What Are the Stages of Aircraft Design?
Whether a manufacturer is developing a single-seat piston aircraft or a large military transport, all aircraft follow a similar design process from start to finish. Through engineering designs and rigorous testing, a number of steps are taken to ensure that a particular proposed aircraft meets airworthiness standards as set forth by aviation authorities. Generally speaking, the three main steps of aircraft design that are followed before a model can be produced include the conceptual, preliminary, and detail design phases.
Regardless of what type of aircraft one wants to create, everything always starts with a conceptual design that sets forth the intended purpose of the vehicle. With commercial airliners being created to transport people and fighter jets needing air superiority through weaponry and maneuverability, such concepts will show the specific purpose of the aircraft in question before any further steps are taken. Furthermore, the design will have to show how it will meet airworthiness expectations for certification, presenting its configurations, propulsion capability, aerodynamics, structural systems, and much more. Once an aircraft can show how it will meet such expectations, the concept will then be improved upon further to accommodate various financial, environmental, and safety factors so that the aircraft will be feasible to operate.
Once the concept of an aircraft is fairly complete, the stage of preliminary design begins. In the preliminary design phase, the concept design is worked upon to ensure that it accounts for various parameters that may have come up in earlier concept stages or for environments that the aircraft will operate in. For instance, engineers may test the concept design against wind tunnels, fluid dynamics, and more to guarantee its capabilities to withstand common forces. With computer-aided processes becoming more advanced and widely available to manufacturers, engineers can now conduct calculations and experimentation through programming. Additionally, programming languages have also permitted engineers to create applications that further assist the design process in regards to visualization, calculations, and streamlining processes.
When designing the various structural components of an aircraft, it is important that engineers consider aerodynamics, propulsion, controls, mass, and other properties so that they may be balanced to fit a specific need. For the aircraft wings and their design, they must be capable of providing enough lift to achieve heavier-than-air flight, and their exact shapes can be manipulated to affect all aspects of flight. Additionally, the placement of wings on the aircraft fuselage will also affect lift and performance, allowing for engineers to create more diverse aircraft that cater to varying roles.
The same process is also conducted for the propulsion components of the aircraft, as various engines will provide different properties and capabilities for flight. For engine design, engineers focus on the amount of engine thrust that is needed for the aircraft, the average fuel that may be burned during flight, the engine mass of a particular assembly, and its geometry. By balancing such aspects alongside the weight, shape, and role of the aircraft, engineers can optimize the amount of thrust that will be provided for cruise speeds and acceleration.
Once all structures have been considered, the detail design phase can begin. At this stage, the actual fabrication of the aircraft is carried out, and engineers often utilize existing designs to build the new model off of. During this time, engineers also conduct further testing, allowing for designs to transition from concepts to a fully working aircraft. With flight simulations and rigorous analysis, aircraft are checked to ensure that they function as intended before being finalized for manufacturing.
As the aerospace industry continues to grow with new technologies, designs, and capabilities, the aircraft designing process has become more thorough and robust. If you are in need of various aircraft parts and components for manufacturing, look no further than ASAP Distribution. As a leading online distributor for aviation parts and components, we can help you secure competitive pricing and rapid lead-times on everything that you need. Get started today and receive a personalized quote on the parts that you are interested in when you fill out and submit an Instant RFQ form on our website.