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44th AIAA/ASME/ASCE/AHS Structures, Structural Dynamics, and Materials Confere AIAA 2003-1893

7-10 April 2003, Norfolk, Virginia

IDENTIFICATION OF CRITICAL FLIGHT LOADS

M. H. Love*, R. E. Yoakum, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company


R.T. Britt† Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems

Abstract
A survey concerning critical flight loads for recent
aircraft is reported. The investigation identified
“missed” critical flight loads and causes. Causes
include various constituents of load prediction
methodology and other areas such as “pilot exceeding
flight envelope” and “system failures.” Data from
fighter, transport, bomber, and special aircraft was
collected through interviews conducted in a
concerted effort. Data analysis was motivated by the
desire to minimize future occurrences of load
surprises with its associated costs and readiness
impacts. Recommendations for future research and
development were made to the U.S. Air Force.

Introduction
In the 1990s, the aerospace industry consolidated.
With consolidation the industry realized attrition of
experience in design of new aircraft. Simultaneous to
the changing culture new technologies evolved
impacting aerodynamic, structures, and controls
interactions. Under the U.S. Fixed Wing Vehicle
Program, the Aerodynamics/ Structures/Controls
Interaction (ASCI) area was identified for
government and industry collaboration.
Figure 1: Survey on Recent Aircraft Conducted to
At the direction of government and industry Identify Needs for Research and Development
planning, a team of experts in the ASCI area was
tasked to identify research activities for industry, of Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Northrop Grumman.
government, and academia. In addition, potential
research programs were scoped, and roadmapped.1 This paper reports on the efforts of Lockheed Martin
and Northrop Grumman under an Air Force
A window of opportunity appeared wherein it program.2 The Lockheed Martin team efforts were
became prudent to examine approaches, methodology coordinated with Boeing efforts3 to ensure a
and tools historically used in ensuring structural consistent and integrated database for the Air Force
integrity for new aircraft designs. The goal of the at its conclusion.
study is to minimize and hopefully eliminate costly
redesigns and unforeseen flight limitations. It is Study Objective and Overview
essential that history be captured to preclude The objective of this effort was to identify areas of
repeating old mistakes on future aircraft. The research for improved flight loads predictions. The
“Identification of Critical Flight Loads” program was approach (shown in Figure 2) captured historical data
directed to initiate efforts concerning improvement in concerning the critical flight loads of recent aircraft
the prediction of critical flight loads. To that end, a where unanticipated structural response and or
database of critical flight loads events has been damage was observed. The information gathered was
created and populated with information from aircraft studied to understand root causes and to promote
manufactured by the legacy companies improved flight loads prediction in future aircraft.

*
AIAA Senior Member

AIAA Senior Member

1
Copyright © 2003 by Lockheed Martin Corporation. Published by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc., with permission.
TASK 1

Team Coordination Plan Database Development

Select Aircraft Develop DB Schema


Develop Survey Template Gather Data & Populate DB
Provide Review @ AFRL Characterize Surprises

TASK 2

Final Deliverables
Methodology Development Plan

Electronic Database
Identify Research
Briefing @ AFRL
Identify Needed Changes
Final Report & Plan

Figure 2: “Identification of Critical Flight Loads” Program

Recommendations for technology development in often subscale model testing. Flight loads testing
flight loads prediction were developed based on these collects data to verify predictions but conditions can
studies. Participants in the study under this contract be missed. Critical loads continue to be verified
included Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company throughout the life of the product. During any aircraft
(LM Aero - then Lockheed Martin Tactical Aircraft fleet life-cycle, unexpected incidents have invariably
Systems, Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, and occurred. Figure 3 identifies types of incidents,
Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems), Northrop causes, and corrective actions of focus in this study.
Grumman Air Combat Systems , Northrop Grumman
Airborne Electronic Warfare Systems,. The Boeing The pilot will experience an unexpected aircraft
Military Corporation worked a parallel contract to response or experience diminished aircraft control.
this one. Their data was developed collaboratively The aircraft will suffer structural failure or damage.
and reported simultaneously. These incidents can cause, or may have been caused
by, unexpected and excessive structural loads. There
Definition of Critical Flight Loads are many causes for these excessive load incidents
Critical flight loads are those flight loads that are some of which can be identified as problems with the
used for structural design and sizing, component original loads or life analysis. Other causes can be
arrangement and placement, and after final design, identified that will also result in unexpectedly high
the determination of safe flight operational limits. loads. The pilot may have exceeded the aircraft
flight
These loads are predicted in design from analysis and

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Problem Types Types of Causes
• Excessive Static Loads • Inadequate Loads Analysis
• Excessive Dynamic Loads • Aircraft Exceeded Flight Limitations
• Excessive Aircraft Response • Prior Aircraft Structural or Defect
• Structural Damage or Failure • Aircraft System Failures (Flight
Controls, Electrical …)
• Lost or Diminished Control
• Aircraft Usage Exceeded Design
• Loads Discrepancy
Mission Analysis

Types of Corrective Actions


• Impose Flight Restrictions • Structural Modification
• Modify Control Laws • Structural Repair
• Implement Load Alleviation, • Implement Aircraft Inspection
Suppression, Reduction • Improve Maintenance Practices
• Update Loads Analysis • Inspect Aircraft
• Update Aerodynamic or • Action Under Review
Flexibility Analysis • No Action Taken
• Expand Structural Envelope by • Outer Moldline Modification
Analysis and/or Test
• Mass Balance

Figure 3: Characteristic Data Acquired in Critical Flight Loads Study

limitations. The fleet or a part of the fleet may have unintended problems. Also, missed conditions can
been operated in a manner that was inconsistent with result from inadequate and incomplete loads criteria
the original mission design usage. specifications. Typically, criteria are developed from
the various customer specification documents and
Incidences can be precipitated by improper expanded by significant test or operational data from
maintenance practices and procedures or prior prior aircraft programs.
airplane damage such as service equipment colliding Additionally, each new aircraft design brings with it
with part of the airplane causing unnoticed structural new and different requirements that are incorporated
damage. Incidents can result from failure of various into the criteria as the aircraft design matures.
aircraft systems and subsystems (e.g., electrical, fuel, Modern aircraft design has evolved toward
avionics, engine or hydraulic systems). computerized, fly-by-wire control systems with
increased use of thrust vectoring technology.
Critical flight load conditions may have been missed Computerized control allows aircraft flight control
because of a variety of reasons. Reasons for missed surfaces to move in various combinations at rates and
conditions can be organized into several categories directions that were not anticipated by previous
such as inadequate loads analysis resulting from customer specifications or prior design and
immature aerodynamic or inertia data, improper loads operational experience. Therefore, the establishment
analysis methodology and implementation or of new criteria development methodologies that can
inaccurate structural flexibility data. Transient accommodate modern computerized flight control
maneuver and failure analysis plays an important roll systems is essential to preclude the incidence of
in identifying critical flight loads conditions, so criteria induced missed critical flight loads
inadequate modeling in this area can cause conditions.

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Missed critical flight loads conditions, no matter The database was studied to characterize the causes
what the reason, can have serious safety of flight and of the various incidences. The number of entries
diminished service life repercussions that lead to however preclude any statistically based
expensive aircraft modification and repair. The need generalizations. Figure 3 shows the demographics of
to collect data, organize information, and then the data collected. The essence of the information is
identify areas to improve has been identified. The that it supports the need for technology development
creation of a searchable database of critical flight for improved loads prediction methods. A total of
loads events is a logical way to collect and organize 128 incidences were recorded in the surveys and
the data. distributed across the various aircraft.

Flight Loads Database 80


An electronic survey (illustrated in Figure 2) was 70
constructed in Microsoft Excel and Access to gather 60
data where unanticipated flight loads were observed. 50
40
A questionnaire was developed to which the answers
30
were then stored in spreadsheet format. The 20
questionnaire allowed for standardization of the data 10
in the database, thus facilitating future queries in 0 # Of Events

Fighter
cause/effect analyses. # Of A/C

Bomber

Transport

Operations

Passenger
Special
Figure 3: Most of the Data Acquired for Fighter
Aircraft

A breakdown of the problems observed in this study


is shown in Figure 4. The “Excessive Static Load”
category characterizes maneuver loads simulations
and constitutes 47% of the events recorded in the
database. Events recorded in the “Excessive
Dynamic Load” category include loads from store
ejections, jet wake encounters, and buffeting. The
high percentage of “Excessive Static Load”
occurrences is due to the relative number of F-16
incidences reported. The F-16 high-g performance
and relatively simple geometry attribute to its
challenges. Other high performance aircraft, such as
the F-18, have a history of “Excessive Dynamic
Figure 2: Standardized Entry Facilitated Load.”
Uniform Responses Within the Database
“Structural Failure or Damage” may include events
where loads caused such an event as well as events
Survey of Data Acquired
where excessive loads were caused as a result of prior
Aircraft surveyed under this contract effort include F- damage. “Excessive Aircraft Response” includes
16, F-5E/F, F-14, P-3, S-3A, C-130, and the L-1011. limit cycle oscillation type response and excessive
In addition technical information concerning the F- load-factor in a maneuver due to the control system.
111, EF-111, B-2, F-14, and YF-23 was included.
Entries in the database were derived through “Lost or Diminished Control” refers to a condition
documentation searches and personal interviews. At leading to the inability to control the aircraft or
the time of the study, the F-22 was considered to be prevent a crash. All three of the events in here
immature for evaluation. Future entries may be involve the P-3 aircraft. The “Loads Discrepancy”
entered more easily as data is acquired “real time” on category was developed to include cases where the
an existing program. reason for a load discrepancy was undeterminable.

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Figure 4: Problems Identified For Over 128 Incidences

An examination of the total causes recorded show a It is important to note that each of the aircraft
dominance of “Inadequate Loads Analysis” as the surveyed were designed with methods ranging from
number one cause. This is seen in Figure 5 along wind tunnel (i.e. empirical) and slide rule to
with the number two cause being “Aircraft Exceeded computationally based procedures including
Flight” Limitations and the number three cause of computational fluid dynamics and structural finite
“Prior Aircraft Structural Damage.” There are a element modeling. This consideration underlines the
number of system type failures as well. The natural essence of good aerodynamics. Figure 6 displays
question resulting from this observation is the causes items identified under “Inadequate Loads Analysis.”
of “Inadequate Loads Analysis.”

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Figure 5: The Dominant Cause to Identified Events Classified To Be Inadequate Loads Analysis

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Figure 6: Aerodynamics Subcauses Lead to Inadquate Loads Analysis


“Basic aerodynamic database” refers to information damage tolerance life as well. It was not the intention
providing an overall sense of the aerodynamic of this study to examine service loads. The F-16 and
properties. “Wind tunnel data” refers to the extent of F-5 however, are widely used by many countries.
the data (e.g., flow parameters - angle of attack, Consequently operation-type problems were
control surface deflections, Mach numbers), while discovered and entered in the database.
local flow phenomena refers to knowledge and
accountability of buffet, flow separations, etc.. The third most prevalent area concerns “MDOF
Control surface aerodynamic effectiveness refers to (multi-degree of freedom) simulation.” This category
the understanding of controllability issues as does the deals with the actual integration of aerodynamics,
modeling or aerodynamic component coupling. controls and structures in performing maneuver
These aerodynamic related areas make up a simulations that provide the actual loads. Events
considerable portion of the events covered. The large recorded in this category come mostly from the F-16
number of events concerning “Wind Tunnel Data” is and emerged as excessive static loads on both the
skewed by ten events recorded for the F-111 alone. wing and vertical tail.
F-111 was an aggressive swing-wing design which
allows for a large combination of configurations. Other areas of note are the “Flight Conditions Not
Many of the critical loads for this aircraft were Designed For” and the Flutter Analysis. Six cases
identified in flight test. ranging in Problems, Aircraft, and Components
shows that not enough data is available to
The second most hit category in the “Inadequate characterize the latter category. The limit cycle type
Loads Analysis” cause is “Fatigue” or durability and

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phenomena was classified as an “inadequate flutter conservative methods were refined through improved
analysis capability.” analysis methods. The F-16 Program, for instance,
has seen many block design changes in its life. The
The demographics of events on aircraft components early block changes consisted primarily of avionics
attributes fifty percent of the events over the lifting improvements. Few structural modifications were
surfaces. This is consistent with the findings related required in the early block changes. Expectations are
to aerodynamics. Seventeen percent of the events are that the aircraft being designed and developed today
in the Fuselage, and these findings are mostly from will show an increase in the number of structural
B-2A data. Two fuselage events were recorded on modifications and imposed flight restrictions.
the SR-71 aircraft as well. These two aircraft are
quite different than the conventional wing tailed Two-level sorts were performed on the database to
aircraft such as the F-16, F-111 and F-5. obtain information concerning cross correlation of
the categories. Figure 7 shows a cross correlation of
The final single level sort performed within the the documented Problems with the documented
database deals with Corrective Actions. More than Subcauses of the Inadequate Loads Analysis Cause.
25% of the events involve expanding the structural There is a clear message in this data that the largest
envelope through additional analysis or tests. Many cause for “Missed Loads” involves getting accurate
of the structural modifications deal with structural and fully representative aerodynamics data. To
failure or damage. Of note, many of the aircraft facilitate this observation, the Basic Aerodynamic
surveyed were developed with conservative “hand Data, Wind Tunnel Measured Data, Aerodynamic
crank” methods as compared to the current Control Surface Effectiveness (including aeroelastic
widespread use of computerized methods in aircraft effects), and Local Flow Phenomena categories were
design. These methods of the past regained built in combined. In one case of the data mining, a comment
margin for envelope expansion through time as

Excessive Static Load


35%
Excessive Dynamic Load
30% Structural Failure or Damage
25% Excessive Aircraft Response

20% Lost or Diminished Control


Loads Discrepancy
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10%
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Figure 3-8 Aerodynamics Account for 50% of Loads Problems

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was made by the interviewee that “there was an restriction was necessary. During the course of the
inability to believe the wind tunnel data.” investigations it became evident that significantly
Aerodynamic analyses requires more than testing to more in service problems arose due to the wide and
fully comprehend the magnitude of issues in varied usage of the F-5. Over 2000 aircraft are still
developing the aerodynamic database. flying, with 23 foreign users. Overlooked loading
conditions in the service loads spectra can eventually
reveal themselves in fatigue damage. The F-16
Key Observations experiences similar issues. Although these issues
In the mining and study of the data, phenomena and were identified, no further work was done to examine
causes were correlated with key attributes of the the causes.
aircraft they were associated with. These are
summarized for various aircraft. On the F-14. Rudder buzz (shock induced rudder
oscillations) was uncovered during flight test,
On the F-16, about half of the events identified requiring change in the external mold line on the
involve wing aerodynamic phenomena. The F-16 is vertical tail in conjunction with adjustment of the
the first 9g aircraft and included aggressive buzz damper. A structural failure incident (engine
technology such as an actively scheduled leading door) and wing load exceedance were documented,
edge flap for minimum drag throughout the flight both resulting from inadequate loads analysis.
envelope. These events include estimation of leading
edge flap hinge moments, basic wing root loads and For the B-2 incidences of ‘Excessive Vehicle
flaperon hinge moments. They also include the well- Response’ were recorded and these involve the
known limit cycle oscillation at many points in the difficulty in assembling high coupled aerodynamic,
flight envelope. Other areas documented include structural and control system models into simulation
large store ejection, jet wake encounter, and ventral models. One incident in this category is a self-excited
fin dynamic-loads. Corrective actions for the F-16 aeroelastic response that results in vehicle pitch
problems largely consist of expanding the structural oscillations under unique weight and flight condition
envelope by analysis or test, structural modifications, combinations.4 Although outside the flight envelope,
and implementation of inspection programs. the phenomenon required extensive analysis and test
to characterize in case of overspeed incidences. A
The F-111 aircraft also included aggressive flight vast majority of the incidents were due to highly
technologies. Almost all of the causes for the coupled phenomenon often encompassing non-linear
problems identified were of an aerodynamic nature. aerodynamics. The exhaust-impinged structure
The swing-wing capability allowed the vehicle to included highly non-linear effects due to thermal
assume many configurations, while the assuming loading, complicated by a complex dynamic
these at a very wide range of speeds. The aircraft aerodynamic and acoustic loading. It is evident that
was designed at during the emergence of the missed static and dynamic loading conditions can
computerized methods. There was a strong reliance be attributed in part to a lack of mature
on static and flight tests in the development program. multidisciplinary design tools, a situation which still
Many of the critical flight cases were actually exists.
determined in flight tests.
Technology Recommendations
Of the remaining LM Aero aircraft surveyed, the F- Technology programs were recommended to the U.S.
117 and SR-71data is almost exclusively from the Air Force dealing with variable fidelity
development stages of the programs. Both aircraft aerodynamics; including coupling with structures and
are in the Special Operations category. Little controls. In addition, development of thermo-
information has been fed back to LM Aero after vibroacoustics and robust loads methodologies were
deployment. also recommended.
The F-5E/F EMD program, performed in the late Variable Fidelity Aerodynamics
1960s and early 1970s showed surprisingly few
design issues and anomalies, with no significant A statistically significant number of the issues
failures remarked. A majority of the issues were identified were due to the inability to capture and/or
categorized as “Load Discrepancies” which indicated include complex aerodynamic flows in
discrepancies between analysis and test, requiring multidisciplinary analysis systems. The ability to
further assessments to determine whether an aircraft selectively incorporate high fidelity aerodynamic

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predictions into simulation packages for maneuver model active or passive cooling should be
loads, unsteady airloads and aeroelastic stability is incorporated into the system.
considered of very high value for future EMD
programs. Maturation and incorporation of reduced Summary and Conclusions
order methods for multidisciplinary analysis is The objective of the Identification of Critical Flights
recommended as part of this activity. Variable contract was to gather events of “missed critical
fidelity aerodynamics coupled with linear structural
flight loads” concerning recent aircraft, analysis of
finite elements and with a general flight control law the data for characteristic causes, and
system is needed for the complete loads package. A recommendation of technology and process related
multidisciplinary computation environment such as developments to reduce the number of events and
the CFD Research Corporation product, MDICE,5 thus reduce operation and support costs for aircraft.
provides a general “plug and play” environment. A
An electronic database schema was developed in
building block approach is needed for high fidelity
Microsoft Excel along with a structured
CFD in provide for robust grid moving schemes
questionnaire. The database was loaded with 128
(flexible for structural deformation and rigid for
events from thirteen legacy aircraft of Lockheed
control surface movement). Linkage to a general time
Martin and Northrop Grumman. The data was
accurate multi-degree-of-freedom (MDOF) flight
characterized through analysis of aircraft, problems,
control system is then recommended to bring
causes, subcauses, components, and corrective
appropriate fidelity within a unified environment.
actions. The number one cause for these events was
determined to be the characterization of airplane
Robust Design Methods aerodynamics. Technology programs were
In this area, the needs for development of methods recommended dealing with variable fidelity
examining pilot profile usage and fleet mission usage aerodynamics; including coupling with structures and
was highlighted. Some of the events documented in controls. In addition, development of thermo-
the database involved excessive aircraft response due vibroacoustics and robust loads methodologies were
to the inability of the control system to maintain also recommended.
accelerations and control surface travel limits.
Others involved variable usage across different users. Acknowledgement
Initial flight conditions lead digital flight controls to
The authors acknowledge the efforts of many in this
unexpected solutions for controlling the aircraft. study. The work was performed under contract to the
Maneuver conditions are typically analyzed in Air Force Research Laboratory / Air Vehicle
development of design loads for the airframe, Directorate. Program management of the Lockheed
however with few variations in initial conditions. Martin effort and overall effort was provided by
Comprehensive tracking of flight loads is envisioned Mike Love. Principle work was performed by
as a new attribute in the control law simulation. Richard Yoakum at LM Aero in developing the
These methodologies would be used in the design as
database questionnaire, mining LM Aero data, and
control laws are being checked out or as mission data analysis. The program manager at Northrop
scenarios are projected. Load anomalies could be Grumman Corporation (NGC) subcontract was John
caught before the aircraft is flown, and possibly Volk.
corrected through the control laws or limited
structural redesign.
A parallel effort was conducted at The Boeing
Company with Michael Clement as the program lead.
Thermo-Acoustic Structural Analysis His collaboration and efforts investigating the Boeing
Imbedded exhaust systems provide challenging legacy aircraft truly complimented the LM Aero /
design problems involving impingement of hot, high NGC effort and was greatly appreciated.
pressure gas over structure intended to either
passively or actively cool the airflow. The flow is Mr. Elijah Turner was the primary program engineer
highly unsteady resulting in a severe vibration at the Air Force Research Laboratory Air Vehicle
environment. Structure in this environment is subject Directorate. He was assisted by Mr. Larry Huttsell as
to vibration induced fatigue. Thermo-vibroacoustic well. Their assistance, support, and guidance are
analysis capability improvement is needed for greatly appreciated.
exhaust impinged structures. Data characterization of
material systems at extreme temperature for
durability and damage tolerance is required to
support such an analysis system. Capabilities to

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References
1) Luker, Joel J., Huttsell, Lawrence J., “Air Force
Research Laboratory’s Progress in Fluids-
Structures Interaction,” American Institute of
Aeronautics and Astronautics Paper, AIAA-98-
2420.
2) Love, Michael H., Yoakum, Richard E., and
Volk, John, “Identification of Critical Flight
Loads, Final Report,” AFRL-VA-WP-TR-1999-
3058, July 1999.
3) Clement, Michael G., “Identification of Critical
Flight Loads, Final Report,” AFRL-VA-WP-TR-
1999-3037, March 1999.
4) Jacobson, S. B., Britt, R. T., Freim, D. R., and
Kelly, P. D., “Residual Pitch Oscillation (RPO)
Flight Test and Analysis on the B-2 Bomber,”
AIAA 98-1805, AIAA/ASME/ ASCE/AHS/ASC
Structures, Structural Dynamics, and Materials
Conference and Exhibit, April 1998.
5) Siegel, J.M., Jr., et al, “Application of A Multi-
Disciplinary Computing Environment (MDICE)
for Loosely Coupled Fluid-Structural Analysis,”
Presented at the 7th AIAA/USAF/NASA/ISSMO
Symposium of MDO, AIAA 98-4866,
September 1998.

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