airflow is 100 unit s. Th e
drag o f a sphere of the
sa me d iam eter w ould
be o nly 45 units whil e
Scale a ircraft like this SkJ1walker often use wheel spats which significantly
th e dr ag of a ca re fu lly
reduce profile drag.
streamline d body, agai n
o f th e sa me d iameter , co u ld be reduced to o n ly four
size of the turbul ent wak e whi ch reduces pressure dr ag
by a subs tantial amount. It mor e than co mpe nsates for
unit s. Yes, the profi le drag of a strea mline d body ca n be
redu ced to onl y fou r p er cen t of th at of th e sa me
the slight increas e in sk in friction drag. Hen ce the ball
dia me ter of flat disc.
goes further for a given clout. See Figure 4.4.
Th e drag d ue to t h e wake c a use d b y th e flo w
se pa rating from the surface is so mu ch more important
than th e sur face fricti on dr ag in th e boundary laye r,
wh eth er laminar or turbulen t.

A Bit fo r Golfer s
Why , yo u are w ond erin g , d oes a go lf b all h av e
dimples? Well as it flies through the air at grea t speed, it
has a boundary layer.
The d impl es are there to e ns ure that it is a turbu lent
boundary laye r, as turbu lent boundary layers cling to the
surfa ce lon ger before they se parate . \'(Thich red uces the
Figure 4.4

Smooth Ball

Turbulent Wake


Dimpled Ball

Basic Aeronautics for Modellers


Chapter 5

Have You A Moment

lmost certainly! It does not ma tter at w hic h point
on the wing yo u choose to attac h the ba lance,
yo u w ill almost cer tainly be ab le to measur e a
mo me nt abou t th at point. The le ad ing edge might be
chosen as a co nvenient po int as it simplifies the ensu ing
ca lculations . As w ith lift an d drag the moment coefficient
CM is worked o ut from the for mu la at a wide range of
different ang les of attack and then plo tte d o n a gra p h .
For mat he matical reasons it was decided that nose up
moments would be defined as positive, but of course
the mo ment abou t the leading edge w ill be nose down ,
Le. nega tive .

Figure 5,1

Nose Up

0( 0


Th e g ra ph wi ll lo o k li ke Figure 5.1 in w hich the

points A, B, C, D and E correspond to those on Figure
3.2. Th e line is straight from poi nt A, the angle of attack
for no lift, to point C, w here the wi ng starts to stall, and
then curves down to D and E as the wing stalls. In o ther
words, the mo ment ge ts progressively more nose down
as angle of attack is incre ased and then at the stalling
angle there is a furt he r increase in the nose down
moment. Please notice also that at point A, w here lift is
zero and a ng le of attack is a o (t he 0 meaning "no lift"),
there is still a nose down moment. The corresponding
momen t coefficient is ca lled CMo (where the 0 again
me ans "no lift ") and it is a lways ne ga tive , Le . nose
down, for normal sections.
BUT, But , but! I he ar you say. The moment is the
turning effect of the lift force so how can no lift have a
moment? We ll remember th a t all th is stuff about Lift
forces, Drag forces, Moments a nd the Cen tre of Pressure
is just for ad ministra tive convenience. \Vh a t we are
trying to describe is a pressure distribution around the
wing , so let us go back to tha t; look at Figure 2.10
again. At the angle of attack at which the ba lance says
there is no lift , th e pressure dist ribution wi ll h a ve
cha nged to something like that in Figure 5.2. Th e re w ill
be a sma ll downward pressure on the front part of the
wing an d a small upwa rd pressure o n the re ar part of
the wing, bu t th e angle of attack has been carefully
adjusted so that these cancel o ut. However they w ill still
have a moment about the lead ing edge, or any other
point yo u care to name (see Figure 1.4) ,

Centre ofPressure
If the lift and drag and the moment about a known
point like the le ad ing edge are known, then the position
of the Cen tre of Pressure (CP) ca n be calcu lated . As yo u

Figure 5.2


Basic AeronauticsJar Modellers

kn ow , th e CP m o ve s
around and Figure 5.3
shows th e trend of the
movem ent. Th e Centre
of Pressure moves forw ard o n th e wing as
a ng le o f a tt ac k is
increased . It nearly get s
to th e qu arte r c h o rd
p o sit ion but then the
s ta ll m ove s it ba ck
ag ain .
At th e other end a
c u rio us thing happ ens . Wh en CL is ve ry
small the Ce n tre of
Pressure dis appears off
th e ba ck of th e wing .
Th at
ca n
be cau s e
mathema ti ca l
con ve nience , no t tied to the
wing ' with a piece of
string . The distance of
th e ce ntre of p ressure
behind the leading edge
is ca lculate d by dividing the momen t ab out the leading
edge by th e lift coeffic ie nt. Wh en th e lift coeffic ie nt
becom es very very sm all, the answer becomes very very
large . When the lift is zero, the answe r is infin ity! You
ca n imagine that the ide a of a min iscu le force a gigantic
distan ce be hind the wing wou ld have the sa me effec t as
the pressure distribution in Figure 5.2. Lift is defined as
the co mpone nt of the resultant force at right angles to
the a irflow so in Figure 5.2 there is ze ro lift.

Aerodynamic Centre
In the spe cial case of a symmetrical aerofoil there is
no mom ent at zero lift, and wh en th e CP position is
calculated it turns out to be at abo ut the quarter ch ord
point at all angles of atta ck right up to the stall, w here it
moves back a bit as before. A fixed poi nt like this is so
much more sa tisfying . It can be marked on diagrams ,
and you can take moments abo ut various points an d do
little calculations (if that
is what turns yo u on) .
Wou ldn 't it be just
Figure 5.3
thri llin g if we cou ld
d o th a t for cambered
_ ___ __ __ J_
I Stall_
sec tions as well?
C Lll ltu :
We ll , Figure 5 .4 is
just like 5.1 exc ept that
in ad d itio n to th e moment about the leading
ed ge , it also shows th e
g ra p h of the moment
a bout th e trailing edge
as w ell. This lin e al s o
passes through point A
s ho w ing th at th e zero
lift mom ent is the sam e
no matter abo ut which
point it is measured. The
onl y difference is t h e
slope, wh ich is now the

Basic Aeronautics for Mode llers



: .1 1

other way. You are perhaps wondering if it is possible

to choose a point in between su ch that the graph will be
in betw een the others, de ad le vel like the dotted line in
fact? Yes, it's possible!
Ba ck in t he da y s wh en Ca me ls fou ght a ga inst
Albat rosses , th e Centre of Pressure was th e phrase on
eve ryo ne 's lip s, in aerodynamic circl es that is. But in
later years whe n aerodyn am icists found that there wa s a
po int o n the ae ro foil about which the moment did not
vary with a ng le of ,a ttack , they were so ple ased that they
gave it a spe cial name, the ae rod yn amic ce ntre of the
section (so me times shortened to ae rocentre or just A.C.).
Here at last was a point at which th ey co uld pla ce the
lift o n their dia grams and in their little calculations and
all they had to do was add a mom ent o n the aerop lane
which varied on ly with airspeed , not angle of attack .
This new mat hematical conce pt described the pressure
distribu tion (reme mber Chap ter 2) just as well as the old
Centre of Pressure ma thematical co nce pt. The beauty of

I am a mathemati cal
~ co ncep t y ou knoui

CP "'"'"

~ Ch o rd

CP Position


the e ffect of the sam e co mple x ai rflow and pr e ss u re

d istributio n , b ut do n ot fo rge t th a t it is the p ressure
d ist rib u tio n which creates th e lift, no t the arrows or
for m ulae w hich are just co nven ien t ways o f at tempting
to describe it.

Figure 5.4

Aerofoil Section Summary





III Bettoeen

it is th at for a pa rticular section, th e co efficie nt C'\ln is a

constan t, jus t a sma ll nega tive number, lik e -0 .05 for

NACA 2415 for ex ample (but it is co nstant only below
th e section's sta lling angle).
Now the pressure distribu tion may be represented by
forces in fou r d iffe rent ways. They are shown in Figure
5.5 . The first is the resu ltant force th rou gh the CP. O r
one co u ld show th e tw o se parate compone n ts, Lift and
Drag , at the CP.
Bu t since t h a t is im practica l w he n yo u come to
measure it in a wi nd tu nnel, th e for ces can be measured
as Lift and Drag at a fixed point like the lead ing edge
toget her with a momen t abou t th e lea di ng e dge , and
finally the Lift and Drag at the aero dyn am ic ce n tre and a
momen t )'1'10 . This last metho d is m o st convenient for
calculations . These are all equally va lid ways of showing

Now th at I have ment ioned al l th e s e c tio n

characteristics, I would like to de scr ib e , wit h the hel p o f
Figure 5.6 , how an aerofoil sec tion may be made u p ,
an d ho w we can influence its aero dy namic coefficien ts.
First d raw a straight line w hich wi ll be the cho rd line
of th e section.
Next d raw in the ca mber lin e . Th e maxim um ga p
be tween it a n d th e chord lin e is th e camb er of th e
section, w hic h may be fro m zero to 6% or possib ly 8%
of th e chord . The ma x camber can occur b et w een 15%
and 60% of the chord fro m the le ad ing edge.
Th en a thickness dis tribution is w rap ped around the
ca m ber line . This may b e do n e b y d rawi n g lines o f
appro pria te le ngth across th e ca mber line an d jo ining
thei r ends, or drawing a series of circles w ith centres o n
the ca mber line an d jo in ing th e ir ta ngents as shown. The
maximu m th ickness is usu ally between 6% and 18% and
occ urs from 15% to 50% of th e chord from the lea di ng

Thickness and Camber

Increasing the thickness will
1. increase the m inimum d rag , CDmin
2. wi den the d rag bu cket o n lami nar flow sec tions
3. increa se streng th/weight ratio .
Increasing the camber will
1. incre ase CU11:IX (very th ick or very th in sectio ns have
a re duced Cl.llm due to an ea rly sta ll) .
2. make th e ze ro li ft ang le of a ttack , 0: 0 more
3. inc rease the lift coefficient at w hich min imum drag

Figure 5.5



Basic Aerona 11lies for 1110dellers


Cambe,. Line
Ma.'\: Camber

Cb o r d Line


Th ic k ness


Tbickne ss

Half Thick ness added eacb side of ca m bel'

4. increase the negative va lue of C~ IO ' which will be

be tween -0.02 and -0.03 for each 1% of cambe r.
5. reduce the negative (inverted flight ) Clm a,

Section Classification and Use

the p ercentage thi ckness is chose n to b e a bou t 3.33

tim es th e ca m be r then the re a r 70 % o r 80% o f th e
aerofo il underside often turns o ut flat. That makes it
easy to build, it has a good upright pe rfo rma nce but is
poor invert ed.

SYMl'l'JET RICAL se ctions hav e ze ro ca m be r and

therefor e ao and CMo are also ze ro. \Vitho ut ca mber they
have rath er a lo w Cu lla, but at lea st it is as good inverted
as uprigh t. The least drag occurs at ze ro lift. Symm etri cal
sectio ns a re th us best fo r h igh speed a nd a e ro ba tic
aeroplane s. Their th ickness is a co mpro m ise be tween
st rength and dr ag , typically 10% to 18% fo r wi ngs and
6% to 10% for tailpl an es.

All other sections are cambered

An UNDERCAMBERED sec tion IS Just a thin highly
cambe red sectio n. Sometimes the camber is just enough
to mak e th e underside slig h tly co ncave as o n WW I
ae ro planes . On some free flight floaters the underside is
very co ncave because the pe rce ntage cambe r is as mu ch
as the th ickn ess. Such sections are very good at large lift
coefficients (low speed) but poor at sma ll lift coefficients
(high speed) , whi ch me an s they do not pen etr ate well.
They are also useless inverted .
so ca lle d because both top a nd bott om surfaces ar e
co nve x, bu t the top o ne is mo re so. That is be cause
the ca mbe r is small co mpa re d to the thickn ess, and the
faster o r more aeroba tic th e aeroplan e will be , the
smaller the cambe r sho uld be.
Th e FLAT-BOTTOMED sectio n , like the Clark Y or
Gottingen 796, is a specia l case of a cambe red sec tio n. If

Basic Aeronautics for Modellers


Chapter 6

The Vortex System

ith no wing in the wi nd tun nel the strea mlines
in the flow would be straig ht and paralle l as
in Figure 6.1. Putti ng in a wing cha nges the
airflow so mewha t as sho wn in Figure 6.2. The changes
imposed o n the air's ve locity by the wi ng are an upwash
just in front of the wi ng , a speed inc rea se abo ve and a
decrease below the win g , and a downwash behin d the
wing . Figure 6.3 shows these velocity changes (shown
as dV) in isolation . The effec t of the wing seems to be to

F igure 6.1

indu ce a kind of sw irling mot ion to the air, around itself.

A rota ting flow is c a ll e d a VO RTEX (Ap pe n d ix C
ex plains vort ices in mo re de tail) . \'V'hene ve r a wing is
produci ng lift it tends to indu ce this ci rcu la ting flo w
around itself , and the more lift the more circulation . This
vort ex is ca lled the "bo und vor tex " as it is fixed aro und
the w ing .
Vortices canno t end abru pt ly in mid air. In the win d
tunne l th ey end o n the wi nd tu nne l wa ll w hich is fine.
But w hat happen s if the
wing d o e s no t exte n d
from th e w all to w a ll?
Wh at h app en s if t h e
w ing has . . . (wait for
it) . . . TIPS! YES fo lks
we are now into THREE
d id p romise to wa rn
you) .
We ll yo u know very
w ell wha t happe ns , the


Figure 6.2

Fig u re







Basic AeronauticsJar Modellers

Figu re 6.4

~ Loto Pressure

( ~Wi"gTiP

High Pres sure



Bottom Surface Flow

Slightly Outward


Top Surface Flow

Slightly Inuiard

vortices do not just end, they trail off in the flow behind
th e wing tips . Th ese vortices a re ca lled the Trailing
Vortices . They would go on for ever if the air 's viscosity
did not dissipate them an d absorb their energy. I have
watched th e condensa tion trails of a Boeing 747 st ill
gently rotating when fo llowing 2000 fee t be low and
n ine teen miles be hind .
There is another eq ua lly valid way of loo king at these
trailing vor tices . At o ur newly acquired w ing tips , the air
p ressure is lower above the w ing than below. The air
inevitably tries to go from high pressure to low , arou nd
the tips, whic h gives rise to a degree of spanwise flow ,
outward on the lo wer surface and inward on th e top.
The trend co ntinues to a decreasing extent some way in
from the tip . Wh en the to p and bottom flows re unite at
the trailing edge , th ey are mo vin g in slight ly di fferent
directions, sligh tly outward on the un derside and slight ly
inward on top.
In Figure 6.4 I have tried to show th e result of all th is.
Along the trailing edge, especia lly near the tips, vor tices
are formed which all roll up togeth er to form one la rge
vortex trailing beh ind each wing tip .

Seeing The Vortices

T here is a n easy way yo u ca n see your mod el 's
trailing vor tices . Attach three streamers twe lve to fifteen
feet lo ng to each wing tip of a suitab le model
used a
Ga ngs ter 63) . Lay them out straig ht o n the gro und for
take off. O n climb out it w ill be seen that the strea mers


Basic Aeronautics/or Modellers

are bei ng w hirled rou nd by the airflow, clockwise o n

the left an d an ticlockwise o n the right.
TIY a slow flypast. The stre ame rs will be swi rled in
large slow sw irls. Now try a high speed beat u p . Notice
th e d iffe re n ce in th e way th e strea me rs a re swirling
s ugges ting a less stro ng vortex . The lift equa ls th e
weigh t in both cases sugges ting tha t a t low speed a
stronger vortex is needed to ge nerate the sa me lift. O n
the ne xt high speed pass try pulling a tight loop as the
model passes. The swir ling noticeabl y increases as soon
as yo u pull the u p elevator to inc rease the lift.
Now do a low inverted pass. From your p~i nt of view
nothing is d iffere nt. The lift is still up and the vortices
still go clockwise o n your left, and an ticlockwise on your
right (from the aeroplane 's po int of view the d irec tions
of rota tion and lift have all reversed). The lift is related to
the vortices in dire ction as well as strength. Check that
by coming in slow and high and do ing a bunt, o r ou tside
loo p.
Watch the st rea mers ca refully as yo u ap p ly d o wn
e leva tor. You will see the m stop rotating and then star t
rotating again the o the r way round . Th is w ill contin ue all
th e way round the b un t until when yo u re lease th e
do wn e leva tor to co ntinue no rmal fligh t, th e rotations
reverse aga in .
The lesson to learn from this is that the stre ngth of th e
vor tices increases wit h the lift coefficient of the wi ng .
After abo u t five mi n u tes of this th e s treamers h ad
flap ped themselves to pie ces and were down to two or
thre e feet long.


Figure 6.5

AR = Infinite

AR = Infinite


.>: "\


1/ /

. . --, 3









Even More Drag

Th e ASPECT RATIO of a 3-D win g is defin ed as the
spa n d ivided by the ave rage chord. It is found tha t when
a rea l wing with tip s is tested in a w ind tunne l its dra g is
more than if it fitted perfectly fro m wa ll to wa ll, and the
lift is less. Th e loss in performance depends on its as pect
ratio as illustrated in Figure 6.5 . The high e r the Aspect
Ratio of the wing, the ne are r is its pe rformance to that of
the ideal tw o di mensional wing (infinite aspect ratio) .

The Reason
This sho rtfall in p erformance is caused by the trailing
vortices whic h create a reg ion of descending air be hind
the w ing, a fter all the energy to crea te the m mu st be
p aid for so me ho w . Th at th es e vo r tices a ls o c a use
d ownwash in the airflo w as it ap proaches the wing ca n
be proven by the ory , or dem on strated at hom e by filling
a tall glass w ith wa ter and placin g a few g rains of rice at
the bottom . \Vith a spoo n , stir the wa ter in the glass near
the top and yo u w ill soo n see th e rice g ra ins begin to

sw irl. Bec ause of the fluid 's viscosity a SWirling motion is

ind uce d rig ht to the bo ttom of the glass. If the spoo n is
the wingtip vo rtex stirring the air be hind the wing , the
rice is be ing sw irle d ro und a head of th e wing, in the
sa me d irection , bu t to a lesse r ex te nt.
Fig ure 6.6 s hows th e airflow aro und a re a l thre e
d imen sion al wi ng in more deta il. A long wa y ahead of
the wi ng the airflow is undisturbed by its presence. As
the air approac hes , it is angled down s ligh tly by the
d ownwash ahead of the wi ng ind uced by the tra iling
vo rtices and th e n jus t in fro nt of th e wi ng the air is
swept up and over by the boun d vort ex as in 2-D flow .
We started by defining the ang le of attack as the angle
be twee n th e w ing and th e und isturbed a irflo w aw ay
ahe ad of the w ing . No w we ca n see that th e "real" angle
of attac k of the air meeting the wing has been red uced
by the downwash. And the lift re lates well to the lift
p redic ted from 2-D tests at this reduced an g le of attack.
So t h e lo s s o f li ft is e xp la in e d b y t h e d ownwa s h
red u ci n g th e a n g le of a tt a ck . But w h a t abo u t t he
increase in d rag?
Look ing back at Figure 6.6 agai n, the ae roplane mu st







~. .

. C'"

Basic Aeronautics/or Modellers

Figure 6.6




Real Lift




Doumuiasb All

-------=======:----Undisturbed Ab'

Doumuiasb III Front Of lVi1lg

think it is constantly flying uphill, or rather flyin g le vel

throu gh the sinking air of its o wn do w nwash . The lift
for ce has been tilted back a little , by the amou nt of the
dow n was h a ngle . Th at means th e lift ha s a s ma ll
component in a d irec tio n opposite to the directio n of
motio n . If it opposes motion it is Drag , isn't it?
This compone nt of the total d rag is called "ind uce d
drag" because it is caused by the tilting back of the lift
ca use d by th e dow nwas h ind uced b y th e tra iling
vo rtices. You may also see indu ced d rag referred to as
"active drag". No amoun t of strea mlining or fiddling w ith
th e section will red uce it. It is inevitable as it co mes
from the lift.

Figure 6.6 shows the airflow at o ne particul ar place
on th e wing . Near the tip s w here th e vortices a re
centred the downwash is grea ter than o n the ce ntreline,
as in Figure 6.7. Th us o n th is recta ng u lar wi ng each
point from the roo t to tip has a d ifferent "real" o r "local"

Doumuiasb Behind Wing

ang le of attack and th erefore a d iffere nt "loc a l lift

coeffic ient ", u su all y d e n ot ed Cl (w it h a s ma ll I
su bscript). The local lift coefficient red uces towards the
wing tips. Th e situa tion even on a straight w ing is not as
simple as the p icture I have pai nted up to now. On a
ta p e red t w isted swep t wi ng the si t ua tio n is as
co mplicate d as yo u ca n imagine , if not m o re ! Th e
variatio n of the "local" ang le of attack de pends on the
variatio n of the downwash w hich depends on . . . well
just about everything , includ ing the variatio n of the local
ang le of attack .
So becau se the downwas h angle, lift coefficient, drag
coefficien t, lo cal ang le of attack , ce n tre of pressure
positio n, etc, all vary wi th po sition along the spa n , that
makes it very difficult to use the section characteristics
me asured in two dime nsional flow . It is just too muc h
for the hu man bra in to cope wi th and is be st le ft to
co mputers with time on the ir han ds.
\'\fe co uld give u p the who le messy bu siness here and
no w , o r we co uld just step back and look at it from a
d istance.

Figure 6.7

Direction OfMotion
Wi1lg's Apparent
Angle OfAttack

Root Doumuias



Direction OfMotiotl
WhIg's Apparent
Angle OfAttack

Basic Aero na ut ics fo r Mode llers

Tip Doumuiasb


F igu re 6.8

~ -- -- ~Airfloto


Lessons f o r P r a ctica l Modellers

Thi s looks like a cla ssi c case for the bla ck box
system . I shall draw an imaginary black bo x around the
wing and care not a wh it for wha t is happening insid e .
Air e nte rs th e fron t of the bo x a nd co mes o ut o f the
back an gled d own slightly by the downwash, Th e angle
of attac k is mea sured between the direction of motion
and a referen ce line d rawn o n the outside of the box.
Th e refer en ce line may be e ither the cho rd line at the
ro ot sectio n o r th e ze ro lift lin e of th e who le w ing .
Th er e is a Lift for ce perpendicu lar to the d ire ction o f
motion and a total Drag for ce , including induced d rag,
op posi te to the d ire ction of motion. Th e re w ill be an
overall Centre o f Pressur e but I wouldn't care to guess at
its p ositi on so I prefer to p ut th e lift a t th e w in g 's
ae rody na mic ce ntre (25% mean chord) and apply a ze ro
lift pit ch ing mom ent. See Figure 6.8. \Xrhe n I refe r to lift
coefficient , or drag coefficient, I mean an ave rage for the
wh o le win g wor ke d o ut fro m tests and th e Cha pter 2
formula e .
The lift co efficient Cl. is the overall average for th e
wh ole w ing and has a ca p ital L su bsc ript. Its grap h will
still be a familiar sha pe but need not be the sa me as the
section's curve . The wing would hav e to be tested to get
acc ura te graphs but a re asonable guess could be mad e
by making "allowances" for as pect ratio, tap e r and twi st.
Th e slo pe of the straight bit will dep end o n the as pect
ratio (as in Figure 6.5). And the position of aD and the
stall will dep end o n the wing's planforrn a nd twi st as
mu ch as its sec tio n.

Reducin g induced d rag is important fo r aeroplanes

which cru ise a t a la rge lift coefficie nt (Le low speed)
therefore glid ers mu st have as high a n Asp ect Ratio as is
pra cticab le . Also a lig hte r ae ropl ane has less induced
dr ag than an identical he avy o ne a t th e sa me spe ed
be cau se of the lower lift co efficient.
Any lift, even downward or s ide ways lift, will cause
vor tices whi ch cause down wash which will tilt the lift
back wh ich co ntributes to induced drag . If a tailp lan e is
carrying a download , not o nly d oes the downward lift
on th e tail produce indu ced dr ag but th e Wing must
produce ex tra lift to co unterac t the download and that
means ex tra indu ced dra g o n the wing as well.
Most wind tunn el sectio n test s ar e d on e o n tw odim en sional models. If these resu lts a re used to es tima te
th e p e rform an ce of a re al ae ro p la ne th e y will g ive
opt im isti c a nswe rs becau se the y d o not include the
induced drag. It is possib le to es tima te the charac teristics
of a w ing from se ctio n da ta usin g var iou s fidd le factors
but that is o utside the sco pe of this bo ok.

Th e Importa nce ofAspect R a tio

A sho rt span broad win g mu st have a stro nger vort ex
to g ive the sa me lift as a lo ng narrow w ing, a nd w ill
co nseq ue ntly produce mor e downwash . Th er efor e the
induced drag is greate r for a win g of low Asp ect Ratio
than for o ne of high Asp ect Ratio (AR) becau se of the
g re a te r d o wnwa s h , An d as th e a n g le of a ttac k is
inc reased , bo th Lift a nd d ownwash a ng le in cr e as e
(because the vo rtex stre ng th increa ses ). Thus induced
dr ag increases rap id ly. In math ematical shorthand th e
induced dra g coefficie nt (C n) is given by;


Grou nd Effect
Lo oking at Figure 6.6 you probably thought that the
wind tunnel wall s would co nstrain the downwash effect,
and yo u we re right. Th e ind uced drag of a finite Wing
will be underestimat ed in a wind tunnel becau se th e
do wnwash is reduced .
Th e sa me thing will happen if an aeroplane is flown
very low over the gro und . Th e proxim ity of the gro und
will reduce th e downw ash and therefore th e ind uced
dra g will be reduced . Th e effec t is to prolon g the flare .
For this rea son , flight testin g mod els with in a few win g
cho rds of the grou nd will give misleading result s.

Basic Aeronauticsfor Modellers

Chapter 7

Planform and Twist

s yo u sa w in the
Figure 7. 1
previo us chapter,
the Aspect Ratio
Elliptical Lift Distrilnttton
Loading - Lift/Unit Span
o f th e wi ng lar g el y
_-.,-.....-rTTT"'T"TTT"TT"T...........--,-.">----d et e rm in es ho w mu ch
in d u c e d dra g it wi ll
c a use . Bu t th e littl e
e q ua tio n for in d u ce d
drag coefficient w hich I
ju st s lip pe d in th e re
co ntaine d a co nstant, K,
as we ll. Thi s K (ca lle d
the Indu ce d Drag Factor) depen ds upo n how
the load is sha red alo ng
the wing . T he lift ma y
Figure 7.2
be eve n ly sp read , o r
mostly near the roo t, o r
what eve r.
Fig u re 7. 1 s hows
w ha t theor y says is the
Rectangular Area Dtstribution
id e a l lift d istribu ti on
w hich gives K its min imu m value o f 1. Th is is
a d iagram of the Lift Per
Unit Spa n . Each arrow
rep re s ent s th e li ft o n
a o ne inch wide strip of
win g , and th e lin e
joi ning the to p s of a ll
the arro ws is an e llipse .
Loading <Lift/Unit Span
Local Cl -sLtft/Unit Area
(I n futur e I s ha ll onl y
d raw the line alo ng the
tops of all the arrows as is mor e usu al). Fo r all o the r lift
dott ed line. As seen in the p revio us c ha pte r indu ce d
d istributions K will be a little grea ter than 1.
down wash ahead of the w ing redu ces the local a ngle of

Local Angle of
We m u st a fte r a ll
p e e k ins ide th e b la ck
b o x d e si gn e d to o b sc u re a ll thi s co m p licati on . O n o ur usu al
recta ngular wing wh ose
c ho rd, sectio n a nd in ci de nce a re th e sa me
fro m ro ot to tip t h e
load ing , show n o n th e
rig ht of Fig u re 7 .2 , is
ne ithe r rectang ular like
th e pla nfo rm no r e llipt ica l as s h o w n b y th e

Figure 7.3

Elliptical Area Distribution

Local Cl <Ltft/Unit Area

Basic Aerona utics/or Modellers



Ltfr/Untt Sp a n


It is goo d m an a ge ment pr a ct ice to move

work ers from wh ere they
are id le to w he re th e y
are more productive and
we do with win g a rea.
Taper R a tio OS
An o bvio us id e a
mig ht be to use an elliptica l p la n forrn (Fig u re
7 .3) wit h n o twi s t.
Ta k ing a close lo o k a t
suc h a wi ng und e r test,
a n e lli ptica l lo ad in g is
Local Cl
possibl e and the downI
wash is co nsta nt ac ross
the s pa n, which means
th at th e lo ca l angle of
a tta ck is a lso co ns ta n t.
T he re fo re th e lo ca l lift
coeffic ie n t is the same
a ll ove r the win g. Every
sq ua re inch is doing its
Taper R a tio 0.33
fa ir s ha re of lifting ,
h en c e m a ximum e ffi ciency . It co uld be tricky
to bu ild with acc u ra te
sectio ns throu gh out.
A reaso na b le co mp rom is e is to b u il d a
L oading - wi n g wit h a st raig h t
ta per fro m root to tip as
in Fig ure 7 .4 in w h ic h
yo u ca n see that the lift
dist ribution ca n be ma de
q uite clo se to the idea l e llip tica l shape. It is nea rly as
attack towards the tip. The res ult ing local lift coefficie nt,
o r lift per un it area , is shown o n the left side of Figure
easy to build as the rectan gular wi ng but is sig nificantly
7.2. Loadin g and local Cl are the sa me becau se chord is
mo re efficien t. Tapering the wing helps to improve
co nstant in this case .
e fficie ncy b y eve n ing out th e d o wn w a s h a n d so
increasing the local lift coefficient towards the tip . Thus
th e lift is more even ly sha re d th an o n a Re ctan gul ar
Differe nt Planform Shapes
w ing . Th e o p tim um Taper Rati o (defined as the tip
To reduce the indu ced dra g factor the planform of the
cho rd over the root chor d) is abo ut 0.4 . If the tap er ratio
wing may be changed .
is redu ced bel ow th e opt imum 0 .4 , th e lo cal angle

Fig ure 7.4

Fig u re 705

Double Taper
Taper R a tio OS

--- - - - ---- --~-~-~-~~~




Local Cl

M ax


Basic Aeronautics/or Modellers

Figure 7.6


_-=- -=- -::. :. -=- I) -=- -:. r::::===--~__

of a tt ac k near th e
tips b ecomes greater
than ov e r the inboa rd
s ect io n s, the tips beco me overloaded , and
efficiency is again lost.
Another slight decr ease in the K fac tor
may be had by building
a wing with a do uble
taper , wh ich is very
littl e e xtr a trouble esp ecially if the wing is
too long to build in
o ne piece anyw ay . See
Figure 7.5. Th e double
tap er ed planform gives
a n a re a dist ribution
even closer to tha t of an
ellips e a nd so is more
efficient still.

Fig ure 7.7



: LOllJ
1 Speed
1- _ _

Local C,

Load ing
".. - - -







Tips talling
If the lift distribution is of the ide al elliptical sh ape
then the local angle of attack will be co nstant along the
spa n . Theoretically the w ing sho uld st all all the wa y
along the wing simultaneously. But the inevitable slight
imp erfection or dirt or even a twitch of aile ron means
that o ne side will stall before the o the r. Eve n if just the
outboard portion of one wing stalls first the effect of the
diffe ren ce in lift and drag between one wing an d the
other is a vio lent ro ll, a "w ing drop". Because of its very
efficiency , an elliptica l wing is lik ely to drop a wing
when it stalls, and pilots just don't like aeroplanes w hich
flick themselves upside down un expectedly.
On a constant chord wing the local an gle of attack is
least near the tip. The airflow approaching the wing is
"tw isted" down at the tips ensuring that in stea dy flight it
is most unlike ly to tipstall. But e ith e r surface
irregularities or turbulence or a rudder input, if seve re
en ou gh , can produce a tipst all on mo st wings . Of course
avo iding tipstalling does not mean that a win g will not
drop at all. Even a root stall o ne sid e at a time will give
a ro ll, bu t nothing too violent.
A tap ered wing's characteristics will be between the
two , dep ending on the tap er ratio. The more taper, the
more lik el y is a tipsta ll. If th e taper on a wing is '
ex ce ssive (ta p e r ra tio 0 .4 or le ss) then a tipstall is
in e vit abl e as the local angl e o f a ttac k is greatest
o utboard.
In Fig ur e 7.4 I have shown the spa nw ise position
wh er e local Cl is a maximum, and this is where the wing
should stall first (assuming co nstant sections).

Basic Aeronautics for Modellers

Washo u t
If a wing is twisted such that the incidence decreases
toward s the tip , that is called "washo ut". Cl deliberately
use the word incidence because th e angle of attack will
depend also up on the variatio n of the downwash .) See
Figure 7.6.
Th e o pp os ite twist is, logically, called wash in. We
mod ellers use washout as a cure for tipstalling . Twisting
the leading edges down at the tips allow s them to fly at
a lower angle of attack so hopefully the roots will stall
Another effect of washout is to shift some of the lift
inboard o n the wing (Figure 7.7) . Th e effec t of that will
obviously be to increase the indu ced drag factor, K. The
tips m ay e ve n be lifting downward a t high speed .
Adding washout to an efficiently tapered planform takes
aw ay so me of its inherent efficien cy.
Consid er the effect of wa shout o n the gra ph of lift
against ang le of a ttack for the whol e wing. In Figure 7.8,
if line A is for an untwisted wing, then line B sho ws the
effec t of the sa me w ing of con sid erable washout. The
an gle of attack has been mea sured aga inst the chord line
at the ro ot. The root has to be rotated to a higher angl e
of atta ck to achieve the same overall lift becau se the tips
start off lifting downwards.
The stall is very mild and prolonged bec ause it starts
at the root and works its way gradua lly towards the tip
as angle of atta ck is increased. As th e lift on the tips is
increasing , th e lift on th e roots is reducing, and the
maximum lift de veloped by the wing is much less in
case B. That means that , although th e stall is gentler, the
stallin g spee d will be high er.



parts are do ing their fa ir

s ha re of lifting . Inste ad
of unl oa di ng the tips to
p re vent th em fr om
stalling (and sp oilin g the
e fficie n cy), w hy not
tr a in them to w o r k
h arder? Ch oose a tip
section w hich is capa ble
of a hi gh er Clm"x than
the roo t se ction , becau se
it h as mo re , or d iffe re n tly s ha pe d, ca mber.
Th en apply so me washo ut to the wi ng so that
b oth ro ot and tip w ill
have th e sam e Cl from
zero lift to th e stall. But
th e ro ot w ill stall first! It
so u nds like a Uto p ia n
id e a but tak e c are
se lecti ng the sec tio ns,
and read the cha pte r o n
Re ynold s
Nu m be r






Aerodynamic Washout
A similar effec t to wa sh out can be obtained by using
a tip sectio n wh ich stalls at a high er geomet ric a ng le of
attac k than the roo t, keep ing their ch o rd lines parallel as
in Figure 7.9.
Th is effec t is called "aerodynamic washo ut" since, as
a is increased the roo t section w ill re ach stalling an gle
Figure 7.10 is a d ifferent app roa ch to the pr obl em.
We ha ve design ed a wi ng wh ich is efficient becau se all
Figure 7.8

.. ...


Washout Angle


The a ng le of sweep o ug ht to be me asured a t th e

qu arter chord line of the w ing (altho ug h so me peo ple
me asure it at th e leading e dge). Swee p ing th e w ings
ba ck (o r forward for that matt e r) is a device for dela yin g
the o nset of the tran son ic d rag rise, which is nothing to
do w ith us mod elle rs.
We d o not ca re th at a straig ht wing ex perie nces a
sharp pr ofil e d ra g in cre ase as s peed ris es throu gh a
Ma ch Num b e r o f 0.6 o r so ( 0.6 times th e s pee d o f
sound) . Nor does it matter th at th is d rag rise ca n be
del ayed to Mach 0.8 o r 0.9 by sweeping the wings ba ck .
But models do ge t bu ilt
wi th swept wi ngs so I
had bette r mention it.
Ap art from its ma in
pu rpos e
me n t io n e d
above, it ca n be used to
ad jus t the position of the
mean ch o rd o f the wing
back or forw ard with out
moving the roo t fixings.
Su p pos e yo u d es ign a
model and it turns o u t
tail he a v y . Yo u co u ld
build a new w ing with a
little sweep ba ck and get
it c o rrec tly b al an c ed
without ball ast a n d
w ith o u t a lte ri ng th e
fuse lage .
Swee pbac k a lso has
various side effects, like
the e ff ec t o n lat eral
stability (see Cha p ter 9),
and in large doses it has
a detrimental e ffec t on
th e efficie ncy o f th e
Measw'ed At Root
wi ng. T he a ir h a s a


Basic Aerona utics f or Modellers

Figure 7.9









tenden cy to flow out alon g a swep tbac k win g towards
th e tip s which reduces th e lift. Th e tenda ncy ca n be
counterac ted by using win g fen ces o r notch es etc.

Th e line from A to B crosses the 50% chord line at point

C, the ce ntro id of the sha pe . The chord through C is the
win g's M.A.C.

Mean Chord

Geometric Mean Chord

What does one use as the win g chord mea surem ent if
the w ing is tapered and swe pt? The cor rec t va lue to us e
is w hat ae ro dy namicists ca ll th e "Me an Aero dy na mic
Cho rd " CM.A.C. fo r sho rt) o f th e wing. It need s rather
co m p lic a te d math emat ics to d efine a nd ca lc u la te it.
However it may be fo und graphically.

Th e j'd .A.C. is unn e c e ssaril y c o m p lica te d for us

mod ell e rs . Th e Ge om etr ic Me an Cho rd is jus t th e
a ve rage o f the root and tip cho rds, or the wing a re a
di vid ed by the span . The G.M.C. is slightly smaller than
the M.A.C. but with a tap er ratio of 0.65 th e e rro r is onl y
I suggest that the geome tric me an chord is acc ura te
e no ug h for o u r purpo ses and s ha ll us e it in fu tu re ,
dropping the "geo metric" and calling it just the "me an
cho rd ".

Graphical Methods
Figure 7.11 shows a g ra p hical w ay of find ing th e
ce ntro id of a swept tap ered wing. Draw the w ing o ut to
scale and square off the wing tip .
Now join th e midp oint o f th e tip c ho rd to th e
midpo int of the root cho rd . Extend the tip cho rd forward
by the am ount of the root chord to po int A. Extend the
root cho rd aft by the am ount of the tip cho rd to point B.

Horses for Courses

Th e us e of tap er a nd was ho u t is a co mp ro m ise
b etwe en perfo rman ce a nd handling and a different
co mpromise is ne cessar y for different typ es of mod el.

Figure 7,10









,,- .... ,


-- -,, ,Tip


I :


Add Some Was bout











Basic Aeronauticsfor Modellers






Figure 7.11
Willg Centre Line

Half Span





Indu c ed dra g is
ve ry s ig n ifica nt, th erefor e gliders use taper ed
w ings , if possible double
ta pere d . Th e y a lso use
as high a n aspe ct rati o
as po s sibl e to re d uce
induced drag.
Howe ver th ere ma y
be occasions wh en co ntest rule s ma ke the high
as pec t rati o le s s n e cessa ry (see c ha p te r o n
Re ynolds Number).










It is imp ort ant that a train er sho uld not tipst all eve n
when p rov ok ed by rough handling , and it mu st be easy
to build . For these reasons a co ns tant cho rd un swept
win g of mod est Aspect Ratio is usuall y employe d . The
loss o f aerody na mic efficiency is unimportant.

Scale mod els leave no cho ice of taper ratio , as pect
ratio , o r sweep . If the tip chord is less than two third s of
th e roo t c ho rd , or if it is e llip tica l, th en a co u p le of
degrees of was ho ut would be prudent, more if the w ing
is stee ply tap ered . The scale mod eller ad justs the amo unt
of washout to achie ve the kind of handling he prefers.

The "Pattern ship" mu st above all be pr edi cta ble . It
mu st not tipstall accide ntally a nd ye t it mu st sp in reliabl y
wh en co mma nded with rudder co ntrol.
It mu st fly as well invert ed as upri ght and so was ho ut
is undesirable . For these re ason s a tap er ratio o f 0.55 to
0.65 is usually employe d. Any sweepba ck would o nly be
for aes the tic reasons, altho ug h I have heard it sa id that it
help s the rolls and disgui ses aerobatic er rors.


Basic Aerona uticsfor Modellers

Chapter 8

CG and Stability

he cen tre of Gravity (or CG) of an aeroplane is

the po int throu gh w hich its weight acts , o r where
it ca n be su ppo rted with out falling o ver. Its fore
and aft position , w hich is wh at matters most, is shown
o n pl an s by the sy mbols ~ or

Most mod ellers have a general idea of w ha t stabi lity is

and how it is related to Cen tre of Gra vity pos ition, bu t
let us go a bit further for a better understa nd ing .

the p oo l table . Disturb it sligh tly and it w ill remai n in its

new position (Figure 8.3). Ther e is no res tor ing force or
d iverging force . It is neutrally stab le.
Th is ex pe rime nt shows the sta tic sta bili ty an d is
co ncerned on ly with the initial reac tio n to a disturban ce.
Figure 8.1

Defining Stability in General

Th e s ta bi lity o f a b ody is its tend e n cy to ret urn
towards its original state if d isturbe d slightly. The re are
tw o types of s ta b ili ty , Stat ic Sta b ili ty a nd Dyn ami c
Dyna mic Stability is about what happens over a lo ng
period of time following a d istur ba nce. Th at is, a bod y is
dynam ically stab le if some time after a distu rban ce it has
se ttled down into its o rigina l state . Dyn amic Stability is
impossible unl ess you first achieve Static Stability.
Sta tic Sta b ili ty is co nce rned o n ly with th e in itia l
reaction of the body follo w ing a disturbance . Th at is, if
the bod y is dis turbe d slightly from its equilibrium state ,
will forces automatica lly arise whic h will ten d to mak e it
return back towards its eq uilibr ium state again? If so it is
statica lly sta ble.
Th ere a re thre e poss ible co ndit io ns : Uns ta b le,
Ne u tra lly St able , or
St abl e . Fo r a d e m o n stration of each of these
s tates ge t a snoo ke r
b all , a Ch inese Wo k ,
and an o ld British army
steel helmet o n a pool
tab le . Let the ball rest in
equilibrium right in th e
cen t re o f th e Wok.
Distu rbing it slightly will
pr oduce a fo rce w hic h
will ma ke it wa nt to roll
back towards the ce ntre .
See Figure 8.1. Thi s is
sta b le . No w ca refu lly
b alan c e th e ball at
th e ve ry to p o f th e
steel helmet. Disturb it
slightly and it will tend
to c on tin ue in th at
d ire cti on and fall right
off (Figure 8.2) . That is
unstable or "Divergent".
No w pl ace th e ball o n

Basic Aeronauttcs f or Modellers

Figure 8.2


Figure 8.3

Wh at the final o utco me will be afte r a time has e lapsed
will depend upon the dynamic stab ility.
If a bod y (ball or aero plane) is statica lly stable like
the ball inside the \'{ro k, we may investigate its dyn am ic
sta b ility . If the ball is hel d four inch es up th e inside
surface of th e Wok and re leased , it w ill return to the
ce nt re bu t will overshoot and go up the other side say
thre e and a half inch es , then down and u p three inc hes
e te. until afte r a while it w ill settle in the centre . It is
thu s dynamically sta ble d ue to the damp ing force ca used
by the rolling resistan ce . If the Wok wer e full of wa ter it
would have grea ter da mping (wa ter, damping, o h neve r
mind) w hich wo uld increase the dynamic stab ility and
the ball wou ld se ttle in the ce ntre more q uick ly.
Figure 8.4 shows the kinds of stability graphically.
T h e dynamic stabilit y o f a eropla n e s is a very
co mp lica te d subject which I do not want to d iscuss.
Suffice it to say that to a large ex te nt it depends upon
the a ircraft havin g sufficie nt aerodynamic damping, or
resistance to pitch ro ll and yaw motion s, which I sh all
me nti on lat er, in Cha pte r 10. Th e rema inder of this
cha pter is about Static Stabili ty.

Motion of an Aeroplane
An ae ro plane is free to move in thre e d imen sions. In
Figure 8.5 I ha ve d rawn the thr e e axes o n an ae roplane
and ca lled them forwa rd side ways and down . Th e axe s

are fixed in the ae rop lane w heth er it is climbing, divi ng ,

ro llin g o r whatever. Sidewa ys movement is ca lled
s ides li p , and th e ra te o f forwa rd mo vem ent is the
airsp eed.
The aero plane is free to ro tate ab out these axes as
wel l. Rota tion about the lo ngitudinal axis is called roll,
rot ation abo ut the lateral axis is ca lled pit ch and rotatio n
abo ut the ve rtical axis is called yaw . See Figure 8.5. The
re m a ind e r o f th is c ha p te r is co nce rned w ith s ta tic
stability of pitching motion around the latera l axis which
is neverthel ess ca lled "lo ngitu d ina l" stab ility. Ro ll a nd
yaw are dealt wit h late r.

Stability ofAeroplanes in Pitch

This is a n area full of misconception s and arg ume nt
for mod e llers , therefore let me defi ne the subjec t clo se ly.
Firstly the name is Lo ngitud inal Stat ic Stability. Th is is
ab ou t an aeroplane flyin g alo ng in eq uilibrium (in trim)
and sudden ly so me thing , like a gust o r a glitch or the
pilot sneezing . ca uses it to p itch u p (or dow n) changing
s ligh tly t h e a ngle of a ttack, b u t not th e s p e e d o r
a nything e lse . I know th at a lift in crea se wi ll start a
climb but I am no t co nce rned with that. I o nly wan t to
kn ow "w ill th e c h a nge of fo rc e s te n d to make th e
aeroplan e pitch further nose up , o r nose down , o r have
no pitching mom ent at all abou t the CG?"
First, le t us loo k at the fo rces o n a wing alone . Figure
8.6 s ho ws a wing flying along in equilib rium . All the
forces and mom ents on it are exactly ba lan ced . Thrust
and dra g are e qua l and are bo th throu gh the CG (and
o m itted fo r s im p lic ity) and Mo exac tly bala nces the
mom ent of L about the CG (Mo=L.x). Notice tha t I have
sho wn the zero lift pitching mom ent with a nose Do\'{rN
arrow (Le. the way it reall y acts) to mak e my dia grams
cleare r (altho ugh it is normally defin ed as positive nos e
up) in spi te of Chapte r 5.
Now if the angle of attac k is increased , L increases by
a sma ll amo unt, say XL (fo r Xtra Lift). Mo still balances

Figure 8.4

// Statically Unstable



Dynamically Stable

.... - ....


Stable, but
Dynamically Unstable


Basic Aeronautics/or Modellers

the moment of the

Figure 8.5
original lift L, but the
moment of XL about
the CG will pitch the
wing further nose up
which is unstable (Figure 8.7) .
Notice the difference
between equilibrium
and stability. This wing
was originally in equilibrium because all the
forces were balanced ,
like the ball on top of
the helmet, but its
reaction to a disturFortuard
bance was unstable.
Flying wings do fly
(in Chapter 16) but the
normal way to achieve
stability is to add a
tailplane , or what in
America is more aptly
called a "stabiliser".
Figure 8.8 shows an
aeroplane flying in trim.
All the forces and
moments balance out
Le . T = D, L = Wand
Figure 8.6
Mo balances the moment of L about the CG.
What happens when
the aeroplane gets a
slight nose up disturbance? Only the wing
lift and tail lift change.
In Figure 8.9 only the
changes, the Xtra Lift
forces, are shown
because all the other
forces cancel each other
out. (If you like, all the
Mo (=L.x)
forces in Figure 8 .7
have been combined in
one resultant force,
which is Zero).
Let us say that for a one degree pitch up the wing's
Xtra Lift is 5 and the tail 's Xtra Lift is 1 (because it is
smaller). These two are separated by a distance of 36
units . Some simple mechanics show that they have a
resultant force of 6 at a distance of 6 units behind the
wing's aerocentre. This force determines the stability. If
it acts aft of the CG as shown in Figure 8.9 it will pitch
the aeroplane nose down which is stable , and the
further behind the CG the greater its moment and so the
more the stability. Conversely if this resultant were
forward of the CG it would be destabilising.
In the special case where this resultant acts exactly
through the CG then the static stability is neutral
because it will tend to pitch the aeroplane neither up '
nor down, because it has no moment about the CG. The
name Neutral Point is given to the point of action of
the resultant force due to a pitch disturbance because if
the CG is at this point then the stability is neutral.
Notice what went into finding the Neutral Point: the
size of the Xtra lift on the tail relative to the wing and

Basic Aeronalilies for Modellers


Vertical Axis



the distance between their aerocentres. Notice also that
the further the CG is ahead of the NP the greater the
stabilising moment.

Achieving a good balance between the stability and
controllability of an aeroplane is partly achieved by
correctly positioning the CG. A compromise has to be
reached whereby the aeroplane is safely stable and is
also easily controllable.
The Correct CG Position is what feels good during
flight testing, and will vary according to the purpose of
the model, and the ind ividua l preferences of the pilot.
You will usually get a CG position from a plan , or
perhaps a formula, but that does not make it exactly
right. It is just a starting point.
If an aeroplane's CG is too far aft it is very sensitive
to small elevator movements and small elevator trim
changes . It needs little or no down elevator to hold
inverted. There is a dangerous tendency to over-control


Simplicity Its elf?

Figure 8.7

If th e tail are a is a
fifth of th e win g a rea
th en its Xtra Lift should
b e a fifth th at o f the
wing and like in Figure
8.8 the Neutral Point will
be a sixth of the tail arm
a ft of th e wing' s aeroc e n tre ( ta il a r m is th e
di stan ce b etwe en th e
aeroce n tre s , or quarte r
c h o rd p oints , of w ing
and tail) .




Mo (=L.x)

the aerop lane and a real risk of sp inning o ut of contro l
o r overstressing the wing.
If its CG is too far forw ard the model's response to
e le vato r co ntro l will be sluggish , it will hold inve rted
o nly with large amo unts of down elevator - if at all and it will be d ifficu lt or imp ossible to stall and spin. It
will also pitch ex cessive ly with speed changes.
The CG is cor re ct when the aircraft handles just the
way you like it. But yo u ha ve to start somewhe re , and
the nearer yo u can get it in the first pla ce the better.
Th e parameter wh ich governs the stab ility is denoted
Kn a nd in our simplified theory may be ca lled the CG
Ma rgin , St ati c Margin , Stability Fa ctor or Stability
Margin, which is th e one I sha ll us e as it se em s the
most descript ive .
The ph ysical meaning given to the stability margin is
the distance betwee n the aeroplane 's CG and its Neutral
Point (N P) . Kn is g ive n a s a d e c im al fra ction , or
percentage, of the mean chord of the wing. A suitable
figure for Kn is fro m 5% to 25% of wing mean chord
with an optimum in the region of 10% to 15%. That is all
we have to do then. Find the NI' and put the CG 15% of
the chord ahead of it!

If onl y it were that e asy . I kept my ex ample nice and

simp le to illustrate the principles involved but, as you
are probably aware , wh at a lo t I left out! A larg e number
of factors co mbine to reduce th at expected Xtra Lift on
th e tail , so the Neutral Point is further forwa rd than I
calculated .
The most o bvious problem is the downwash. \'1!hen
the wing 's a ng le of attac k increased by on e degree , the
down wash over the tailpl ane a lso increas ed , reducing
the angle of atta ck increase experien ced by the tailpl an e
to s o me w ha t les s th an on e d e gr ee. \'Ve m ay lo s e a
qu arter , a h alf or th re e quarte rs of that one degree
depending on the wing's Aspect Ratio , and also on the
tail ga p, the w ing lift distributi on , and the tail heigh t.
Norma lly the tail ha s a lower asp ect ratio than th e
wing. Going ba ck to Figure 6.5 , the tail's lowe r aspect
ratio means that its lift increase will be less per degree
th an the wing's . No t only th at but using a very thin
se ctio n , especially a flat plate , may impl y a still lower lift
curve slo pe .
Th e w in g and the fu se lage ha ve boundary laye rs
wh ich flow off behind the aeroplan e as a wake , movin g
slowe r than the rest of th e a irflow . If the tail is flying in

Figure 8.8





Figure 8.9
A XL = 6

Distance 36

-1 -- - - - --- I



Basic Aeronautics/or Modellers

this wake the n its lift increase will be less tha n expected
because XL is p ro po rtio nal to airspeed sq uared . The
effect is neglig ible for a T-tail but quite significan t for a
"draggy " aeroplane.

We Can Work it Out?

I would lik e to be as o pt imistic as the o ld Bea tles
so ng but to be ho nest anyo ne w ho cla ims to be ab le to
calcu la te accura tely th e co rrec t CG for a mode l
aeroplane is kidd ing h imse lf Th e re a re just to o many
va riab les and no t enough sources of informatio n . So
wha t do we do? \'{1e gu ess . But the more accurately we
ca n gues s the better.
\'{1e make up a fo rmu la in co r po ra ting a ll the
"allo wances" and the 15% stabil ity ma rgin to give a CG
positio n directly. It can be as simp le as "Put it at a th ird
chord mat e!" o r as compl ica ted as lo o k ing up a textbook and findi ng a for mul a for neutr al po int distance aft
o f the aerodynamic centre . Then yo u add the .25 chord
whic h the aerocentre is b e hi nd th e le ading edge,
sub trac t the .15 chord stabil ity margin and end u p wit h
something like
CG pos = 0.1+ q T aT (I- DWF) V har
w he re

The tail area should be measured excluding the part

covered b y the fuse lage or cu t away to cle ar the rudd er,
bu t the wing area should incl ude the a rea wi thi n the
fuselage . In deriving this for mula it was assume d tha t the
tail is beh ind the w ing and is appreciably sma lle r tha n it.
It is possible to loo k up obscure tables to es tima te the
information to pu t into the eq ua tion bu t is it worth all
that tro ub le for each mo de l? I do ubt it. The answer w ill
still o nly be as acc ura te as the "estimates" yo u p ut in.

Simpler Equations
What we mod eller s need is an equa tio n which is easy
to work ou t ju s t fro m t h e meas ure me nts of the
aeroplane so let us make some assumptions and pu t
some estimates in the above eq uation .
If t he aerop la ne is reas o nab ly clea n , th e t a il
un o bstru cted , and its area calculated as before , then we
can make an a llowance for the airspeed fac tor.
The lift curve slope factor is always about the same if
the tail Aspect Ratio lo oks "no rmal" (say a third tha t of a
h igh aspe ct rat io wi ng (20) , or half that of a med iu m
aspect ra tio wi ng ( LO), or two thirds tha t of a lo w aspect
ratio wi ng (5)) . If the tail gap is in th e usual ra nge of 1.5
to 3 chords an d the tail is about level wi th the wing then
th e down was h a llowa nce w ill d e p e nd o nly o n th e
wi ng 's aspect ra tio. I therefore prop os e this purel y
em pirica l equa tion

.9.I is the ratio of the (a irspeed)! at ta il and w ing


a T is the ratio of lift curve slopes of tail and wi ng , and

( I -Down wash Frac tio n) is wh at is le ft of the angle of
attack increase by the time it reaches the tail and Vim is
tail area
tail arm IT
- - - - - X -------'wing area
wing chord
and is ca lle d the tail vo lume ratio . (see Nomogram in
Appendix E)

My CG Formula
This eq ua tion gives the CG posi tion , as a fraction of
the wing me an chord , of gliders or conventional, engine
at the fron t, tail at the back, mono pl anes with a wi ng of
Aspect Ratio fro m abo u t 4 to 25. (See Chapter 22 fo r
anyt h ing e lse .)
CG posn = 0.1 + 0.25*(AR)i\0.25*V-bar
(where (AR)i\0 .25 is the fourth root of the wing Aspect

Locb Insb makes a lovely setting for Dr. feremy Sbaui's Stranraer. Tbe drag of all those struts and wires
must considerably reduce tbe airfloto velocity over tbe tail,

Basic Aerona lilies for Mode llers


Figure 8.10





















Aspect Ratio





CG Position
as a % of wing mean
cbordfrom lea diug edge

Tail Volu m e
Ratio Vsba r

It is dea d simple to wo rk o ut o n a calculato r with square

root s. Enter the wing Aspect Ratio (span/chord), take the
sq uare root , and pr ess sq ua re roo t aga in. Multiply by
0.25 an d th e V-bar, a nd a dd 0.1. T ha t g ives the CG
positio n as a frac tion of the mean cho rd . Multip ly by 100
fo r a pe rce ntage. For examp le , if th e wi ngs pa n is 99"
a nd th e mean cho rd is 11" the Aspect Rat io is 9. The
sq ua re roo t of 9 is 3 and the sq ua re roo t o f 3 is 1.73. If
the tail volume is 0.6 this gives a CG position of

The CG shou ld be at 36% of the mean cho rd, or 0.36 x

11" = 3.96" aft of the LE of the MEAN cho rd, for the first
Eve n easier to use in the nomogram in Figure 8.10.
Yo u wi ll find nomo g ram s to help work o ut th e wi ng
Aspect Ratio and Tail Volume Ratio in Append ix E.
Most powered train ers and sport models have a win g
AR of between 5 and 8 so if those are the o nly mod e ls
yo u wa nt to co nsider yo u co uld simplify the formula to

0.1 + (0.25 x 0.6 x 1. 73)

CG posn



0.1 + 0.4*V-bar

Basic Aerona utics/or Modellers

Th e CG Formula bas to be adjusted to allow for tbe ve ' J' long nose


tbis model.

If yo u then ass u me that yo ur model has a V-bar of about

0.6, whi ch is co mmon, yo u ge t a CG position of one third
cho rd . It is a standard , oft-use d, balan ce point, but app lies
o nly to models whi ch fit the standard mod el proportions.

Variations on the Formula

Fifties Formula


Ano the r useful a nd po p u lar CG formula , fo u nd in

Go rdo n Whitehead's sca le book, was mad e up by an ae ro
e ng ineer in the nin eteen fifties (w he n mo de l tails wer e

The wh ol e book until Cha pter 18 ass u mes that the

struc ture o f the ae roplane is rigid . O nly a slight flexib ility
has been allowe d for in the formulae . If yo u r ae ro plane is
not iceabl y flexible see Chapters 18 and 19 and mov e the
CG forward a little. This is es pecially import ant on hig h
Aspec t Ratio glide rs.

CG distance aft of mean cho rd LE

area x tail arrn j/ S x wing area

chord/ri + 3x(Ta il

This can be simplified by dividing all the terms by the

mea n cho rd to get the CG po sition as a fraction of the
cho rd (as in my form ula).
CG posn

1/6 + 3/ 8 V-bar

0.17 + .375 V-ba r

You can see that the formu la is very like min e, and on the
abo ve ex a mp le aircr aft giv e s a CG po sition of 39 .5%
mean cho rd, 3.5% furthe r aft than my formu la.
Many fu ll size aircraft , lik e th e Hurrican e a nd the
Turbulent, have a sma ll tail vo lum e o f 0.4 o r less. Man y
scale mod el plan s use a CG position wh ich co nfor ms to
the Fifties formula, but experien ce has sho w n that they fly
better w ith the mo re forward CG given by my fo rmul a.
Now, perh ap s yo u ca n see that all the above formulae ,
in fact any se rious CG formu la, will try to do the same
thing . . . es tima te the NP position and place the CG a
sa fe d ista nce ahead o f it. (T ha t d istan ce is ca lle d th e
Stability Margin , and is usu ally about 15% of mean chord.)
A more co mprehensive treatm ent of Centre o f Gravity is .
detailed in Cha pter 22 which covers man y un conventional
layo uts.
Ther e are probab ly other formulae aro und whi ch you
co uld use . To be realistic they sho uld allow for the tail
area and tail arm, and possibly eve n the wing aspe ct ratio .
Any formu la w hich does not ment io n the tail, or w hic h

Basic Aeronautics/or Mode llers

messes ab out with Centre of Pressur e , sho uld be viewed

with sus picion.

Fuselage Influence
O n con ve n tio na l aeroplan es th e extra lift on th e
fuse lage , ca use d by a pitch disturbance , will co incide w ith
the wi ng's aerocen tre. Tha t has been allow ed for by using
the gross wi ng area .
Howeve r if the fuse lage has an unusual proportion of
its area ahead o f the w ing (as in Figu re 8.11) the n the NP
will be mov ed forw ard and a forw ard ad justment of the
CG is advisable . This applies also to eng ine nace lles on
mu lti-en gined aeroplanes. See Cha pter 22 for wo rking out
adjustments .

Personal Preferences
So me p e ople have a preference for a part icu larly
sensitive mod el, o r a part icularl y stable one . Fine! Adjust
the formula to suit yourself.

Willg Section Influence

Th ere isn't any! Th e sec tion thickness might have the
tiniest effect, but not the ca mber. Cha nge the sec tion from
symme trical to Clark Y and the formu lae all give the same
answer be cause th e NP has no t mov ed . You ha ve to
change the rigging ang le b ut not the CG position . Let us
bury tha t myth forev er.


Figure 8.11




Destablistng Nose A,"ea



Q lI lI r ter ll1ell"

Net Tail Area



Gross lVillg Area

Tail Setting Angle

Th e ang le w hich the tail is se t (leading edge do wn)
from the wing's da tu m lin e is o fte n referre d to by
mod ell er s as "lo ngitud ina l d ihe d ral", a n un fortu nat el y
ina ppropr iate nam e as it lead s modellers to conclude ,
wro ngly, that it produces stability. That is like saying that
ca rts are for pu shing horses. As you have seen, the Tail
Setting Angle is not involved in determining the stability at
all. Howeve r there is a link. In a later chapter you will see
that the Stability Margin partly determines the Tail Setting
Angle need ed for trim.


Basic Ae ronautics f or Modellers

Chapter 9

Directional and Lateral


Th e cave me n knew
the importance of directi onal s ta b ili ty ( o r
yaw stability, or weathercock stab ility) . A plain
stra ight piece of w ood
in flight is un st abl e
sinc e the centre o f press u re is ah ead of th e
midpoint wh ere the CG
lies as in Figure 9.l.
I n ord er to m a ke
their arrows fly stra ight
th e y added w e ights a t
the front and feath ers at
th e ba ck . Thi s mo ved
the CG forw ard and the
ce ntre of pr essur e back
and so the arr ow lined
itsel f up w ith the airflow
as in Figu re 9.2.
O ur ae roplanes , with
th eir CG w ell forward
and a ve rtic a l s u rface
ca lled a fin at the rear,
use the sa me technique
to e ns u re dire ct ion al
stability. See Figure 9.3,
which sho ws a n ae roplan e wh ich wh ile
flying along happ ily in
trim has been disturbed
b y a s ma ll ya w o ffse t
a nticloc kw ise. It is no
lo nge r lined up with the
a irflo w so th e fin w ill
ha ve an an gle of attac k
c a us ing a s idew ay s
"lift", F. Thi s fo rce will
tend to re al ign th e
aero p la ne with th e
a irflow. The co rrec ting
mom ent dep ends up on
th e fin a rea a n d its
distan ce behind the CG.
A co rrectly trimmed

-:. '










..... . .....

. _.. ,

~.... . .


' iI.

Figure 9.1


P ress ure


Figure 9.2


Basic Aerona utics/o r Modellers



Figure 93

aeroplane' will always fly straight relative to the air. Even

if an aeroplane is flying North in a Westerly wind the air
will flow straight from nose to tail. Were it not so,
DIRECTIONAL STABILITY would soon line up the
aeroplane with the airflow, eliminating any sideways

Lateral Stability
An aeroplane which is statically stable in roll will,
when disturbed slightly in roll, initially tend to roll back
to a wings level condition , So we need to design in
some mechanism to provide a rolling moment when the
aeroplane is upset in roll,

Lift forces are caused by the air pressure on the

wings' surfaces, Air pressure can only provide a force
perpendicular to a surface. Therefore there will be' two
lift forces, one perpendicular to each wing. Or they may
be combined as a single resultant force up the centreline
of the aircraft, because I am assuming it is completely
symmetrical. Also, because of symmetry, the CG lies on
the centreline.
Figure 9.4 represents the rear view of an aeroplane
which while flying happily along in trim has been upset
and now has a slight bank to the right , angle B. I can
see no force producing a moment which will tend to
correct this bank. I happened to draw a high winged
aeroplane with the wing above the CG. It may seem
obvious that this in itself will provide stability, but is
there a moment about the centre of gravity? The weight
cannot have a moment about the CG (by definition) and
since the lift acts on the centreline of the aeroplane, it
cannot provide a moment either. Even if you split the lift
in two to have half perpendicular to each wing, by
symmetry their moments will cancel each other out.
Even if you resolve each half into its vertical and
horizontal components, the net moment is zero so there
can be no restoring rolling effect.
Let us see what will happen though. First I shall
exercise my right to resolve (split up) any force into two
components. In Figure 9.5 the weight has been split into
two forces: one (W cos B) opposite and nearly equal to
the lift, because B is a small angle, and the other (W sin
B) towards the low, right, wing. Now you don't need
me to tell you that this component will cause a
sideslip .. . a sideways velocity to the right.
When the aeroplane is sideslipping, the air is
approaching at velocity V slightly from one side, at a
small angle Y say to the centreline of the aeroplane. As
shown in Figure 9.6 the velocity V may be split into two
components, V.cosY along the centreline of the
aeroplane and V.sinY called the sideslip velocity, at right
angles to the centreline. It is convenient, and quite
legitimate, to examine the effects of each part of the
velocity in isolation. It is as if the aeroplane has two
velocities simultaneously which cause separate effects
which can be looked at separately.
Now let us look at the design features which affect
lateral stability.

1. Fin Sideforce
Figure 9.4


Back to our aeroplane which ' was sideslipping to its right. I

shall redraw it in Figure
9.7 as a mid winged
aeroplane to avoid ambiguity, and I am sure
you can see that a
sideforce will arise due
to the sideways velocity,
or sideslip. The sideforce
on the fuselage is
unlikely to have much
moment about the CG
but the sideforce on the
fin will. As the fin is
normally mainly above
the fuselage it will

Basic Aeronautics for Modellers

usu all y g ive a n a n ti clockwise , stable rolling

mom ent .
Yes, this sideforce on
th e fin, F, is th e sa me
s idefo rce w hic h p rovi ded th e di rection al
sta b ility earlier (Figure

Figure 9.5

2A. Wing
(relative to CG)
Fig u re 9.8 s h ows a
"p a raso l wi ng" type
aeroplan e, with its wing
mounted away a b ove
th e fu sel age , and th e
four fo rces of Thrust ,
Weight , Drag and Lift.
Most of the weight is in
the fuselage . So be cause
the wing co ntrib utes a
large p rop ortion of the
drag, the total drag will
act somewhat above the
CG posit ion. (The tot al
lift w ill ac t s lightly
be hi n d the CG to
counteract the p itch ing
effect o f th e Thru st /
Drag co uple.)
If this aero p la ne is
g ive n a slig h t bank to
th e right , none of th e
for ce s ca n p rodu ce a
ro lli ng moment as
A low toing and sligbt dihedral gives little or 110 roU effect witb rudder.
before , but as b efore
the y will cause a sid eslip tow ards the low wing. Now
look at Figure 9.9. The drag acts, by defin ition , in the
Figure 9.6
dire ction of the resultant airflow and may be split up
into two components, D.sinY and D.cosY (where Y is
the sideslip angl e) , as shown. The co mpone nt D.cosY
can ex e rt no rolling mom ent. Transferring th e
compon ent D.sinY onto a view from the tail , Figure
9.10 , shows that thi s component will hav e a rolling
V Velocity
mom ent abo ut the CG w hich will depend on the ver tical
distance between the CG and the line of action of the
drag for ce . For this high winged aero plane the rollin g
moment resulting from the Sideslip is stabilising, Le. it
w ill pick up the low wing.
Th is kind of sta bility is so meti mes referre d to as
"pe ndulum" stability for a reason which I fail to see
since aerodyna mic drag has little effect on pendulums.
Sideways Component
Not e tha t the w o rking o f th is source o f s ta b ility
dep ends upon the sideslip , as without the sideslip the
drag wo uld not have a sideways co mpo ne nt.


2B. Wing Position

(relative to fuselage)
Now co nsider the flow of air rou nd a cylinde r. As the
air ap proaches the cylinder it w ill eithe r be forced to
flow up o ver an d down , or d own under an d up to
resume its quiet steady flow (see Figure 9.11).

Basic Aeronautics for Modellers


Figure 9.7
Resultant MOlne"t


The extra upward flow (upwash) on the right gives
an increase in angle of attack, and hence lift, and the
downward flow on the left gives a decrease in lift. The
net result is a stabilising (anticlockwise) rolling moment
which tends to lift the right wing.
On a low winged aeroplane you find that a Sideslip
to the right causes a clockwise rolling moment which is
destabilising. That is why a high winged aeroplane with
no dihedral will turn on rudder but a low winger with
no dihedral or sweep is more likely to bank the
opposite way. More of that later.

Figure 9.8

Now in Figure 9.12 the cylinder is the fuselage of an
aeroplane with a w ing stuck on top and it is sideslipping
to its rig ht. As the air approaches the fuselage so me of it
is deflected up the right side, over the top, and down
the left side .
Figure 9.9

/ /



Sideslip VEL

3. Dihedral
Now we come to the famous Hedral sisters, Di, Ann
and Polly and their role in lateral stability.
Figure 9.13 shows an aeroplane with a slight bank to
the right which has started sideslipping to the right. As
you can see , the air coming from the right will have an
upward component on the right wing, tending to "get
under" the right wing and lift it (at the same time
pushing down the left wing) which gives a stable,
anticlockwise, rolling moment. (A rather unscientific
explanation but I hope you get my meaning.)
In m uch the same way, Di 's sister Anhedral (a
downward tilt of the wing tips), would give a clockwise
(destabilising) rolling moment tending to push the low
wing further down. If you want a more scientific
explanation. complete with trigonometry, see appendix

The effect of dihedral was first explained to me by
the "Pro jected Area Theory" many years ago (Anyone
remember the ]etex powered Keil Kraft Cub , my first
model aeroplane?). When the dihedralled aeroplane was
banked, right say, the area of the right wing projected
onto a horizontal surface was greater than that of the left
wing. The theory was that the lift would therefore be
greater on the right which would pick up the low wing.
Well I eventually realised that the theory is wrong!
Because the lift on each wing is still equal and at right


Basic Aeronautics/or Modellers

a n gle s to t h e w ing 's

s u rface a nd so ha s a n
eq ual mom ent abo ut the

F ig u re 9.10

The refo re th e re ca n
be n o m om en t unt il
it s ta rts to s id es lip
( w h ic h t h e p roje ct ed
a re a th eo ry o mi tted to
ment io n ).

4. Sweepback
Sw e e pi ng b a c k th e
wi ng s o f a n ae ro p lan e
co ntrib utes to its late ra l
s ta b ility , Th a t is . if a
sw eptba ck w ing ex pe rie nces a ro ll u pset to the
rig ht (clockw ise) . it w ill
s ta rt to Side s lip to its
right. As a result o f the
s id es lip it wil l e x pe rte nce a ro lling mo me nt
to the le ft (a nticlo ckw ise) w h ich w ill tend to cor rect the
initial ro ll distu rb ance .
O ne ex p lanatio n o f why it works is show n in f igure
9 . 14. in w h ich an ae ro p lane wi th a swe p thack w ing is
s ides li p p ing to its rig ht. T h e re sult in g ai rflo w is as
sho w n. As far as the a p proac h ing a ir is co nce rned the
tw o w ings h a ve th e sa me a rea but th e r igh t w in g
appears to be o f a grea te r as pect ratio th an th e left wi ng .
Th e r igh t wi n g w ill
th e refo re have more lift
Figu r e 9. 12
than th e left ""ing w h ich
g ives sta b ilising ro llin g
mom ent to lift th e rig ht
win g .
11 is a s imp le matt er
10 p ro\'e b y T r ig o n o me try that the sta b ility
ef fec t o f sw ce p bac k is
re a lly du e to th e righ t
w ing h a vi n g an in crease d a ng le of a tta ck
caus ing the incre ase in
lift. w ith a co rres po n d in g d e cre a s e o n th e
le ft w ing ,
I show in Ap pe nd ix
D th at t h e c h a n ge in

S id es lip Vel

a ng le o f a tta c k du e to s ides lip. d e rive d from swee p hack . is p ro porti on a l to the s ideslip a ng le . the orig inal
a n g le o f a t tac k . a n d th e tan g e nt o f t h e a n g le o f
swee p hac k (or yo u co u ld jus t b e lie ve th e p re vio us
pa rag rap h) .
I have a lso seen ca mbe r bro ug ht into the a rgu me nt as
fo llows . Th e ca mbe r o n bo th wi ngs is the sa me. bu t as a
p ercentage o f chord in the d irection o f the a irflow th e

Figure 9.11





Basic Aerona u ticsfor Modellers


s ides l ip. Th e pri mar y

effec t o f th e roll
d is tu rb anc e is s ides lip
to w ar ds the lo w w ing .
Fo llow ing th a t ma y
co me
th e
ro llin g
mo men t du e to sideslip
de rived fro m the above
factors .

Figure 9.13



Aspects of



Th ese desig n charac ter ist ics ma y be com bi n e d to o b tai n th e

require d de gr e e o f late ra l st a b ility . Yo u ma y
see a ero p la nes wi th a high stra ig ht wi ng a nd a littl e
d ihedral (Ces sna 150), o r a low straig ht win g and plenty
of d ihed ral (Pipe r Cherokee), o r a swept high w ing w ith
anhe dra l (B.A. 146), or a swept lo w wi ng with a little
d ihed ral (Boe ings) .
The wing position is no rmally chosen for mech ani cal
re a so ns , th e s wee p b a c k to s u it th e c ru is ing Ma c h
nu mbe r, and fina lly the di hed ral is chosen to ach ieve the
req uired late ral stability.
The same a p p lies to mod e ls except that sweep is
used for appe a rance mainly. O n pattern models we try
to ac hieve ne utral late ral
s tab il ity b y u sing jus t
e no ug h d ih edra l to
ca nce l
th e
d e sta bili s in g effec t o f
t h e lo w w ing . I h a ve
sawn th rou gh the glass
fibre ba ndage o n the top
s urface o f a wi ng and
rej o in e d wit h s lig h tly
m o re di h ed ral. T h u s
mod ified the model did
n ot roll a t a ll w h e n
yawed with rudde r.
Yo u w o u ld ge t a
s im ila r e ffe c t u si n g a
h igh w ing and a littl e
anhe d ral.
If yo u lo o k a t t he
form u la e d e ri v e d in
appendix D, it is ev ide nt
that, becau se the swee pb a c k e ffec t d ep e n d s
up on an gle of attac k but
the dih edra l effect d oes
not , yo u can no t d irectly
eq ua te o ne d e gree o f
d ihedra l w ith so ma ny
degrees of swee p . T he
relat ive effects vary w ith
the speed of the aircraft.
T he effec t of t h e
d ihedra l becomes mo re
p rom in e n t as s pee d
Also, not e th at th e
sweepba ck e ffect gives a
V c:mD

ca mbe r is greater o n the right win g than o n the left and

so w ill give a g rea te r lift. Thus providing a stab ilising
rollin g mom e nt. So unds good , bu t that doesn 't explain
why it still wor ks o n win gs w ith a symme trical se ction!

To re ca p the n, the lateral stability is influe nc e d , in
a p proxi ma te o rder of im porta nce, b y the foll o wi ng :
d ihedral, sweepback , wi ng positio n and fin area above
the CG. ALL of the m are co mplete ly dependant o n the

Figure 9.14


Basic Aeronautics/o r Modellers

sta ble ro lling mom ent w he n invert ed (w hile di hedral

does not).

Figure 9.15

Directional and Lateral Interaction

While the aeroplan e in Figure 9.15 is ac tually yaw ing ,
i.e. rotating clockwi se ab ou t its vertica l axis, the win g o n
th e left is advan cin g into th e airflo w a nd is th er efo re
faster than the one on the right so a ro ll to the right may
de velop (the same wa y as the o rigina l yaw) , So wh at?
You design a high w ing train er with a g rea t big fin
for d irectional stability. Th e stude nt lets the right win g
drop a n d it s ta rts to yaw to th e right du e to th e
d irectional stability from the fin. Th e rate o f yaw to the
right mean s that the left w ing is travelling faster than the
right wing as in Figure 9.1 5 so th e aero p la ne banks
furth er to the right wh ich increases the sideslip, so the
fin produ ces mo re rate of yaw which ca uses more right
bank. By th is tim e th e bank ha s d e veloped suc h th at
right yaw is d ropping the nose as well.
You kn ow wha t this is becoming .. . a sp iral d ive!
When it is ban ked right over a nd pointing down , all up
elevator will do is tighten the spiral.
Sp iral di vergenc e is an ins ta b ili ty ca use d by the
imbal an c e b etw e en we ak lat eral s ta b ility a n d a n
excessive am ount of dir ection al stability. Th e tenden cy
ca n be correc ted by reducing the fin size or increasing

Slower Wi"g

Faster Wi"g

,..------J,\\ 1/1------....

IJutch Roll
An imbalan c e th e o p pos ite w a y b et w e en w e ak
directional and strong lateral stability, too mu ch dih edral,
manifests itself as "Dutch Roll " whi ch is a rollin g/ yaw ing
osc illation which is ve ry difficult to sto p.
On radio co ntrolled mod els it is often prefe rable to
put up with a slight tenden cy to wards sp iral d ivergen ce
by go ing for the bigger fin and less d ihed ral.
For free flight an y d ivergen ce is una cceptabl e so fins
are smaller, d ihedral grea te r, and a slight Dut ch Rollin g
tenden cy is acce pted if it is well damped o ut.

Basic Aerona utics f or Modellers


Chapter 10

10.1. No te the di ffe re nce betwe e n yaw an d sid es lip .
Yawi ng the nose to the right crea tes a sideslip to the le ft.

The rud de r ro ta tes the aero p lane a bo ut its verti cal
ax is , or yaw ax is, and the farthe r the rudde r is beh ind
th e CG th e mo re le vera ge it wi ll ha ve . Wh en rig ht
rudder is ap plied , a force to the left is ge nerated over
th e fin a n d rudd er w hi ch will y a w th e a e ro p la ne
clo ck wise , i.e . nose to the right. Or to look at it from a
pilot 's point of view, wh en he has righ t rudde r ap plied
the a irflow is co ming from ahe ad and slightly fro m his
left so the aero plane is sides lipp ing to its left. See Figure

Fi.~ I/ I'I'

10. I

The purpose and effect of moving the ele vators is to
rotate the aero plane about its lateral or pitch axis. Moving
the e levato rs up creates a downforce o n the tail wh ich
te nds to rotat e the ae rop lane nose up. See Figure 10.2.
Becau se of its ine rtia, its ce ntre of gravity initially tends to
keep go ing in the sa me direction a nd so the net result is
an increase in the angle
of a ttac k . \\;rhat th e
e lev a tors ha ve co n tro l
ove r then is the angle of
atta ck. Up e le vator will
increase the wing's ang le
of a ttac k an d the re fo re
in crea s e th e wing lift ,
unless the angle of attack
is in cre a s ed from ju st
b el ow to a bo ve th e
s ta lling an gl e . In th at
}'a 1/ '
case u p e lev ato r is just
a no the r down co n tro l.
An All Mo v ing Ta il
(AMT) wo rks in exactly
the sa me way.

+ + + + + +


Ytt u :


T h e ae ro p la ne is
ro lled a bo u t its lon g itudinal axis by mo vin g
o ne a ile ro n d own and
the o the r o ne up as in
Fig ur e 10 .3. Moveme nt
o f the a ileron c ha nges
th e ai rflo w a ro und the
w ho le sectio n , not just
around the aileron itself.
Unless the win g starts off
near its stalling ang le of
a tta c k, th e do wn-goi ng
ail ero n p ro d u c es a n
incre a s e in lift , a n
inc rease in drag and an
inc rease in t h e no s e
do w n p itch ing mo men t
coefficie n t CMo (o r a n
aft mo vem ent of the CP
if you prefe r). The e ffects
a re re ve rs ed o n th e
upgoin g a ileron.

Basic Aeronautics/o r Modellers

Aileron Drag

Figure 10.2
Th e unwanted d rag
cha nge can be tro ubl eso me . Say yo u appl y
A l rflo u i
rig h t a ileron , th e drag
increases on the left and
decreases o n th e right
giving a yaw to the left,
not the way yo u wa nt to
~ ~
go . Th is is ca lle d ad ve rse ailero n dr ag (a nd
is d iffe ren t from t h e
"a ilero n reve rs a l" in
Cha pter 18).
The co mbi na tio n of
the late ral sta bility a nd
the left yaw/ rig ht sideFigure 10.]
s lip w ill g ive a ro lli ng
moment to the left (see
XL Roll
Ch a p te r 9) . O n aeropl an e s w ith s tro n g
lateral stability and large
ailero n mo vem e nts th is
latte r mome nt can overco me t h e ro lli ng moment to the right from
t h e a ile ro ns a n d th e
Roll X L
aero p la ne co u ld eve n
roll the wro ng way .
O ne so lu tion is to
a rra nge fo r d iffe rential
move me n t o n th e
ai lero ns , t he up o ne
co mes up more than the
do wn o ne goes do wn ,
to eq ualise the d rag.
Ano the r so lutio n is to fit "Frise ailero ns" in wh ich the
Figure 10.4
upgoing ailero n has its lead ing edge stick ing down into
the airstream (Figure 10.4), to eq ua lise the d rag.
Anoth er is to o pe n the airbrake o n the side w ith the
up goin g ailero n. The loss of lift and increase in d rag are
just wha t is need ed to ass ist the ailero ns in a turn .
The othe r o ptio n is to apply rudd er toget her w ith the
a ilero n, and in th e same d ire c tio n , to o p p ose th e
ad verse yaw from the aileron d rag. To mak e this eas ier
man y mode rn ra d io s ha ve a co up ling sw itc h o n th e
tran sm itt e r (c alle d a "C.A.R. fu n c tio n " for Coup led
Aile ro n & Rud de r) wh ich a llows th e a ileron stick to
Prise Aileron
move the aileron s and rudder simultaneously.


. .

Aileron Alternatiue
There a re alt e rn ati ves to ailerons fo r ro ll co n tro l.
Either the wh ole w ing ca n be rotated about its qu arte r
chord line , or th e w ing ca n be tw isted at the tips to
produ ce a rolling mom en t (w ing warping) . Th e theo ry is
good bu t the re ar e mech anical co mp lexi ties . Ano ther
al te rn a tive it to u s e tail e ron s (s e e un de r Co ntro l
Combina tions).

Figure 1005

Aerodynamic Balance

Control Surface Balances

The re a re tw o kind s o f bal an ce fitt ed to co n tro l
s u rfaces , a n d th e y p erform different fun cti on s .
Aerody na m ic ba la nces a re a p a rt o f th e ar e a of the
co ntro l surface ahead of the hinge line. The air p ressure

Basic Aerona uticsfor Modellers


a contro l surface already has an ae rodynami c bal an ce , it

is a convenient place to put the mass balance also.

Figure 10.6

Control Eff ecu venes s

Mass Balance

Figu re 10. 7
Damping Mo ment

- - --

R o tatio n

I~ -



on this part counteracts to some ext ent the pressure on

the rest of the surface and so reduces the effort needed
from the pilot (or the servo) to mo ve the surface. An
example of an ae ro d yna m ic ba lance on a rudder is
shown in Figure 10.5. This technique can be applied to
all three types of control surface .
A mass bal ance on the other hand is simp ly a weight
rigidly attac hed to th e co ntro l sur face in front of the
hinge line . See Figure 10 .6 . Its purpose is to avoid
control surface flutter (of which more in Chapter 18). If
F igure 10.8







-~ F]

R otation

-, ...


Wander along to a gymnasium and pi ck up a weight

training bar, complete wi th weights. Now turn it sm art ly
through 180 degrees and stop it. It takes quite a bit of
effort to start it turning and to stop it. Now try the same
thing with a shot putter's shot. Th at is much easier
because it has less rotational inertia since the weight is
concentrated near the centre . An aeroplane with long
he avy wings and a long hea vy fusela ge is more d ifficult
to rotate, and stop rotating, which mak es it le s s
manoeuvrable, but it flies more smoothly. Th at is one
reason why the Sopwith Camel, for examp le , whose
main mass es of engine pilot and guns we re all placed
together, was so agile .

Next there is stability which affects on ly pit ch and

yaw (sin ce a roll offset in itself produces no opposing
moment) . For example when the elevators change the
angle of attack of the wing, th e longitudina l s ta tic
stability of the aeroplane sees it as just another pit ch
disturban ce and produces a moment tending to change
it back. Th e control is fight ing against the stability. The
greater the sta b ility , the les s th e effectiveness of the
control. In a sens e Stability is the opposite of Control.
Too much stability can leave yo u with too little control.

Rota tional Inertia



Ve locity -----r---

The control forces , like all aerodynamic forces ,

increase with the sq ua re of the airspe ed . At low airspeed
the co ntrols are less effective . That applies particularly to
the ailerons o n a propeller d riven a e ro p lane w hose
rudder and ele vato rs are
usually in the slipstream.
Co n ve rs e ly , at high
speed th e controls can
b e dange rously effe ctive.
Ailerons will produce
a very rapid roll as will
a rudder/dihed ra l combination . So the higher
the spee d , the more "g"
will res ult from a given
elevator deflection . So
beware of a pplying full
up elevator in a high
sp eed div e . That is a
D o umuiard
rea l wing folder.
Ve locity
The rate at which the
Rotatio n
aeroplane rotates in
response to a contro l
input obviously depends upon the relative size of the
co n tro l surfaces . It depends also upon three design
features of the aeroplane itself, inertia , stability and
damping. The control input ha s to overcome all three.

----- -


~ " M ome1lt

A e ro dynam ic Damping
The th ird de sign fea tur e which affe cts the control

Basi e Aeronautics for Mode llers

Compact a nd ag ile ( 110, 1I0t Dounie, his Pills Special) due to tbe mini mal inertia a nd damping of tbe sbort
uiings a ndfuselage.
effec tiveness is aerody na mic damping. A damping force
lift, XL-r which ha s a n ant icloc kw ise mom ent about the
is a force wh ich is the res ult of a rate o f movem ent and
CG, the dam pin g mom ent. Since the upwash velocity is
whi ch o p p oses th at rat e o f mo vem ent . Drag is a n
prop orti on al to x, so is XLr and so the damping mom ent
exa mple. However here I want to look at forces whi ch
is p roportio nal to x 2 a nd tail a rea , Th us while sta tic
arise from rot ati on o f th e aerop lan e a bout th e thre e
stability depends o n the tail area times moment arm, the
axes. The greater the damping mom ent , the slowe r the
damping (an d he nce dy namic stability) depends o n the
th e
re sp on s e
aerop lan e to a control
input , again making it
fly more s moo thly but
less man oeu vrabl e .
Damping is al so an
\.IOorul1E1 4 -3
important ingred ient in

P itch Da mping
Figure 10 .7 repre se n ts a n aero p la ne
w hic h has a clo ckwise
(nose up) pitchi ng rate
abo ut its CG. As a resu lt
th e tai lp la ne h as a
downward velocity p rop orti onal to x, its d istan ce back from the CG.
Th at has the sa me effect
as a n u p w as h o n th e
ta ilplan e w ould ha ve
. .. an increa se in tai l

Basic Aerona uticsfor Modellers


clo ckwi se , Le . rig ht

win g down .
Without labouring the
point , yo u ca n see that ,
as for p it ch damping ,
a lon g tail a r m impro ve s ya w d ampin g
a nd hi gh as pec t ra tio
wings wil l hav e b etter
ro ll damping.
Thu s th e bi gg er th e
ae roplane the g rea ter its
ro ll d ampin g , a nd the
grea te r its Asp ect Ratio
th e g rea ter th e ro ll
d amping . Th at is wh y
large mod els , and large
glid er s in particu lar , fly
.... --...
so much more smoothly .
As yo u ca n probab ly
Damping Mome1lt
gues s from Figure 10.9,
the tailplane and fin add
to the roll damping, but not much .
tail area times distance sq ua red . So a small tail o n a lo ng
fuselage w ill have better da mping than a large tail o n a
sho rt fuselage even th ou gh the y are de sign ed to have
Other Flying Controls
the sa me tail volume ratio and static stability. There is
s o me p itch d amping from th e wing itself but it is
The Th rottl e is a flying co ntrol: it is the UP co ntro l.
Ask an y glid er pilot , wh o has to do with out o ne . Glide rs
relatively unimportant unl ess it is swe pt.
can o nly co me down throu gh the air.
AIRBRAKES w ill redu ce th e speed o f an aeropla ne
Yaw and Roll Damping
but are no t reall y a speed co ntro l, they ar e a "co me
Figure 10.8 shows an ae roplan e wit h a rate of yaw
do wn q uic ke r" co ntro l. They inc rease the profile d rag
clockwise about its CG (nose to th e right) an d Figure
wh ich stee pens the an gl e , a nd increases the rat e o f
10.9 shows a view from the rear of an ae roplane rollin g
descent. They are mu ch mor e effec tive at high speed .
The y also, incid entally,
in crease th e s ta lli ng
speed. They may ha ve a
Fig ure 10.10
s ma ll pit ching e ffec t ,
d ep ending o n th e d e s ig n . Airb ra kes c o mmonl y cause turbulence
in th ei r wake and a re
norma lly p lac ed outboard of the tailplane o n
FLAPS in cr ea se the
dra g to ste ep en t h e
d escent , in addi tion to
in cr ea sing th e liftin g
ca pa b ility o f th e w ing ,
Clmax w hich red uces the
s ta lli ng s p ee d , a n d
allo ws the aeroplane to
fly mor e slowly.
Th re e ty pes o f fla p
a re s h o w n in Fig u re
10 .1 0 , namel y a p la in
flap , a sp lit flap , and a
slo tted flap .
T he effect o f a ll of
these o n the lift curve of
- ......the ae rofo il is sho w n o n
Figure 10.11. The whole
c u rv e is moved to the
left du e to the increa se d
c a m be r , a n d Cl ll",x is
Figure 10.9






Basic Aerona utics/or Modellers

increased. The ang le of

Figure 10.11
att a c k a is m ea sur e d
from the o rigina l cho rd
Lower ing flap s mo re
than a few deg rees ruins
the Lift/ Drag ratio which
reduces the climb angle,
but a little flap may be
u s ed fo r tak e- o ff to
redu ce the tak e-off run .
On land in g , a d efl e ct ion o f up to 40
d e gr e e s ma y b e u s ed
(eve n m ore for s p li t
flaps) . O ne p robl em I
found usin g la rge flaps
o n a model is that at the
low sp e ed achi e ved
th e a ilero ns b e cam e
ineffe ctive
with out
co upled rud der.
Fla ps u suall y a ffec t
th e pit ch trim o f th e
aeroplane. Be cau se o f
th e ext ra ca mbe r, the y
ca use an inc re ase in the
nos e down mo ment o n
the w ing , but they also
ca use ex tra do wnwash
o v er th e tail g iv in g a
nose up moment cha nge from the extra download o n
the tailpl an e . Th e overall e ffec t dep ends o n w hich of the
above is th e mo re powe rful , which depends on th e
layou t.
SLATS o n the leading edge which yo u can select in
and o ut are also a flyin g contro l. They are selected out,
as in Figure 10.12, to let the aeroplane fly more slow ly.
When th e s la t is out , ai r ru shing throu gh th e s lo t
pr events th e flow from se parating at th e le ad ing ed ge
wh ich prevents the wing from stalling until it reaches a
high e r ang le of attack than usual , ena bling it to ac hieve
a large r ma ximum lift coefficie n t th an be fore (Fig ur e
10.13). Like flaps they are bad for the Lift/Drag ratio and
are best retracted for high speed flight although so me
ae ro planes have fixed slats to save co mplexi ty and just
put up w ith the inefficien cy.
Th ere is also the velY clever "auto matic slat " w hic h is
arrange d to o pen a t high angles of atta ck when th e
stagna tion point (re member him?) mo ves down towards
the e ntra nce of the slot. Their disadvantage is that the y
can ope n when the pilot pull s high "g".

Control Combinations
Wh en the sa me bit of co ntro l surface is used for two

wu Flap
Standard Aerofoil

diffe rent purposes it is oft en give n a sp e cial nam e . It
usu all y al so involves u sing ex tra se rvo s a nd e ither
me chan ical or ele ctronic mixers.
TAILERONS is the nam e g ive n to e leva to rs, or th e
hal v e s of a n a ll moving tail , wh ich ca n m o v e
indepe nde ntly. The tw o sides ca n be moved tog eth er as
n ormal for p itch co n tro l, or th e y can be mo ve d in
opposite d irections to give a ro lling mom ent on the tail.
It w ill be a bit s h ort on lev era ge b u t it w ill b e
a de q ua te for lo w as pect ra ti o a eropl an es (e .g . jet
FLAPERONS a re stri p a ilerons which ca n b oth b e
moved down together to ac t as plain flap s, but which
ca n at the sa me time still be mo ved inde pe ndently for
roll co ntrol. Adve rse yaw can become a probl em .
ELEVONS a re just like flap erons but they are used on
tailless aeropl anes to co ntro l roll and pit ch . Th e e levons
move tog ether for p itch co n tro l an d in opposition for
roll co ntro l.
Th e e le vo ns both move up for nose up pit ch an d
down for nose down.
A V-TAIL is jus t like a tailplane with extr em e d ihe d ral.
It ac ts as a stabilise r in both pit ch and yaw, and the tw o
co ntrol surfaces ca n be moved inde pende ntly.
As show n in Figure 10.14, w he n mov ed togeth er they

Figure 10.12

~ ~C-__


Basic Ae ronautics f or Modellers

- - - -


Figure 10.1 4

Figure 10.13


-"- ,




Sla t



Left Rudder

ac t like eleva tors , and when moved in opposition they

have the e ffect of a rud der. The un wanted parts of the
vectors ca ncel out.

up Elevator

Like most Delta toinged models, tbis one uses eleuous for pttcb and roll, tbe canard is fixed.


Basic Aero na uticsfor Mode llers



Turning Flight
urning flight is one of those areas wh ere a great
d e al o f mi sinformati on and ha lf truth s h a ve
becom e accepted into the fo lklore of the hobby. I
have even seen an article in whi ch it was claimed that in
turning flight the "curve d a irflow " reduced the risk of
stalling. Wha t utter no nsense! In this chapter I want to put
the record straig ht, starting with the basic mechanics of
turning. I shall assume still air condition s.

The Mechanics ofTurning In General

By turning I mean chang ing the direction of motion of
an object. For example, the ball in Figure 11.1 is going at
co nstant speed round in a hori zont al circle radiu s R. On e
minut e its velocity is V ft/ sec to the north and a short time
late r its velocity is V ft/sec to the eas t. Vectors VI and V2
are not ident ical. In the time the ball has taken to mo ve
from A to B its velocity has cha nge d becau se its dire ction
has change d. The shorter the time interval, the more rapid
the change. The rate of cha nge of velocity is defined as
acce lera tio n . A turning body is not in e q uili briu m,
therefore it is acce lerating.
The rate of turn N is the rate at whi ch the radius OA is
turn ing clockw ise . It may be given in re vo luti ons pe r
minut e , o r d e grees pe r seco n d o r, to s im p li fy th e
equations , in radians per sec ond (a rad ian is an angle of
abo ut 57.3 degrees).
Then the simple equation V = N.R. relates the velocity
to the rate of turn and radiu s of turn . The velocity V is
always tangential to the circle, Le. at right angles to the
radiu s from O .
The accelera tion of the ba ll in Figure 11.1 is given by
a=V2/R o r in ter ms of rate of turn , a=N2 R
In simple language the high er the speed, or the tighter
th e turn , th e more accele ratio n . T he direction of th e
acceleration is towards the ce ntre of the circle at 0 , at
right angles to the dire ction of motion.
From Newto n's go od o ld laws of motion an o bject will
not turn unl ess a force is applied in the d irection of the
required acce leration, Le. towards the ce ntre of the turn . If
you want to turn right , then yo u mu st app ly a force to the
right. This force is called the centripe tal fo rce becaus e it is
towa rds the ce ntre (from the Latin for "centre seeking").
The mo re co mmonly kno wn ce ntrifuga l force (from the
Latin fo r "flee ing the ce nt re") is its eq ua l and o ppos ite '
reaction . (Newto n's 3rd law).
When you whirl a weight roun d o n a piece of string
yo u su pply the ce ntripetal force to the weight via the
string to keep it moving in a circle. The weight applies a
ce ntrifug al for ce to yo ur hand , pullin g it towards th e
outside of the circle .

Basic Aeronautics fo r Modellers

Back to Aeroplanes
The force required to turn th e aero p la ne must be
produced from the air. The fin and rudder do not provide
it. Left rudder give s an aero dy na mic for ce to the right
whi c h is the oppos ite o f w h a t we w ant. T he yaw
produced by the left rudder will pro d uce a side force on
the fuselage to the left.
This force co uld, given time , produce a left turn but at
the cos t of a co nsiderable drag increa se. The only surface
which can produce a large aerodyna mic force, and do it
efficie ntly, is the w ing . It is th e w ing w hich turns th e
Th e lift fo rce alwa ys acts perpendicular to the wing
and so a horizonta l co mpo ne nt ca n be pro vided b y
b ank ing th e ae ro p la ne towards the d ire cti on of th e
desired turn . Figure 11.2 shows an ae roplane banked to
the right at ang le B. The horizontal co mpo ne nt of the lift
will be L.sinB caus ing th e turn (ce nt ripe ta l force) . The
ve rtica l co mpone nt, L.cosB, will now be less th an th e
weight if the aeroplane started off in trim in level flight.
The pilot has to apply en ou gh up eleva tor to increase the
angle of attack to increase the lift eno ugh so that L.c osB =
\Vl. That will ensure tha t the ae roplane will perform a leve l
turn .
The lift is now g reater than the we ight, and the ratio of
lift to w ei ght is c alle d the lo ad factor n , w h ich o nl y
depends o n th e ba nk angle (n = L!W = I!cosB) . The
banked win g turns the aeroplan e while the elevator keeps
the nose up .

Figure 11.1


usual not to bother with

the rudder in a turn .

Figure 11.2

Side slipping and

Sk id d ing Tur ns
Figure 11.4 is a view
of an aeroplane in a level
banked turn to the left as
seen from the centre of
the turn. The aeroplane
has just the corre ct
amount of rudder applied
to hold its fuselage in
line with the airflow. This
is called a balanced turn .
The aeroplane in
Figure 11.5 h as in sufficient left rudder applied and so is sideslipping to its left.
A little more left rudder will bring the tail up into line as
in 11.4.
The aeroplane in Figure 11.6 has too much left rudder
applied and so is skidding in the turn . Less left rudder will
allow the tail to drop down into alignment with the
airflow . In practice, the slip or skid is so slight it is not
noticeable and no t worth correcting, except perhaps for
some scale models, or high aspect ratio models.

Load Factor in a Turn
That equation tells us how many "g" to pull in the turn
to keep the turn level, for a given bank angle. Using less
up elevator will decrease the turn rate and let the nose
drop. More up elevator will tighten the turn and make the
aeroplane climb.
Figure 11.3 gives an idea of the relationship between
the bank angle (in degrees) and the up elevator needed to
keep the turn level. Not much for small bank angles, but
quite a lot for steeply banked turns. For example for a 60
degree banked level turn you need to "pu ll 2g " (i .e .
double the wing lift) to prevent the nose from dropping.
However if the bank angle is 20 degrees, the wing lift
need be increased by only six per-cent.

Drag in A Turn

There is more to turning an aeroplane than just having
a centripetal force turn its CG to move in a different
direction. Its fuselage must be realigned with the new
direction of motion . If you think about it, rotating a
banked aeroplane about a vertical axis is a combination of
nose up pitch, and yaw in the direction of the turn . You
have already applied up elevator which takes care of the
nose up pitch component, and a little rudder in the
d irection of the turn will line up the fuselage centreline
with the airflow. The bank turns the plane, the elevator
keeps the nose up, and the rudder keeps the tail in line .
If you don't put on a little rudder in the direction of the
turn , then the aeroplane 's weathercock stability will
supply the necessary yaw once the aeroplane starts to
sideslip. It is normal practice to coordinate the turn on
light aircraft , but on most models (and jet transports) it is

All parts of an aeroplane cause drag but the wing in

particular causes drag for two reasons. There is the profile
drag which depends on its sectio n , and ind uce d drag
which depends on the lift. In a turn the wing's angle of
attack is increased and so its profile drag is likely to
increase . More significant though is the increase in
induced drag which increases as the square of the load
Fig u r e 11.4




Bala nced rum

F igu re 11.]
















1. 15



1.4 1










5. 76


Basie Aeronauticsfo r Modellers

factor. Which mea ns that

if you pu ll 2g you
quad rup le the induced
drag, and if yo u pull 6g
yo u get th irty-six times
as much induced drag .
So do not be surprised
when a sharp turn kills
some speed, especia lly
on low aspec t ratio
aeroplanes. The control
surfaces being offset
their ne utra l
pos ition is likely to cause
a little extra drag in a
turn . The drag of the
fuselage, and things like
th e undercarriage wi ll
ca use significant extra
drag if there is significant
skidding or sideslipping.

Figure 11.5



<; I


... <,

Sidesltpping rum


Stalling Speed in
a Turn
An aeroplane does no t always stall at a certain speed.
When you see a "Stalling Speed" referred to it is short for
"the speed at which the wing is at the stalling angle of
a ttack in wings level 19 fligh t at its maximum all up
weigh t a nd the recommended CG position" . The
significant bit is the stalling ang le of attack because that is
always the same. Whe n an aeroplane is put into a banked
turn th e angle of attack has to be increased . The
aeroplane mus t therefore start off flying faster than its
"stalling speed" by a reasonable margin .

Because the wing will always stall at the same ang le of

attack, when you increa se the ang le of attack (pull "g") to
keep the nose level, the stalling speed in a tu rn will rise as
the square root of the load factor n. In othe r words if you
pull 9g the stalling speed treb les. Pull 4g and the stalling
speed doubles, and so on.
Remember that the drag increases when you pu ll g in a
turn so un less yo u add extra power the actual flying
speed will decrease. Beware of stalling . If the aeroplane is
docile it w ill merely refuse to pu ll the turn as tightly as

F igu re 11.6

\ \





Sk iddillg Turr

Basic Aeronautics/or Modellers



you want , but so me mod els co uld tipstall and flick out of
the turn into a spin!

High Aspect Ratio

Whe n an aeroplane is turning left say , the win g o n the
right , on the o utside of the turn , is go ing faste r than the
left win g. This has two seco nda ry effects wh ich are not
usuall y not iceabl e unless the win g has a high aspect ratio .
(I) The righ t wing will develop more lift tha n the left
o ne . The aeroplane will tend to increase its ba nk ang le all
by itself, even with the ailero ns held at neu tral. It may
eve n be necessar y to hold a little o p posite (Le . right)
aileron to maintain the desired left bank angle.
(2) The right wing will ca use mor e dra g than the left
wing, giving a yaw to the right. A sideslipping turn like in
Fig u re 11.5 wi ll re sul t , w hic h w o uld be fu rth e r
co mplica ted by strong lateral stab ility. The so lution is to
apply left rudder. So to ge t a good acc urate left turn you
may need a trifle of right aileron to hold the bank ang le,
so me left rudder to yaw the tail into line, and some up
eleva tor of co urse . Coupled Ailero n and Rudder would be
a disad vant age here and differential o r Frise ailero ns won 't
help during the turn (b ut they would still be effec tive as
ailero n is bein g applied to roll into the turn ).

Turning Using Rudder

I do not mean flat turns like those wh ich boats pe rform
and wh ich are possi ble on ce rtain aeroplanes . If rud der is
ap plied to produce co nside rable yaw then the sidefor ce
on the fuselage may provide eno ugh ce ntripetal force for
a wide gradual turn with the wings level but it look s a bit
odd , crea tes a lot of drag, and is very inefficien t.
What 1 me an is the co mmo n pr actice o n mod els of
using rudde r to create yaw an d then late ral stab ility to
produce the banked turn. The wing turns the ae roplane ,
not the rudder , becau se the w ing provides the ce ntripe tal
force to crea te the turn . Up elevato r has to be applied to
maintain level flight in the turn .
Th e turn so produced will be a s kiddi ng turn as in
Figure 11.6. There will be no adverse yaw pro blem, eve n
w ith high as pect ratios, a nd o nc e th e turn has starte d
so me of the rudd er ca n be taken off. Tak ing off all of the
rud de r will allow a sideslip to devel op. Lateral stab ility
will usually then roll the aeroplane out of the turn (a few
ae ro pla nes would e nter a sp iral d ive and so o p posite
rudder must be applied to leve l the w ings) .
It is a perfectly satisfactory way to turn a simple mod el
(never used o n full size that I kn ow of) but the entry and
ex it ca n look rather un tidy. The rea ction time is slow as
we are using a secondary effect. Rudd er -> yaw + lateral
stab -> roll.

To turn an aeroplane a force mu st be provided tow ards
the ce ntre of the turn . The tight er the turn req uired, the
bigger th e fo rce has to be . Th e force is provided by
banking the aeroplane so that the wing lift has a sideways
co mpone nt. The total lift has to be increased so that the
ve rtical co mpone nt ca n still suppo rt the weight , w hich
mean s up el ev ator is n e ce ssary . O n som e types o f
aeroplane a little rudder in the direction of the turn may
ne ed to be a pp lie d to co u nte rac t adve rse yaw from
a ileron d rag, o r asymme tric dr ag o n high as pect rat io


ae ro planes . On ce the turn has started the a ilero n often

needs to be returned to near neutral to stop the bank
angle increasing.
To achi e ve a ve ry ra pi d turn , a "pylo n race turn ",
dem an ds a very large ce ntripetal force . The aeroplane
mu st be flying at a speed well above its stalling sp eed.
Point the win g's lift in the direction of the desired turn (80
to 8 5 d e gr ees o f bank ) , and in crea se it as mu ch as
possible using up ele vator , but bew are! Pull too hard and
the win g will stall in spite of the high speed and it may
flick out of the turn. And make sure it is strong e nough to
take the load s.
Beginners! Avoid stee p ly banked turns, the y lead to
trouble. The nose drops if you don't apply a lot of up ,
yo u risk stalling if yo u do . Start off us ing sma ll bank
ang les of 20 to 30 degrees which means that very little up
eleva tor is necessary. Then any failure to apply the small
amo unt of up results in a very gradua l height loss, noth ing
d ramati c.
I hav e noticed when instru cting beginners that when
they roll o ut of a turn their mod el often zooms upward s
and so far I ha ve spotted two causes. If they let the nose
drop in a turn and let the aeropla ne pick up speed (sa fer
th an lett ing the speed d rop off) th e excess speed w ill
ca use a zoom up ward s in level flight. Or so me times they
do a goo d level turn with correc t up elevator applied and
th en on rolling le vel forget to release the u p e levato r.
Again a zoom results.

Special Effects
There are so me very special pilots wh o can fly the ir
speci al aeroplan es (mode l or full size) in a manner which
seems to defy all the norm al rules of flying and ph ysics.
O ne ca n but ma rvel a t the lik es o f Hann o Prettner
performing his rolling circles with suc h precision . I kn ow
that there is a ce ntripe tal force fo rming the circle and a
force supportin g the weight , but how does he keep the
resultants so con stant wh en the surfa ces producing them
are co nstantly chang ing? Eve n those pilots ca nno t defy the
laws of phys ics however. The ce ntripe tal force causing the
turn , and the force supporting the weig ht must be there if
yo u take the trouble to look.

When is a Rudder an Elevator?

Whe n is a cow a horse? Whe n it is pu lling a plough
pe rha ps? To a Vet a cow in harness is still a cow, and to
me a rud der is always a rudder and always ca uses yaw
w h ile a n e leva tor is always an e leva to r and a lways
co ntro ls a ngle o f att a ck (p itch). Wh en I hear a cha p
ren amin g the co ntrols during a manoeu vre like a turn or
knife edge flight it suggests he has a dee p miscon cepti on
of how the controls wor k and it crea tes so me co nfusio n,
in me at least. I have visions of so me co mplicated device
swa pping ove r the pushrods wh en his aeroplane banks.
For example, in a stee p turn old Bloggs says that his
e levator has becom e the rudder , but it seems still to be
d oing its o ld jo b of cha ngi ng the a ng le o f a ttac k to
increase the wing lift w hich ca uses th e tight turn . The
rudder never did that in the first place. If you tell him to
put on mo re up eleva to r which stick will he move? Which
co ntrol will mov e, the o ld e levator or the new on e?

Basic Aeronautics/ or Modellers

Chapte r 12

A Delicate Balance

his cha pter is not abo ut stability. Th at has already

been dealt with. We have given the ae ropl ane a
po sitive stability margin , Le. made Kn pos itive, by
putting the CG ahead of the NP position, and that is an
end of it. The next task is to trim it out to fly "hands oft" in
eq uilibrium, wh ich is acco mplished by adjusting the force
on the tailplane.
As a schoolboy I ha d a flight in a Bolk ow 2 seater ,
wh ich had a trim leve r marked "nose heavy " and "tail
heavy". I imagined that it moved a big we ight back and
forward in the fuse lage . Wro ng! The term "nose heavy" in
this context is nothing to do w ith CG position . Saying the
aeroplane is "nose heavy" just mean s that it is o ut of trim
such that left to itself it would pitch nose down. Moving
the trim lever towards "tail heavy" (o r nose up ) adjusted
the trim tab to correct the tenden cy.

Note that, in the interests of clarity, I have gone aga inst

co nve ntio n by showi ng the no lift pitchin g moment Mo as
a nose down arrow , because that is the way it really acts.
Othe r books co nve ntionally show 1'1'10 as a nose up arro w
but wi th a ne gati ve va lue . In my formulae mak e Mo
positive for norm al wings.
It is ass umed that thru st and dra g have no mom ent
about the CG. Therefor e, taking mom ents ab out the CG,
yo u can see that the direction of the tail force mu st be
partly down to balan ce Mo and partly up to ba lance the
wing lift. Tail lift may therefore be up or down but I sha ll
define posi tive lift as up ward s. Skipping ove r the algebra ,
and ass uming that the tail is small co mpared to the wing ,
this Simple equa tion for tail lift coe fficient can be found .
CI.T;(X,CL - C,' IO)N"'Ir ' . . eq uatio n 12.1
where Cl. is the lift coefficient of the "total lift".

Tail Lift Requiredfor Trim

Note that there is no ment ion of ang le A so the e quat ion is

true whe n A is zero (in level flight) o r nin ety degrees (a
vertical dive at terminal ve locity) or anyw here in between .
Nor d oes stability matter to the tail lift. The ac tua l lift force
on the tail will of course depend on airspeed squa red.
The re la tio ns hi p is best ex plaine d o n the grap h in
Figure 12.2. The tail lift will ofte n be up war ds at lo w
speeds nea r the stall. At so me interme diate speed it will be
zero , while at high speed the tail lift must be down ward.
In a vertical d ive the total lift coefficient Cl. is zero a nd the
tail lift is well and truly down, how mu ch dep ends o n the
wing ca mber. To go from low speed trim to high speed

The aeroplane in Figure 12.1, which may be a glider or

powered, has been trimmed o ut to fly in a dive of ang le A,
whi ch can be any angle. From stability calculations the CG
has turn ed out distan ce x behind the wing's aerodynamic
ce n tre and I hav e show n the we ig h t s p lit int o tw o
co mpo ne nts, W.sin A along the flight path , and W.cos A
pe rpe nd icular to it. For the aeroplane to be in equilibrium,
th e fo rces mu st ca ncel eac h o the r o u t a n d th e tot al
mom ent o n th e ae ro plane mu st be ze ro . Th e total lift
balances W.cos A, and the Drag is balan ced by W.sin A
plus the Thru st T (if any).
Figure 12.1





W \..W sINA

Bas ic Aeronautics f or Modellers


the CG is further aft than

In the special case
where the wing has a
symmetrical section the
graph will look like
Figure 12.3. No tail load
is needed in a vertical
dive but otherwise tail lift
coefficient is always up
and increases as speed is

Figure 12.2

CG Well
Behind AC v"



paragraphs I exposed a
paradox. I stated that to
Vtrim for a higher speed
the change in the tail lift
Vcoefficient is downwards,
but you know that it
requires down elevator
trim. You may be
tempted to suppose that
down trim would cause a
tail lift increase, but this is
no place for intuition.
You must stick to
believing the equation
which must be true for equilibrium and try to find a
reason. Suppose an aeroplane has been speeded up such
that its angle of attack is decreased from 10 degrees to 2
degrees. Because of the
downwash the tail's angle
of attack changes from 5
degrees to 1 degree, a
reduction of 4 degrees
which gives the reduction
in tail lift to satisfy the
equation . It is then
retrimmed with down
trim. So as long as the
amount of the downtrim
is less than 4 degrees (say
it is 2 degrees) then both
the conditions which you
know must he true can
be satisfied. Down trim
has been applied and yet
the tail's angle of attack
(and hence its lift
coefficient) has been



trim you need to move down the line to reduce the tail lift
coefficient. The slope of the line is proportional to the
distance of the CG behind the wing's aerocentre. In line A
Figure 12.3

~ Stalled

Low Speed



Elevator Angle to
As you know, to trim
for a faster flying speed
you need to apply down
trim . Figure 12.4 shows
how the elevator angle to
trim varies with the lift
coefficient. I have shown
three lines for three CG

Basic Aeronautics/or Modellers

pOSItiOnS, i.e . th ree d ifferen t va lue s o f K, on the sa me

aerop lane. The steepe r the lines, th e mo re the stab ility.
Line A is for an aerop lan e set up w ith an aft CG to mak e it
agile . Line I3 is for an aero p lane w ith a n ave rage CG
position, and line C is fo r an aeroplane se t up with a ve ry
far forward CG so that it will not stall. (The re is just not
e noug h up elevator). Th e trim change betw een sp eed s 1
a nd 2 ca n cle arl y be se en to d epend o n th e sta b ility
ma rgin . The less th e sta bi lity margin th e less th e trim
cha ng e need ed. If there wer e no stability, then the grap h
would be horizont al and no trim cha nge w oul d be need ed
to cha ng e the aerop lane 's speed .

Tail Setting Ang le

In Cha pter 3 I menti on ed several lines on an aerofoil
from whi ch ang le of attac k ca n be measured . In this and
subsequent cha pters the ang le of attack will be measur ed
from the zero lift line of the wh ole win g. O ne reason for
this is that at ze ro lift there is no downwash and as the
an gle o f attack is increased , the downwash is a co nstant
p roporti on o f it. Double th e an gle of attac k (measu re d
from the zero lift line of the w ing) and yo u double the
downwash . Tail Setting Ang le is the nam e for the ang le
between the zero lift line of the whole w ing and that of
the tailplan e with the eleva tor neutral. It therefore ap plies

to o nly o ne spe ed , or rather o ne lift co efficie nt. It does not

co nfer lo ngitu din al stab ility as its mo dell e rs' nickname
"lo ngitud inal dihedral" unfo rtun ately implies .
By ta kin g e q ua tio n 12.1 a bove a n d d oing a littl e
al ge bra ic magi c o n it a n e q ua tio n ca n b e fo u n d fo r
wor kin g o ut the Tail Setting Ang le o f an aeroplane at a
ce rt ain CL (or speed). Equation 12.2

Figure 12.5 illustrates th e variatio n of Tail Setting Ang le

w ith w ing ca mber, stability ma rgi n , and als o w ith the
chose n spe ed at which th e el evator is requi red to be
neutral. \'('hat the eq ua tio n and the grap h bo th sho w is
that the Tail Setting Ang le is in tw o pa rts, both negative
(tail lead ing edge down). One part depends on the wing's
ca mbe r, the mor e the cambe r the more the Ta il Setting
Angle . Th e ot he r part d epends on th e sta bility and th e
se lec te d lift coefficie nt. Th e mor e th e sta b ility and the
slowe r the trimm ed speed , the more the Tail Setting Angle .
The bottom line o n the eq ua tion is the tail's effectiveness,
its tail volume rat io Vha r times aT th e slo pe o f its CL (J.
cu rve.
Th e more the tail's effect iveness the less the angle has

Figu re 12.4

Ele vator a ng le
to trim

Fil II Doum Elev

Speed 1

forwa rd

Speed 2


- 1-


FilII Up Elev

Basic Aeronautics/or Modellers



Figure 12.5
Cbosen Speed for
Neut ral Ele vator


Higb Speed

----,----Part due

to Camber

Low Speed


Tail Setting Angle ill

degress LE DowII

to be to get th e desired effect. Even aeroplanes with

symmetrica l wings need some Tail Setting Ang le, be it ever
so small, unless they also hav e zero stability. That's no t an
aeroplane , it's a guided missile!

All Moving Tail

In the above d iscussio n I referred to the co nventiona l
prac tice o f using a fixed tailplane with an eleva tor hinged
o n the ba ck . The functio n s a re comb ined on a n All
Moving Tail (AMT). The Tail Setting Ang le diagram 12.5
above becomes also the "tailp lane angle to trim" d iagram
for the AMT w he re the tailp lane's angle is measured down
from the Wing 's zero lift angle . If some middl e position is
co nsi de red th e ne utra l position, then all the followi ng
diag rams are still va lid , replacing "e levato r a ng le " by
"tailplane displace ment from neutral".

The Effect ofThrust on Trim

Un til now I have assu med tha t the th rust line was in


the d irection of motion and passed through the CG, but

that is not alway s the case. The eng ine may be in the nose
hut angled down at an angle ca lled the downthrust angle
(the angle between the thrustline and the fuselage da tum
line) such that the thrustline passes above the CG. Or the
engine may be mou nted h igh above th e fuse lage o n a
py lo n w h ich wi ll have the same effect b ut to a more
extreme ex tent. See Figure 12.6.
Line A of Figure 12.7 shows the normally sha ped trim
line of an aeroplane like that in Figure 12.6, w hen it is
gliding with power o ff.
Line B of Figure 12.7 is th e tr im lin e of the sa me
aeroplane in level powered flight. The more thrus t that is
applied the faster the aeroplane flies and the more dow n
tr im effect its mo me nt h a s (represe n ted by th e gap
betw een lines A and B). Th erefor e less down e levato r trim
is need ed .
An aeroplane wi th excessive pit ch stab ility w ill ne ed
large changes of eleva tor trim as power is changed, bu t it
is so me times "fixed" by using excessive downthrust. The
ste ep ness of the power off trim curve (l ine A) w ill be

Basic Aeronautics for Modellers

Figure 12.6

flatten ed by the downthrust as you ca n see (line B) and if
the e ng ine cuts at high speed (po int 1 o n line 8) , the
aeroplane will reve rt to its power off trim line and glide
with the sa me trim setting but at a low er spee d (po int 2 on
line A). Safe eno ug h.
Line B is representative of a po werfu l eng ine with a
little downthrust or a small eng ine high o n a powe r pod.

A Dangerous Situation

stall and persistentl y tries to do so until you wind in so me

down trim.
Can't happen yo u think? Once after a repair I glued the
firewall back in at slightly the wron g angle , and I did not
notice that in add ition the cast alloy mount had becom e
bent in the cras h. I did notice that after take off it need ed
mu ch more up trim than I ex pected, but thin gs do change
when yo u re move a nd replace radi o ge ar. Wh en th e
e ng ine qu it o n me it was trimmed to stall and I was in for
o ne of my mor e ex citing deadstick landings'! (I know,
write out o ne hundred times "After rep airs I must chec k
rigging and downthrust angles").

If a powerful engin e has excessive downthrust , o r

worse still is mounted high in a pow er pod, thrust will
cause a large trim change .
T h e trim c urve for
straig ht and le vel flight
Figure 12. 7
will look like line C on
Figure 12.7. Line A is still
Elevator a ng le to t rim
th e trim lin e fo r zero
thru st , but putting on
D ow n
p ow er
add s
e n o rmo us n o se d own
mom ent. The aeroplane
is in trim at full pow er at
p oint 3 on th e g ra p h
with a grea t deal of up
tr im . If th e p ower is
turn ed o ff it tries to
rev ert to trim line A
( point 4 on the graph)
but with that mu ch up
trim it is sta lle d wh en
th ere is no p ow e r to
ho ld th e no s e down .
T h a t is a p ot en ti all y
dangerous situa tio n if it
ca tc hes yo u un awa res.
O n clo sing th e thrott le
the mod el zoo ms up and
tri es to s ta ll o r e ven
loo p. It may flick roll or
spin if it is so inclined. At
best yo u ha ve a mode l
wh ich on its ve ry first
un e xpect ed d ead stick
landing is trimm ed to


- ----


Basic Aeronauticsfor Modellers






Chapter 13

Glider Performance

igure 13.1 shows a glider in a steady glide at angle

A to the horizontal. The total Lift is at right ang les
to the d irection of mo tion and is the result ant of all

Lift = We ight x cos A

and Drag = Weight x sin A
o r Lift/Drag Ratio (L D) = l/t an A

Table 13.1



Load Factor




th e lift for ces on th e wi ng , ta il and fuselage a t their

centres of p ressure . The to ta l Drag is opposite to the
direc tion of the mo tion. By splitting the weight into two
co mponents as shown it can be seen that.

Th e Lift/ Dr ag ratio o f the ae ro p la ne is im p orta nt

becau se it is directly co nnected to the glide ang le. If yo u
know the g lide ang le yo u ca n div ide 1 by the tan gent
ratio (loo ked up in your tabl es) and Bingo! . .. You have
the Lift/Drag ratio . You w ill see (from the equations at the
end of Cha pte r 2) tha t the Lift/ Drag ratio LID is just the
sa me as th e rati o o f Lift coefficie n t CL ove r D rag
coefficient Co becau se eve rything else ca ncels o ut. In a
div e Lift is alway s less than Weigh t. The "load factor ",
LlW, dep en ds on the glide ang le and is in fact eq ua l to
cos A wh ich is always less than 1.
Tabl e 13.1 shows the var iation of bot h LID ratio and
load factor in a d ive of ang le A (in degrees).

Speed Range
In a vertical dive, the angle A is 90 degre es an d the
ratio sin A is 1, so that Drag = Weight (and Lift is zero)
and the aeroplane is at the maximum speed at which it is
aerodyna mically capa ble of flying, its "te rminal velocity".

Figure 13.1



... lV cu s A


Basic Aerona utics/or Mod ellers

Its min imum limiting speed is its "sta lling speed ", at
which the overall lift coefficient is a maximum. Th at w ill
occ ur whe n th e an gle of attac k so me whe re alo ng the
wing rea ch es its local stalling angle.
Whe n the aeroplane is turning or "p ulling g" the w ing
w ill stall at th e sa me a ng le o f a ttack , b ut th e sta lling
speed in a man oeuvre is high er than the stalling speed
in a stea dy glide .

Looking at Aerodynamic Data

For a particular ae roplane Cl. and CD will vary wi th
the angle of attack and ther efore so will the ir ratio . Each
e levator trim positio n gives a part icul ar flying speed at a
par ticular ang le o f attac k and a pa rticul ar glide ang le .
Therefore a graph can be d raw n showi ng how all these
th ings vary fo r ea ch trim position from the stall to the
vertical di ve . The re are severa l w ays to present th e
info rma tio n . I hav e dr awn u p a se t of graphs which ,
althoug h ma de up for an imaginary glide r, are co nsis tent

Figure 13.2

within them selves. They are pr esented as Figures 13.2 to

The first two, 13.2 and 13.3 are the assumed lift and
d rag coe fficients graphe d aga inst angle of attack (alp ha
a ) . Figure 13.4 is the most ob vio us presen tation of glidi ng
performance , just a graph of LID ratio against angle of
attack. Whe n L is zero at a the LID must ob viously be
zero . As a is increas ed the LID increases to a maximum
an d then red uces wh en d rag starts to increase rapid ly.
An alte rna tive pr esent ation is to draw a graph of Cl.
ag ai ns t CD which is ca lled a "po la r cu rve " or "p o lar
d iag ra m ". An exa m p le is g ive n in Figure 13.5. The
max imum valu e of LID is the slo pe of the line which just
to uches the curve and the Cl. at whi ch it occur s can be
read off. Becau se the bes t glide ang le is associa ted with a
parti cula r lift coefficient like this yo u ca n see that o nly
one ang le of attack , and therefore o ne trim se tting, will
give the flattest glide . Anoth er alternative prese ntation is
to draw a "Hodograph", Figure 13.6. Each po int on the
ho dograph (e .g. po int X) represe nts a velocity vec tor (e .g.
V) for on e pa rticula r trim setting. Th e di stan ce of th e
point from the origin is the glider's airspeed , and the
angle down from the hor izontal is its glide ang le. Thu s
the a irspeed and its ho rizont al and vertical co mponents

Figure 13.3


Figure 13.4

Figure 13.5


Basic Aeronautics f or Modellers


Figure 13.6


Speed for Best


Glide Angle I

Mi" Si"k

_________ J

Figure 13.6 Mag"ified

and the glide angle may all be seen together. You can
also see straight away what glide angle will give the
greatest horizontal velocity for penetration, what is the
minimum glide angle and what is the minimum sinking
speed. It is also evident from the magnified portion that
the speed for minimum sink is less than the speed for the
shallowest glide angle. It is important for a glider to have
not only a shallow glide but also a low minimum sink rate
so that it can remain airborne on the slightest whiff of lift.

Optimising Performance
There are basically two aims when flying a glider, either
to go as far as possible from a given height, or to stay
airborne for as much time as possible from a given height,
both of which require a fairly flat glide. The best of the full
size soarers can achieve a glide angle of about one degree,
but the best models would do well to achieve a two
degree glide angle.
I shall now assume that in flight the Lift is always equal
to the Weight. Look at table 13.1 again and you will see
that even at a glide angle of 8 degrees there is less than 1%
Figure 13.7

Profile......- -. /




error in this assumption. If the lift is constant the LID ratio

is greatest when the total Drag is a minimum . As you
know, the total drag is made up of the induced drag
mainly from the wing, plus the profile drag of the wing,
tail, fuselage and struts etc combined. Figure 13.7 shows
how the total drag, and its two components, vary with
airspeed. Profile Drag is proportional to speed squared,
whereas Induced Drag is inversely proportional to speed
squared. Odd as it may seem, the induced drag of an
aeroplane is greatest at low speed. At very high speeds the
induced drag all but disappears but the profile drag is very
large, and eventually equals the weight. (Note that this is
actual drag force for once, not the coefficients).
You can see from Figures 13.6 and 13.7 that the min.
drag speed, which gives the flattest glide, is quite near
stalling speed and the speed for minimum sink is very near
stalling speed. It can be shown (trust me) that the airspeed
for minimum sink rate is theoretically about 75% of the
airspeed for minimum glide angle.

Effect ofStreamlining
I have already mentioned how and why to reduce
induced drag, but to be efficient a glider must be a clean
machine . Tailplanes with an up or down load have
induced drag like wings. Tails, fins , fuselages, struts and
undercarriages have skin friction drag from their surface
area and form drag which depends upon their
streamlining. The drag of the whole aeroplane is more
than the sum of the parts. The extra drag is called
INTERFERENCE DRAG and is caused by the airflows
around the various parts interfering with each other. As
much of this profile drag as possible must be eliminated
by careful streamlining and fairing adjoining shapes into
each other. The reduction in total drag obviously gives a
better LID ratio . What is equally important is that this
better LID ratio is achieved at a higher airspeed, which
brings three further benefits.
The aeroplane has a greater speed margin above its
stalling speed. The controls will work more effectively and
as you will see later a further increase in efficiency is
possible because of the higher Reynolds Number at the
higher airspeed.

Basic Aeronautics for Modellers

All this su pe r e fficie nt strea mline d e lega nce mak es

landing a nightmare at an angle of two degrees or less
whi ch is wh y it is necessary to add handfuls of add itional
profile drag in the form of a irbrakes to ruin the UD ratio
and give a stee per descen t.

Figure 13.8


Wind Vector,


Effect of Weight on Performance

Non dimensional constants like CD and CLare just that
. . constant. They do not vary with weight or speed or
anything else but angle of attack. Therefore the U D ratio at
a particular ang le of atta ck will not va ry with weight.
Exactly the same trim will give yo u the same o ptimum
glide angle whatever the weight. How ever the speed at
whi ch it is achieved will rise. The speed increase will be
prop ortional to the square root of the we ight increase. So
that for example if the weight is doubled , all referen ce
speeds will rise by 41.4% and that includ es Stalling spee d,
terminal Diving speed , Minimum Sink speed, and optimum
Glide Angle speed . Th e glide r ca n still glide th e same
distanc e from a given height but will do it more qui ckly.
Therefore its rate of descent will be (41.4%) greater.
Although the coefficients have rema ine d the sa me , the
actua l Drag has doubled and so has the Lift. Even at the
ne w minimum s inking s peed the rat e of descent has
increased . Ballast, or a heavily built mod el, will not hinder
your mod el from getting about the sky, but it will reduce
its endurance .

Effect of Wind on Performance

The most supe r efficient sailplane with a still air glide
a ngle o f one d egre e at 40 mph w ill s till h av e ze ro
gro undspeed in a 40 mph headwind and so will descen d
vert ically. Its nice low sinkrate is not affected by the w ind ,
but it will still not get ba ck to its field from downwind . A
glide r needs to have a good speed range to get abo ut the
co untrys ide in windy w e athe r. Th ere a re usu all y two
choice s if you are not ge tting enough pen etration . Either
trim to a high er spe ed, or ballast up.

Down Trim
Figure 13.8 sho ws the magn ified top part of an oth er
hod ograph. A glide r is trimmed to fly at point B o n the
graph and has a great glide angle relative to the air. Now I
shall draw in a wind vector from po int A to the origin (the
op posi te direction to the aeroplane 's velocity to represent a
headwind). Vectors from A to point s on the hod ograph
sho w the speed and glide angle of the glide r relative to the
ground. The line from A to B shows that the glide angle
relative to the ground is ab ysmal. It would be best to trim
the ae roplane to point C o n th e graph . At thi s high e r
airspe ed th e glide a ng le rel ative to the gro u n d is
optimised. Don 't ask me how you find this po int witho ut
instruments - that tak es ex pe rience. I'm alright with a
pencil but rubbish on the sticks.

Doum Comp
same pen etration as speed C (w ith down trim) but with a
low er sink rate and also a shallower glide relative to the
ground . The mod el will ge t back from do wnwind with
more height rem ainin g. Of co urse once you have returned
from downwind yo u a re s till stuc k with th e b all ast ,
wh ereas do wntrim you can take off. I have ex plained the
options, the choice is up to you.

A Third Option
As I menti on ed previou sly you ca n try reducing the
profile drag. Change the win g sec tio n, sharpen the trailing
edge, polish th e surfaces , blend the win g and fuse lage
sha pes togeth er carefully etc. The result is an eve n better
glide angle and an eve n slowe r sink rate at an eve n high er
speed . Who says you can't have your cake and ea t it?
Figure 13.9
Horiz Comp



1,I "

Weight W/ '

Figur e 13.9 is yet ano the r hod og raph, this time with two
lines. Line 2 is for the same aeroplane as line 1 but at
double the weig ht. The bes t glide angle relative to the air
ha s not cha nged but the minimum sink rate ha s. It is
worse. How ever look carefully. The second optio n is to
add ballast and fly trinun ed at speed D, which gives the

Basic Aerona uticsfor Modellers




Chapter 14

Powered Performance
f yo ur main int erest is in p owered mode ls th en
p erhaps yo u have skip ped th e cha p te r o n g lide r
p e rformance . Well go b a ck a nd read it a ny way
becau se a pow er ed mod el becom es a glider wh en the
engi ne stops.
Bear in mind that power ed mod els tend to use lowe r
aspect ratio and so have mo re indu ced dr ag, a nd less
careful str eamlining and so mor e p rofil e drag .
The power so urce co uld be a gas turbine o r d uct ed
fan wh ich fo r pract ical purpo ses produ c e co ns ta n t
thrust , but usually we use a prope lle r.
Prop s ize is given as diamet er x pit ch e .g . 10 x 6,
th e pit ch b eing th e forw ard m o v em ent in on e
re vo luti on , in th e dir ection of th e aerofoil cho rd line . A
"fine " pit ch propeller has a sma ll pit ch and a "coarse "
pi tch p ropell er has a large pit ch .
A p rop e ller bl ad e is, u su a lly , a fl at b ott om ed
a e ro fo il fi tted with th e c urved s id e o f th e aerofo il
fo rward, to w ards the dir e ction of mot io n of th e ai rcraft
(o bvio us perhaps , but I have seen pu sh er props back
to fron t) .

P ropelle r Th rust
Th e velocity of the air re lative to the pr opeller , as
sho w n in Figure 14.1, is a co mbina tion of its rotatio na l
ve lo c ity and its forw ard ve loci ty . Th e fast er th e
aeroplane is flyin g the less th e b lad e a ng le of a ttack.
Figure 14.2 shows how th e thrust of pr ope llers vari es
wi th th e forward spe e d of th e aeroplan e for different
co mbina tions of diame ter and pitch . When the a irspeed
rises and the blad e's ang le of attack reduces , the to rqu e
ne e de d to dri ve the prope lle r a t a g ive n speed a lso
reduces and so the engine ca n speed up . It is sa id to
"unload in the air".
Th e pit ch of the p rop eller is chose n to suit the flying
s pee d of th e model and th e c o a rs e r th e p itch , th e
sma ller the d iam eter mu st be to avoi d overloadi ng the
e ng ine .

Slipstream Effects
The wake of a propeller is a co lumn of air moving aft

F igu re 14.1


R esultant '


~---_._._---_ ._--\-------

.. , ,

.. , ,



.. , ,




Rota tion

Basic Aerona utics/or Modellers

rela tive to the aerop lane at a speed greater tha n that of

th e s urro undi ng air. If th e tail con trol s urfaces ar e
mo un te d in th e sli ps tream the ir effec tiveness will be
inc reased as the pro p ell e r thru st is increased . For
exam ple rudder gives ve ry good d irectio nal co ntro l on
take off but is mu ch less effective on lan din g.
In Figure 14.3 (in which the effect is exaggerated) an
aerop la ne has a pr opell e r ro ta ting clockwise (fro m
b eh ind ) and the sli ps tream wi ll strike th e fin slightly
fro m th e le ft. A fo rce to the right w ill be generated
yawing the nose to the left. If in an attemp t to avoid this
problem the fin is turned to line up with the slips trea m,
then when the throttle is closed the aerop lane has some
right rudder ap plied and will now yaw to the right.
A better so lu tion is to mou nt the e ngine suc h that the
thru stline is angled as shown to the righ t, called "right
sidet hrust". The slipstream still causes left yaw , bu t the
thru st has an o pposing mo me nt ab out the eG. The fin is
straight whic h lets the model fly straigh t power off, an d
th e si det hrus t can b e a djus te d to give straight flig ht
power on . One to three degrees is a typic al sidethrust

Figure 14.2


" "\ Fine


, ,\

\ ,
\ ,





Figure 14.]

Level Flight Top Speed


--- -


A powered aeroplane ca n fly level , regardless of the

- --=ac-~
drag. Just bo lt a big enough vibra to r o n the front and
away yo u go . The thrust eq uals the total dr ag, and the
to tal lift eq ua ls the weight.
Figure 14.4 illustrates how the thrus t an d drag vary
with the forw ard speed of the aeroplane . Where the two
cross Th ru st eq ua ls Dra g an d th e aeroplane is in
from th e surface increasi ng th e drag coefficient a nd
eq uilibrium at its maximum speed in level fligh t. A mo re
reducing the lift coefficient. When th e lift coefficient is at
p owerful eng ine will o bviously produce more thrust and
its ma xim um, the airspeed is at its min imu m, whic h is
so th ru st w ill eq ual d rag at a highe r speed . Using a
called the "stalling speed in level flight" (for the exis ting
coa rser pitch prop on the same engi ne the thru st ca n be
weight and co nfiguration) . It is an oft quot ed statis tic of
sustained to a hig her speed allowing a high er to p speed
an aeroplane and is a usefu l reference speed.
for the aeroplane , at the
expense of lo w s peed
Figure 14.4
acceleration .
Th e s peed a t w hic h
th ru st and drag are
equal is an airspeed of
co urse . Thrust will equal
d ra g a t this ai rspee d
regardless of whe ther a
Fi"e Prop
wi n d is b lo wing . If
some thing makes th e
a e ropla ne s low dow n,
then t hr ust will b e
grea ter th an drag an d
Coarse Prop
w ill accelerate the
a e ropl ane back to the
a irs peed at which they
were eq ua l.



Stalling Speed


As fo r a glider it is
no t th e s p eed bu t th e
sta lling angle of attack
which is fixed. The wing
sta lls a t th e ang le of
at tack a t w hich the
airflow ove r the to p
s u rface breaks away

Basic Aero na utics for Modellers








Figure 14.5





) Stall I

Top I


High Weight


Low We ight
Speed Range

Effect of Weight

Climb Performance

Obviously from the above the sta lling speed in leve l

flight w ill increase as th e weigh t is inc reased . T he
stalling speed increases as the sq ua re root of the weight ,
d o ubling the weigh t gives a 41.4% increase in stalling
Thrust from the propeller is independent of weight.
How ever the greater the weight, the greater the drag w ill
be, partly because the induced d rag is greater and partly
because the associated inc rease in angle of attack w ill
increa se th e profi le drag . Figure 14.5 shows th e thrust
from a particu lar engine/propeller combination an d also
the drag at two weigh ts. As yo u can see the speed range
of the aeroplane reduces as weight is increased, stalling
speed increasing and maxi mum speed red uc ing .

Figur e 14.6 shows an aeroplane in a climb at ang le A

to the ho rizontal wit h its thrust , weight, overall drag and
overall lift all th rough the CG. The weight has been sp lit
into two components. You ca n see that the Lift is eq ua l
to the component of the weight W cos A, w hich mean s
tha t lift is less than weig ht in a climb . Yo u can also see
fro m th e diagra m th at th rust has to balance not only
drag but also a component of the we igh t, W.sin A. The
steeper the climb the more thrust will be needed. In a
ver tica l climb the th rust must e qua l the weight plus the
drag at the particu lar airspeed, but lift will be zero.
Figure 14.7 shows the maximum th rust an d tota l drag
plo tted against speed. This time howeve r the aeroplane
is climbing at speed V. The thrust at this speed is grea ter
than the drag, and the excess thru st is use d to overco me
the weight co mponent W.sin A. The lower the climbing
speed the more excess thr ust and so the steeper th e
climb .
Th e heavier the aeroplane th e more its drag w ill be at
th e same speed . But it w ill have to be flown faster to
keep th e same margin above sta lling speed , w h ich
incre ases the d rag even mo re . Th e re is th e re fo re less
spare thrust ava ilable, but the "dow nhill" co mponent of
weight, W.sin A, is g rea ter. These factors all combine to
re du ce the climb angle ac hievable at the high er weight.

Take off Performance

For accelera tion yo u need low weight and plenty of
th ru st. Whe n the speed is safely above sta lling speed
yo u need enough eleva tor power and clearance under
the tail for rotation.
When the a ng le of attack is sufficient the lift w ill
exceed the weigh t and the aeropla ne will take to the air.
The faster the model is travelling th e less pitch up
needed to "unstick".
The heavier the aeroplane the greater the take off
speed and the slower the accelera tion . Weight w ill have
a ma rke d e ffect on runway length requ ired, as will the
surface. Smooth concrete is great, long wet grass really
holds the model back. A larger diame ter fine p itch prop
will give mo re thrust and hence a quicker accelera tion at
the expense of to p speed .


Descent and Landing

Figure 14.8 shows an aeroplane in a descent, with a
sma ll amo unt of thrust hel ping the weight component
\X7.sin A to overcome the dr ag . The mo re thrust ther e is
the sha llower the descent. In ot he r words o pe ning the
throttle a little will g ive a sha llower descent at the sa me

Basic Aero na lilies fo r Modellers

Figure 14.6




speed, whil e closing th e th rottl e w ill g ive a ste e per

descent. The throttl e se tting co ntrols rate of descent.
The d ra gg ie r th e ae ropl an e , th e more th e po w e r
need ed , especially not iceabl e in the case of low aspect
ra tio biplan es clutter ed w ith rigg ing w ires a nd stru ts.
So me cl e an p o w e red mod el s ha ve to o s ha llow a n
approach ang le for safe te rrain cleara nce . The best cure
for too sha llow a n ap proach pa th is more d rag from
airhrakes , flap s, slats or so me thing. Diving the aeroplane
over the obstructions on the approach w ill o nly increase
th e s peed a t w hic h it reac hes the run w a y a nd th e
aeroplane will "float" right down the run w ay and land in
the roug h.
The fina l a p proach se ts up th e aero p la ne fo r the
landing, low over the run way thresh old w ith the speed
safely above stalling speed . In th e "flare " th e nose is
pit ch ed up to ar res t th e rat e o f d e s cent until th e
ae roplane land s almos t at stalling speed.

Figu r e 14. 7

Th rust




Figure 14.8

Basic Aeronautics/or Modellers



Chapter 15

The Aerodynamics of
have already de alt with straight night a nd turning.
Any t h ing e lse is not us e ful in tr an s p orting th e
aero plane from A to B a nd is therefore co ns ide red
to be an acroba tic man oeu vre , don e jus t for the sa ke of
doin g it.
All th e acroba tic man oeu vres w hic h I ca n think o f
co ns is t o f a few basi c e leme n ts s tr u ng to geth er in
var io us wa ys. I do not claim to be any kind o f hot sho t
aerobatic p ilot and therefore do not feel q ua lified to go
into the re fine me nts of fl y in g ae roba tics. Ne ithe r do I
have the eq uipme nt ava ilable to test o ut the su btleties of
acrobatic model design . I sha ll leave the refinements to
the expe rts and stick to the basic e leme nts.
It is wort h rem em ber ing w h en per for ming or
watching aerobatics that the law s of ph ysics canno t be
brok en , by a nyo ne.

The Stall
The pu p il p ilo t is ofte n tau gh t the sta ll as his first
"ma n o e uv re ", so th at he ca n le a rn ho w to avo id a
dan ge rou s un intenti on al stall. The aeroplane is slo wed
down by gra dually applying up e levato r in level night ,
increasing the ang le of attack , until so mew here on the
w ing th e flow s ta rts to s e p a ra te . T here are seve ra l
possible o utco mes .
1. If the se paratio n occ urs ove r both win g roots more

o r less simultaneo us ly then the nose do wn pitching

mom e nt coe fficie nt C ~ I O whi ch had b e en co ns ta nt
sudde nly inc reases . Or if yo u are a Centre of Pres sur e
fan, the Ce ntre of Press ure moves a ft aga in . The result
is a ge ntle nose down p itch , a nice safe re acti on .
Applying more up e leva tor ca n co unteract th e nose
down mom ent an d kee p the nose up . The ae ro plane
w ill th en descend in a le vel a ttitude a nd w ill still
respond to ailero ns , rudd er and elevato r.
2. If se pa ratio n occu rs over th e in board regio n on
o nly o ne side, the wi ng on th at side will drop. DO
NOT try to pick it up wit h aileron . That is like ly to
stall the outboard pa rt of the wi ng as we ll and make
the situation worse. Th e co rrec t rec ov ery is to apply
down e levator and opposite RUDDER.
3. If the o utbo ard part of the w ing stalls o n o ne s ide ,
a "tips tall", the n a viole nt wi ng d rop occurs usua lly
le ading stra ig ht into a sp in. T he re is no tim e to
recov er from the stall. See below fo r spin reco very.
4. As I sa id in Cha pter 12, if the ele vator is small and
the stability ma rgin is large even fu ll up e levator may
not be enoug h to stall the w ing . It may just fly slo wly
in trim. See Figure 12.4 agai n .

The Spin
A spin is e nte red from low spe e d night. The w ing is
a t o r ne ar its s ta lling a ng le of a ttack a nd o ne w ing
d ro p s , du e to a g us t, ai le ro n in put , o r w hateve r.

Figure 15.1
Figure 15.2

Rising Wing

a Of Rising

a Of Dropping

Original a



Basic Aeronautics/o r Mode llers

F igure 15.4

Fig"re 15.3


Consta nt V

2V - - -

Appli cation of rudd e r in the appropriate dir ection a lso
helps. Becau se the air is now co ming up towards the
downgoing win g it ge ts an an gle of attack increa se , and
the u pgo ing wing gets a n a ng le of a ttac k de c re ase .
Th es e would n ormall y ca use "ro ll d amp in g ", but
becau se the win g is alre ad y at its stalling ang le of attac k,
the an gle of attac k incr ease pa st the stalling a ng le le ads
to a re d uctio n in the lift coefficient. A ro lling mom ent in
the direction o f the ex isting roll result s. The d ropping
w ing w ill also ha ve th e g re a te r dra g p rodu c ing yaw
tow ard s the ce ntre of the spin. Figure 15.1 sho ws that
the dropping wing has a sma ller lift coe fficient than the
rising wing and so the situatio n co ntinues . This pro cess
is kn own as "auto rotatio n".
The a irspeed rem ain s low in a sp in du e to the ve ry
high dra g o f s ta lle d win gs . Wh ile th e a e roplan e is
sp inn ing the angle of attack o n th e w ing o n the insid e o f
the s p in is g re ate r th an that of th e o utsi de Wing but
bec au se o ne o r pr obab ly both , are g rea te r th an th e
sta lling an gle , th e s p in co ntin ues (Fig ure 15. 2) . Th e
aeroplane is both rolling and yaw ing toward s th e mo re
stalled wing. The rate of rot ation is faster than in a spi ral
di ve a nd th e hei ght los s per turn is mu ch less. Most
mod e ls have to be held in the sp in with up e levator a nd
usu ally rudder and aileron in the same d irection .
Recov er y action from a spin is ve ry dependant o n the
aeroplan e. Most models will reco ver if all the co ntro ls
a re ce ntralised . If no t then positive recove ry action mu st
be tak en . Appl y full o p posite rudd er to co unteract the
rotati on (the ailerons are ineffective), and down e levator
to un sta ll the win g.
It is impo rtant that aeroplan es design ed for ae rob atics
will s p in re liably whe n required . The d esign fact ors
whic h assist in re liabl e s p in ning a re taper ratio , CG
position , co ntrol throws and LE sharpness . A taper ratio
of 0.65 or less ens ures that the an gle of attac k at the tips
is o nly slig htly less than near th e root. A modest CG
mar gin and a de q ua te e leva tor throw e nsure th at th e
win g can be pitch ed to its stalling a ng le of attac k. And
adeq uate rudder movem en t ens ures that it w ill sp in in
the direction yo u want. Havin g the lead ing e dge sha rpe r
at the tip than the root also helps spinning .

Basic Aero nauticsfor Modellers



In o rde r to avo id spinning , trainers go th e othe r way ;

co ns tant chord, fo rwa rd CG, reduced e leva tor autho rity
and blunt lead ing ed ge. Scale mod els have no cho ice of
tap er rat io but ca n use wash out and a forward CG to
avo id pr obl em s.

The Snap (or flick) Roll

Exce pt that it ma y be don e travelling in any d irection
at a ny sp eed , a sna p roll is just like a spin and the sa me
design factors are involved. If full up ele vator is applied ,
the ang le of attac k wil l be incr ea sed , probably up to the
stalling a ng le o r beyond . If one wing stalls but the oth er
does not , the differ en ce in lift wi ll produce a ver y rapid
ro ll rat e . On e Wing ca n be mad e to stall by ap plying
rudder and aileron in th e directi on of the intende d ro ll.
Rele asing the up e lev ator and/ or the rudd er and ailero n
will sto p th e snap ro ll. A sna p roll may be performed in
ho rizo n ta l fli ght , o r on a 4 5 d e gre e d ownlin e , o r
vert ically upward s o r what ever.
You sho uld be awa re of the structural loads imposed
by a snap ro ll at high speed . If the ae ro plane is flying at
a s p eed fa ctor of three times its lev e l flight sta lling
sp eed , then the win g will be su bjecte d to a brief load ing
of nin e "g", if at four times stalling speed , sixtee n "g".
The load factor is the sq ua re of the sp eed factor.

Th e Lo op
To make a loop round a ce ntripe tal force towards the
ce nt re of the loop is necessary and is provid ed by th e
win g lift. The tight er the loo p the mor e up e levator is
need ed . If th e airspe ed ca n be kept co ns ta nt, th en
ke eping th e ce n tripe tal for ce co ns tant w ill produ ce a
round loo p , Th e ce ntripe tal for ce is the result ant of all
th e force s a cting p erp endicular to th e a eropl an e' s
dir ecti on of mo tion , the re fo re the lift force mu st va ry
round the loo p . For ex ample, in Figure 15.3 lift is five
times weight at the bott om , thr ee times we ight at the
top, and four times the we ight at the ve rtical positions.
\V'ithou t ve ry ca refu l power co ntro l the s peed w ill
var y round th e loop . Th e ce n tripet a l force requ ired


Figure 15.5

varies as speed sq ua red therefor e the lift variation wi ll

be mu ch greater. Taking the arbitrary ex a mp le w her e
spe e d at the to p w ill be half wha t it was at the bott o m ,
the lift variation w ill be as in Figure 15.4. Th is time , if
the lift is five "g" at the bott om, it must be zero at the
to p . Lo o ps a re easy, but pe rfectly round loo ps are ve ry
d ifficult ind eed .

Inuerted Flight
Figu re 15.5 shows a n ae ropla ne wi th a cambere d
wi ng in stead y le vel flight. T he tail lift LT mus t b e
u pward so that its mom ent abo ut the CG balan ces bot h
Mo a nd the win g lift. Yes I kn o w that yo u have ap plied
do wn e levator but the who le aeroplane has been tilted
Figure 15.6
Elevator Angle To Trim

- - - - - - - - - - - Full Doum Elevator

Inuerted Flight


Full Up Elevator


so mu ch to ge t the wing
to lift up sid e do wn that
th e tail is at a liftin g
a ngle . Were it not for
th e down e lev a to r LT
wou ld be so g reat that it
wou ld h a lf loop th e
a ero p la n e into le vel
Figure 15.6 is a trim
g ra p h ju st like Figu re
12.4 e xcept that it has
been ex tende d to s how
negative lift coefficie nts,
for invert ed fli ght. It
shows the e levator ang le
to trim for an ae ro plane,
like a traine r o r g lider,
w ith a ca m be re d wing
w h ic h has been set u p
suc h that the ele vator is neutral in upr ight fligh t. Th ree
lines for thre e d iffe ren t va lues of Stability Mar gin are
sho wn. The trim change between uprigh t and inverted
fligh t at the same spe ed is sho w n fo r a mid CG positio n.
You ca n see th at the furth er forward th e CG, Le . the
bigger the Stab ility Margin , the more trim cha nge there
will be . Inve rte d flight is not possib le a t low spee ds
becau se the wing is not as good at liftin g invert ed as it is
Figure 15 .7 is another tri m g ra p h, thi s tim e for a
pattern ship with symme trica l wings and ta il bo th se t u p
a t zero inciden ce . Fo r u pri gh t flight a little up trim is
needed , th e more Stability Margin the more up trim . And
fo r in ve rte d flight the same a mo un t of d own trim is
req uired . The trim ch ange betwe en upright an d inverted
fli gh t ca n b e see n to
dep e nd o n the Stab ility
Margin just like o n Figure 15.6. In fact for the
sa me Stab ili ty Ma rg in ,
the same trim cha nge is
need ed .
It se ems stran ge but it
is true that a ca mbere d
wi ng d o es not requi re
any more d ow n trim to
fly inverted . It does have
o the r e ffec ts ho w e ve r.
T h e p ro fil e dra g of a
ca mbered section flyin g
invert ed is mu ch grea ter
whi ch reduces the speed
ca pa b ili ty o f the a erop la ne . And th e w ing
ca nno t provid e nearly as
muc h n e ga ti ve lift as
p ositive lift be cause of
th e s ta ll. Bo t h th e s e
e ffec ts co ns p ire to
redu ce the negat ive "s"
ca pa b ility o f a n ae ro plan e with a ca mbe re d
wing .
It is but a sma ll ste p
from doing le ve l flight
in vert ed
d o in g

Basic Aeronautics/o r Modellers

man o eu vr e s inv erted .

To s pi n inve rte d from
le vel in ve rt e d fli ght ,
g ra d u a lly a p p ly fu ll
d o wn e levato r to sta ll
a nd th en r u dde r and
aile ro n in o p pos ite
direc tions to put it into
a spin.
T he sa me co nt ro ls
s ma rt ly a p p l ie d ca n
produ ce a negative sna p
roll and simply applying
e no ug h down e lev a to r
will pe rform a negative
loo p, or "o utside" loo p,
o r "b u n t" . Be caus e o f
t h e lim ita ti on s in t h e
p revi o us para gr ap h an
aer opla ne wit h a ca mb e red win g will not
b unt as ti g h tly as it
loo ps (if at all).


Figu re 15, 7
Eleu ato r A ng le To Trim

FilII Dow1I

I lnuerted


FilII Up

Yawing Manoeuvres

Basic Aeronautics/or Modellers

Sta ll


The re is little to say

that was no t sa id in the
c ha pter o n Co ntro ls. I
sha ll jus t remind you that the rate of roll p roduced by
the ailero ns depends o n their size obv iously, a nd on the
aeroplane's roll damping. The bigger the win gsp an the
mor e roll damping and so the slower th e rate of ro ll.
Also , be care ful of using ailero ns near stalling speed .

Th e o nly co nt ro l left
is th e ru d de r, whi c h
causes the ae ro plane to
y a w . T h is is u s e d in
"k n ife e dge " fli g ht as
de picted in Figure 15.8.
The aeroplane has been
ro lled thro u g h n in e ty
d e gre e s a n d h eld .
Rud d er h a s been a p p lied to h o ld th e
fuselage at a n ang le o f
att ack to th e o nc o ming
Th e press u re d is tri bu tio n over the fuselage
sides can give e no ug h
lift to support the aeroplan e's weight , aided by
the vertica l co mpo ne nt
of th e thru st. There is
o nly a sma ll amo unt of
surface area involved so
th is is a hi gh s pee d
Rudd e r is a lso used
in th e "Sta ll Turn "
ma no e uvre . The a e ro-

Up r ig h t

plane is pointed ve rtically up and allowed to slow down

to a sto p. Ju st befo re it stops , rudde r is used to rotate it
180 d e gre es a bout its "ve rt ica l" axis, w hic h is now
po int ing to the far hor izon.
T here foll o w s a ve rt ica l d es cen t. No te th a t th e
aeroplane stops in this man oeu vre but it does not stall!
Th e a ng le o f a tt ac k is ze ro in th e cli mb a n d ge ts
no wh ere near the stalling angle of attack .

Figure 15. 8

M o tio 1l


Aerobatic Trim
Acro ba tic mod els are
se t up wi th th e CG in
suc h a position that the
mod el is smoothly stable
but w il l s pi n re lia b ly
w he n requ ir ed . Th e
e leva tor th ro w s ho u ld
b e s uch th at a s u ffic ie n tly ti ght lo o pin g
rad ius ca n be a tta ine d ,
but witho ut flicking out.
T he a ile ro n throws a re
adj us te d to give a roll
rate of thr ee rolls in four
to fi v e sec o n d s for
p ow er p at tern c o m p etiti on s . An d th e
rudde r th row sho uld be
e no ug h to give cris p ly
c o n tro ll e d sta ll turn s .
The d ihe d ral is ad justed
as d e s crib ed und er
Lat eral Sta b ility to g ive
n o roll effec t w it h
rudd er in put a n d th e
w ing a nd tail ma y both
b e rig g ed a t ze ro
in ci d en c e usin g trim
offse t to a ch ie ve le vel
flight , or th e w ing may
be rigged a t a pos itive
inciden ce of ab out half a

A typical pattern model has a low wing, sltm fuselage, generous tail area and
large rudder. This one is floum by tbe late "Wee f obu" Robertson, then (1995)
cliairntan of tbe Scottisb Aeromodellers Association.

Malcolm Harris's model sboios tbe typical pattern model's ptauform; a medium
aspect ratio tapered wing and a long tail arm toblcb assists smooth j/ying toitb
generous damping.


Basic Aero na utics/o r Modellers

Chapter 16

Special Cases
Low Aspect Ratio Aeroplanes
De ltas and novelt ies like flying discs or playing cards
often have aspect ratios of 3 o r less. Th e lo w aspect ratio
wing is often co mbined with a Cana rd or Tailless layo ut
therefore that section must be rea d as wel l.

Handling Peculiarities
One obvio us res ult of the low aspect ratio is the lack
of roll d am pi ng. Th e y can be mad e to ro ll incred ibly
q uic kly and tend to be twit ch y in roll. Use sma ll a ilerons
wit h little movement , perhaps inse t fro m the tips, or
even taileron s.
Another character istic of low aspect ratio wings is the
stro ng vo rtex th ey genera te , pro du cin g la rge ind uced
drag at hig h angles of attack. Th ey tend to lose speed
q uick ly in very tight turns or loops. And w he reas most
powered mod els have suc h a lo w minimum d rag speed
that it is not no ticeable in practice , the low aspect ratio
aeroplane has a mar ke d minim um d ra g speed as in
Figure 16.1.
O n a powered model , whe n you gradually reduce the
power a nd fee d in up trim to fly slower a nd slower
the re co mes a po int whe re th e model wi ll no lo nger
ma intain le vel flight unl ess yo u act ua lly increase the
power aga in . It is very difficult to fly it at low speeds
becau se its speed is un stabl e . . . a red uction in speed
increases the dr ag ca us ing a further speed red uction and
vice ve rsa . Th is is known in common parlance as flying
"o n the back of th e d rag curve". At moderate speeds
they will glide, but try to stretch the glide and they fall
o u t of th e s ky, not beca use th e y h a ve s ta lled b ut
becaus e the Lift/ Drag ratio has been assassina ted .
Deltas and o the r lo w as pect ratio aeroplanes are best
su ited to hig h speed
fligh t whe re they ha ndle
most co mfo rtably. And
Figure 16.2
th ey are best sui te d to
sma ll d ia met er coarse
p itched propellers . The
app roac h s ho u ld b e
flown at a speed a little
above m in imu m dra g

form u lae , pri n cip all y because of th e very strong

d ow nw ash over the tailplane . For models without tails
see la ter. O n de lta w ings you mus t u se the l'vJ.A.C.
worked out graphically as in Figure 7. 11.

Canard Layout
In my ancie nt French d ictiona ry, CANARD is a word
meaning "d uck" or "hoax" or a "lump of suga r di pped in
coffee" . I suppose a du ck's win g is so far back tha t it
d o e s rese mb le a tail firs t aerop la ne . Or maybe the
Fre nch tho ught it was a hoax!
Figure 16.2 shows the forces in trimm ed flight on a
canard aeroplane, LF the lift on the fo rep lane, L.\" the lift
on the wi ng , Mo the zero lift pitc hing moment du e to
wing camber and \ '\1 the we ight. Taking mo ments about
Figure 16.1





Low aspect ratio aeropl a ne s wi th ta ilpl an es
will be ne fit from a mo re
forwa rd CG posi tio n
than give n by the usu al

Basic Aeronautics/or Modellers



Figure 16.3

. _~_


t he CG yo u ca n see th at th e foreplane mu st lift to

co unteract the momen t o f the wing lift a nd lift so me
more to co unteract the Mo of the wing. Th e foreplane is
always lifting and its lift coefficient will be greater than
that of the wing.
It mu st the refore be set at a more positive angle of
inciden ce th an th e w ing an d si nce th e forep lane will
always have to pr ovid e upward lift it would make se nse
to give it a cambe red section .

My formu la for ca na rds.

CG position = 0.15 - Vhar gives a CG position aft of
the leadi ng edge of the mea n cho rd , as a fractio n of the
mea n cho rd. I have red uced the p lanned Stab ility Margin
to 10% chord and th e Vhar is the fore plane vo lume ratio ,
w hich if la rge w ill g ive a NEGATIVE a nswe r wh ic h
mean s the CG is in FRO NT of the lead ing edge of the
mea n chord .

No w thi s a ero p lan e ge ts a disturb an ce w hich
incr eases its ang le of attac k. See Figure 16.3 in which the
lift increa ses o n wing and foreplane, XLw and XLF are
sho wn alo ng w ith the resu ltant AL. I have omi tted all the
forces o n Figure 16. 2 w hich cance l o ut. The res ulta nt
ex tra lift, AL, acts at po int A which is the Neutral Po int
a nd w hich is d istan ce x fro m the CG. The aeroplane is
stab le if the NI' is beh ind the CG as before and d istance
x is the Stabi lity Margin.

CG Position
I have been unable to find a fo rmula in textbooks fo r
the Neutral Point of a cana rd whi ch le ad s me back to
Tbe formula e for CG doesn't toork



first prin cip le s a n d

co m m o n s e nse . I a ssume that the foreplane
is sma ll re lative to the
w ing. I therefore believe
that th e factors w hic h
co ns id e red
Cha pter 8, Le. the effec ts
o f wake an d downwash
a n d fl e x ibilit y and
aspect ratio differences,
w ill be sma ll and partly
self cancelling .



foreplane area
w mg area

fo replan e armlj,
- - ----''-win g mean chord

X ----'----

BUT, the are a of the forep lan e must include the area in
planform, of part of the forward fusel age (see Chapter
The CG obvious ly e nds up q uite far ba ck on th e
aeroplane. The fore plan e ar m IF is the distance of the
forep la ne 's q ua rter chord po int a head of th e w ing 's
q ua rter chord point.

Eleva tors on the for ep lane o r an all moving foreplane
ma y be us ed for pitch co ntrol. O bvious ly th e y mu st
mo ve trailing edge down for no se up pi tch . On can ard
deltas it may be more effe ctive to use ele von s.

tbis so it 's back to basic principles. See

Aeroplane - To
Achieve Stability
Th e re a re tw o w ays
to m ak e taill e s s ae rop lanes stable . So rry , I'll
rep hrase th at. T here is
o n e w a y to m ake an
a eropl an e s ta b le and
that is to p lace the CG
ahe ad of t h e Ne u tr a l
Poi nt. Having done that
there a re tw o wa ys to
ma k e a ta illes s ae rop lane fly in trim .
Th e Ne utral Poi nt of
a n ae ro p la n e is th e
p o int th rou g h w hic h
th e resu ltant extra lift
caused by a small pitch
c h a nge w ill ac t. For a
flying wing this po int is
the w ing 's aerodynamic
ce n t re, b y d efini tion ,
whic h is at ab o ut 25% of


Basic Aeronaut ics/or Modellers

its mean chord which

can be found using the
gra phical method in
Chapter 7.
T he CG shou ld be
pl aced by tre at in g th e
aero p la ne as a can ard
without a fore p la ne
using th e canard formul a abo ve an d treat in g
fus elage area ahead of
the lead ing edge if any ,
as foreplane a rea . If
there is no fuselage then
Vha , is zero and the CG
is at 15% mea n chord.

Figure 16.4


To Fly in Trim

On e so lu tio n is to
use a special aerofoil section called a "reflex sec tion" as
depicted in Figure 16.4. As yo u see it is turne d up at the
trailing edge which gives it a nose u p zero lift pitchi ng
mo me nt Mo (o r if yo u like the Centre of Pressure moves
aft as ang le of attack is increased). A normal th in slightly
cambered sectio n w ith th e control surface re flexed
up w ards works as we ll. The further fo rward the CG is
placed the more reflex is needed to co mpensa te, and the
slower the flying speed the mor e reflex need ed to stay
in trim. Th e second method is to sw ee p the w ings back
and bu ild in a hea p of wash out at th e tips as in Figure
16.5. Conve ntional sections with CMO acting nos e down
can be used.
In my d iag ra m th e inboard p arts of the wi ng a re
lifting up wards and th e p art s nea r th e tips are lifting
downwards an d th e w ho le thing ad justed so that th e
total lift is zero. Th e nose up mo ment from the lift forces
mo re than balances the nose down moment from th e
wi ng sections, a nd so the overa ll Ze ro Lift Pitchin g
Moment is Mo as shown, acti ng nose up. The wing tips
act just like a tailpl an e .
The more ca m bered th e sectio ns u sed , and the
fur ther fo rward the CG, the more washo ut is needed.
Both solution s can be used together of co urse to end up
w ith a swept flying wing with a little wa sh out and a little
reflex on the sec tions.

Control is exercised by move ment of co ntrol surfaces
at the trailing edg e. The co ntro l surfaces are a bit sh o rt
of leverage in pitch co ntrol, but on the other hand, th e

flying wi ng has very little pitch damping (especially if

unsw ep t) so not mu ch co ntrol is necessary. It does mean
that suc h models can be a little se nsitive in p itch , a nd
ca n be a little short of dynamic stab ility.
Because th e fin will be so close beh ind th e CG, it
must b e ve ry la rge to ac hieve e noug h d irectio na l
sta bility. Even then, Yaw Damp ing will be q uite sma ll.

Bipl anes, Tripl an es, Qu adruplanes etc. mean drag .
Although structurally efficient, all those rigging wires
and struts give ex tra profil e drag. All those wingtips give
ex tra induced drag. Yo u ge t all the extr a drag from the
bits interfer ing wi th each oth er. They even ten d to have
big bul ky draggy fuselages, bu t they do have chara cter
and th ou gh Boei ng haven't built o ne for man y a yea r,
they are a firm favouri te with mod ellers.

Becau se of the high d rag , the Lift/D rag ratio is poor,
leading to a fairly stee p glide angle, which in itself is no
great problem wh en the engine is running . It just means
that approach es are best car ried o ut w ith a little power
on, and yo u have to be wary of deadstick landings. It
also ex p lai ns the re lative scarcity of b ipl an e th ermal
soare rs. Becau se of the low flying speed (us ua lly), larg e
fuse lage , and high d rag, most multiwin gs are bes t suited
to larg e diameter fine pitched prop ellers.
The compactness (re lative to the area) o f multiwinged
aeroplanes gives them less pitch and ro ll dam ping. Th at

Figure 16.5













Basic Aeronautics for Modellers


a n d th e lightn e s s o f th e w ings ma ke s t h e m q uit e

man oeu vrab le if the y have an a ilero n on each wing.

CG Position
The fo rmula tor CG p o sit i o n in Chapte r 8 does not
ap ply to biplan es becau se o ne w ing has bee n ass ume d
in its deri vat ion . But if so me fiddl e fa ctors ar e used
perh ap s it can be mad e to give acce p table result s. O ne
pro blem is th at the tailpl an e is o pe rating in a ir w hich
has bee n slowe d down by its flow aro und the fuselage
a nd riggin g , a n d th e o the r is t ha t eac h w ing tip is
cre a ti ng vo rt ices w hic h c rea te d o wn w a sh o n th e
tailplane therefore so me account must be taken of the
numbe r o f w ings .
I th e re fore ma k e the fo llo w in g s ugges tio n . Fo r
biplanes wit h two identical w ings, let the mean cho rd be
the actual w ing cho rd and place it mid way be twe en the
tw o wings (and rem ember to allow for swee pbac k).
As befo re calculate the total gross w ing area a nd net
ta il are a. Mea sure the tail a nn betw een the q uarter cho rd
po ints o f the w ing mean cho rd and the tail , and wo rk
o ut th e tail vo lume ratio . Now use o nly HALF the ta il
vo lume ratio an d HALF the Asp ect Ratio of each w ing in
the usua l fo rmula

CG posn

0.1 + 0.25 x VI"" x 4j AI{

For tripl an es the ave rage cho rd w ill be the midd le o ne

and the factor ed Asp ect Ratio a nd tail vo lume ratios will
eac h be a thi rd of the ac tua l o nes. The no mog ram in
Figure 16.6 is the sa me as Figure 8.10 but ex te nde d to
sma ller values of Vhar to cope w ith this fac toring .
Nose le ng ths mor e than o ne cho rd a hea d of the mean
cho rd le ad ing e dge , or pa rticul arl y w ide co w lings , o r
eng ine nacelles on multien g ined aeroplan es will all have
a d es tab ilis in g e ffec t a nd th e CG s ho u ld b e mo ve d
forward a few pe rce nt to compe nsa te .
For furth er details, including ho w to handle un equ a l
wings a nd a wo rke d exa mple, see Chapter 22.

N u m ero u s toingtips, plenty induced drag, steep glide (pretty though isn't it).


Basic Aerona nticsfar Modellers

Note: 'factored' means actual ualue divided

by number of ioings







------- -----



_-..:.-- - - - - - - - - - 16




factored toing


aspect radio



CG posttion
as a % of toing


Leading Edge

mean chordfrom


Figure 16.6
factored tail

oolume ratio

Basic Aeron a lilies f or Modellers


Chapter 17

Reynolds Number

y ass u mpt io n th a t th e lift dr ag a nd momen t

coefficien ts are ind ep endent of airspeed is not
exactly tru e (ve ry littl e in life seems to be

exactly true). Th e cri terion w hich de termines wh ether

the results of o ne test can be used in ano ther applicatio n
is that they mu st be at the sa me Reynold s Number.

Figure 1 7.1

25 0
3 0 00

2 00



20 00









8 00



















em s.
Willg cb o r d




Re te


fP s/mp b
Airsp ee d

Basie Aero na lilies f or Mode llers

Os borne Re y n ol d s
Figure 17.2
(1842 to 191 2) was a
Brit is h scie n tis t w ho
discovered t h a t fo r
geome t rica lly si m ila r
te st s th e flow p att ern
w ill be id ent ical if a
pa rtic u la r co mb ina tio n
of the d imen sion s of the
tes t piece and the speed
of th e flo w , an d th e
viscosi ty and density of
th e fl ui d is kept co nstant.
For aerodyna mic purposes th e m ag ic combi na tio n ca lle d th e
Reyn old s Num ber (usually ab breviated to Re ) is give n by

p c V

Re = - - Jl

whe re p is the air's den sity

c is the wi ng chord
V is the a irspeed
and Jl is the air's viscosity


Th e go ing has to ge t reall y tou gh be fore it succumbs to

the ev ils of se paration . Lam inar on the o the r hand will
give yo u a n e asy time w ith little d rag but , me et a little
adve rsity o r obsta cles, and it will skip off an d leave yo u
an d yo u know wh at suc h se pa ration me an s - less lift
and ve ry high d rag, the stall.

Situation Normal

Tha t eq uatio n ca n be simplifie d to Re = 536.v .c w ith

speed in It/ sec and chord in inc hes or Re = 70.V.c. wi th
speed in m/ sec and cho rd in mm .
The answer has no unit s. It is "d irn e nsio nless". It is
just a number wh ose only purpose is to co mpare it with
o ther Reyno lds Numbers.
An a nswer to the nearest few th ou sand is acc ura te
e no ug h. The simplest way of wo rking o ut a Re is to use
my no mog ram in Figure 17.1.
The influen ce of Reyn olds Number o n aerody na mic
properties is irregular. A very simple illustration of th is is
the var iation w ith Re of the d rag of a smo oth sphere. As
sho wn o n Figure 17.2 the drag coefficient of a sp here is
relatively large at ve ry low Re . As Re is inc reased the
d rag coefficient grad ua lly reduces and then ove r quite a
ra nge of Re re mai ns co nsta n t. Sudde n ly, at o ne
pa rticular value of Re , the drag coefficient d rops to less
tha n half its previou s steady value. Fur the r inc reasi ng
the Re produ ces no mor e cha nge in dr ag coefficie nt.
Rou gh en ing the surface of the sp he re reduces the Re of
the sudde n drag reductio n . The step moves left.

In The Boundary Layer

Th e scene of the ac tio n in th is part of the story is the
laye r of air right next to
t he aero foi l s urface .
Figure 17.]
Whe n air mo ves over a
s u rface th e b ou nd a ry
layer may be o ne of two
ki n ds, lam in ar o r tu rb ul ent. The turbul e nt
b ound a ry la yer g ives
mo re d rag but is a mo re
d e p en d abl e so r t of
bo undary la ye r w hic h
w ill s tic k b y yo u
thr ou gh th ick and thin .

The nor mal situa tio n is for the boundary layer to start
o ff lam in ar and the n some di st an ce b a ck fro m th e
le ading edge it be com es a turbulent bo undary layer and
rem a ins so to the traili ng edge . Th e point at which it
c ha nges fro m lam in a r to tu rbul ent is ca lle d th e
"Transition Po int ". Figure 17.3 shows a normal tran sition
from a lam in a r to a turbul e nt bou nda ry la yer . T he
turbul ent bound ar y layer is thi ck er th an th e Iarnina r
bo undary layer w hich it replaces .

Laminar Separation
Wh en the air flows over the aerofoil, its pr essu re on
th e u pper su rface re d uces to a m inimu m , and th e n
incre ases aga in to no rmal a t the tra iling edge . Figure
17.4 shows that as the larn ina r bo unda ry layer flows into
this area of increasi ng pr essure its alrea dy slow progress
is broug ht to a halt by the steadily incre asing pr essure
w hic h it is me eting. Air co n tin ues to flow in to th is
region from th e lead ing edge and so of co urse a "lump"
of stationary air builds up , the strea mlines of the main
airflo w are forced to se para te from the w ing surface . and
th e wi ng has sta lle d . As I sa id in Cha p te r 3 th e sta ll
usu ally starts near the trailin g edge but as an gle of attac k
is increased the se pa ration point mo ves rapi dly forward .
Th e drag increase due to se paration is very grea t.

Transition Point

-. ...........--.


Transition P--;;;llt

Basic Aero na utics fo r Modellers


Figure 17.4
Flow Getting

Streamlines Separate from Surface

11 \\







~ 11 \\



~ /I -'/' 11 1\
1' -;:::-

If -;:::- \\ ~ II
II -;:::- \\

Area of

fl ""

~ ""~ ~ 1'
-, If

\\ II .;

"" 111\

bubbl e ma y fo rm o n th e unde rs ide a t low a ng les o f

attac k.

Separation Bubble
At mod el Re it ofte n happen s th at shortly after the
laminar boundary la ye r sepa ra tes fro m th e aero fo il
surface, it tran siti on s into a turbulent bounda ry layer.
The con sequent thickening allows it to re-attach itself to
th e s u rface le a vin g a small p o ck et of s tag n a n t a ir
tr app ed against th e ae ro foi l ca lle d a "Se p a ra tio n
Bubble ". Figure 17.5 sho ws an aerofoil w ith a se pa ratio n
bubble . Within the se para tio n bubble a ge ntle rotational
flow develops as shown, du e to the pressur e distribution
and the visco us forces. As ang le of atta ck is increa sed ,
th e minimum pr essure point will move towards th e
leading edge and the se paration bubble will go w ith it.
T he p o int w ill co me when ei the r trans ition will not
occur , o r o ccurs to o lat e for th e tu rbulent bounda ry
layer to re-att ach itself. Th e flow se parates co mpletely,
the win g stalls, and the se pa ration bubble is said to have
burst. The flow will then look like that in Figure 17.4.

The Underside
On the lower surface of the wing the boundary layer
starts off, as always, lamin ar. At high Re it will tran sition
at so me stag e into a tur bul ent boundary layer with the
atte ndant high er drag, but at low Re there is no good
re ason why it sho uld be com e turbulent and wh en the
pr es sur e is reducing over the rear porti on of the section,
ther e is no reas on fo r it to se parate e ither. It is ho we ver
possibl e that o n underc ambe red sectio ns a se pa ratio n

The Influence of Reynolds Number on

Aerodynamic Data
The e ffec t o f redu cin g th e Re o n th e aerodyn am ic
prop erti es of w ings is usu ally to mak e them worse . From
a ve ry high Re of 10 million down to a Re of 0.5 million
nearly all sectio ns work pr ett y well. As Re is red uced
w ithin thi s ran ge , as a ge ne ra l rul e , profil e d rag
incre ases slowly but ste ad ily , a nd th e sectio n 's CLm " ,
red uces gradually.
At very low Re , say 10 or 20 thou sand , most sections
will hardl y w o rk a t a ll, givi ng a di sappoint ingl y lo w
Cl m " , a nd very high d rag sugges ting laminar se paration
o n the top surface.

The Problem Area

Some w he re between thes e two ex tremes eac h section
seems to have what yo u might ca ll a "Critica l Re Band "
a bove which it o pe ra tes quit e normall y and be lo w
whi ch it is virtuall y useless.
W ithin th e c ri t ica l Re b and th e aero dy na m ic
prop erti e s o f th e sec tio n c a n var y drasti c all y a nd
sudde nly as illustrate in Figure 17.6 whi ch is fo r a typ ical
mod ern section . Not all sectio ns show the same patte rn
of variation.
At a Re of 200,000 the lift curve and the dr ag polar

Figure 17.5
Laminar B.L.

Separatton Poln1 /


Basic Aero na uticsfor Modellers

Figure 17.6

-- . ---....


1 00,000 -

/ :'

;(.::. 100,000

-.... ...........





i 80,000,.....



-:..---- --


z :


A. --- <,B



/~_ . ~




..... r ::

.... -.:

, ,


\ I



are bo th qui te normal. At this Re an d above almos t "full

size" performan ce sho uld be achievab le.
At 100,000 the d rag ha s more than doubled over most
of the ran ge and the lift has reduced at eve ry a ngle of
attack . Th e zero lift a ng le of attac k has reduced by a
degree or so , but the curves are both a normal shap e
(apa rt fro m that odd bit around the sta lling a ng les of
a ttack). Th e pe rfo rmance ava ilable in terms o f g lide
an gle and d u ra tio n will be reduced , but at le ast th e
handling will be fairly norm al.
At 85,000 the curves are fairly normal for low ang les
of attack. At interm ed iate an gles o f attack lift produ ction
falt ers associa te d w ith a sha rp rise in d rag indicating
trou ble in the bounda ry layer , and prob abl y produci ng

handling peculia rities , but at high er angles of attac k the

d rag red uces to acce ptable lev els and the lift ge ts back
o n the job suggesting a turbulent boundary laye r ge tting
thin gs stuck back down over the top surface again.
However at 80,0 00 there is no suc h d ramatic rescu e .
Lift produ ction star ts off ba d and ge ts stea d ily wor se .
Dr a g is e normo us and th e Lift/Drag ra tio has be en
assassina ted . A revolution has tak en place and it too k
o nly a tiny change in Re to effec t it. Performan ce is ve ry
poor ind eed and as for handling , who ca res anyw ay?
At a Re of 60 ,000 th e det erioration is even worse .
Thi s is bel o w the critical band whi ch I menti on ed and
th e sec tio n is us el e ss for g liders. Flight w o u ld b e
possibl e with e no ugh e ng ine pow e r.
Figure 17.8

Figure 17. 7


,- - -,


Higb lVeight

Basic Aerona utics/o r Modellers


The Hysteris Loop

Figure 17.7 shows the lift curve fo r a Re of 100,000
repeat ed from Figure 17.6. No tice th e "ex tra" po rtio n
und erne ath . As a ng le o f a ttack is in c re a se d th e lift
coefficien t fo llows th e top cu rve all the way u p past
point A and o n to B. If, at any poi nt be fore B is reach e d ,
a is red uce d agai n, then CL follows the sa me line back
d o wn . Ho we ver if a is increased past B then th e CL
d rops abr up tly, do wn to the lower line at C. At the sa me
time the d rag increases enormo us ly, so muc h that it goes
rig ht o ff the gra p h. So mewhere in th e bound ary layer
th e flow has se para ted dr astically. If a is now decreased
the flow stays se pa ra ted and Cl. foll ows the lowe r line to
D. Th e n so me how the flow re- att ach es itse lf, Cl. zooms
back up to point A o n the origina l line , the associa ted
dr a g retu rn s to a m o re reasona b le a mo un t, an d
everything is back to no rmal. Thi s "o ne way sys te m" o n
a grap h is ca lle d a "Hyste resis Loop" an d o ften occurs in
the critica l Re ba nd . It is likely to have stra nge effec ts o n
the handling o f the mod el aro u nd the sta ll.
O n a ro ug h, d irty o r inaccurate ae rofo il the lo op will
disappear and revert to the lowe r line , or even the line
fo r Re o f 80,0 00.

Effect on Model Design and

Th e Re ban d within whic h a sec tion's performan ce will
be se rious ly affected depends up on its thickn ess, and its
ca mbe r. Ge ne rally, the more the thickn ess o r the mor e
the ca mber, the h ighe r the Re at wh ich the sec tion sho uld
be ope rated . For example, the \X1or tmann section FX60126
(ca mbe r 3.9%, thickness 12.6%) has a similar dr ag polar at
a Re o f 60 ,00 0 as d o e s th e FX63 - 137 (ca m ber 6% ,
thickn ess 13.7%) at 100,000.

Wing Tips
Th e wi ng tip o n a tap ered wi ng is flying at the sma llest
Re. Th e bes t taper rat io ma y be mor e than the theor et ical
optimum of abou t 0.45 becau se reducing the tip Re co uld
increase profile drag more than the redu ction in induced
dra g ac hieved b y a p p roxi ma ti ng an e llip tica l wi ng
loadi ng.
In add ition , the tip sec tion will ge t into its critical Re
ba nd first as the aerop lane is slowed down, and Re is
redu ced . Ind eed , because the lift loss an d dr ag rise can
occur qu ite sud de n ly over a small cha nge in Re , it may be
that it w ill hap pen on one side before the other showing
all the signs of a tips tall. We cou ld cha nge the tip sec tion
to o ne wi th less ca mber and thickn ess to raise the critical
Re o f the tips. However that goes agai nst the adv ice in
Chap ter 7 (F ig 7 .10) to increase tip ca mber to avo id
tipstall. It depends a great deal on Re , h ut read o n a few
paragraph s.

Class Rules
Competition rul es can radi call y influe nce d esign . A
large aspect ratio is usu ally good for performa nce , b ut if
fo r exa mple the rules limit the wings pa n, the n a h igh AR
wi ng wo uld have a very sma ll chord an d a sma ll w ing
area and therefore a high wi ng loadin g. Th e problem with
a tiny chord is a very low Re , at w hic h most sec tions w ill
n ot perfor m a t a ll. T he o u tco me is th at g lide rs
compromise o n a lowe r AR giving a large w ing area, and


hen ce light load ing , cou pled with a reasonable ope rating

Optimum Weight
In Cha p te r 13 I sai d that ball asting a glide r wou ld
a lways give th e sa me best glide ang le, a nd a h ig her
mi n imu m s ink rate , a nd I illu str ate d it in Figure 13.9,
w hic h is rep rodu ced as Figure 17.8. Howeve r now I have
ass umed th at th e aerofoi l w ill not work bel ow a Re
corres pondi ng to speed "V". Co nseq ue ntly the p oints
w he re the theor etical best glide ang le and the minimu m
sink a re not ava ila ble . No w th e best glide an gl e a nd
minimum sink occur at the high er weight. I am no t sayi ng
that ballastin g is likely to improve a glide r's pe rforma nce ,
just tha t it is possible in certain circ ums tances.

Turbulator Strips
Turb ulato r strips are very sma ll steps o r irregul arities
on the surface of the wing , usu ally between 5% and 25%
of the chord back from the leading edge on the up pe r
surface. The ir purpose is to make the lami nar boundary
laye r become tu rb ule n t be fore th e no rm al se pa ra tio n
poi nt, in the hope that it w ill th en not separa te at all.
Thei r use is no rma lly restr icted to g lide rs or free fligh t
dura tion mod els, and es pecially o n o uter panels.
Th e effec tive ness of the te chnique is illu strate d in
Figure 17.9. The effect o f o ne strip of adhesive tap e 2 mm
w ide and 0.5 mm thi ck at 20% chord is shown by the
lin e s wit h cross-ba rs . At a Re o f 60,000 the sectio n 's
performance has been tran sformed . It has a res pectable
Lift/D rag rat io agai n , rat her th an a n ab ru p t sta ll, but
normal han dlin g othe rw ise . Befor e yo u rush off to stick
tape all over your wings, rem ember that this is jus t a br ief
mention o f a sub ject w hic h co uld take up a book in itse lf.
The tur bul ator sho uld not be regarde d as a pan acea to be
used indiscrimina tely o n all w ings in all circu ms tances. It
can have an amazing effect o n so me sec tions at ce rtain Re
but tur bulators ca n have an adverse effect.
Notice that at a Re of 200,000 the tur bulator strip has a
det rimental effect, causing an earlier stall and mor e drag .
Also ther e is a lower limit to the Re at w hic h they wi ll
wor k.

Surface Finish
It is noti ced in practice that a w ing with a ro ugh or
un even surface finish so me times has a bett er pe rformance
tha n a perfectly smooth wing .
The rou gh texture , o r irregul arities in the surface, will
turbulate the boundary layer just like a turbul ator strip .
However it is indiscrim ina te in its ac tion . Altho ug h
bu ildi ng in tur bu lence co uld so me times help, yo u may
find that so me of it, or even all o f it, is having an adve rse
effect. I suggest that it would be better to buil d the wing
with as acc ura te an aerofoil, an d as smooth a surface , as
possib le. Th e n yo u can ex pe r ime n t wi th s tick o n
turbulator strips w hic h ca n be moved or rem oved at w ill.

Using P ublished Data

Th ere is little point in loo king at aerodynamic da ta on
w ing sectio ns unl e ss it is for th e co rrect Re , and yo u
ca nno t interp olate grap hs . If yo u wa nt data for a Re of
150,000 bu t have gra p hs o n ly fo r 100,000 and 200,000 ,

Ba sic AeronauticsforMode llers

Fig ure 1 7.9






R e 2 0 0, 000 Clean

I H+ I

R e 2 00, 000 Turbulated

Re 60, 000 Clean
Re 60, 000 Turbulated

yo u cannot just draw a line halfwa y between the two.

The graph for 150,000 cou ld be anyw he re between th e
ot he r two.

Theoretical Data
In the world of full size aircraft, pe rformance can be
p redicted with amazing accuracy by computers, though
the test p ilot a lways has th e fina l say. Drag po lars for
mo de l aerofo il se ctions at specific Re can also be worked
ou t by computers . How accura te the res ults are is open to
deba te . Th ere is often a good correlati on w ith wind
tunnel tests at Re above the critica l band but wit hin it th e
comp uters seem to get a bit op timistic.

Further Reading
"Model Aircraft Aerodyn amics" by Martin Simons gives
a m u ch more detailed a c cou nt of th e prob lems of
aero fo ils at low Re .
"Pro filp o laren fur den Modellflug " by Die te r Altha us
and "Airfo ils at Low Speeds" by Selig Donovan & Fraser
contain resu lts of ma ny tests of useful section at relevant
Re .

Basic Aerona utics/or Modellers


Chapter 18


o far I have been working on the assumption that

the struc tur e of the aeroplane is co mple te ly rigid
and will not d eform at all un d er the ae ro dy na mic
load s. Th is as su mp tion is pr etty un iver sal in that nearly
all the books and articl es o n ae rody na mics w h ich you
are l ik el y to co me ac ross w ork u n de r thi s sa me
a ssumpt ion , even th ough th e y d on 't a lw ays say so .
However it has to be ad mitte d that no structure is to tally
rigid so sh ould we th rowaway ae rodynamic theory as
we know it? Have yo u co m p le te ly w ast ed yo ur time
re ad ing abou t aero dy na mics u p to thi s stage? I don 't
thin k so.
Most of the time this assumpt ion is perfectly jus tified
and ca uses no me asu ra ble error. As long as yo u are
aware o f it, yo u ca n ign ore the flexibility o f the struc ture
until it causes p roblems . The re are ce rtai n a reas in
which struc tura l flexibility is kn own to ca use undesirabl e
effec ts and I int end to me ntion them briefly.

1. The Effect on Stability

Wh en I ex p lai ned Long itudin a l Sta tic Sta b ili ty , I
d escrib ed a n ae ropl a ne meeting a d istur ba nce w hic h
increases the ang le of atta ck, a nd so also the lift, of its
wing an d its tail. The lift in creases both ac t at ab ou t the
q uart er c ho rd p oints of th eir resp e ct ive s u rfaces ,
w ha tever th e sect io n . The res u ltan t o f th e tw o lift
incre ases ac ts thro ug h a po int ca lled th e NEUTRAL
PO INT a nd its mome nt a b out th e CG p ro v id e s th e
sta bilising mo me nt on the aeroplane. Th e distance of the
CG ah ead o f the NP is a measure o f the stab ility of the
Now imagine w ha t th e effect wou ld be if th e ta il
we re mo u nted at the end of a lo ng flex ible tail boom.
Th e lift increase on the tail would bend th e tailb o om u p
(as in Figure 18 .1). The tail 's angle of att ack is reduced
so th e lift inc rease w ill no t now be quite as b ig as if the
tail had been rigid . Co nseq ue nt ly th e resu ltant fo rce

thr ou g h the NP w hic h stabilises th e aerop lane w ill be

further forward , i.e . nearer the CG, than was calc ulated
using rigid theory . The ae roplane has a little less stab ility
than was calc ulated.

The Torsional Axis of the Wing

Wing flexibility can also have an effect. As I am sure
you ca n imagine, an upward force o n the lead ing edge
of a w ing will be nd it upwards AND tw ist it trailin g edge
down . Similarly an u pward force at the trailin g e dge w ill
twi st it lead ing edge down . So mewhere be twee n th e
le adi ng an d tra iling edges there is a line ru nning from
root to tip ca lled the "tor sio nal axis" (o r flexura l axis or
e las tic axis) throu gh w h ich a force w ill jus t ca use
bending, wi th no tor sion . It is the line about w h ich the
structure tw ists . Th e po sitio n of this line will depend
u p on th e wing 's s tr uc tu re, b ut w ill b e somewhe re
between say 15% and 50% of th e chord fro m th e leadi ng

How Tw is t Affects Stability

The lift increases du e to a d isturbance w ill ac t at the
qu a rt e r chord p o int a n d if the tors io na l axis of the
struc ture is we ll aft, it w ill tend to twis t the w ing lead ing
edge u p (see Figure 18.2). The w ing 's lift inc rease w ill
therefore be a little larger than forecast and the NP w ill
be fur ther forw ard than calculated for a rig id wing. The
w ing's flexibili ty in torsion has tak en away so me o f the
aeroplane 's sta bility. Th e proble m is at its worst if the
tor sional axis of the wi ng 's structure is well aft and the
wi ng is ve ry flexibl e in torsio n. The wi ng sectio n d oesn 't
matt er.
The wors t cas e is p ro ba b ly a comple te ly ope n
struc ture wi th just le ad ing and trailing e dges, main spars
at 30%, and aft spa rs at 70%, covered in p las tic film. A
symmetrical sectio n is jus t as affec ted as any o ther.

Figure 18.1


(fIe.~) ( l"ig ld)

- -- -- -- --

- line NP



Basic Aeronautics/or Modellers

The Solution
The CG for mulae in
Cha p te r 8 ass u me a
fairly rigid structure. The
forward shifts of the NP
mention ed above (not
usu all y s ig n ifica n t ex cept in the case of h igh
aspect ratio w ings) ca n
be co mpe nsa ted fo r o n
fle xi bl e mo d el s b y
starting off with the CG
slightly furth er forward
th an yo u h a ve ca lc u la te d. How mu ch
d e p end s up on yo u r
assessment of the flexibil it y o f yo ur mod el 's
win gs and tail (say 2 to
5 per-cent ").

Figure 18.2

2. Aileron


XL If'

Increased by twist



- -- - -- ------

Figure 18.3


XL (Aileron)
Wh en a n a ilero n is
d efl e ct ed d o wn , the
ex tra lift ac ts we ll back
o n the wing. It is likely
To r si o nal
to act aft of the torsion al
axis of the struc ture in
--which case it will tw ist
the wing le ading edge
down reducing its ang le
of a ttac k and hen ce its
lift (see Fig ure 18 .3) .
The redu ctio n in the lift
XL (Twist)
mi ght turn out to b e
mor e th an th e incre ase
in lift from the a ilero n deflection so the w ing as a whole
spectac ular whe n it happen s. Figure 18.4 represe nts an
may lose lift causi ng a rolling mom en t in the o p posite
aeroplane in normal flight. Th e torsion al axis of its w ing
is qu ite fa r a ft, say 40% o r 45% o f the cho rd . So me
dire ct ion to th at intend ed . For si m ilar re as ons th e
d isturbance ca uses the wing to twist very slightly lead ing
upgoing a ile ro n ma y ca use a n incr ease in lift o n its
w ing . The ailero ns seems to have o pe rated in reverse,
edge u p whi ch will incre ase the win g lift at the q ua rte r
hen ce th e ex p ressio n "Aile ro n Rever sal ". The furth er
cho rd po int. Th e wing 's torsional stiffness w ill try to
tw ist it ba ck to its o rigina l position , an d no rmally does,
forwa rd the torsional ax is, an d the weaker the struc ture
is in to rsi on , th e m ore prone it will b e to a ilero n
but the ex tra lift, XL, is trying to tw ist it eve n furth er
reve rsa l. Th e wing section used mak es no differ en ce at
leading edge up .
The restorin g moment from th e wi ng 's stiffness is
co nstant, reg ardl ess of speed , but the ex tra lift increases
Becau se the twistin g mom ent o n the w ing rises as the
sq uare of th e a irspeed , but th e stiffness do esn 't , th e
as the sq ua re of the airsp eed . If the aeroplan e is flown
a ilero n reversal will ge t wo rse as speed rises. In fact at
fast enoug h th is latte r mom ent will w in. It will mak e the
o ne p art icu lar s peed th e a ile ro ns will have no e ffec t
wing twist leading edge up inc reas ing its ang le of attac k
eve n furth er , wh ich inc reases the ex tra lift even more ,
whateve r. As speed rises to wards this critica l speed the
ailerons gradually lose the ir effectiveness , whil e ab ov e it
whi ch in c rea ses th e twi st even more a nd th e w ing
they will ac t in the opposite se nse to that inten ded . This
rap id ly twi sts le ad ing e dge up until it e ithe r sta lls or
critical speed is called the "AILERO N REVERSAL SPEED".
br eak s in bend ing o r twists right o ff. Th e initial slight
Ailero n Reve rsa l is a speed dependent pr obl em . All
d isturban ce rapidly be com es worse and w orse whic h I
sa id in the cha p ter on Stability is called DIVERGENCE.
aero planes w ith ailerons wi ll have an aileron reversa l
speed , the trick is to mak e it faster then the ae rop lane
Wing divergence usu ally o nly happen s in a stee p d ive
ca n fly. Th is ca n be d on e by incre asing the to rsion al
and ca n a ffec t w ings w ith ca mbered, sy mme trica l, or
stiffness of the win g and/or by having the tor siona l ax is
reflexed sectio ns. It is a speed dep endent probl em , i.e.
not too far forward .
there is a critica l sp eed called the WING DIVERGENCE
SPEED above whi ch it will happen . The struc ture most
at risk is a high as pect ratio open structu red wing w ith
3. Wing Divergence
just a main spar, aft spa r, and lead ing and trailing edges,
cove red in pla stic film.
Win g di vergen ce is a n un common p ro bl em , but

-- -

- ----

Basic Aerona utics/or Modellers


Wing di vergen ce ca n be avo ide d by mak ing the wing

stiff in torsion , mo ving the to rsio nal ax is forward nearer
the aerodyna mic ce ntre o r sweep ing back the wings . If
the w ings are swe pt back the lift increase near the tips
ten ds to twi st them leadi ng edge down whic h helps to
avoid the problem .

div e, co ming in for a hig h speed pass wh e n yo u hea r it.

BRRRRRRRRRR BANG! a nd o ff co mes a p ie c e , an
ailero n, an elevator, the tailp lane , o r the rudder. I have
even heard of a case where the vibration was so severe
that the w ho le wing dis integra ted in a shower o f w hite
foa m beads . Not a p retty sight!
Fl u tter is a viole n t osci llation of p a r t o f t h e
aeropla ne 's str ucture, often, but not a lways, lead ing to
4. Flutter
failure of pa rt o f that str uc ture . There a re many b its
Your mod el is really goi ng we ll, full pow er, a bit of a
whi ch can start to flutter and I sha ll br iefly me ntio n the
common o nes . \X'hate ver
it is that is flutt erin g, it is
Figure 18.4
a s peed d ep enden t
problem . That is there is
a c ritica l s pee d (c u nXL From twist due to
n in gl y
ca lle d
th e
which that bit w ill start
to flu tte r. If yo u do
XL From twist due to
hap pe n to ge t nutter at
an y time, cut the throttle
XL From initial twist
an d climb im med iat el y
....... ............. ............
Original L
(if not sooner) .
Le t m e s ta r t wit h
a ile ro n fl utt er w h ic h
w rot e o ff o ne o f m y
- - - <,
m o d e ls so me ye a rs
ba ck , and caused me to
lo ok u p th e th e o r y .
Th e re are tw o mod es of
ailero n flutt er, be nd ing
......7"..: -:-.. ::::.:..: ::
"'0:::-:.-- .......
and torsion .
..... .........
--Th e y have the same
' ..
........ : ..
re su lt a nd th e same
remedy an d m a y eve n
occ u r to g eth e r but I
s ha ll de scr ibe th e w a y
they happen separate ly,
Figure 18.5
starting with bending.
So me thi ng, ma ybe a
g us t, s ta rts bot h w ings
be nd ing up . See Figur e
18.5. The bending stiffc
ness of the wings stops
their u pwa rd mo tio n at
p o s iti on A b u t th e
a ile ron s, bein g attache d
b y s lig h tly fle xi b le
li n k a g e s , d on 't s to p .
The ir CG is behind the
hinge lin e a nd so the ir
in erti a ca rr ies th e m a
litt le furth er u p to
positio n B. In th is
pos itio n t he ai lero ns
ca use a loss of lift w hic h
let s th e wi ng 's stiffness
bri ng the m down , past
thei r o rigina l position, to
po si tion C w he re th e ir
in ert ia m a k e s th em
d roop a little to position
D. In thi s position they
inc rease th e lift of th e
w ing a n d it s ta rts
co ming up aga in. When





-- - --




Basic Aeronautics/o r Modellers

Mass balance bonis visible under the uiings oftbis typical trainer style model 011 floats.
the win g a t last s to ps go ing u p aga in, th e a ilero ns
overshoot to positi o n B agai n a nd th e who le p rocess
repea ts itself.

The to rsion al mod e of flutter sta rts whe n an a ilero n's

position is d isturbed . In Figure 18.6 the ailero n has been
d isturbed do wn ward slightly in position A. In Cha pter 10

Figure 18.6


TOI'sIOlUlI Axis

Drooping aileron makes

toing twist about its
tors1011a I a xis.



Tbe aileron's
inertia carries it
further lip.

Aileron's in ertia carries it


d~owll tobicb will make
it twist 1I0se doum again . . .


Basic Aeronauticsfor Modellers


Figure 18,7

Mass ba la nce --...-::

insid e Aero
dyna mic


Set back
binge line


Set back binge

solder o r
p iano uiire



elm be u se d



ailel'OIl L



I sai d th at a d o wn g o in g a ilero n in crea s e s li ft and

increases Mo th e no se down mo ment. This nose down
moment twi st s th e w ing tr ailin g e dge up a b out its
tor sional axis.
\\! hen th e wing 's tor sional stiffness sto ps th e twi sting,
p o siti o n B , th e a ilero n ov e rsh oot s t o a n up w ard
d efl e ct ion , p o siti o n C, b e cau se its CG is b eh in d th e
hinge lin e . In th is p ositi on the moment o n th e w ing is
reduced , it untwists , a nd w he n it sto ps in positio n D , th e
a ile ro n 's inertia again ca rries it th rou gh to p osition E. We
are back where w e started a nd th e whole cy cle be gins

Damaging aile ro n flutt er is not inevitab le though , the

disturbance u sually d yin g out du e to damping. Ho wever,
as I hav e alr ead y sa id, th e angular deflections depend
on st iffn es s (whic h is the sa me at a ny spe ed) but th e
for ces th ey produce inc reas e with speed sq ua red . If the
ae ro p la n e is fly in g fa st enough , a bov e its AILERO N
FLU TT ER SP EED , the wh ol e pro ce s s wi ll b e se lf
p er p etuating and ve ry rapi d ly de vel op into a po tentially
da maging vibration . Th e pilot mu st immed iate ly kill the
s p ee d by closing th e throttle , increa sing the dr ag a n d
pointi ng th e ae ro p la ne up . This is th e most co mmo n
fo rm of flutter o n model aeroplan es .

Curing the Flutter

Fro m the above two descriptions yo u ca n see th at
s tiffe n ing the w ing in b ending and torsion will he lp b y
redu cin g the amount that th ey flex up a nd down or twist
and s tiffe n ing th e aile rons and their linkages will help by


reducing the amo u n t th at th ey will flap up a nd down,

but both th e se soluti ons w ill just inc rease the flutter
s peed , n o t remo ve it. All aerop la n es, h owe ve r s tif f,
howe ver pe rfe ct their co ntro l linkage s, will have a flutter
speed and th e pilot must ensure that he ne ver, ev er, flies
above th at sp eed .
There is an o ther sim p le so lution, used o n pra cticall y
all full size aircraft since a bo ut the th irties . Th is so lu tio n ,
known as MASS BALANCING , is ac hieved by moving th e
h inge line of th e aile ro n back or fixing w eights to the
a ile ro n a h ea d of it s hing e line or a co m b in a tio n o f
the two as in the exa mp les in Figure 18. 7. If the CG o f
th e aileron is ex ac tly on its hinge line, its inertia ca n no t
m ake it o vershoot th e position h eld b y it s co n tro l
link ages a nd flutt er is eliminated .
Su ch perf e ct b al an cing is u nn e c e s sary , a p artial
ba lan ce being e noug h to raise th e flutt er s peed out of
rea ch . The mass b al an ces ma y b e hi dd en in side th e
hollow w ing tip as on th e Piper Ch erokee . If th e co ntro l
surface has a n ae ro d yna mic balance (s o me a rea a head
of the hi ng e line ) to reduce th e contro l for ce s , thi s is
oft en a co nve nie n t lo cation for some ma ss balancin g as
w ell.
Beware though . If the mass is a tta che d to th e co n tro l
sur face by a flimsy pi ece of wir e , the wire will bend a nd
the m a ss will re ma in stationary a nd be co m p le te ly
ineffective as in Figure 18.8.

Wing Flutter
I b e t someone has thought of a nea t wa y to e lim inate

Basic Aeronautics/or Modellers

Figure 18.8

---~~-- . . .. . .. :- # ..

a ile ro n flutt er , lea vin g o ff th e a ile ro ns . So rry to

d isappoint yo u but yo u ca n still ge t w ing flutt e r. It is
unco mm on I th ink, but it happens w hen a wing has its
torsio nal ax is we ll ahead of its CG. If the wi ng in Figure
18.9, position A, is disturbed to give it a sma ll ang le of
attack increase, the ex tra lift will make it bend upwards.
Wh en its b e nd in g s tiffness s to ps it s up w ard
mo vement the CG , be ing behind th e torsio na l a xis ,
overshoots to positio n B ca using a reduction in ang le of
attac k es pecially towards the tip . Th e loss of lift allows
th e wi ng to dro p to position C where its inertia has
twisted it lead ing edge up aga in. The cycle repea ts e tc.,
e tc . and if th e s peed is h igh e n o ug h beco mes se lf
sustaining flutte r.
Th e mot ion is a co mbina tion of be nd ing and torsion.
This wing flutte r ca n happen to wings wi tho ut a ilero ns,
a nd it ca n also ha ppen to wings wi th aile rons , even
perfe ctly mass bal an ced ail e rons. Inde ed th e a ile ro n
mass bal ances can ma ke wi ng flutt e r w o rse as th e y
mo ve the CG of the who le wi ng aft.
Wing flutt e r ca n be cured by mo ving the torsio nal
ax is of the w ing aft and the CG o f its struc ture forward.

co ntrols, hin ge d at its q ua rter chord poi nt but with its

CG co mmo nly nearer 45 per ce nt ch ord . Cut light en ing
holes aft of the hinge an d add lead to the leading edge
to mo ve the CG fo rwa rd to the hin ge line.

With regard to flutter, there are man y report ed cures,
a few of wh ich run co ntra ry to the theory. Perh aps so me
of what is d iagn osed as flutter is re ally so mething e lse,
like a sy mpa the tic vibra tion.
By a ll mea ns try on e o f the o ld wives rem ed ies, it just
might work, bu t first ask yourself o ne qu estion , "Do I
feel lucky?".

Tail Flutter
I ex pec t yo u h a ve
guessed that if the tail is
flexible o r is mounte d
o n a fle xibl e fuse lage
then flutter of the other
co n tro l s u rface s , th e
rudder and eleva to rs, is
li ke ly at hi g h spee ds .
You are right. Altho ug h
eleva tor o r rudder flutter
is le s s c o m m o n o n
mod el s th an ail e ron
flutt e r be aw are th at it
ca n ha pp en . Secu re
fi x in g of th e fin a nd
tailpl an e to the fuse lage
is essential. Mass balan cing of the elevator and
ru d de r wi ll c ure th e
problem and is standard
pra ct ic e o n full s ize
ae ro p la nes . Th e sa me
thing ca n happen to an
All Mo ving Ta il (or
fore plane) , with flexible

Figure 18.9

Basic Aeronautics f or Modellers

XL starts to bend unng up

View from front



Force from bending stiffness

stops upward motion

Loss of lift due to twist

lets uiing descend

Force from bending stifness stops doumuiard motion


Lift increase from twist starts
wing going up again


Chapter 19

Tuck Under
o me years ago, I was test flying a high as pect ratio
pow ered mod el of my ow n design . Th e low speed
hand ling was fine so I open ed the throttle fully to
see how fast it would go . As th e aer oplan e began to
acce lerate the nose started to rise so I app lied four clicks
o f down tr im to maintain le ve l flight. As th e sp e e d
increa sed furth er it appeared that I had o ve rdo ne the
down trim a nd I had to apply four clicks of up trim. Even
that wasn 't eno ugh as the nose co ntinue d to drop. I was
back to the trim position for level flight at low speed and
here it wa s still putting its no se d own. It co uld no t be
ca use d by excessive downthrust as the initial tendency
had been nose Up. Then I realised . This was it! This wa s
the dread ed Tu ck Unde r.
I found that , starting from trimmed flight at whatever
speed, if I applied down e leva tor to start a dive , there
ca me a po int whe re the model just ke pt stee pe ning the
d ive of its own acco rd , eve n wh e n I re turn ed th e
elevator to its or igina l position. The slower the aeroplane
was !lying to begin with , the more di ve it ne e ded to
make it tuck un de r. It w ou ld even do it fro m gliding
fligh t, bu t each time it re co vere d w he n I closed th e
throttle and applied full up eleva tor. Until that is, on e day
I mad e it tuck under with the rate swi tches ina dve rte ntly
se t at low . This time the d ive was te rminal.

Fig u re 19.1
Tail Angle to Trim

The Villa i Unmasked

Th is incid ent made me think in so me depth about the
probl em . Figu re 19.1 shows the tailp lan e an gle to trim for
the full ran ge of lift coefficients, from Chapter 12. If the
aeroplan e is s peed e d up a n d th e lif t coe fficie n t is
reduced , to keep lift equal to wei ght , then basic theory
says that the aeroplan e will be trimm ed tail heavy and
d own e le va to r trim m ust b e a p p li e d to k eep the
aerop lane in trim . Failure to put on down elevator means
tha t the aeroplane will zoom nose up . Th e greater the
Stability Margin, the ste eper the graph and greater the
nose up mom ent will be . There is no way that the usua l
Sim p lifie d th eory o f ae ro dyna mics co u ld a llo w tu ck
und er to happen . Since I had just pr o ved that it does
happen th e a ns w e r has to b e th at o ne o f th e three
standa rd ass ump tio ns of simp le aerodyna mic theory has
le t us down. It ca nnot be Compressibility, it is un likely to
be Reyno lds Numbe r, so it must be Flexibility.
If dis tor tio n of th e aerop la ne 's struct ure e ffect ive ly
red uced the ang le be tween the w ing a nd tail just like
whe n yo u apply down elevator, then like down eleva tor
it would ca use a nose do wn moment , a nd if it w ere
severe eno ug h it co uld overcome the restori ng mom ent
from the stability. I ha ve co me to th e co nclusion that
the re are several ways in
w h ic h stru ctural fle xib ilit y w ould c a use a
c h a nge in tai l setting
an g le le a d in g to tu ck
und er.

1. Willg Twist

H igb Speed
Tri m

up Elev


Low Speed

As I sa id in Chapter 5,
the forces on a normally
ca mbe re d wing can b e
repre s ent ed b y a lift
fo rce th rou gh the ae ro dyn ami c ce ntre (q uarte r
c ho rd p o int ) to gethe r
w it h a m om e nt Mo
w hich acts lead ing edge
down . This mo me nt will
tend to twis t th e w in g
lead ing edge down. Th e
structure of the w ing will
therefore acquire a twist
suc h th at th e w ing tip s
w ill de ve lop "was ho u t"
relative to the roo ts. The
twi s t wil l b e w orst on
high as pect ratio wings.

Basic Aerona utics fo r Modellers

Figure 19.2


-----_T_-_- itlJist-~---

True Situation

Bquiualent t


~E::::q......iualent Ta~




Figure 19.4

Figure 19.3

As the aeroplane flies faster the twisting moment will
increase as the square of the speed. That is, when you
double the speed you get four times the twist. The effect
of Mo pushing the nose of the aeroplane down is not the
problem. That ha s been taken care of because the
restoring force from the tail also increases as the square
of the speed. The problem is that the wing twist gets
worse as the speed increases.
This speed dependent washout can be considered
equivalent to the entire wing twisting as a rigid unit
relative to the fuselage by an angle A in a leading edge
down direction. See Figure 19.2. The greater the moment
Mo and the less the wing's torsional stiffness, the greater
will be the angle of twist A. The effect on the aeroplane's
trim of the wing twisting leading edge down will be the
same as if the tailplane were rotated leading edge up by
angle A. The aeroplane has put on its own down trim,
angle A, without the pilot moving the controls.

2. Tail Bending
Figure 19.3 shows a model with a slender tail boom.
As you have seen in Chapter 12, an aeroplane trimmed
for a fairly high speed will have a download on the tail.
The download increases greatly as the trimmed speed is

Basic Aeronautics/or Modellers

increased. If the tailboom which carries this download to

the rest of the aeroplane is flexible , it will deform
downwards tilting the tailplane through angle B which
will be proportional to the tail load Lr and inversely
proportional to the bending stiffness of the tailboom. It is
just as if an angle of down trim B had been applied but
without moving the controls.

3. Flexible Controls
Most models have a tail a rra n ge d such that the
pushrod, or Bowden cable (snake), has to "push for up".
That can cause problems when it is connected to an all
moving tail with its pivot well ahead of its aerodynamic
centre (25% of its Mean Chord), as in Figure 19.4.
In high speed flight there will be a downforce on a
symmetrical tail at the 25% chord point. This force will
put the pushrod or snake into compression. Unless it is
very stiff, a pushrod in compression acts a bit like a
spring and it will bow, or buckle, under the load . (Figure
19.5) The problem is made worse by using long wire
ends with Z-bends to clear obstacles or exit the fuselage.
The greater the compressive load , the more it will buckle
and so effectively shorten. Unless it is well supported
over its full length, a Bowden cable will also bow, and so


shorten, under a compressive load. Because of the

layout, shortening the pushrod will reduce the tail setting
angle by an angle of downtrim C, shown in Figure 19.5.
The faster the aeroplane is flown, the more the
downforce on the tail will be and the more the
shortening of the pushrod . Therefore the angle C will
increase with speed.

The Elevator Trim Graph

The twisting moment on the wing and the download
on the tail increase roughly as the square of the airspeed.
Therefore the angle of downtrim due to the wing twist,
the bending of the tailboom and shortening of the
pushrod all added together, increases as speed squared.

The pilot will have to compensate by applying a small

amount of up trim at low speeds, and more and more up
trim as speed increases . At the aeroplane 's terminal
diving speed the trim change due to flexibility will be
very large indeed. The trim graph will become distorted
as shown in Figure 19.6. The theoretical trim line from
the formula is shown as a broken line. To this, an uptrim
correction will have to be added as shown to produce
the trim line of a flexible aeroplane.
The aeroplane still behaves quite normally at lift
coefficients from A to B on Figure 19.6. To avoid having
up trim on all the time it would be best to change the
tailplane setting, or the reference position of the
tailplane, as shown. This adds a third part to the tail
setting angle equation, 12.2.

Figure 19.5

-------- -----


Pushrod Bowed
Pushrod Compression

Figure 19.6
Tail angle to trim

Trim Line
<, (Rigid Theory)





Low Speed





Trim Line (Flexible)




Basic Aeronautics/or Modellers

The Critical Speed

The airs peed correspondi ng to the lift coefficie nt at
p o in t B o n Fig ure 19 .7 is th e Critica l Speed of the
aeroplane. If the aeroplane is in trim at its Critical Speed,
ANY slight speed increase beyon d this speed will lead to a
tuck und er. In Figure 19.8 I have drawn another graph of
elevato r trim position but against airspeed this time. Po int
B is aga in the Critical Speed .

Tail Area Influence

It may seem strange to you, it did at first to me , but the
Critical Spee d dep end s o n the size of the tailplan e. The
Tuck Unde r is ca used by structura l flexibility chang ing the
angle be tween the wing and the tail. For a given ang le of
flex, the bigger the are a of the tail, the mor e moment it
will have abo ut the CG and the lo wer the speed at which
it will overcome the stab ility. Tha t means the bigger the
tail, the low er the Critical Speed w ill be. The tail has no t
ca used the tuck under, in the same way that you cannot
blam e the gro und for caus ing a cras h jus t becau se it is

Stability Influence
As I said in the beginn ing, a rigid aeroplane ca nnot
tuck und er because its stability will not let it. Similarly the
stab ility of a flexible aeroplane will try to prevent it from
tucki ng unde r. The mo re the speed devia tes fro m the
trimmed speed the more the nose up pitching mo me nt
from the stab ility increases, BUT the nose down mom ent
fro m th e fle xibility inc reases m uc h more rapidl y as
illustrated on Figure 19.9. Where the two lines cross ove r
the aeroplane will aga in be in trim, but the slightes t furthe r
inc rease in speed will leave a nose down net mo ment
whi ch will cause a tuck und er. However the mor e Stab ility
Ma rg in an aero p la ne has , th e stronger th e re co ve ry

mo ment will be and so the faster it mu st be going to tuck

unde r. In ot her words the further forward the CG, the
more Stab ility Margin, and the higher the Critical Spee d.

Tuck Under Speed

Fro m Figures 19.7 an d 19.8 yo u ca n see th at if a n
ae roplane is in trim at so me speed, po int C, speed ing it up
a little w ill lea ve it trimmed tail heavy . If down trim is no t
ad de d it w ill pitch nose up . However if it is speeded up
beyond point D it wo uld beco me nose heavy agai n.
If e nough up trim is not adde d it will tuck und e r. I
therefore call the speed at D the "Tuck Under Speed". It is
not a fixed speed, it depends on the initial trimmed speed
of the aeroplane . The further the trimmed spee d is be low
the critical speed (B), the furthe r the tuck under speed will
be above the Critical Speed, bu t eve n if it is trimmed to fly
a t its m inimum s peed, o r eve n w ith fu ll up e levator
app lied, it will Tuck Unde r if speeded up eno ugh .

Getting Away With It

If the speed of the model is a little above its tuck un der
speed it will try to stee pe n the dive but ap plying full u p
elevator will pull it o ut. However if the model accelerates
away above the tuck un de r speed , the nose d own net
mo ment may be so grea t that even full up eleva tor (on
high rates) is not eno ug h to pull it out (see Figur e 19.8
an d 19.9).
Tha t may be beca use the servo is not strong e no ug h, or
the pu sh rod is be nding. Or there isn't e no ugh trave l on
the tailpl an e or elevator. Or if the tailpl ane or elevator is
too small, it may be incapa b le of develo p ing e no ug h
do wn ward lift. Increasing th e up movem en t on an a ll
moving tailplane too much will just let a small tailplan e
stall at a nega tive angle. See Figure 19.10. Just before it
re ach es its stalling an gle the tail will be developing its

Figure 19.7







Vertical Dive

Basic Aero na uticsfo r Modellers


Figure 19.8


,., ,.,

- --

Max I
Flexible I

Full Up


Figure 19.9


Su p pose something,
like a gust, deflects the
All Moving Tail in Figure
19.11 leading edge up by
a small angle. The pushrod will be compressed
and it will try to spring
back and return the tail
to its original position.
This restoring force from
the push rod will be
independent of airspeed.
However the addi tio na l
lift XLT caused by th e
disturbance will tend to
ro tate the tail the other
way, leading edge up ,
and this desta bilising
force will increase as the
square of the speed. If
the speed is high enough
the d es ta b ilis in g force
will win. The tail will flip
lead ing edge up until it
R ecover I Tu ck Ullder
reaches the fu ll "dow n "
I - -......~
travel stop. The result is
obviously a tuck un der,
Tuck Under Speed
or even an outside loop.
All th e up elevator you
can apply on the servo
maximum downward lift coefficient. If that is not sufficient
will disappear into further bending of the pushrod. Th is
to pull it out of the dive , it is doomed. Its only chance
Tailplane Instability Speed, above w hich the pushrod is
would be to bunt right round into climbing flight inverted
incapable of preventing the tail runaway, can be increased
until the speed red uces.
by stiffening the pushrod, reducing the tail area, increasing
Then . .. get out of that!
distance y, or best of all placing the tailplane 's pivot on, or
Pitching Momellt

10 6

Basic Aerona utics for Modellers

just a head of, its aeroFigure 19.11

dyna mic centre. The rest
of the aeroplane doesn 't
co me into it. If th e
aero plane is be ing flown
fast, above the tailplane's
P ivo t (well aft)
ins ta bility speed, there
will be a download on
th e tail h olding the
pu sh rod in ten sion and
__ I
so there is no probl em ,
=- x
rega rdless of the speed.
However w ha t happen s
if a glitch, or the pilot for
so me reason, put s o n a
larg e ja b of down e leI
vator, eno ug h to give the
tail an upl o ad? If th e
aeroplane is flying faster
th an th e tailplane 's
cr itica l s peed , that is
Pusbrod Ben t a nd Sho rtened -..: :~
enough to let it flip into
its full d own p o sition
and there is noth ing you can do abo ut it. It will seem as if
the servo has run away.
Fig ure 19.10
I have just had a vision of glide r designers crowding the
window ledges twenty floors up. I had better put away the
doom and gloom and come up with some answers.



- - - --

Remedies for Tuck Under

Now that we have a better idea of how Tuck Under is
ca used w e ca n thi n k of w ays to design it o ut of o ur
aero planes. Many of the remedies which I sha ll suggest are
well known fro m experi en ce of course, wh ich is as it
sho uld be, but I believe it is impo rtant to know why these
design featu res alleviate tuck under.
1. The struc ture of the aeroplane sho uld be as stiff as
possible . The less the w ings twist and the less the
fuselage be nds, the higher the critical speed will be.
2. Attach the wing rigidly to the fuselage using dowels
and wing bo lts, substantial plug in joiners or plen ty of
elastic bands.
3. Move th e pivot of a n all movin g tail n ear to its
aerodynamic centre (25% of its MA e. ). The less load
the pushrod is carrying the less it will deform. This will
also eliminate the tailplane instability problem.
4. Use a large diameter stiff pushrod and keep the w ire
en ds as sho rt and straight as possible.
5. Leng then ing the tailplane or elevator horn and using
a longer servo arm to achieve the required movement
also reduces the load in the pushrod.
6. Use of close d loop controls or a pull for up pu shrod
or snake will eliminate my third cause of Tuck Under.
See Figure 19.12 for possible layou ts. I have show n the
tailplane's mean chord , not its root chord .
7. If using a Bowden cab le make sure it is completely
sup porte d alo ng its le ngth w ith as litt le bare inne r
showing as poss ible.
8. If you are choosing from a range of wing aerofoils all'
of w hich are su itable, use the one with least camber.
9. Move th e e.G. fo rw ar d to increase the stability
margin, bu t remember that control responsiven ess will
be re duce d . Yo u m a y h a ve to increase contro l
10. A smaller tailplane will increase the Critical Speed

Basic Aeronautics fo r Modellers

Tail Sta lled

an d make Tuck Unde r less likely to occ ur, bu t it may

make recovery less likely if a tuck under does occ ur .
The e.G. will have to be move d forward to maintain
the same stability ma rgin. Too small a tail may reduce
the controllability of the aero plane.
11. Try a tail with negative camber. I haven't me ntione d
this before for a good reason. It do esn 't help preven t
tuck under! It do esn't raise the critical speed at all, but
remember Figure 19.10 where the tailplane with full up
applied was jus t stalled? A tail w ith negative cambe r
wouldn't be stalled at that angle. It would be good for
ano the r degree or two if it doesn 't have too sha rp a
lead ing edge. Its maximum downward lift coefficient
will be slightly grea ter than for a symme trical tail. Th is
extra downward lift migh t make the difference between
just pulling ou t of the dive and just failing to pull ou t,
but I wouldn 't like to depend on it! The tail's d rag will
be fraction ally less w hile carrying a do wn load as an
adde d bo nus.
It is possible to des ign a model whose win gs and tail are
stiff enough, and whose C011U"ol runs are effective enough,
that its critical speed is ab ove its termin al velocity, which
mea ns that its trim CUIve will be like Figure 19.13. No way
will this aeroplane tuck under.

Tuck Unde r is ano ther aeroelastic problem caused by
the flexibility of the structure, and not, as the uninformed
may try to misle ad yo u into be lievi ng, ca used by the


Figure 19.12

w in g 's cen tre of pres sure mo vem ent or "ta ilp la ne

tak eover". Although it is clo sely ass ociated with static
stability, an ae roplane w hich nicks under is not "unstable"
in the context of Cha pter 8 in that it would respond in a
stabl e fash ion to an ang le of atta ck cha nge at co nstant
speed . Becau se all ae roplanes are flexible to some extent ,
a ll a e ro p la nes wi th ca m bered se ctions will have a
Figure 19.13

Do w "

Ac tual




SPEED. We have to try to
m ak e s u re that th e
structure and controls are
stiff eno ugh to mak e the
critical sp eed so high that
th e aeroplan e c a n n o t
reach it. All the potential
c a us es of tu c k un d er
must be removed. Curing
only on e may in cr e as e
the Critica l speed a bit ,
but n ot e no u g h. Th e
unfortunat e m od ell er
h aving cure d on e faul t
and still ex perience d tuck
under may start to think
th at w ha t he ha s d on e
was not a cure at all.
The prima ry cure is to
stiffen u p th e structure,
piv ot all mo ving tails at
25% m e an c ho rd , a n d
use a pull for up control
system . I would cha nge
the tailpla ne to a smaller,
negat ive ca mbe re d o ne
only if the o riginal w as
exceptio nally big. If the
ae ro plane is flown with a
very s ma ll Stabilit y
Ma rgin to mak e it very
sensitive, only a very little
fle x will ca use a tu ck
und er. In th is cas e a
forw a rd CG movement
m a y b e th e b e st cu re .
Th ose a re all the thin gs
wh ich I ca n p ro ve wi ll
lead to tuck und er. There
m a y b e mo re d esi gn
faults which will cause
tu ck u nde r w h ic h I do
know about. If you find o ne , please let me kno w .

In the past ther e hav e been mod els whose performanc e
has seeme d a little odd , unu sual , disappoi nting . Fo r
exa mple, I brou ght myoid tra iner out of retire me nt in
order to run in th e eng ine for my first "hot" aerobatic
sp o rts mod el. It wa s a ve ry good tra in er w ith docile
predictable handling characteristics but wh en I installed an
engine with two and a half times the power of its intende d
engine, it changed . At low spee ds, w ith the engine at idle ,
it still flew velY nicely, but at high sp eed it just felt wrong,
perh ap s a bit sen sitive to elevator trim, but difficult to put
into words at the time . Looking ba ck I wonder if I wa s
o pe rating it at aro und its Critical tuck under speed, and if
that could account for its odd handling. I wonder if oth er
people have encountered unu sual handling cha racteristics
on mod els which could be related to inadequate structura l
stiffnes s. I wonder is it wise to operat e an aeroplane so far
outside its intended design envelope? It is worth giving it
so me thought.

Basi c Aero na III ics for Modellers

Chapter 20

The Air on the Move

could read half a dozen aerodynamic
textbooks from cover to cover and not see wind
mentioned once, which indicates that it has no
effect whatever on aerodynamics, only on navigation.
You see by "wind " I mean a block of air whose
molecules are not moving relative to each other but
which are all moving at the same speed over smooth
level ground.


The velocity of the aeroplane relative to the air is its
"airspeed" , and its "groundspeed" is just the vector
addition of the airspeed and the windspeed as in Figure
20.1. The direction of the groundspeed is called the
"track" of the aeroplane. The airflow over the aeroplane
will still be straight from nose to tail.
If you are really interested (or mistrustful) you will
find proof of this vector addition idea in a mechanics
textbook, for example "MECHANICS" by Den Hartog.
You will also find proof that the acceleration of the
aeroplane relative to the ground is the same as its
acceleration relative to the air, because we are assuming
that the air has no acceleration. If a steady wind does
not affect the acceleration of the aeroplane then Newton
would agree that it does not affect the forces on the
aeroplane or its behaviour.

Slope Lift

generally reduce with height as in Figure 20.2, there will

therefore be a "ce iling" above which a particular glider
cannot climb , and the more efficient the glider the
higher its ceiling will be . You will notice in Figure 20.2
that the streamlines are closer together over the brow of
the hill, indicating an increase in wind speed as you
would expect.
The other requirement is that the wind must be
strong enough to have its vertical component greater
than the glider's minimum sink rate, but the wind must
not be so strong that it blows the glider backwards over
the hill. In a strong wind it is better to ballast the glider
than add down trim to maintain its good glide at a
higher speed.

Thermal Lift
Hot patches develop on the surface of the Earth due
to solar heating, or buildings or whatever. A hot patch of
ground shares its heat with the surrounding air which,
when heated, expands. The warmer air is less dense
than its surroundings so when a big enough "p ile" of it
has developed it breaks away from the surface and
begins to rise as illustrated in Figure 20 .3. The
surrounding air flows in to replace it, and the hot patch
of ground starts to warm up another batch.

Figure 20.1

When this solid

block of air moving
over a smooth level
plain (Le. the wind)
comes to a hill, something has got to give,
and it isn't the hill. The
air will be forced up,
and this "slo pe lift" is an
ideal way of keeping a
glider airborne indefinitely.
A particular glider
will obviously require to
fly in a "wind slope"
steeper than its minimum glide angle. The
more efficient the glider
the less steep the hill
needs to be.
Also, because the
"slo pe" of the wind will

Basic Aeronautics/or Modellers




Figure 20.2

Right down amongst

the heather wh ere the
midgies hide there is
very little wind.
At a height of a few
inches there is more,
while at tree top height
it could be quite strong.
It is just like a boundary
layer on a giant scale.
Surface friction reduces
the wind speed the
closer you are to the
surface . Not only that
but the direction of the
wind changes with
height also . If you are
facing the wind on the
surface, the wind higher
up is usually from
slightly to your right.
For example the wind could be



-~---------------/_---------------------As the bubble of warm air (the "thermal") rises, it

cools at a fixed rate, so how far it will rise depends
upon the weather.
If the temperature of the surrounding air is constant
all the way up, the "thermal" will soon cool to the same
temperature as its surroundings and so stop rising. But if
the temperature of the surrounding air drops rapidly
with height, as when a cold air mass moves over a warm
surface, it is unstable and once a thermal starts to rise it
just keeps going and going. The big ones build up into
towering Cumulo Nimbus clouds several miles high
containing strong updraughts. And if there is an
updraught in one place there must be a downdraught
somewhere else to compensate. Even a little slope lift
can trigger thermals in unstable air.
Now that this idea of thermals has broken my
idealisation of the w ind as a mass of air molecules
moving uniformly together, I might as well come clean
and mention other "real" variations on the ideal wind.

Windshear and Wind Gradient

The term "w in d s hear" applies to any significant
change in wind speed or direction for a small change in
height or position and it can sometimes be so severe
that it causes jet transport aircraft to crash.
The wind cannot be the same at every height.

3 ft/sec at
10 ft/sec at
30 ft/sec at
50 ft/sec at

a height of 3 inches, blowing from the

3 feet
30 feet
300 feet now coming from the east.

Now suppose you take off from your runway heading

north . On the runway there is a small headwind
component which is fine , and a small crosswind from
the right which is no problem. The model is kept
straight using rudder. On lift off the aeroplane is
suddenly exposed to a crosswind which would make an
aeroplane with strong lateral stability tend to roll to its
left and as the model gains height the headwind
component increases (no problem) and the crosswind
from the right increases. That will continue any tendancy
to roll to the left. The solution is to apply a little aileron
into wind on take off to prevent the crosswind from
lifting one wing. See Figure 20.4.
As your aeroplane seems so keen to turn left it is a
shame to disappoint it so you climb your model in a
gentle left turn onto a westerly heading. You are careful
to keep the speed constant, by applying up elevator as
you have not had time to adjust the trims yet , but the
speed apparent to you is the groundspeed, because you

Figure 20.3

Hot Patch


Basic Aeronauticsfor Modellers

are stand ing with yo ur we llies se t firmly in the mud . So,

climbing into that incre asing tailwind with yo u kee ping
a co nsta nt grou nds peed , yo ur mo d el h as a s te ad ily
decrea sing airspeed , w hic h is all it cares abo ut, and the
resu lt co u ld we ll b e a n une x pe ct e d s ta ll. Th e o n ly
an swer to this o ne is to be aware of the wind var iation
and make a rule never to take off downwind , an d neve r
to tu rn down w ind after take off. Yes, I bro ke a model
o nce doi ng that.
Ano the r good crash scena rio, illustra ted in Fig ur e
20.5, is an ap proach with a good head w ind at he igh t
dropping off to o nly a little head wind ne ar the ground .
Th e m od el p ilot w ith hi s mind g ro u n d referenced
maint a in s a cons ta n t g ro u ndspee d wh ich gives th e
aeroplane a decreasing airspee d leadi ng to a stall. Th e
p ro b lem is mad e w orse if a p owered ae ro p la ne is
trimmed with too mu ch downthru st such that red ucing
power redu ces speed .
The th rottle sho uld be a rate of descent co ntro l and
the e le vato r trim shou ld be the speed co ntro l. If the
speed is set a go od margin abo ve stalling speed a t a sa fe
he igh t with the elevator trim, and le ft the re , a co rrec tly
trimm ed stable aero pla ne w ill mainta in th at airspeed .
T he p ilo t th e n w ill be a d jus ting p o w e r to ke ep th e
mo de l o n the desired de scen t path.

Re m embe r w he n flying b ecame avai lable to th e
ge n era l p ub li c o n
cha rte r fligh ts to Palrna
Figure 20. 4
and Be n idorm wh ich
were c h ea p e r th a n
staying at hom e? People
came back wit h stories
of new ho te ls in slee py
Spanis h fishing villages,
Sa ng r ia a n d "Cu b a
Libre " che aper than tea
Gro""dspeed 100
( a n d mu ch s tro n ge r) ,
Airspeed 50
a n d o n t h e fl igh ts of
Stalling Speed 51
h ittin g "Air Po ck e ts "
whi ch so unde d like the
holes in Sw iss che ese or
th e lu m p s in sch o o l
cus tard . We ll of co ur se
th ere w ere no t re all y
hol e s in th e a ir, w ha t
th e y h ad e nc o u n te re d
we re GUSTS.
It wo u ld h ave be en
n ic e if th e air m o v ed
smoo thly and unifor mly
over th e sur face but it
d o e s n ot. It is fu ll o f
tur bu len ce , what w ith
th e ro u ghn e s s o f th e
ground sur face a nd th e
th e rm a ls a n d so o n .
Win ds hear is fi x ed in
p la c e , ie: - a fte r on e
ae ro p lane flies throu gh
it the winds hea r w ill still
be the re w he n the next
ae ro plane comes alo ng.
However tur bul e nt gust s

Basic Aerona utics/or Modellers

are a pure ly random va riatio n in th e local windspe e d

and ca n be in any di rection . Whe n flying into w ind , say,
a sudde n increase in w inds peed is a gust fro m in front , a
redu ction in w indspeed is a tailgu st, a temporary shift in
wi nd d irection is a side gust , a the rmal is an up gu st, and
a do wnd rau ght is a down gus t. Any cha nge in the w ind
means that the wind now has an acc e leratio n whi ch w ill
affect the aeroplane.
Gu sts from front o r re ar, above o r below , w ill cause
some spe e d variation, so me pitchin g up a nd down and
prob ably so me wing flexing but a stable aerop lane will
be ab le to ride it o ut w ith no probl em s. The da nger is
that, if the w ing 's a ng le of attack is just be lo w its stalling
ang le , a sudde n increase from a gust ca n stall the wing,
whi ch mak es it prude nt to fly at a speed a safe margin
above stalling speed, and the mo re the tur bulence the
bigger the margin. Also bewa re of pu lling "g", tig ht turn s
e tc., near the ground .
Gus ts from the side can disturb the head ing because
of di re ctio na l stability , o r bank the aerop lane due to
late ral stability. Ve rtical gusts affecting o ne wing more
than the o the r ca n also produce unw anted banks. They
are just a nui san ce which has to be co rrec te d , un less the
aerop lane is near the gro und and th e wing's ang le of
attack is ne ar its sta lling angle .
O n the ap proach a gust dropping one wing can be a
li ttl e e m ba rr ass ing . Pic ki ng it up w ith rudde r, o r a
co mbina tio n or rudder and ailero n is safe r than relying
jus t o n ailero n .

Groundspeed 100
Airspeed 100


Right aileron to
prevent left roll =T"1I"""=


Figure 20.5



LJ g.s.45
Stalling Speed 51



Groundspeed (g.s) 45
Airspeed (a.s) 95

Myths and Misconceptions

I was watching a magic show on television w ith my
little da ug hter. Paul Dan iels stoo d on its edge a b ig sheet
of pl ate glass w hic h he dem on strated to be so lid all
over. Then he se t up his a ppa ratus and pu shed his lad y
assis tant straight thro ug h the middl e of the sheet of glass
with out a scra tc h . My d au ghter was a mazed . I w as
a maze d. She belie ved that the lad y had passed th rou gh
th e g lass by magi c . I, b ecau se of my grea t age and
ex pe rie nce and knowledge of ph ysics, know that it was
a trick, an illusion , but I do not ye t kn ow how it was
don e.
I d o kn o w that what a p pea re d to happ en is
imp ossible and I a m sticking to that beli ef. I know there
is an oth er logical explana tion whi ch fits in with the laws
of scie nce . I just can't find it.
There a re man y mod elle rs wh o believe so me popular
unscientific myths eithe r becau se they are misinform ed
o r hav e w ron gly interp ret ed th e b eha viou r of th eir
model. You , dear re ad er, ca n no t be o ne of them o f
co urse having had the se nse to bu y this book, but yo u
have prob abl y heard them and perh ap s wondered how
to break it to them ge nt ly.
First of all, wh en flying in a stea dy wi nd the airspeed
o f the aeroplane is unaffected by the wi nd . How co uld it
be? Sure if yo u sudde nly app ly a tailw ind the airspe ed
will reduce . But d rag w ill redu ce and the aerop lane w ill
accele ra te back to its origi na l airspeed at wh ich dr ag
eq ua ls th ru s t. Dra g d epend s o n a irs pee d , n ot
gro unds peed .
In a crossw ind the track of the aeroplane is affected
but the air still flows along the ce ntre line from front to
back. It must do. If it we re offset, the ae rop lane wo uld
h a ve a s ides li p velo cit y , and from Cha p te r 9 its
d irecti on al sta bility w ould lin e it up with the airflow
ag ain . Wh en flying th e mod el to wards yo urself in a


crosswind, you must cock the nose of the aeroplane into

wi nd suc h tha t it loo ks as if it is flying sideways towards
yo u , but th e airflow over th e aerop lane w ill s till b e
straig ht from nose to tail an d a flag o n the nose wo uld
always fly stra ight back, ass um ing the aeroplane has no t
been yawed delibe ratel y with the rudder.
Th e o the r th orn y p robl em is th at of tu rnin g a n
aero plane in a wind . Some people swear tha t wh en the y
turn the ir mod el fro m flyin g downw ind to flyin g int o
win d it zooms upwards, and the y ca n demonstrate to
prove it. Howe ver w he n I turn their aerop lane it does
not happen , and they canno t tell me wh er e I am go ing
wron g. How do yo u prove that so me thing doesn't (o r at
least sho uld n't) happen? Perhaps a clarifica tio n o f the
probl em will help.
By "tu rn ing " the ae ro p la ne I m e an s u p p ly ing a
ce ntripe tal force to ge t its CG mo ving in a new direction
as we ll as aligning the fuselage w ith the new direction
o f motion . Ju st rot ating it a bou t its yaw ax is is not
I a lso me an a bal anced turn as d es cr ib ed in th e
cha pter o n turning wh ere the lift is increased so that its
ve rtical co mpone nt still sup por ts the weight , and thru st
eq ua ls d rag . I am also disregardin g gusts and wi nds hear.
Given those co nditio ns then , a turn , ho wever tigh t or
slow, w ill ca use no ve rtica l effect. I have flown full size
aero p lanes a nd kn ow th at th ere is no way th at th e
aeroplane ca n se nse the wind directio n . The re is no way
th e p ilo t ca n kn o w th e wind di rec tio n except fro m
gro und based instrume nts .
All the forces o n a n aerop lane o ther than grav ity arise
fro m the air and so its eq uat ions of motion are related
o nly to th e air. Wh en yo u a re sitting up th er e in an
aeroplane looking at the clo uds , the surface of the earth
co u ld b e m o vin g in a ny dire cti on a t an y s pee d
undern eath the air mass and it makes not o ne wh it of
d iffere nce to the flying of the aerop lane .

Basic Aeronautics/o r Modellers

What about Momentum?

O f co urse so meo ne w ill say "An aero p la ne flyin g
north into a stro ng w ind has very little mom entum , so if
it tu rns so uth it mu st los e airsp eed!", o r "\X1he re does the
ex tra momentum co me from?". I'm gla d yo u ask ed .
Everyo ne has a roug h idea of wha t mom entum is but to
be a bit mor e specific, I loo ked up a boo k. Mom entum
is a vec tor quantity, mass times ve locity, and the change
in mom entum (w hic h is what we are afte r) is defined
math em atically as the integ ral of the for ce produ cing it
w ith resp ect to time . I w ill not bor e yo u with the de tails
but th e force pr oducing th e mom entum cha ng e o n a
turn ing aeroplane is the o nly unbalan ced forc e in Sight,
the ce ntripe tal force . I integrated it round a 180 degre e
turn and found that the mom entum cha nge produ ced by
the ce ntripe tal force is 2mV, in a d irection o pposite to
the o rigina l ve locity.
If the initial airsp eed is V to the north into a northerl y
w ind of V!2 say , the northbound momentum is mV!2.
Th e cha nge is -2mV so the final mom entum is -3mV!2
(minus becau se it is so uthbo und) . Th e grounds peed is
the refo re 3V!2, makin g the airsp eed V. Th e ce ntripe tal
force supplies the d ifferen ce in mom e ntum with out loss
of airsp eed , see?

What About K inetic Ene rgy

Unde te rred o ur doubting Th om as says "But whe re
d oes the ex tra kin et ic energy co me from?". I loo ked tha t
up as w ell. Kin eti c e ne rgy is Y, mV2 a n d is a Sca la r
qu antit y ( i.e . no t a vec to r) . Th e in cr e ase in kine tic
e ne rgy is defin ed as the wor k don e by th e result ant of
a ll th e fo rces ac ting o n th e bod y. Work do ne is th e
resu ltant force times the d istan ce moved in the direction
o f t ha t force . I in te grat ed th e co m po ne n t o f th e
centri pe ta l fo rce in th e dir e cti on o f the grou nds peed
round a 180 degree turn , from so uth to north th is time .
The cha nge in kin et ic energy is -2mVU where U is the
wi nds peed . Th e K.E. cha nge turn s o ut negat ive if the
wind is in the sa me di rection as the initial airsp eed .
Su p pose th e w inds peed U is h alf the a irs peed V
aga in . Go ing so uth, with the wind , the K.E. relat ive to
the grou nd is Y,.m(3V/ 2)2 or % m V2 The cha nge is -mV2
giv ing a final K.E. of ~ mV2 or Y, m (V/ 2)2, whic h means
that the final ground speed, goi ng Nor th again is V/ 2,
which mean s the a irspeed is V. Th e centripetal force has
rem o ved the excess ICE. with no increase in airsp e ed ,

For a n auti c al a na lo gy th ink of th e e ffec t o n a
powered boat of a river curre nt, or better still an ocea n
current miles from land . (Forget the e ffec t of wi nd o n a
boat becau se that is a diffe rent case e ntire ly) . In th e
middle of the ocea n there is no way of kn owing if the
wat er is moving relati ve to the e arth unl ess yo u ca n see
th e b ott om . If th ere is a c u r ren t it will m a ke n o
differ en ce to the handling of a boat and I have ne ver
hea rd of a boat zooming upwards when turn ed head o n '
to the Gulf Strea m.
However back to ae roplanes in the wind . Whe n yo u
sit back with a glass in yo ur hand and th ink ab out life,
the wi nd is just a block of air movin g at so me speed
relative to the ea rth's surface , and if a mo de l ae ropl an e
stays w ithin that block of air, the speed of the a ir over

Basic Aero na uticsf or Modellers

the g round ma kes no d ifference. Th e block of air co uld

be inside a Boe ing 747 for exa mple, moving at 600 miles
per hour, but if yo u had a s uitab ly s ize d slo w flying
mod el I bet that in spi te of the 600 miles p e r hour wind
yo u cou ld fly qui te a resp ectable circle inside , if yo u
were ins ide w ith it. There is yo ur probl em! I rate yo ur
cha nces of flying a model in a circle as nil if yo u are o n
the ground and it is in a passin g 747. The 600 miles a n
hour "w ind" has no t mad e things d ifficult fo r the mod el ,
on ly for yo u. Inside the aeroplane you d o not fee l as
thoug h you are moving, an d it does not matter wh eth er
yo u are o r not. If yo ur brain is in the 747 then that is
yo ur refe re nce.
Th e p ro b le m is n ot on e o f aero dy n a m ics , or
me ch an ics . It is a psych o lo g ical p rob lem . Yo u mu st
"think air borne". Your we lly boots might be stuc k in the
mud but yo u mu st deta ch yo ur brain an d put it up in th e
air floatin g free like a balloon.

The Mea ning of Life

Subtitled "Don 't as k q ues tions to wh ich ther e are no
I ca n no t tell yo u why yo ur aerop lan e zoo ms and
d ives w he n yo u turn it , b e cau s e w he n I fl y yo u r
aero plane it does not happen . I know it happen s wh en
yo u fly it becau se I have see n , but yo u a re the o ne wh o
mu st say why becau se it is yo u do ing it.
Is it becau se w he n you turn it into wind yo u see its
gro undspeed red uci ng so you let it speed up in case it
sta lls? Wh en yo u lev e l th e w ings th e extra a irs peed
wou ld ca use a zoom.
Is it becau se yo u a pply u p elevator to hold the nose
up in a turn and whe n you stop the turn yo u forget to
rem o ve the up elevator? Th at u p eleva tor would ca use a
zoo m.
Do yo u turn th e ae ro p la ne wi tho u t app ly ing up
e leva tor? If so the nose will d rop and the airspeed wi ll
increa se althou gh yo u may not not ice as it turns into
w ind and the gro undspeed reduces . The ex tra a irspeed
would ca use a zoom.
Maybe you speed the plane up in a turn , by add ing
powe r. to increa se the lift. O n res uming le vel flight the
excess sp eed (a nd ex cess po wer ) w ill ca use a zo o m
upward .
Do yo u turn th e ae ro plane by ba nk ing it ov er o n a
wi ng tip and hea vin g o n the u p eleva tor? High "g" turns
like th at dr ast icall y increa se the drag of an aer opl an e
and so it w ill lose speed in the turn , but it will lose just
as much speed turn ing downwind as turning into wind .
It loo ks worse to yo u turn ing into w ind bu t it is just th e
sa me to the aerop lane. The aeroplane is just as near its
stalling speed after a turn downwind , but your mind is
co mfo rte d b y th e a pp arent e x tr a s pee d fr om t he
I still ca nnot work o ut ho w Paul Dan iels does his
lad y th rough the sheet o f glass trick , and I do not know
how you d o yo ur zoo ming a nd d ivin g tric ks ei the r.
When yo u have w ork ed o ut w ha t it is you are doin g to
ca use the uninte ntio nal climbs and dives, please tell me .
Te ll eve ryo ne!


Chapter 21

Model Aircraft Structures

Figure 2 1.1

Fig u re 2 1.2




Te nsio n




n line with the res t of the book, this is not about how
to design structures, it is just a lirtle bit of theory to
explain how the structures used in model aeroplanes
work. There are qui te a few words, most of which wil l be
familia r, whose meanings in this context I wou ld like to

LOAD . The load carried by a part of the structure is the

force in it. For example, a piece of balsa with a one pound
weight hanging on it is carrying a load of one pound.

TENSION . A structure is in "tension" when a load is trying

to pu ll its two ends apart as in Figure 21.1.

COMPRESSION. A st ructure is in compression when a
load is trying to push its two en ds towards each other as in

Figure 21.2.
SHEAR. The wing dowel in Figure 21.3 is in "shear" when

the wing is lifting it up and the fuselage is holding it down.

TORSION. A p iece of structure is in "tor sion" when the
load it is carrying is trying to twist one end relative to the

BENDING. The beam in

Figure 21.3

Figure 21.4 is carrying

a "b e n d in g moment "
when it is supported at
both ends and a weight
is p laced in the middle.

Fuselage holding
dowel doum


STRESS is force per unit

of cross-sectional area,
and tells how concentrated the load is . If a
piece of quarter inch
sq uare wood is canying a
one pound load then the
"stress" in it is 16 lb ./sq .
in . . . If the same load is
on eighth square balsa
the stress is 64 lb ./sq . in .
Each material has a
limiting stress beyond
which it will break.

Basic Aerona 11tics for Modellers


Figure 21 .4




stress 16


, J


stress 64


STRAIN is the amount of deformation due to the stress,

either stretch or compression . The s t ra in is
approximately proportional to the stress applied so the
eigh th square wood above will stretch four times as
muc h as th e quarter square under the same lo ad . See
Figure 21.5 . It is ass u me d that whe n the load is tak en
o ff , th e s tretc h w ill d is ap p e ar , i.e. th e ma terial is





Figure 21.6

STRENGTH, The strength of a piece of materia l or

structure is the maximum load it can carry before some
part of it reaches its limiting stres s and breaks.
STIFFNESS . The stiffness of a ma terial is stress divid ed
by stra in. The stiffe r a material is the less it will deform
und er a give n stress. Figure 21.6 shows two d ifferen t
ma teria ls each o f th e sa me cross-sectio n and unstre tched
length carrying the same load . Th e str ess is the sa me in
each but the stiffer materi al stre tche s less. Either m ateri al
could break first, depen ding on th eir different strengths.
STIFFNESS of a STRUCTURE is load over deformation,
Le . the stiffer a struc ture is, the less it will deform under
a given load . The stiffness of a structur e (e .g. a wi ng)
depends u pon the stiffne ss of the materials used and th e
ma nner in which it is co nstructed .








Figure 21 .7

LOAD PATH, The ro u te the lo ad takes th rou gh th e

stru ctu re fro m where the force is made to where it is
used. Just like a chain, any structure is o n ly as stro ng as
its weakest link .

The Strength and Stiffness of

Imagine a steel wire and a le ngth of rubber bungee
each of which w ill carry a load of 100 pounds before
breaking. They have the same strength but th e steel wire
is much stiffer. If a steel ring is su p ported by a foo t o f
the wire and a lso a foot (u ns tre tch ed) of the ru b b er ,
w ha t is th e stre ng th of th e combina tion? Wha t is th e
maximu m weight that ca n be hung on th e ring? Q uick as
a flash yo u answer 100 pounds. Th e point is tha t th e
stiffer member carries an unfa ir p roport ion of the lo ad
because the stretch in each has to b e th e sa me, as in
Figure 21.7 . The m inu scul e stretch of th e steel allows
only a tiny lo ad to b e carried by th e ru b b er. When a .
load o f 101 p ounds bre aks the steel wire th e ru bber w ill
stretch until it a lso breaks.
When ma ter ials of d iffe rent stiffness share a loa d in a
model aerop lane structure , re member th at the stiffer
material will carry an u nfair proportion of the load.

Basic Aeronautics fo r Modellers


With this much

stretch, the wire
carries 100 load and
the rubber has
negligible load
Unstretcbed length


Twist and Bend

An airflow tends to do two things to a wing, and the
effects are almost independent. The moving air tends to
push the wing aside, and tends to twist it. The push
force , or Lift, depends on the angle of the wing to the
airflow, and not much else. By varying the angle you
can make the Lift increase, or decrease to zero (but it
doesn't change the twist) . The twisting effect, or Pitching
Moment, depends only on how much camber the wing
section has. Naturally both of these effects depend also
on two properties of the airflow itself, the ve locity of its
motion and the density of air.
One end of the wing is anchored to the fuselage and
the airflow tries to lift the w ing tip up above the w ing
root (and occasionally it succeeds) so the wing bends.
To resist this tendency the bottom surface of the wing
will be pulled o ut in tension , and the top will be pushed
towards the root in compression. (Sure, struts and wires
Figure 21. 8


bending m o m ent




2xl + 2x3


2xl + 2x3 + 2x5

= 18

2xl + 2x3 + 2x5 + 2x7

= 32

2xl + 2x3 + 2x5 + 2x7 + 2x9

= 50

2xl + 2x3 + 2x5 + 2x7 + 2x9 + 2xll


2xl + 2x3 + 2xS + 2x7 + 2x9 + 2xll + 2x13 = 98

Figure 2 1.9

Bending moment

can be used to hold the wing tips down, and we will

come to them also.)

Bending Moments in Wings

In Figure 21.8 I h ave divided up a wing into 2 inch
wide strips , each of which has a lift force of 2 ounces .
The "BENDING MOMENT" at any point in the wing is
the moment of all the lift forces outboard of that point.
Therefore the bending moment at the tip is zero. The
bending moment at various points along the wing is
shown in the table below.
From this table and the graph of bending moment in
Figure 21.9 you can see that by far the greatest bending
load on the wing is at the root , and so the greatest
strength must also be at th e root.
The two wings cannot simply be attach ed directly to
the fuselage sides, because the transfer of the bending
moment would distort
the fuselage as in Figure
21.10 . The tw o wings
are best built in one
piece so that the stress is
carried across the join. If
the wings have to be
detachable for transport
then there must be some
kind of wooden or
metal beam running
across the fuselage to
carry the bending moment from one wing to the other.
Two main typ es of wing structures are used . One
consists of a foam core covered wi th wood veneer. The
other is an assembly built u p with ribs , spars and usually
some thin balsa sheeting, the whole thing being covered
with doped fabri c or plastic film .

Built up Wings
The usual structure for carrying a bending moment is
the beam, shown bending in Figure 21.11. The strength
of such a beam depends on its breadth (b), and its
depth (d) cubed. The material nea r th e top surface is
being compressed and along the bottom surface it is
being stretched while in the middle the material is under
no stress and carries no lo ad . It might as well not be
The 'I beam' consists of a top spar and a bottom sp ar
with a thin sheet web in between . For ease of
construction the web may be glued to the rear faces of
the spars as in Figure 21.12 in which a load is tending to
bend one end upwards like the lift on a wing . When
such a beam is canying a bending moment the top spar
is in compression and the bottom spar is in tension. The
web holds the two spars apart.
The strength of the beam depends on the cross
Figure 2 1.10



Wings a ttached
to fuselage sides

Basic Aeronautics/or Modellers

Figure 21.12

Figure 21.11




sectiona l areas of the spa rs (A), the distan ce bet we en

them , and of co urse the strength of the materi al from
whi ch they are mad e . To ge t the spars as far a part as
p ossibl e th e y a re pl a ced a t th e th ic ke st p art of th e
aerofoil section and of co urse the thicker the sectio n the
stro nger the win g w ill be .
Wing ribs, as we ll as giving an aerofoil section , hold
th e spa rs in position w ith the sup po rt of leading an d
tra iling edges . The leading and trailin g edges add little to
th e w ing 's bending stre ng th but if th e wi ng is pa rtly
sheered with medium de ns ity balsa shee t, the to p and
bott om sheets may add to the ben d ing stre ng th (Figure
21. 13) , de pe ndi ng o n th e rel ati ve sti ffness o f t he
mat erials. If the spa rs are mad e of spr uce , or es pecia lly
car bo n fibre, then the spa rs w ill ca rry a ll th e bending
for ces. The best way to streng the n th is typ e of structure
is to in cre ase th e size o f th e s pars a t th e roo t end ,
preferabl y by wid ening rath er than dee pe ning them as
shown in Figure 21.14.

so that it is ab le to car ry a co rn pressive load . Thus in a

foa m w ing the to p sk in ca rries co mpressive stress an d
th e bott om skin ca rries tensile stress, wh ile th e foa m
preve nts th e s kins fro m bu c klin g a nd p rese rve s th e
aero foi l s ha pe . T he b e ndi n g s t re ng th o f th e w ing
depen ds o n th e sk ins ' th ickn ess a nd c hord , ho w fa r
apa rt th e y are , th e stre ng th o f th e mater ial used , but
ma inly on how well they are suppo rted . Obech i veneer
0.03" thick is usual , but o n w ings wi th a thick sect io n
a nd /o r a lo w as pect rat io , thin ca rd or even pap er is
adeq ua te . Becau se th e skins a re so thin th ey will just
buck le up if they are not stuc k securely all over to the
suppo rting foam . In fact [ sha ll stick my neck o ut and

Figure 24.14

Foam Wings
A th in shee t o f mat eri al is ve ry go o d a t ca rryi ng
ten sion . A strip of my printer pap e r o nly 1.5 inch es wid e
wi ll ca rry a ten sile load o f 20 sma ll ca ns of beer (or 15
pounds to ge t technical), How mu ch load do yo u thin k
that pap er co uld carry in co mpression? No ne, becau se it
jus t bu ckles up, unl ess you ca n find a way of sup po rting
it. If I ro ll up a strip 9 inc hes wid e into a cylinde r one
inch in d iam eter and 1.5 inch es lon g, add a da b of paste
to hold it in position and sta nd it o n e nd, I ca n ge t that
sa me paper to ca rry a co mpressive load of 4.5 pou nd s
before it co lla pses s ide ways . \'{Iith b etter s u p port it
wo u ld proba bl y ca rry
even more load , bu t it
w ill a lways be wea ke r
Figure 21.13
in co m press io n th an
te nsio n . Gi ving th e
s hee t th e right su p port
is vitally imp ort ant to its
co m press ive s t re ng th
and stiffness .
T ha t is w here th e
foa m in a fo am w ing
co mes in . It s up ports
th e thin s ki n covering

't" ~ ...

Extra material
more effective bere
tban bere

.- ...



Basic Aeronautics/o r Modellers


11 7

Figure 21. 16

Figure 21.15

Bending str eng th

Bending lo a d



predict that whe n a foam wing fails th e ve neer will fail

on the co mpressio n side and it w ill be du e to a lack of

J o ining Wings
The object is to transfer the stresses from o ne wi ng to
the othe r and so a suitable load path through wh ich the
stresses can flow is necessary. The best w ay to join spars
is the usu al plywood dih edral brace glue d to the front or
rea r faces of the s p ars (o r pre ferabl y b oth faces to
increase the glue area) . When the stress is ca rried in a
sheet mat e rial , as in a veneered fo am w ing , the two
sheets of ve neer should be joined smo othly to gether
with, say, a strip of glas scloth and epoxy resin .
Joining fo am wings w ith a pl y dihedral brace is
as king for trouble. You ca n no t ex pect th e foam to
tran sfe r any stres s, and the joint between the ply and the
skins is o nly 0.03" thick, and that is IF you get a good fit.
It doe sn 't give a lot of gluing are a! When foam wings
MUST b e joined by spars, as when they plug in for
exa mple , great care is needed to ens ure that the stresses
ca n tran sfer from the sk ins to the sp ars without leaving a
weak link . Some designers incorporate a ca rb o n fibr e
spa r to ca rry all the bending load in the first place which
mak es win g joining ea sier.

Tapered Strength
The bending moment o n a wing is g rea te st a t th e
root. Th e stru ctur e is therefo re design ed to co pe with
the load at the root, but for building co nve nie nce the
co ns tructio n is often the sa me fro m roo t to tip , Figure
21.15. Wha t a waste of streng th! It wo uld make sense to
tape r th e stre ngth a bit to save weig ht. For examp le,
very ofte n the w ing sect ion at the roo t is much th icke r
than the o ptimum to ga in ex tra streng th w ithout adding
to o mu ch ex tr a weight , a n d th e sectio n thickness
reduces toward s the tip (as in the Zlin SOL whose win g
is 18% thick at the root and 12% thick at the tip). The
spa rs can be tap ered in cross sectiona l area towards the
tip , and with a plywood dih edral bra ce the result is a
wing whose stre ngth varies as in Figure 21.16 .




A similar effect can be obtained on a foam wing by

tap erin g it in thickness and chord and by using a broad
glasscloth joining strip . I usually use several thin layers
o f gl a sscl oth , a narrow o ne ov er th e join a n d
progr essivel y broader ones ex te nd ing se ve ral inches
each side of the centreline.

Bending Stiffness
Althou gh the bending strength is our chief co ncern, if
th e w ing ha s insufficient bending stiffness it may be
p ron e to so me form of flutte r which is undesirable. To
cure or avoi d the problem use a stiffer mate rial of the
sam e stre ng th a nd weight, or just beef it up a bit to
make it stro nge r and stiffe r at the sa me time .

Strength ofDamaged Wings

The slightest interrup tion in th e load path will cause a
structure to fail. A slight crack (a we ak link) across a
spar carrying te nsio n , or a chordwise crack in th e obechi
veneer, can allow a wing to fold. Beware of the fact tha t
bec au se plast ic coverings a re more flex ible th an the
wooden s truc tur es underneath , it is possible for the
structur e to be fatally cracked with no mark on the
covering. If you can feel any so ftness, or any movement,
or are in any doubt, strip off to inves tigate .
Figure 21.17 shows typ ical dam age caused to a foam
wing. The ve ne er cracks on one sid e and creases on the
other side. Both surfaces should be levelled with filler
and covered w ith glasscloth and epoxy res in to replace
the loadpath . Sp lits along the grain of obechi ve nee r will
not seriou sly weake n the wing in bending.
If there is a cav ity in the foam , ca used by heat or
c he m ica l atta ck , the v e n e e r wi ll n ot b e p roperl y
sup ported and when a compressiv e lo ad is a p plied it
may fail. I always join my wi ngs w ith epoxy resin and/or
white glue as the y do not attack foam .

Strutted Wings
Figure 21. 18 represents a wing a ttac hed to t h e
fuselage at X by a bolt running fore and aft, so tha t it

Basic Aeronauticsfor Modellers

ac ts li ke a h in ge . T he
Fig u re 2 1.17
wing is also su pporte d
hal fw a y bet w e en ro ot
a n d tip b y a s tr u t
attac he d at bo th e nds in
a similar manne r.
I based it loosely o n
a full size aeroplane and
rounded o ff th e numFoam core
b ers , ju st to gi ve a n
a p prec ia tio n o f th e
rel a tiv e sizes of th e
forc es in vo lve d . Th e
strut makes an ang le Y
(27 d e gr e es ) w it h th e
w ing . In th e lo w e r
d rawing the par ts have
been se parated an d the
forces s hown mo re
clea rly.
The stru t is o bviously
ca nying a ten sion force.
Taking mom ents abo ut
Glassclo tb
X, I worked o ut that the
s tr u t ten si on e q ua ls
1.1W, 10% mo re th an th e w ho le aeropla ne 's weig ht ,
the fuse lage by a w ire wou ld be just as effective but yo u
there is a co mp ressive for ce of W o n each side of the
w ill need o ne o n the top (a so -called land ing wire) to
top of the fuselage and a pu ll of 1.1W to each side of
hold up the wi ng when on the gro und, o r in inverted
the fuselage bott om .
flight an d a ll the sa me arguments ap ply to fully rigged
T ha t is in s tea dy le vel fli ght. Pull 6'g ' a n d yo u
biplan es.
Try working o ut the load path s yo urse lf to see whic h
mult iply all these fo rces by 6. A stro ng strut and good
strong jo ints between it and the w ing are neede d , and
pa rts of the str uc ture and rigging are ca rrying the heavy
th e fu sel age mu st be s tro ng e no ug h to resist be in g
sq ueezed to ge the r at th e to p and pulle d a pa rt at th e
bottom .
What of the be nd ing
Figure 2 1.18
m om ent? We ll a t th e
s t rut pos itio n noth in g
Tota l lift = b a lf uieigbt of aircraft lV/2
h a s c ha nge d so t he
bend ing mom ent here is
jus t what it wo uld be if
th ere were n o s tr ut.
In bo ard of the strut, the
be nding mo ment car ried
by the wing red uces to
zero at the roo t.
Bend ing mo me n t is
g rea tes t a t th e s tr u t
fix ing (as in Fig u re
21.19), so that is w he re
to stre ng the n th e wing
lVillg roots co mp ress
in b end in g , a n d yo u
certa in ly mu st not jus t
Tcos Y X
Tcos YY
~ ~-=======~=-=pc=-==<;==========
d rill thro ug h the spar to
Tcos Y=W
fix the stru t.
Th e bo nus in us ing
w ing s tru ts is tha t the
T= 1.1W
m a x im um
b e nd in g
m o m ent is , in th is
insta nce , on ly about a
Wi llg struts pull
quarter of wha t it wou ld
fu s e/ag e bo ttom
b e a t th e roo t of a
ca ntileve r w ing (Le. o ne
w itho u t a s tr u t) pro du cing the sa me lift.
Attaching the wing to


Basic Aerona utics/o r Modellers


th e c ho rd . a n d th e
p o sition o r th e Ilexura l
a xi s . but a n y twi st
b etw e en t h e ro ot a n d
th e tip is und e s ir able
a nd must be reduce d as
far as possibl e .

Figu re 2 1. 19
Bending moment
(ill a.\ bending m oment 4 times
g rea ter 0 11 a ca utileuer ioing )

Built up Wings



{Cautlle oer uiing}




ili a ,\' moment



The Torsional Stiffness of

You wi ll h a ve no ti c ed th at in t h e c h a p te rs on
Aeroe lasti city and Tu c k Unde r I w as co nc e rne d w ith
st ru ctura l STI FF NESS . n o t s t re n g t h. Eit h e r ail e ron
de flect ion o r. 1110re us uall y. th e p itching moment Mo ,
te nds to twi st th e \\'ing lead ing edge do wn . The amo unt
o r tw isting mom ent in a w ing wil l va ry w ith th e sec tion.

Figure 2 1.20

T he s im p lest w ay to
d e s ign a t ors io na llv
stiffe r Wing is to reduce
t h e asp e ct ra t io . T h at
costs g lid ing p erform an c e so w ould app ly
o nly to powe red models.
Nex t yo u must co ns id e r
a stiffer struc tu re . Figure
21 . 20 re pr e s e nt s tw o
wi ng struc tu res . I h a ve
idea lised them a bit and
m is sed out th e trailing
e d ge p ie c e a n d co ve r ing . Both u s e the
SAIVIE am ount o f w o od
but type A w ith th e Dbo x is IIIUCH (may be 23
tim e s ) st i ffe r in torsion
th an typ e B. The reaso n
for the dramatic increa se
in sti ffness . and stre ngth.
is th e closed box .
Th e tor sion al stiffn ess
o f struc tu re B is th e s u m
o f its part s . but the
to rs ion al s t iffness of
structu re A d epends on
the skin th ickn ess and the AREA e nclosed . Fully shec ting
the wh o le wing w ill enclo se mor e than twi ce the a rea
and giv e more th an twi ce the torsi on a l stre ng th and
stiffn es s. Any add itio nal stiffne ss fro m the co ve ring wi ll
depend up on the co ve ring mat e rial used .

Foam Wings
Th e typi cal veneered foam wing is pr obably as stiff
as . ma yb e eve n s t iffe r
th an . a bu ilt up fu ll y
sh e ered win g , Aga in the
s t ru ct u re d e riv c s it s
Co mp risingrs tre n g t h a n d s t iffn e s s
1'1'0111 being in th e form
3 pieces 6 ,\' 6 "1/11
o f a c lo s e d b o x a n d
2 pieces lOO,\' 2 "1/11
in add itio n th e o hec h i
1 p iece 25 ,\' 2 111/11
ve n e e r is a s t iffe r
ma te rial than ba lsa ,

Comprisingt3 pieces 6 .\' 6 mm

1 piece 100 .v 4 mm
1 p iece 25 ,\' 2 111/11


R educed
Th e tors ion b o x
MUST b e co m p le te ly
e nc lose d , Make a s lit or
a c ra c k ri ght a lo ng a
typ e A struc ture a nd its

Ba sic Aeronauticsfor , 1Iodel/el ~~

stre ng th an d stiffn e ss d isa ppear. Simi larly , s pa n wise

cracks in the ven e er o f a fo a m w ing can serio us ly
reduce its tor sion al stiffness, altho ug h th ey may have no
effect o n th e bend ing streng th .

Figure 21.21

Increased Stiffness
Either a fully shee te d w ing or a ve neere d foa m w ing
can be fur ther stiffene d by co ve ring, either with dop ed
tissu e or p re ferably g lass , Kevlar or ca rbo n fibr es. Fo r
max imum resis ta nc e to
to rsion al load s the fibreFigure 21.22
glass clo th or strands o f
Kev lar or ca rbo n fibr e s
shou ld be ap p lie d wi th
th e fibr e s r u n n ing
di a g o n all y a cro s s th e
w ing as in Figure 21.2 1.
th e s e
m o dern
mat er ial s are light er
st ronger and stiffer th an
steel w ith ca rbo n fibr e
the stiffest and Kev lar th e stro ngest (jus t).
wooden up right s carry compression . As long as ten sion
is ma inta ine d in the wi res th e glue d wooden jo ints are
in sim p le co mpressi on and are therefo re ve ry stro ng .
When modell e rs first co pied thi s built up struc ture
Aside from th e for ces applied to fuselages by stru tted
th e y left o ut the di ag o n al w ires for s im p lic ity , bu t
w ings a lrea dy me n tione d , aero dy na m ic load s a re
covered it in d op ed tissue , silk or ny lo n. The co ve ring
u n like ly to exceed th e stre ng th o f th e fu sel ag e o f a
w as st uc k we ll a ll a long th e long e ron s a nd to the
norm al mod el aircraft. Th ere are how ever tw o as pects I
u pri ght s as we ll, so th e ta u t cove ring s up p lies the
wo uld like to h ighli ght.
d iago na l te nsion force, and th e stru ctu re is adequately
The first is th e bendin g stiffness of slender tai lbooms
stro ng in both di rec tions .
The ability of just the woode n structure , dep icte d in
so me ti mes u sed o n m ode l g lide rs . As des cr ibe d in
Chapte r 19, too flexible a tailbo o m cou ld lead to tuck
Figur e 21.2 4, to ca rry a lo ad de pends en tire ly o n th e
und er. What is required is a boo m o f ad equ ate de pth
be ndin g stre ng th of th e g lued joints , w hic h is hardly fair.
made of a st iff mate rial. A th in wa lled ca rbo n fib re tub e
No r is it ve ry stro ng. It is no t even stro ng e nough to
mai nta in its own sha pe aga ins t the tensio n in a curved
might be a good so lutio n . A suita ble fix for an existing
ina de quate structure mig ht be to add a fin strake as in
long er on , o nce it h as b e en lift ed fro m the b u ild ing
Figure 21.22 to stiffen the ta ilboo rn. O r you co u ld add
bo ard .
If a built-up struc ture is to b e stro ng eno ug h (wi thou t
ca rb on fibres to top and bottom.
Fig ure 21.23 rep rese n ts a struc tu re o fte n used o n
a d o p e d fa br ic covering) to main tai n its own shape,
aircraft of the \Xf\V'l era . Side fra mes were construc te d
ne ve r m ind ca rry a lo ad , it needs cross-b raci ng . Yo u
usi ng wooden longerons and upr ights , a nd each bay
mu st in sert a d iag on al mem b er into each bay to carry
te n si on o r co mp ression force s , as in Fig u re 2 1.25 .
had tw o w ires ru n ni ng di agonally an d tensio ned wi th
turnbu ckles. Th ese wires were necessar y to maint ain the
In st e ad o f a si ng le d iago na l, a pai r o f th inn e r ones
shape und e r lo ad . In th e case shown, wi th a down lo ad
(gl ue d togethe r w here th ey cross) would also d o the job .
from the tail, the w ires shown with arrows ca rry tens ion
Diagona l membe rs are essent ial, but th e u pri gh ts are
(the o the r wi res ca ter for an u pwa rd ta il for ce) and th e
n o t. You ma y see a s tr uc tu re usi ng only diago na l

Fuselage Stiffness

Figure 21.23

Doumload from ta il

Tension ill top longerons and wires

Compression ill bottom Iongerons and uprights

Basic Aero nautics/or Modelle rs


Figure 21.24

members between the lon gerons, becau se the y will take

either ten sion or compression, making the vertical struts

The lift for ce on the tail depends o n the ai rspeed
sq ua red, the tail area Sr and the tail's lift coefficient el T .
Just as in wings the greatest bending moment is at the
root. From Figure 12 .2 , the tail 's lift coefficient is
generally upward at very low airsp eeds, and becomes
more and more negative as airsp eed inc rea se s. If it is
going to break in bending, it will bre ak off downward s
at the root in a high speed dive when the speed and lift
coefficient a re both great est. It is quite poss ible fo r
tailplane s to flutter just like w in gs . The c ur e is to
combine stiffness w ith stre ngth, use inflexibl e controls,
and mass balance at the leading edge .

Th e stiffness of pu sh rods cropped up in the chapter
on tu ck unde r, bu t even if that is not one of yo ur
problem s it is a good idea to make the pu sh rod s as stiff
as possible to prevent blowback o f the controls a nd
maintain control effectiveness . They should sho rte n as
little as po ssible when compressed. Balsa pu shrods are
the norm, a nd the bigger in diamet e r the better. Th e
recent innovation of using a carbon fibre tube seems an
excellent idea . Piano wire ends for connections sho uld
be as shor t and stra igh t as possib le .

Figure 21.25
Doumload from tail

Usu al m odel structure

Woode" diag o nals m aint ain shape


Basic Aeronauticsfor Modellers

Chapter 22

Centre ofGravity
ince the publication of the first edition I have been
wri ting a co lumn called "Ae rodynamic For um " in
th e monthly magazin e "R/C Mod e l World ", also
publish ed by Traplet. In th e co lum n I try to a nsw er
qu estion s from readers, and fully half of the probl em s I
e ncounte r invol ve findin g a safe Ce ntre o f Gravity. I
fo und it useful to co llect together into o ne place all the
theo ry relevant to CG locatio n - an d I thou ght yo u ma y
find it useful too , so h e re it is added to th e second
ed ition.
The Centre of Grav ity is the ba lance poi nt, the poi nt
through which weigh t ac ts or, if yo u are a stickler for
acc uracy, it is the poi nt about w hich the weight has no
mom e nt (rotation effect) . It is a three d ime nsio nal poi nt ,
bu t it s hould be ne ar enoug h o n th e centreli ne of a
sym metrical aircraft, the heigh t doesn 't much ma tter, so
a ll we are co nce rned about he re is its fore a nd aft
position .
From th e above de finit ion , the CG is the p o int a t
whi ch yo u ca n sup port the model sus pe nded fro m string
or balan ced on finger tips, the edge of a ruler , the blunt
e n ds of tw o p en c ils , or o ne o f th e p u rpose made
devices for checking CG position s.
T he pos itio n of th e CG d et ermi n e s how mu ch
stability the ae ro plane w ill ha ve , and also ho w mu ch
co ntro l over it yo u w ill have . Stability an d Contro l are
o p posite s;- the more of one yo u have th e less of the
o the r yo u ge t, so CG position is a co mpromise . You are
try ing to ge t just the right mix of Stability and Contro l.
We are co ncerned only w ith Eleva to r Control he re ,
the rud de r and ailerons do not concern us. \Ve w ant the
elevator to pitch the nose of the aeroplane up and down
in a reliabl e and pred ictabl e fashio n, so tha t we have the
full range of co ntro l witho ut it be ing ove rse ns itive .
If yo u wa n t to arg ue t ha t th e CG is a four
di me nsiona l po int, because it cha nges w ith time as fue l
is b urned , w he n bombs are dropped or t h e
un derca rriage is raise d, the n we plan for the worst case.
Pla n th e aft-most CG whic h will be e nco u nte red in
flight, Le. with the fue l tank empty if it is at the fro nt, or
full if it is at the back.

If the CG is wror
As yo u move the CG forward from its ideal position
the aeroplane becomes mor e stab le. That 's OK, but yo u
start to run out of CONTROL o n elevator. You gradua lly
lose the ability to sp in, stall, fly invert ed , loop , and even

Basic Aeronauticsfo r Modellers

ge t the nose u p for a flared o ut land ing. The elevato r

trim becom es less effe ctive , re q uiring mo re and more
trim movem ent when you cha nge from high speed trim
to lo w speed trim , a nd yo u ne ed more a nd mor e up
As yo u move the CG rearw ard th e aircraft becomes
le ss a n d le ss STA BLE. Yo u h a ve to ma ke co ns ta n t
co rrectio ns to the flight path, yo u need to add down
trim a nd the elevato r trim becomes se ns itive to sma ll
movements maki ng it difficult to trim the aeroplane in
le vel flig ht , a nd a s ma ll m o ve ment of the e levator
prod uces a large co ntro l resp on se . If the CG is too far
back an aeroplane beco mes UNSTABLE, its flight path
persistently d iverges, it cannot be trimmed, and a small
up elevator movemen t produces a gut wrenching, wi ng
folding , loo p.

Th e Correct CG
The CORRECT position for the CG is tha t which suits
YOU th e p ilot. Your CG mi ght differ fro m someo ne
else 's , but if it is right for you , the n it is the right CG.
T he CG fro m a form ul a or th e p la n is a sa fe
recommended starting point, then with ex pe rience you
can experime nt. You perform various Fligh t Tes ts.

Flight Testing
The popular "Dip" test ca n be use d o n most mod els ,
bu t is pa rtic ularly rel evant to e lec tric soarers, glide rs,
tr a in e rs or vi ntage typ e mod el s, w hic h do no t ta ke
kind ly to aeroba tic man oeu vres.
First yo u trim the model o ut in straig ht steady flight.
If it is a p o wer model it is best do ne flying level a t
cr uising power, one thi rd to two third s throttle . Once
trimmed o ut you pus h fo rwa rd on the elevator stick a
little to put the model into a shallow d ive a nd hold it for
a co uple of seconds to pick up speed . The n le t the stick
return to neutral.
A stable model w ill gently pitch nose up into a sligh t
climb and its speed w ill reduce to its origi nal trimmed
speed . Thi s initia l reaction shows us the 'Static Stabili ty'
of th e model. If th e mod el ra pidly se ttles dow n in to
steady le vel flight at its orig ina l trimmed speed the n that
shows tha t it has good aerody na mic da mping as we ll,
and so it has good "Dynamic Stability". This is the usu al
resul t.
It may be that the mod el will pitch up q uickly from


the sha llow di ve into too steep a climb with reducin g

speed. It is Stability which pull s it o ut of the div e , trying
to ge t back to its o rigina l trimmed s peed . Too mu ch
sta bility will mak e it rear up too qui ckly, whi ch me an s
the CG is too far forward . Paradoxica lly (see belo w ),
yo u ne ed to rem ove weight from the nose , o r add it to
the tail, and re-trim.
It may be th at the mod el w ill co ntinue in th e di ve ,
p o s sibl y b e cau s e th e e levato r has n ot return ed to
neutral , w h ic h is b ad . Wi e rea lly ne ed to ha ve fre e
co n tro l s u rfaces whi ch a lways fo llow t he co n t ro l
co mmands ex ac tly with out binding.
If the co ntro ls are free but the mod el remains in the
dive then it may not hav e e no ug h stability so yo u ne ed
to mo ve th e Ce nt re o f Gravity forward a littl e . So me
mod e ls not o nly stay in the div e, bu t they low er their
noses eve n mor e, into a steepe r dive , and acce lerat e . If
so close the throttle and pu ll o ut of the div e, urg e nt ly.
Yo u have a problem. Either the CG is mu ch too far aft,
or yo u have Tuck Unde r ca use d by fle xibi lity of the
structure - o r a co mbina tio n of the two .
To find o ut, try th e opposit e o f the dip test. From
stea dy trimm ed flight ho ld a little up eleva tor to raise the
no se a nd le t the model s lo w d own a bit , a nd th en
re lea se it. If the model co ntinues to pit ch up then it is
u nsta b le and ne eds a more forw ard CG . (O r is the
e leva to r s tick ing in th e up p o sit ionr) If it b eha ve s
norm all y to th e pitch up b y lowering its n os e a nd
speedi ng up ag ain then look for a Structura l Flexibili ty
probl em as a ca use of the tuck under. The wings may
be tw ist ing, the e levator co ntrol may be flexin g o r the
fuselage bending o r so me thing . You wo uld then need to
stiffen up the structure (see Cha pters 18, 19 and 21).

The Paradox
Th ere may be sceptics wh o find it difficu lt to beli eve
that adding lead to the nose w ill help a mod e l pull o ut
of a dive , so let 's look at it an other way.
When yo u add the lead to the nose to mov e the CG
furth er forwa rd yo u will need to re-trim for stead y flight
at the same speed . Som e u p e leva to r trim w ill red uc e
the tail lift, o r eve n ap ply a little down force , to support
that we ight up front.
When you spe ed up the mod el , the mom en t of the
nose we igh t does no t change , but the effect o f this up
trim is e n ha nced by t he s peed sq ua re d effe c t so it
prod uces an increa sed nos e up mom ent. So it is actually
th e up trim you applied to trim o ut the forward CG
which is lifting the nose.

More Plight Tests

Most mod els will be ca pable of a loo p . If the CG is
too far aft it w ill loop tightl y with very little up eleva tor
and will be prone to sc rewi ng o ut of the loop. Roll ing
(or flicking) o ut of tight loops and stee p turns is a sign
o f a n aft CG (or too mu ch e leva to r mo vem ent) . With a
forward CG the loop will be large, or it may not ha ve
e no ug h up elevator autho rity to ge t around a loop at all.
My favo ur ite check is inve rte d flight. Ha lf-loop (o r
ha lf-roll) the model a nd appl y down e leva to r to hold
in vert ed flight. If yo u ne ed less th an a bo ut 3 mm o f
down mov em ent o n the stick then I suggest a furt her
fo rward CG - yo u have plent y o f co ntro l bu t insufficient
s ta b il ity . If yo u n e ed m o re than h al f th e d ow n


mo vem e nt to fly ste ady inve rte d th en th e mod el ha s

more than e no ug h stab ility and the CG co uld be mov ed
aft a little to imp rove co ntro l. Aeropl an es with ca mbe red
win gs o r lo w powe r may not be capa ble of susta ine d
invert ed flight , so co nsider the o the r tests.
Che ck o ut how the e leva tor trim va ries w ith airspeed .
Se tting a trim position sho uld se t a flying speed (if the
th ru st line is right a nd th e st ruc ture stiff) . T rim yo ur
mod el to fly fast , th e n retrim it to fly slow ly, and th e
cha nge in trim indi cates ho w mu ch sta bility yo u have .
With a very aft CG the mod e l is se ns itive to trim change;
a very sma ll trim cha nge is need ed between high speed
flight a nd lo w speed flight.
It is easier to fly a mod e l wh ich is positivel y sp eed
stable. A good se t up for train ers and sca le mod e ls is to
ad just th e CG and trims so that w ith fu ll up trim th e
model is flying as slow ly as it ca n, right o n the stall, a nd
it will fly le vel at its maximum speed wit h the trim half
wa y between the ce nt re and full down.
\Vith the trim se t for a fast cruise , close the throttle (if
you hav e o ne) and maint ain level flight o r a slight climb.
Check that yo u have e no ugh u p e levato r mov em e nt to
stall the mod el. If the CG is ve ry far forw ard the n full up
ma y a llo w the a irc ra ft to fly nos e d own , a bo ve its
sta lling speed, le aving yo u witho ut e no ug h co ntrol to
land the mod e l properly.
I am sur e there a re man y other useful l1ight tests for
CG pos ition , but th e fina l test for me is th e s pi n . A
mod el w ith a n a ft CG will s p in eas ily whil e w ith a
for ward CG it will not sp in at a ll. Adjus t it ho w yo u like

Popular Misunderstandings
If a new mod el "kee ps wanting to climb" , do yo u put
lead in the nose to mo ve the CG forwa rd? No , yo u add
down trim . You ad just the elevator trim to ge t the model
flyin g stra ight and le ve l 'ha nds o ff' and then p e rform
so me of the tests a bove.
You find after lan di ng that the e leva tor need s to be
d ow n for trimm ed fli g ht, d o yo u mo ve th e CG to
re move the trim requ irem en t? No! If the flight tests were
satisfacto ry, it just mea ns that the wi ng (o r tail) is o n at
the wrong ang le. To co rrec t fo r down eleva tor pa ck the
w ing 's TE up o r the LE dow n , o r a ng le the tailp lan e
itse lf mo re lead ing e dge u p if that is eas ie r (and vice
ve rsa fo r up e lev ato r). The riggin g an gles o f the wi ng
and tail a re nothing to d o with stab ility, they o nly get
the mod e l to fly in trim .
"I've change d the win g sectio n from se mi-symme trical
to a less stable, flat bottom ed , sectio n:- s ho uld I cha nge
th e CG?" No! Th e re is no s uc h thing as a sta b le o r
unst a bl e w ing sec tio n . Th e wing sectio n d o es no t
s ign ificantly a ffec t th e s tabi lity , but yo u may have to
change the w ing or tail rigging a ng le for trim .
"If I c ha nge to a lifting sectio n ta ilplane sho u ld I
move the CG to co mpe nsa te?" No! Again, cha ngi ng the
tail's se ctio n doesn't affec t stab ility - a nd it does NOT
mak e it lift! In the followi ng sections yo u will not ice that
the wing o r tail sections o r rigg ing ang les do not matter
significantly in stability a nd so are not invo lved in the
rules and formu lae for CG positio n.
"The CG s hou ld be at the thickest part of the win g."
It o fte n is, but that is pure co inc ide nce . Th ere is no
scientifi c co nnec tion so ignore suc h ad vice .
"T he CG s ho uld be just in front o f th e Ce ntre o f

Basic Aeronauticsfor Modellers

Pr e s s u re . " NO ! Suc h a dv ice b e tra ys a la c k o f

understanding, so igno re it. Th e Centre o f Pressure of
the win g is a floatin g po int wh ich o n a ca mbered wing
moves from 30% chor d at slow speed to infin itely far
beh ind the wing in a d ive . The C of I' is ahead of the
wi ng whe n inverted . O n a sy mmet rical section w ing the
C o f I' is fixed at 25% cho rd w ith the CG usually be hin d
"In the dip tes t the mod el keeps d iving , so the nose
mu st be too heavy?" No! There is not e no ug h stability to
reco ver from the d ive so mo ve the CG forward (a nd
check for struc tura l flexibility). The new CG will need
more up trim.

Where should the CG ofa new

model be?
For a kit o r p lan built model start where the design e r
says, though personally I woul d check first having seen
a few se rious ly wrong ones. Th e CG will be mark ed o n
the plan by a sy mbol like those in Fig ure 22.1. Start w ith
this positio n and do the flight tests described abo ve to
see ho w th e d es igner's CG su its YO U, a nd a dj us t if
ne c e s s a ry. No w, s u p pose t ha t yo u r m od e l co m e s
witho ut a suggested CG positio n, o r yo u don 't trust the
plan, o r yo u have design ed yo u r o w n, w here do yo u
start? Whe re is a go od CG position ? Do yo u start w ith a
fo rward CG? And wh at IS a forward CG, or an aft CG?
You mus t wo nder when I men tion a forward o r aft CG,
Forwa rd o r Aft relative to \XTHAT?

What Matters?
You ofte n find the CG mar ke d o n the fuselage , but if
yo u move the wing the CG mu st go with it becau se it's
the wing that ma tters. Th e CG may be marked o n the
roo t chord or tip chord of the wing, but if yo u change
the sweep of the w ing then the CG has to cha nge. Th e
CG is refere nced to the MEAN CHO RD, but it co uld be
at 50%, o r 30% or 15% or even ah ead of the w ing mea n
chor d because its position depends upo n the WHO LE
AEROP LANE, not just the wing.
I w ill no w b rin g th e Ce ntre o f Press u re in to th e
d iscu ssio n, but only to throw it straig ht o ut aga in . It is a
floating po int o f no relevance to anything, ce rta inly not
the CG. Any ad vice to positio n the CG relative to th e
Ce nt re of Pre ss ur e , o r th e thi ckest par t o f the w ing
sho uld be treated w ith deepest sus p icio n .
The NEUTRAL POI NT is the referen ce po int for the
CG. The NP is defined as the CG position at w hic h yo u

Figure 22.1

ge t Zero, o r Ne u tra l, Sta bility (the ba ll o n the p o ol
table). An aft CG means back close in front of the NP (a
ball in a sha llow d ish), and a forward CG me ans well
ah e ad of the NI' (a ba ll in a dee p d ish). See Figure 22.2.
T he Ne u tra l Poi n t (N P) b e lon g s to th e WH O LE
AEROPLANE and is w here the STABILITY FORCE on the
who le ae rop lane acts. This force (marked XL o n Figure
8.9) is ca used by a p itc h ang le cha nge, a nd it is th is
fo rc e w h ic h ro ta tes th e a irc ra ft a bo u t its CG ba c k
to w ard s its trimmed p os ition . The ma in part of th e
Stability Force co me s from the win g, but the tail makes a
major co ntribution and all o ther parts of the a eropla ne
shou ld be co ns ide red.

In a Nutshell
To calc ulate a CG position we need a refe re nce o n
the aircraft, and fo r this we use the ave rage win g cho rd.
\'lI e need to find the wing's mean chord, me asur e it, and
measure the model's tail and fuselage, and in fact any
pa rts w ith s ignifica nt ho rizon ta l area . The n we es timate
w he re the Ne utra l Poi n t wil l be. We w ill c hoose a
Stabi lity Margin wh ich will g ive the kind of han d ling we
req uire , mark that off as a frac tion of the me an chord
ahead of the NP, a nd there we have it a sa fe CG for th e
first test flight.

Mean chords
The first ste p in any CG calculation must be to find
the mean (ano the r word for average) cho rd and transfer
it to a s ide vie w o f th e aero p lan e . If th e wi ng has
round e d tip s, just sq ua re the m o ff w ith a ch o rd lin e
pa ra lle l to the roo t c ho rd . Mak e th e ex tra a rea yo u
create in the co rners equa l the are a yo u cut off at the tip
as in Figure 22.3.

It is custo ma ry to d raw the roo t cho rd of the wing o n

Figure 22.2

3. Reactioll

More Stable
2. Disturbed
. . - position

1. Initial position

2. Disturbed position

Basic Aerona uticsf or Modellers


Figure 22.4

Figure 22.3


Semi span A



Taper T = Tip C

the aircraft centreline when calculating its chord and

Area (gross are a) . The "Geometric Mean Chord" (GMC),
also called the "Standard Mean Chord" (SMC), on a
tapered wing is l1 (root c + tip c), and it is found half
way between the centreline and tip . For example on a
wing with a 10" root and a 7" tip the GMC is l1 00 + 7)







chord MAC



The Mean Aerodynamic Chord (MAC from now on) is
the technically correct refe rence length for calculating
aerodynamic forces and moments , and hence CG
po sitions, but the MAC is defined in terms of
complicated mathematics. The MAC is always bigger
than the GMC, but only very slightly bigger, unless the
wing is sharply tapered. For a simply tapered wing we
can use the simple equation

= root

20+t+t 2 )
chord x ----=.----'30 + t )

where t is the taper ratio , tip chord/root chord.

The distance of the MAC from the centreline ('d' in
Figure 22.4) can be found fromd

aO +2t)/30 +t)

For example , for the same wing as before with a root

chord of 10" and tip chord of 7" taper ratio t = 0.7 and
the MAC is given by
MAC = 1020+0.7+0.49)/ (30 +0.7)) = 8.588"
The MAC is very slightly bigger than the GMC, but the
difference is hardly worth bothering with . However, if a
wing is more sh arply tapered, say the root is 21" and the
tip is 6.3", the taper t is 0.3. So the GMC is 13.65 but the
MAC is 14.97" or IS" in practical terms. This time there is
a significant difference, especially if the wing is swept as
well. The formula for d w ill tell you where on the wing
it lies, to find the fore and aft position (vital if swept).
An easy way of finding the MAC of a tapered wing is
the graphical method , illustrated in Figure 22.4. You
extend the root chord forward (or aft) by the length of
the tip chord, and extend the tip chord aft (or forwa rd)
by the length of the root chord (whichever fits your
paper) . Then you join the points just marked with a
diagonal line . Where either of these diagonals crosses
the 50% chord line marks the position of the mean


chord. You can of course draw both diagonals and miss

out the 50% chord line . This method finds the location
of the MAC, which you then measure , and project onto
the centreline.

Drop the Formality

For most models, with little or no taper, it matters not
the slightest which mean chord you use, because there
is next to no difference. On deltas and sharply tapered
wings I use the MAC, found as in Figure 22.4, but
normally I just use whatever is ea siest, drop the formal
capital letters, and call it the mean chord or average
When you find the location of the mean chord it is
important to transfer it accurately to the side view of the
fuselage, in the correct fore and aft position as indicated
on Figure 22.4. While there, mark the Aerodynamic
Centre (AC), or quarter chord point:- that 's a quarter of
the mean chord from the front.

Elliptical Wings
Sometimes the wing of an aeroplane has an elliptical
planform (the Spitfire just springs to mind) or sometimes
just the outer panel is elliptical. The MAC of an elliptical
wing panel is 85% of its root chord, and you will find it
53% of the panel's span from its root chord, as show n in
Figure 22.5. The panel Area = 0.785 x span x root chord.
This also works for semi-circular panels, by the way , as
they are just special ellipses.

Combining Panels
Use the following method for wings with two panels,

Basic Aeronautics for Modellers

wh ich m a y ha ve differen t tapers a nd di fferent sweep back . Find

th e MAC of eac h pan e l
using th e formula e
above or the g ra p hica l
method in Figure 22 .4,
an d then join the mean
cho rds of th e 2 panels
as in Figure 22.6. The
d istance y in Fig 22.6 is
found from

Figure 22.5
Sp m l2a

53% a


(Al y1 + A2 y2)
(AI + A2)
and th e length of the co mb ine d me an chord ca n be
calculated from
co mbined mean chord

(MAC1 - MAC2)(y 2- y )
(y 2 - y1)

= MAC2 + - - - - - - - , . .--'-------''-

Having found th e MAC o f th e wing, th e tail and th e

foreplane , tran sfer them all acc urately to the ce ntreline
of the aircra ft a nd ma rk them o n the side o r plan view,
o r on the aeroplane itsel f.

Flying Wing
If yo ur mod el is a flyin g wi ng yo u ne ed go no
further. Put the CG at 15% of the mean cho rd to start
with, and rig so me elevon reflex for trim .
Having found the mean cho rd , and mea sured it at say
8.)", mark yo u r mean cho rd o n th e sid e view in th e
co rrec t locati on , and mea sure hack 15% of 8.)" , that's
1.275" back fro m the front of the mean ch ord , and there
is yo ur CG. However most aircraft have a tailpl an e or , as
they say in Amer ica, a ho rizontal stabili ser and yo u will
have to make allowa nces fo r it.

Tail Volume Ratio

Ta il Volum e Ratio, V-bar, is the tail area , as a frac tion
of the wing area , times the tail arm as a mu ltiple of the
wing me an cho rd , and it
is a m ea s ure o f the
e ffec tive ness of th e
Figure 22.6
tailplane , o r ho rizon tal
s tab ilise r. A s mall tail
w ith a lon g le vera g e
) '1
ar m will have the sa me
- - - -- -- i>;,
e ffe c t a s a larg e tail
ne are r to the wing.
Being dim en sionless,
_______ _ :
it is th e s a me at any
s ca le , and u s in g any
uni ts. You can measure
,, 1
th e fu ll s ize ai rcra ft in
- - - - - - - - ,- ,,
fe et , yo ur m odel in
inch es , o r a sma ll scale
dr awing in millimetres,
a n d yo u get th e same
It is u su a l to u s e
A rea A l
g ro s s w ing a re a (i ,e ,

Basic Aeronauticsfor Mode llers

including the area inside the fuselage) and net tail area
( i,e . on ly th e ar ea o ut in th e a irflo w) . Tail a rm is
mea sured between the q uarter chord po ints of the wing
and tail me an cho rds.
Wo rk it out o n the No mogram in App en dix E, Figure
E.5 or fro m
V-ba r

tail area
win g area

tail arm
wing MAC

- - - - x - - - --

Use the following proced ure to find the mean chord
of a biplane, o r a sesquiplane wit h unequa l wi ngs . For
example the Fokker DVII has two unequa l wings with
no rma l (positive) stagger, Le. the top wing is ahead of
th e bo ttom wing . I work ed o u t tha t th e top wing
su p p lie d 6 1% of th e to tal wing ar ea , a nd the bottom
wing obviously 39%.
Referr ing no w to Figure 22.7, I joined the mean cho rd
lines of the top and bottom w ings. I th en divided th e
ga p in th e rati o o f th e wing area s, 39 :61. Th e mean
cho rd is 39% of the gap from the upper wing . (So me
autho rs bia s the mean chord more toward s the top wing
b ut I have k ept it s im p le r a n d mad e ge ne ro u s
allow ances else whe re.)
The CG formu lae in Cha p te r 8 do not a p p ly to
bip lanes b e c a use t here is n earl y twi c e a s much

L _


Mea " c h o r d of
co m bina tion

Panel Z

A rea A2

12 7

Th us we need to co nsi de r th e a rea o f ea ch

co m po ne n t, th e point
Top uiing a rea A l
o n it wh ere th e lift
c ha nge a ct s , a n d it s
Ch o r d Cl
re la t ive effic ie ncy in
turnin g a o ne d e gre e
pit ch u p into extra lift.
O n a n aero fo il th e
lift c h a nge ac ts a t th e
Aero -d yn am ic Ce n t re,
o r AC (q ua rte r ch ord) .
O n o t he r o d d bits
o f area, like the nose or
na ce lles, I shall assum e ,
fo r co n-sistency, that the
ex tra lift ac ts a q uarter
o f its le n g th from th e
All parts beh ind the
Gap x \ Al + A2
wing ar e le ss effe ctive
____ __ g.1.-O:..I~- Q
b e ca us e o f th e w ing 's
wake and downwash.
Air wil l spill around
Lower toing area A2
th e fu s e la ge s id es, redu cin g it s lift c h a nge
A I. Cl + A2.C2
ns idera b ly , unl e s s
Mean cbord c =
A l +A 2
th e re is a ca na rd o n
e it he r s ide . Let 's tak e
o ne bit at a time , and as
an exa mple I'll use my du cted fan Spectre , illustrated in
downwash as the formul ae allow for , and tw ice as mu ch
Figure 22.8.
inte rfe ren ce to the airflow , Le . loss of a irspeed ov er the
tail. Ho wever, I have fou nd that if yo u red uce both the
Tail Volume and the win g Aspect Rat io by dividing them
The Wing's the Boss
by the number of w ings , th en putti ng th ese re du ced
Most of the lift change we are chasing co mes from
num be rs into the ori ginal formula gives a se ns ible NP
th e wing and acts through th e Aeroce ntre , o r qua rter
shift from the no rnograrn in Figure E.7.
chord point (o f the MAC). If the a ircra ft is a flying wing
In the case of the Fokke r, I ca lled the top wing 1 and
th at is the e nd o f the story. The NP is at the wing 's
the lowe r w ing is 0.64 of it, so the number o f wings is
1.64. That gave a reduced AR of 3.3 and a reduced V-bar
q uarte r chord point, o r 0.25 MAC from the LE. So the
of 0.24 which in my usual Cha pte r 8 formula gav e a CG
eq uation for the NP of a flying wi ng is simply
position at 18% of mean chor d, whi ch gave sat isfacto ry
NP positio n = 0.25
as a fraction of the MAC aft of its LE. As imp lied above, I
advi se a Stability Margi n of 10% MAC for flying wings
Finding the NP
g iving a CG at 15% MAC.
Fo r othe r a ircraft we can start from this neutral point
Th e actu al lift on a co mpo ne nt does no t matter. \'\fe
ne ed to wor k o ut the lift curve slo pe, or LIFT CHANGE
and mak e a dj us tme n ts for a ll th e o the r pa rts o f the
per degree of an gle change, a nd multiply by the area .
ai rcraft whose litt le bits o f add itio na l e ffect are to be
adde d or su btracted .

Fig ure 22.7



Figure 22.8

The Tail


You could g uess

from its o the r nam e , the
hori zo ntal stabiliser, that
th e ta ilpl an e is import ant. Following as it
does a co u ple of chords
beh ind th e w in g , it is
imm ersed in th e w ing's
w ak e a n d d o wn was h ,
and has a lo we r aspect
ratio. The re are co mp lex

Basic Aerona utics/or Modellers

and acc urate ways of wor king out the tail's effec t, but
my emp irical es timate ha s proven clo se e no ugh and is
easy to appl y.
NI' co rrec tion


On a calculator with squa re roots enter the w ing Aspect

Rat io (s pa n/c h or d), tak e th e sq ua re ro ot , a nd press
squa re roo t again . Multipl y by 0.25 an d the V-b ar. For
ex am ple, my Spec tre 's Asp ect Ratio (s pa n/cho rd) is 4.19,
the squa re root is 2.047 an d the square root of 2.047 is
1.43. Ta il volume is 0.292 and th is gives
NI' correc tio n = (0 .25 x1.43 x 0.292) = 0.104
(positive as it moves the NI' aft)
Th e Tail moves the NI' aft 0.104 times the !vIAC, from
0.25 MAC to 0.354 MAe.
If yo u do no t like the for mula, you ca n't go w rong
with Figure E.7 in App end ix E, a nomogram w hic h is
easier than "jo in the dots". Ju st mark the wing's Aspect
Rati o (spa n /c hord rat io ) a n d the V-ba r , a n d th e
suggeste d NI' co rrec tio n is on th e middle lin e . For a
biplane use 'fac tore d' AR and V-ba r as d iscu ssed abo ve
under "Biplanes".

The Fuselage
We norm ally ass ume that there is on e chord le ngth of
fuselage ahead of the w ing and 2 or 3 cho rds beh ind , so
by using th e gross w ing area we hav e taken a suitable
proportion of the fusel age area into account, and we
hav e ass u med th at th e quarte r le n g th p o int of th e
fuselage coi nc ides w ith the qu arter chord point of the
wing. On most aircraft that ta kes care of the fuselage ,
but the Spectre has a very lo ng nose . The uns ha de d pa rt
o n Fig ure 22 .8 wo u ld b e a "no rma l" fu s el a g e . Th e
sha de d part is "Excess area" and will tend to de-st ab ilise
the aircraft. Rou ghly sq ua re off th e curves to me asure
the fuselage area w hich is more than o ne !vIAC len gth
ahead of the wing Aero centre, and mak e it into a nose
volum e rat io b y d iv idin g by t he wi ng a rea a n d
multip lying by the d istan ce of its "q uarter cho rd " point
from the wing Aeroce nt re, d ivide d by the !vIAe.
So n ose vo lu me Vn = ( nose a rea x n o s e
distance)/(wi ng area x w ing MAC)
In the case of the Spectre this turned o ut to be (90 x
30)/(553 x 12.63) = 0.387
Th is a rea is n ot very e ffec tive so m ulti p ly by a
co nstant 0.2 from Tabl e 22.1 to allow for th e air spillage
aro und the nose. Th e no se moves the NI' (fo rwa rd) by
0.387 x 0.2 = 0.077 or 7.7% of MAe.

the air has less cha nce to "spill" arou nd the nose with
the fore plane in the way.

LE Extensions
O n the Spectre I have tre ated the wing LE extensio ns
(co loure d dark in Fig ure 22.8) in a s imi lar way to
"Io re p lane " a rea . Th eir ar ea times d ist an ce ah e ad o f
win g Ae rocentr e gives a volume of o nly 0.025 , an d they
are suc h narrow strips th at ai r will sp ill aro und th e m
givi ng a Fac tor of only, let 's say, 0.4. They mov e the NI'
fo rward by a vo lume rat io Vf = 0.025 x 0.4 . or o nly 1%
of !vIAe.
For any o the r od d b its of area on yo ur model mak e
allowance in a sim ilar way and use your jud ge me nt and
Table 22 .1 to c hoose a su ita b le vo lu me rati o and
efficiency facto r.

If an a irc ra ft is co nverte d to a sea p la ne b y fitting
floats, th e NI' is likely to ch an ge . Floa ts o n a D/ F Spectre
wou ld st re tch cre di bility too far, but my So na s sport
ae roba tic model has a span of 73", w ing area of 993 sq .
in ., a nd flo ats 40" long with 300 s q . in . of area. Th e
float s are rigge d w ith th e ir ce ntres abou t o n th e CG
which puts the ir qu art er chor d point 9" or 66% of the
wing mean chord ahead of the w ing Ae. Float area is
300/993 or 30% of wing area so the ir volume coefficient
is 0.2. Multiplying by the factor 0.2 for long slim floats
from the table g ives a NI' shift (forward) of 0.04 or 4% of

Th e to ta l a rea of a V-ta il is the se mi-s pa n of o ne
panel, measured a long its surface, times two , times its
ave rage chord . Its projecte d area o n a hor izont al surface
is n ot , as yo u m ight s u ppose, its effective a rea as
ho rizontal stabilise r.

Figure 22.9
Include shaded
fuselage area
with foreplane

Foreplane arm

The Poreplane

The for ep lan e , or ca na rd , sits right o u t in fro nt in

und isturbed air, so it is as efficient as the w ing . Wor k
o ut a Fo repl an e vo lu me u s in g th e n omo gra m in
Ap pe nd ix E (Figure E.5) or the formula Vf == forep lane area x
foreplane arm
w ing area
w ing mean cho rd
Use the forepl an e 's gross ar ea (acting at its q uar ter
chord) , a n d in cl u de th e fu s el a ge a rea ba c k to th e
foreplane trailing e dge as shown in Figure 22.9. I use the
gross area and a factor of 1 (or even 1.2 if the cana rd
has less sweep and a high er AR than the wing) because

Basic Aerona utics/or Modellers


T he ta il, forep la ne a nd
nose vo lu mes are each
mult ip lied by a facto r
chosen using the ta bl e
as g u idance. A nose is
slim if its le ngt h is, sa y,
mo re than three times its
average width , while a
fat no se is as broad as
it's lo ng . A fore p la ne 's
AR is high if it is more
than the wi ng 's .

Stability Margill
Reme m be r ne a r th e
beginning (Figure 22 .2)
w he n I co m pare d th e
Sta b ili ty of a n aircra ft
flyin g a long in trim to a
ball in a dish ? Well th e
Fitting floats to Sonas, a 73" span ASP 108 powered sport model moved its NP
Sta bi lity Marg in is th e
forward all estimated 4 % of toing MAC.
steepness of the d ish . In
a very sha llow dish th e ball w ill just gra dua lly ro ll back
For di he dra l o r a nhe dra l tail s , o r slo pi ng fins , th e
into the ce ntre . In a deeper , steep side d , dish the ball
effective a rea is the tot al area times the cosine of the
will retu rn to the centre mo re q uick ly.
d ihedra l a ngle , SQUA RED. Yo u h a ve to sq uare it
becau se the area is redu ced by the slo pe, and so it its
If a trimmed ai rcraft is pitched up slightly there w ill
ang le of attack.
be a STABILITY FORCE at the NI' w hic h w ill rotate it
For example , if the included ang le of the Vee is 110
no se down about the CG. Th e further the CG is ahead of
the NI' the more leve rage this Stab ility Forc e has so its
degrees then the d ihed ral angle is 35 degrees, cos35=
gre ater moment will restore stability more q uickly. That's
0.8192 , co s sq uared is 0.671, so the area effective as a
tail is 67% of the to tal area .
why a forward CG gives more Stability.
How mu ch Stability Margin yo u use depends o n yo u
a n d the mode ls you fly a n d your technique and
Putting it all together
experience. I always recomme nd a SM of 0.15 or 15% of
On a complex aero pla ne wit h engine nacelles , a
MAC. In the event of a 5% error in NI' position (about as
ta ilplane a nd l or ca nard an d a lo ng nose the NI' form ula
close as we ca n calc ulate ) we still have a flyab le aircraft.
w ill use th e wing MAC as a re fe rence , sta rt w ith the
Ho we ver I kn ow that co mpe tition g liders are flow n w ith
less stability, and it seems that jet fight e rs and sport jets
wing AC positio n at 25%, add the stab ilising e ffec t of
use 10% (o r less) Stability . Cana rds a nd flyin g wings
p arts aft of th e a ircraft like th e ta il, a nd sub tract the
destab ilising effects of the for e pl an e and excess nose
should use a SM of 10% of MAC. After test flying yo u
area to e nd up as
can adjus t it furth er aft as yo u wis h.
O n my Spectre the NI' ca lculate d above is at 0.267
NI' = 0.25 + tail bit - foreplan e bit - nose bit
chord o r 26.7% of MAC. A Stabilit y Margin o f 0.1 (or 10%
MAC) gives a CG position of 16.7% MAC w hic h is 0.167
x 12.63" = 2.1" af t of th e MAC Lead ing Edge . Th at is
In the case of the Spectre th is gives
abo ut 0 .1" (o r 2.5 mm) a head o f th e manufacturer's
recomme nde d point, and it flies just fine at that.
NI' = 0.25 + 0.104 - 0.4 x 0.025 - 0.2 x 0.387
= .25 + .104 - .01 - .077 = 0.267

Table 22.1
slim nose
fat no se
Wing strakes
ca nar d (foreplane)
high AR canard
LE Nace lles
Aft Nace lles
Floa ts


0.25 x ARwl\.25

Figure 22.10


Basic Aeronautics/or Modellers

Appendix A Bernoulli's Equation
Thi s e q u a tio n , wh ich w as d e ri ve d th e oret icall y ,
describes how the pressure var ies w ith velocity in the
flo w . It holds go od if th e flow is stea dy, e ne rgy is
co nserve d, the flow speed is we ll below the speed of
so und , and the fluid ha s no viscosi ty. It therefore a pplies
ap p rox ima tely to air flowing around slo w aerop lanes,
e xc e p t in th e bo u n dary la ye r wh ere v isc osi ty is
imp ort an t. At any point alo ng a particul ar strea mline .
p + Y, P V2 = co ns t (ca lled th e "to tal pr essure " o r
"stagnatio n pressure" of the flow )
where P = stati c pr essur e at the point as measured by
a barometer moving with the fluid.
P = air de nsity
V = air ve loci ty at the point.
y, p V2 is called the "dynamic pressure " of the flow .

B2. A go od demonstration of Lam inar and T ur bule nt

flow is sho wn in Figure B3 wh erein a large tank of still
water is run off through a glass tub e . At th e inlet of the
tube a sma ll filam en t of liquid dye is introduced into the
water strea m . At first the filam ent of dye is so steady as
to appear statio nary. Furth er alo ng the tube it wave rs
and th en breaks up and mixes wi th the water as the
flow tran sition s into turbulent flow .
Lik e th e w at e r in th e tub e , th e bound ar y la y e r
comme nce s as laminar near the leading edge of a bod y
and becom es turbulent at the "transitio n p oint " whose
position depends upon spee d, viscosity and surface
rou ghness.

Figure Bl
H e ight

A "p ito t" tube (a n open ende d tu be fa cin g th e flow)

me asures th e "to ta l pres su re ". An a irs peed ind icat o r
s u b trac ts s ta tic pressure fro m tot al pressu re to ge t
d ynamic p ressure from w h ic h ai rs peed ca n th en b e

Appendix B Boundary Layer

It is a fa ct th at fo r all flu id s flo w in g p ast a solid
sur face , wh ether water in p ipes o r air over wings, the
m ol e cul es of flu id ne xt to th e s urface d o not mo ve
relative to it. As th e relative ve loci ty at th e sur face is
zero , it follows that there mu st be a regi on in th e flow
wh ere the velocity rises gradua lly from ze ro to the free
strea m ve locity. Th e region may be very thin but within
it the velocity rises co ntinuo usly even if rap idly. There
can be no abrupt step in veloci ty. Thi s region is called
the "Boundary Layer ".

Two Types ofFlow

Two types of flow can ex ist in the bo undary layer. If
speed is low o r viscosity is high , the flow w ill be smoo th
and laminar with no vertical movem ent, like man y thin
sheets moving over eac h othe r, each slightly faster tha n
the o ne be low . Th e ve loci ty p rofil e in th e bounda ry
layer is show n in Figure Bl.
But if spee d is high or viscosity is low, th e flow will .
be turbulent. In tur bul en t flow there is greater mixing o f
the particl es and so the boundary layer is not so slow
but gives mor e dr ag. Th e slow mo vin g flu id part icles
near the surface are continu ally re-en ergised by mixin g
with the faster particles fro m furth e r out in the stre am
giving great er drag. The veloc ity profil e is as in Figure

Basic Aerona uticsforModellers


Fig u r e B2






Laminar Flow

Turbulent Flow


Boundary Layer Thickness

The thickness of the boundary layer is usually
defined as the distance from the surface at which
velocity of air reached 99% of the free steam velocity.
The boundary layer thickness grows as it travel over the
surface and a turbulent boundary level thickens more
rapidly than a laminar one.
For example a larninar boundary layer might reach a
thickness of 1 mm after travelling 200 mm over a smooth
flat plate. Whereas a turbulent boundary layer might be
5 mm thick 200 mm after becoming turbulent.

Appendix C Vortices
There are two kinds of rotating flow. In the forced
vortex the speed of the fluid is proportional to its

Figure Cl



distance from the centre and it is seen when water is

stirred round in a drum for example. The surface forms
as in Figure Cl.
The other kind is the free vortex in which the speed
of the particles of fluid reduces with increasing radius
and the surface would be as in Figure C2. (P article
velocity is inversely proportional to radius). This is the
kind of vortex we see when we watch the bathwater go
down the plug hole, blow a smoke ring or see a tornado
approaching. All natural vortices are these free vortices.
However when the fluid speed reaches nature's practical
limit, e .g. at the centre of a tornado, the vortex breaks
down at the centre into a forced vortex (forced by the
fluid's viscosity) in which the speed reduces towards the
centre (see Figure C3). Wing vortices are of course free
vortices, therefore the speed of rotation is greatest near
the centre and reduces
with distance from the
Figure C3
vortex core.
Vortices can never
end abruptly except
against a boundary, e .g.
a container side , wind
tunnel wall, or the water
They may be in continuous loops as in a
smoke ring or they may
continue in the fluid
until dissipated gradually by the viscosity .


Appendix D
Dihedral and
From Figure Dl, if an


Basic Aeronauticsfor Modellers


Pigure Dz

Airflow Velocity


-- _




u (Upuiash Component)

PQ = d/ cosL
XQ = d/cos(L-A)
YQ = d/ cos(L+A)

ae ro plane has a small sideslip veloci ty, then the an gle of

sideslip A is given by
A ' = . v/V

Figure D2 is a vie w from the rea r o f a n ae roplan e

w ith a d ih edral a ng le D. In Figure D2 th e si des lip
velo city v has be en sp lit in to tw o co mpo nents - o ne
p ar all el to th e wing w hi c h ha s no e ffe c t, and o ne
perpendicul ar to th e wi ng w hich w ill be a n up wa sh
ve loci ty u o n the right win g and a downwash o n the left
wing. From Figure D2 th e upw ash co mpone nt u = v
sin D
From Figure D3 the ex tra ang le of attack du e to the
up wash (Xa) is approx imately given by
Xa = V

at ang le L. The air flows in the dire ction PQ across the

cho rd . But whe n the ae ro plane is sides lip ping , the air
flow s alo ng YQ for left sides lip , and alo ng XQ for right
sideslip .
Both sideslip a ng les a re A. From the figure you ca n
see that distan ce


Ait:flo,!:! _ r - -


Th e le ading edg e is at a co ns tant height Y a bo ve th e

trailin g e dge so a s we c a n see from Fig u re D .5
sin ( n -X) = y/X Q ' =. (o -rXu) if a is fairly sma ll, so that
ex + Xo
ex - Xo


cos (L-A).y/ d
cos (L+A).y/ d

e q uatio n 1
equa tio n 2

now subtract e qua tio n 1 - e qua tion 2 to ge t

2Xa = cos (L-A).y/ d - cos (L+A).y/ d
y/ d .(cosL.cosA + sinL.sinA - cos L.cosA + sinL.sinA)
= 2y/ d .sin L.sin A
equa tio n 3


and th ere is a co rre s pond ing d e creas e o n

the left w ing .


Straight Airflow

v.sin D

Xa = -

- =A .


if both ang les are sm all.

All an gles mu st be in
radian me asure . ( O ne
radi an is an a ng le of
""it degrees =
57.29578 degrees).
Th e change in an gle
of attac k du e to sideslip
derived from d ihedral is
g ive n b y Xa = A.D
whe re
A = sideslip angle
D = d ihed ral ang le .
Fi gure D .4 s h ows a n
aerop lane w ith parall el
cho rd win gs swept ba ck

Basic Aeronautics/o r Modellers


Figure D5


From Figure D5 a
eq uatio n 3 gives

y.c os l./ d which when put in

2Xex = 2ex tan L.sinA

so Xo = ex sinA.tanL
o r Xn = ex A.tani
if the sideslip angle is small. All angles mu st be in radian
mea sure. Th e change in angle of attac k du e to sid eslip
derived from swee pback is given by
Xa = a A tanL wh er e

A = sideslip angle
L = an gle of sweep-back
a = an gle of atta ck (ave rage)
Xo; = chang e in an gle of atta ck
(average between 2 wings)

Th e follow ing books have be en my main referen ces.

Th ey are listed as Auth or, TITLE, publisher (no tes).

Reference List


CO NTROL , Pe rgamon Pr ess , (for e q u a tio ns of
a irc ra ft st abilit y a nd trim , tail loading , and tail
setting angle) .



of aircraft stability and trim , tail load ing, and tail
setting an gle).



Ab b ott and Doe n h o ff, THEORY OF WI NG

SECTI O NS, Do ver Publi cation s , ( Masses of
infor mation on the NACA families of wing sec tions
and famil y relationships, alb eit at high Re) .
N A V Pie rcy , AERODYNAMIC S, English Un iversities Press Ltd, (w ing downwash and gen era l
ba ckground information).


A C Kermode, MECHANICS OF FLIGHT, Pitman ,

(general ba ckground).


Den Hartog , MECHANI CS, Do ver Publicat ions ,

(re la tive motion , momentum and kinetic e ne rgy
consid eration s for the cha pte r on wind).


Martin Sim o n s , MODEL AIR CRAFT AERO DYNAMICS, Argu s Books, (sectio n data at low Re ,
and ge ne ral back ground .Re commended re ading
for co mpetitio n glide r or free flight enthusiasts.).



13 4

MOD ELLFLUG , Nec k ar-Ve rl a g, ( e xce lle n t

information on model sectio ns at model Re with
flap s and turbulators , but the text is in Ge rma n).

Seli g Donovan & Fr a s er , AIRFOIiS AT LOW

SPEEDS, Soartech/H . A. Stokely, (valuable test s o n
sectio ns at model Re).


Selig Gug lie lmo Broeren & Giguere, SUMMARY O F

A. Stokely, (tes ts o n more sectio ns at model Re).


Seli g Lyon G ig ue re N inh am & G u g l ie lm o,

SUMMARY OF LOW -SPEED AIRFOIL DATA VOL.2, Soarte ch/ H. A. Stok ely , (te sts o n even more
sections at model Re) .
The whole se ries of Soartech book s is ava ilable
from SoarTec h Publications, 1504 N. Ho rsesh oe
Circle, Virginia Beach, Virginia 23451, USA

Basic Aeronautics f or Modellers

The exa mp le o n the nomo gram bel ow is o f a 10 "

prop doin g 12000 rp m and its tip speed is just below the
limi t. To chec k yo ur prop , mark a d ot a t yo ur prop
d iam et e r o n line A, and a dot o n yo ur e ng ine rpm o n
line C, join them with a ruler and read off o n line 13 yo ur
pr op's tip spe e d in ft/s.

Appendix E
This co llec tio n of nomogram s is meant to he lp you get
an sw ers withou t even kn owing you a re de aling with
math em atical e quatio ns . It is just a ga me o f join the dots.
This first one , Figure El , is to hel p yo u ge t started us ing
nom ogram s and also to save flying fie lds. O nce we bu y
a mod e l engi ne it is too late to worry abo ut its design .
\V'e co uld bu y an add-on ex tra silence r, but th e easies t
way to make them qui eter is to red uce the tip speed of
the prope llers. On ce the tip speed of the prop s exceeds
550 ft/s (ha lf the sp eed of so und) the prop noise seems
to predominate and become un acceptable.

Figure El

C 30




M acb2



Macb 1









Tip speed

Prop diameter
in ches

Basic Aeron autics for Modellers

Prop RPM
ill 1000s


O r the a nswer co u ld be w ha t wi ng ar ea is needed to

s u p port a g ive n w e ight fo r a d esired wi ng lo ading . O r
yo u mig ht wan t to kn ow th e finish ed target we ight for a
mo del g ive n its wing a rea and d esired wi ng loading.

Another simple nomogra rn. Figure E2, links th e wing

ar ea o n line A via th e model weig ht o n line B to th e
an sw e r, the model' s wi ng lo ad ing in po unds o r o un ce s
per sq uare foot , o n line C.

Figure 2



40 00


3 000













































ft 2
ins 2
Willg A,'ea








Ibs/ft2 OZS/ft2

Basic Aerona uticsfor Modellers

Yo u ca n use the wing lo ad ing fro m Figure E2 to find

o ut from Figure E3 w hat speed your model will fly at a
particular lift coefficie nt , or wh at lift coefficient it needs
for a pa rticular speed. In particul ar yo u can estimate the
stalling speed .
Accord ing to Selig's tests in Soa rtech 8 the Clark Y
section at mo de l Reynolds Numbers has a maximu m lift

coefficien t of 1.2. Becau se of uneven lift d istribution and

lo s s e s aro u n d th e fuse lage th e ove ra ll wing li ft
coefficient w he n it stalls may be a bo ut 1. Plott ing 1 o n
line C and a w ing -loading of 20 oz /sq . ft. o n line A gives
a likely sta lling speed in stea dy level flight of aro und 22
ftl s on line B.






m 2/ft2

Lift Coefft

Willg Area S


Speed V

Basic Aerona utics f or Modellers

Tail Volume Ratio (or Coefficient) is conventionally

written in textbooks as a capital V wi th a bar over it, but
as that is tricky to type I shall write it as it is said, V-bar.
It is a measure of the effectiveness of the tailplane . You
will find it in all the best CG formulae and design criteria
(though sometimes in disguise) . Basically it is the tail
area, as a fraction of the wing area, times the tail arm as
a multiple of the wing mean chord.
It is usu al to use gross wing area (Le. including the
area inside the fuselage) and net tail area (Le. on ly the
area out in the airflow). Tail arm is measured between
the quarter chord points of the wing and tail mean

chords. Start at the sides of Figure ES and work towards

the centre. Mark the known values on lines A, B, F and
G, join A to B a nd continue to C, join G to F and
continue to E. Then join the points on C and E to get
your answer on D in the middle. Use this nomogram for
canard foreplanes as well.
A typical value is 0.4 to 0.7 for normal RC models,
maybe down to 0.3 for gliders while some free flight and
vintage models, and the odd sca le model, can have Vbar over 1.



15 00



= ST x.lI.





5 00


3 00



25 0
























35 0








15 0
Tail (H Stab)
Willg Area

Basic Aeronautics for Modellers


V-ba r

I p'c

Tail Arm

Willg Meall


10) use these nomograms in Figure E6 to ge t yo ur wing

Aspect Ratio from its span, and chord or area .

Before getting stu ck into ca lculating Neutral Po int

position s (o r even simple CG positions from Figure 8.
Pigure Bti





















































Basic Aeronautics for Modellers

To save yo u wo rki ng o ut sq ua re ro ot s of squ are

ro ots, this no mog ram (Figure E7) multiplies the fourth
root o f wi ng Asp e ct Rat io (o n th e rig h t) tim es Ta il
Volu me on the left to give the Neu tral Po int correc tion
from the Tailplan e.

Th e exa mp le, my Spectre , shows that a tail vo lume of

0.29 behind a w ing of AR 4.2 will shift th e NP aft by
about O. 105 times wing !'vIAe.

Figure 7
















Tail Volume
Ratio Vbar

Basic Aero nautics for Modellers


due to tail as a
fra ction of toing MAC



If you were put off trying to work out your tailplane

angle to trim from equation 12.2 then try this nomogram
(Figure E8), which comes in two parts. If you know the
lift curve slope of your tailplane (unlikely) mark it,
otherwise estimate it by marking the tail's aspect ratio on
line A. Draw a line from this point to your V-bar on line
C, then from where that line cros sed line B to Cmo (the
moment coefficient of the wing) on line E. Where this
line crosses line D gives the first part of TSA (that due to
wing camber) 2 degrees in the example. It is negative
(tail LE down) if Cmo is nega tive.

On line V bring down the value of al V-bar from line

B. Draw a line across to the Stability Margin on line X,
and then a line from the intersection on W to the lift
coefficient on Z.
The second part of TSA on line Y is another 2
degrees in this example.
The total is 4 degrees. That is the angle between the
tail and wi ng Zero Lift Lines, at th is lift coefficient. This
is for trim , so of course it varies with speed, so choose
the speed at which you want the elevator neutral.

Ptgure Ed

.00 6

















- - -.03


.04 -














a , V-bar
p e r degree



Tail Aspect

.0 6




Lift s lope
p er degree



.0 1

T.SA (camber)














.0 6





- -














- -






.0 7
per degree


.0 4
Stab illlJ'
Margill K"

T.SA ( s tab)


Basic Aeronauticsfor Modellers


Centre of Gravity
Gre ek lett er alp ha , angle of attac k
ze ro lift an gle of a ttac k
stalling ang le o f attack


Gree k lett er pi , ratio of circle

circumferenc e over di am eter
Gree k letter rho, air d en sity
Greek letter mew , air viscosity

CLor Cl
C~ I




lift curve slope , dCL/ do

tailplane lift curve slope, dCLy/ dnr
Aerodynamic centre , or ae rocentre .
Aspect Ratio
wing chord
Drag coefficien t
induced drag coefficie nt
profil e dr ag coefficient
minimum drag coefficient
Centre of Grav ity
Lift co efficient
section or wing 's ma ximum lift
coefficie nt
lift coefficient of tail
Pitching moment co efficie nt.
Pitching moment coe fficient, at
zero lift
Pitching moment coefficien t, about
the lead ing edg e
Centre of Pressure
DownWash Fraction, or in
standard terminology, de/do
a cha nge in velocity
a general for ce


V-bar (o r Vhar)

gravitatio nal co nstan t, or

(so metimes in " ") load factor
geome tric mean cho rd
a cons tant, in induced drag
Kinetic energy
Stab ility Facto r
for epl an e moment ann
fuselag e nose moment arm
tail moment arm
Leading edge
Mean Aerodynam ic Chord
neutral p o int
airflow dyn amic pr es sur e , V,pV2
dyn am ic pressure of airflow over
Reyn olds number
wing area
Tailplane area
Trailing edge
vel ocity , a vec tor, speed in a
particular direction
Tail Volume Ratio
Xtra Lift, an incre ase in lift

Co mmon Aerodynamic Terms

If you cannot find what yo u want in the Glo ssary then
p erhaps I cou ld not easily expl ain it without a d iagram .
Look for it in th e main te xt via th e Index .

Aerodynamic Centre
The aerodyn amic cen tre of an aero fo il Section o r a
wing is th e point ab out w hic h its pit ching moment
do es not vary w ith angl e of atta ck . Th e po int is
p ract icall y a lw ays within 2% of 25% cho rd a n d is
often ca lled the quarter chor d point, c/4.
Angle of Attac k
Th e angle between th e d ire ct ion of motion a n d a
datum lin e on a w ing. The datum line ma y b e th e
ze ro lift line , th e chor d line at th e root, or so me o the r
easily defined line specified for th e purpose .

Basi c Aerona utics for Modellers

Angle of Incidence
Th e angle b etween th e fu selage datum line an d a
d at um lin e on a wing . Th e datum lin e m ay be th e
ze ro lift line , th e chord line at th e root , or so me other
easil y defin ed line sp eci fied for th e purpose .

Aspect Ratio
Th e span of a wing divided by th e mean chord . O r it
is some times ea sier to use span square d divid ed by
wing area . (Fig ure E6)

Weight carried e ithe r to ad jus t the ce ntre of gravity of
th e aeroplan e , or to increase its w eig ht temporarily.


Boundary Layer
The layer of air next to th e surface of a mo ving bod y.

as a d e ci mal frac tion or perce ntage o f th e mean


An aeropla ne whose horizontal stabiliser is ahea d of
the wi ng . The hori zontal stab iliser may be ca lled the
"canard" or forepl ane.

Loss o f lift and increase in d rag beca use o f flo w
separatio n o n the w ing.

Centre of Gravity
Th e balance p o int , or the poi nt throu g h w hic h the
res ultant weight ac ts. It is the po int abo ut whic h the
weight ha s no moment. \V'e norma lly ass ume it lies
o n th e ce n tre line and q uot e only its fore an d aft
position, ign or ing its height.
Centre of Pressure
The im ag in a ry p oi nt th rou gh wh ich th e resul ta n t
aerodyna mic fo rce ac ts. It is fo und by d ividin g the
m om ent coefficie n t abo u t a p o int by th e lift
coe fficie nt through that point.
Th e a ng le by which each wi ng tip may be ra ise d
above the height of the roo ts.
Th e co mpo ne nt o f th e aerody na m ic fo rce in th e
d irection exactly op pos ite to the dir ection of mot ion.
Drag Polar
The Drag Po lar of an aerofoil o r w ing is a plo t of lift
coefficient on the ve rtica l axis against drag coefficient
on the hor izontal axis .
A mova ble port ion o n the trailing edge of the w ings
which may be low er ed to incre ase lift and drag .
See "angle of inciden ce".
Leading Edge
The lead ing edg e of an aerofoil or wi ng is the front,
the pa rt whic h the airflow meets first.

The co mpo ne nt o f th e aerodyna mic force a t rig ht

angles to the directio n of motion .
Longitudinal Dihedral
See Tail Setting Angle.
Mean Chord
The average cho rd of a tap ered w ing . (See index for
Mea n Ae rody na mic Chord a nd Geo me tr ic Mea n
Cho rd .)
Th e mom ent of a force abo ut a point is the amo unt
of the force times its distan ce from the poi nt. It is a
mea su re of its twi stin g , or turning effect about th e
poi nt.
Stability Margin (or Static Margin)
A measure of the sta bility of an aeroplane . Physically
the distance of the CG fo rward of the Neu tral Po int ,


Stalling Angle
Th e stalling a ng le of attack of an aerofoil or w ing is
the angle of attack at which it develops its maximum
lift coefficient.
Im ag ina ry lines d rawn to re prese nt th e flo w o f a
flui d , su ch th a t th e re is no net flui d flow ac ross a
strea mline .
Tail Setting Angle
Th e angle betwee n th e zero lift line of the tail and the
zero lift line of th e w ing . Always tail le ad ing edge
down. Some times referred to as lo ngitud inal dihed ral.
Taper Ratio
Th e cho rd a t the w ing tip d ivide d by the chord at th e
wing roo t, or at the fuselage centreli ne . (Express as a
decimal fraction.)
A viole nt wi ng d rop ca used by flo w se pa ration (a
stall) on the o utboard port ion of o ne wi ng o nly.
Trailing Vortices
A pai r of vortices trailing behind the wing tip s of a
flying aeroplane . Th ey rot ate in opposite directio ns
such tha t the air between them is descend ing .
Tuck Under
Th e tenden cy of so me mod e ls to p itch nose d own
w hen the ir airspeed is increased.
Turbulator Strip
A stri p of ad hesive tape (usua lly) on th e top o f a
w ing to improve its p e rforma nce a t lo w Re ynolds
Num be r.
Vortex, Vortices
A vortex is a ro tatio na l flow.

A tw ist in a wi ng w hich increases the incid e nce at the
wing tip . Not usu ally delib erate .
A twis t in a wing whic h red uces the incidence at the
wing tip . O ften done delib erately.
Wind Gradient
T he vari ation of wi n d spee d and d ire ct ion w ith
altitude .
Zero lift line
If th e Zero Lift Line of a n ae rofoil sectio n or a w ing is
aligne d with the airflow then the result ant lift will be

Basic Ae rona 11ties for Modellers

aerodynamic balance
aerodynamic centre
aerodynamic damping
aerofoil camber
aerofo il section
aerofoil thickn ess
aile ron drag
aileron flutter
aileron reversa l
air den sity
an gle of attack
as pe ct ratio
autoro tatio n
ax is, latera l,
axis, longitudinal
axis , vertical
bending moment
biconvex section
boundary layer
cambe r line
cambered section
can ard
ce ntre of gravity
centre of pre ssure
centripetal force
CG formula
chord line
coefficient , drag
coefficient, lift
coe fficient, pitching moment
compone nt
dimpled balls
directional stability
divergence, wing

Basic Aeronautics for Modellers

32,34, 85, 140

87, 127
16,24 ,28
85, 129
41, 123
17, 26
19, 23
19, 20
19, 26


diverg ent
double taper
downwa sh
drag bu cket
drag coefficient
drag polar
dutch roll
dynamic stability
elliptical load ing
elliptical planform
flap eron
flat-bottom ed sectio n
flick ro ll
flight testin g
flutter, aileron
flutter, tail
flutter, wing
forepl an e
Frise aileron
ge om etric mean chord
graphical method
ground effe ct
hodograp h
hysteresis loop
induced dra g
interferen ce d rag
invert ed flight
knife ed ge
laminar flow sections
laminar se pa ration
lateral axis
lateral stability
leading edge
lift co efficient
lift cu rve
Lift/Drag ratio
load facto r
longitudinal axis
lon gitudinal dihedral
longitud inal static stability

36, 127
18, 23
19, 23
41, 42, 59
35,37, 126

39, 125



16, 18
19, 20

48, 69


mass balan ce
mean aerodyna mic chord
mean cho rd
mean line
mom ent
na vigatio n
neutral point
Newton 's Laws
pendulum stability
pitch damping
pitching moment coefficient
pressur e
prop eller thru st
Reynold s number
rotational ine rtia
se mi-symmetrical section
separation bubble
se pa ratio n point
sides lip
skidding turn
slipstrea m
slope lift
smo ke tunnel
snap ro ll
spiral dive
spiral divergence
stab ility margin
stagna tion point
stalling angle
stalling speed
static marg in
static stability
strea mline
strea mlining
stru ctur es
strutted win gs
sweepbac k
symme trical sec tion
tail lift
tail setting angle
Tail volume ratio
taile ron s
tan gent
taper ratio
ten sion
therm al lift
th ickness
throttl e
trailing edge


58, 100
39, 126
39, 125
14, 15, 26
43,44 , 128
19, 26
13,1 7
50, 64

trailing vo rtices
trimm ed flight
tuck under
turbulator strips
turning flight
undercambered sec tion
vec tor co mpone nt
ve rtical ax is
viscos ity
Vortex, vortices
washin , (see wash out)
wash out, ae rodyna mic
wind gradient
wind tunnel
wind shear
wing divergence
w ing flutter
wing loading
win g struts
zero lift line

45, 139
30, 132
61,62 , 129
136, 137


44, 130
21 , 80
65, 77
38, 53, 133
48,6 9, 142
16, 24, 28
114, 120
Basie Aeronalilies for Modellers


Basic Aeronautics for Modellers



This second edition skillfully guides the reader through the basics of oircrolt
flight and performance before addressing issues specific to model oircrolt
Alasdair Sutherland draws on his personal experience as a student, a pilot,
and most importantly, an aeromodeller to present fundamental information in
a friendly and easily accessible form. He does so by building the knowledge
base of the reader in a steady progressive manner, highlighting a number of
common misconceptions along the way. In this way, he ensures that the
reader is prepared for each new section of the book as it is reoched.
Thankfully, the use of complicated equations or tedious derivations which, if
excessive, can olten deter the layman, is either avoided or they are provided
in appendices.



B __l _ I_C

I ~O

ISBN 1-900371 -41-3

9 781900371414


ISBN 7 900377 4 7 3