Drag in flight is of two basic types: parasite drag and induced drag. The first is called parasite because it in no way functions to aid flight, while the second is induced or created as a result of the wing developing lift.

Parasite drag is composed of two basic elements: form drag, resulting from the disruption of the streamline flow; and the resistance of skin friction.

Of the two components of parasite drag, form drag is the easier to reduce when designing an airplane. In general, a more streamlined object produces the best form to reduce parasite drag.

Skin friction is the type of parasite drag that is most difficult to reduce. No surface is perfectly smooth. Even machined surfaces, when inspected through magnification, have a ragged, uneven appearance. This rough surface will deflect the streamlines of air on the surface, causing resistance to smooth airflow. Skin friction can be minimized by employing a glossy, flat finish to surfaces, and by eliminating protruding rivet heads, roughness, and other irregularities.

Another element must be added to the consideration of parasite drag when designing an airplane. This drag combines the effects of form drag and skin friction and is called interference drag. If two objects are placed adjacent to one another, the resulting turbulence produced may be 50 to 200 percent greater than the parts tested separately.

The three elements, form drag, skin friction, and interference drag, are all computed to determine parasite drag on an airplane.

Shape of an object is a big factor in parasite drag. However, indicated airspeed is an equally important factor when speaking of parasite drag. The profile drag of a streamlined object held in a fixed position relative to the airflow increases approximately as the square of the velocity; thus, doubling the airspeed increases the drag four times, and tripling the airspeed increases the drag nine times. This relationship, however, holds good only at comparatively low subsonic speeds. At some higher airspeeds, the rate at which profile drag has been increased with speed suddenly begins to increase more rapidly.

The second basic type of drag is induced drag. It is an established physical fact that no system, which does work in the mechanical sense, can be 100 percent efficient. This means that whatever the nature of the system, the required work is obtained at the expense of certain additional work that is dissipated or lost in the system. The more efficient the system, the smaller this loss.

In level flight the aerodynamic properties of the wing produce a required lift, but this can be obtained only at the expense of a certain penalty. The name given to this penalty is induced drag. Induced drag is inherent whenever a wing is producing lift and, in fact, this type of drag is inseparable from the production of lift. Consequently, it is always present if lift is produced.

The wing produces the lift force by making use of the energy of the free airstream. Whenever the wing is producing lift, the pressure on the lower surface of the wing is greater than that on the upper surface. As a result, the air tends to flow from the high pressure area below the wingtip upward to the low pressure area above the wing. In the vicinity of the wingtips, there is a tendency for these pressures to equalize, resulting in a lateral flow outward from the underside to the upper surface of the wing. This lateral flow imparts a rotational velocity to the air at the wingtips and trails behind the wing. Therefore, flow about the wingtips will be in the form of two vortices trailing behind as the wings move on.

When the airplane is viewed from the tail, these vortices will circulate counterclockwise about the right wingtip and clockwise about the left wingtip. [Figure 3-4] Bearing in mind the direction of rotation of these vortices, it can be seen that they induce an upward flow of air beyond the wingtip, and a downwash flow behind the wing’s trailing edge. This induced downwash has nothing in common with the downwash that is necessary to produce lift. It is, in fact, the source of induced drag. The greater the size and strength of the vortices and consequent downwash component on the net airflow over the wing, the greater the induced drag effect becomes. This downwash over the top of the wing at the tip has the same effect as bending the lift vector rearward; therefore, the lift is slightly aft of perpendicular to the relative wind, creating a rearward lift component. This is induced drag.

It should be remembered that in order to create a greater negative pressure on the top of the wing, the wing can be inclined to a higher angle of attack; also, that if the angle of attack of an asymmetrical wing were zero, there would be no pressure differential and consequently no downwash component; therefore, no induced drag. In any case, as angle of attack increases, induced drag increases proportionally.

To state this another way—the lower the airspeed the greater the angle of attack required to produce lift equal to the airplane’s weight and consequently, the greater will be the induced drag. The amount of induced drag varies inversely as the square of the airspeed.

From the foregoing discussion, it can be noted that parasite drag increases as the square of the airspeed, and induced drag varies inversely as the square of the airspeed. It can be seen that as airspeed decreases to near the stalling speed, the total drag becomes greater, due mainly to the sharp rise in induced drag. Similarly, as the airspeed reaches the terminal velocity of the airplane, the total drag again increases rapidly, due to the sharp increase of parasite drag. As seen in figure 3-5, at some given airspeed, total drag is at its maximum amount. This is very important in figuring the maximum endurance and range of airplanes; for when drag is at a minimum, power required to overcome drag is also at a minimum.

To understand the effect of lift and drag on an airplane in flight, both must be combined and the lift/drag ratio considered. With the lift and drag data available for various airspeeds of the airplane in steady, unaccelerated flight, the proportions of CL (Coefficient of Lift) and CD (Coefficient of Drag) can be calculated for each specific angle of attack. The resulting plot for lift/drag ratio with angle of attack shows that L/D increases to some maximum, then decreases at the higher lift coefficients and angles of attack, as shown in figure 3-6. Note that the maximum lift/drag ratio, (L/D max) occurs at one specific angle of attack and lift coefficient. If the airplane is operated in steady flight at L/D max, the total drag is at a minimum. Any angle of attack lower or higher than that for L/D max reduces the lift/drag ratio and consequently increases the total drag for a given airplane’s lift.

The location of the center of gravity (CG) is determined by the general design of each particular airplane. The designers determine how far the center of pressure (CP) will travel. They then fix the center of gravity forward of the center of pressure for the corresponding flight speed in order to provide an adequate restoring moment to retain flight equilibrium.

The configuration of an airplane has a great effect on the lift/drag ratio. The high performance sailplane may have extremely high lift/drag ratios. The supersonic fighter may have seemingly low lift/drag ratios in subsonic flight, but the airplane configurations required for supersonic flight (and high L/Ds at high Mach numbers) cause this situation.

Parasite drag is composed of two basic elements: form drag, resulting from the disruption of the streamline flow; and the resistance of skin friction.

Of the two components of parasite drag, form drag is the easier to reduce when designing an airplane. In general, a more streamlined object produces the best form to reduce parasite drag.

Skin friction is the type of parasite drag that is most difficult to reduce. No surface is perfectly smooth. Even machined surfaces, when inspected through magnification, have a ragged, uneven appearance. This rough surface will deflect the streamlines of air on the surface, causing resistance to smooth airflow. Skin friction can be minimized by employing a glossy, flat finish to surfaces, and by eliminating protruding rivet heads, roughness, and other irregularities.

Another element must be added to the consideration of parasite drag when designing an airplane. This drag combines the effects of form drag and skin friction and is called interference drag. If two objects are placed adjacent to one another, the resulting turbulence produced may be 50 to 200 percent greater than the parts tested separately.

The three elements, form drag, skin friction, and interference drag, are all computed to determine parasite drag on an airplane.

Shape of an object is a big factor in parasite drag. However, indicated airspeed is an equally important factor when speaking of parasite drag. The profile drag of a streamlined object held in a fixed position relative to the airflow increases approximately as the square of the velocity; thus, doubling the airspeed increases the drag four times, and tripling the airspeed increases the drag nine times. This relationship, however, holds good only at comparatively low subsonic speeds. At some higher airspeeds, the rate at which profile drag has been increased with speed suddenly begins to increase more rapidly.

The second basic type of drag is induced drag. It is an established physical fact that no system, which does work in the mechanical sense, can be 100 percent efficient. This means that whatever the nature of the system, the required work is obtained at the expense of certain additional work that is dissipated or lost in the system. The more efficient the system, the smaller this loss.

In level flight the aerodynamic properties of the wing produce a required lift, but this can be obtained only at the expense of a certain penalty. The name given to this penalty is induced drag. Induced drag is inherent whenever a wing is producing lift and, in fact, this type of drag is inseparable from the production of lift. Consequently, it is always present if lift is produced.

The wing produces the lift force by making use of the energy of the free airstream. Whenever the wing is producing lift, the pressure on the lower surface of the wing is greater than that on the upper surface. As a result, the air tends to flow from the high pressure area below the wingtip upward to the low pressure area above the wing. In the vicinity of the wingtips, there is a tendency for these pressures to equalize, resulting in a lateral flow outward from the underside to the upper surface of the wing. This lateral flow imparts a rotational velocity to the air at the wingtips and trails behind the wing. Therefore, flow about the wingtips will be in the form of two vortices trailing behind as the wings move on.

When the airplane is viewed from the tail, these vortices will circulate counterclockwise about the right wingtip and clockwise about the left wingtip. [Figure 3-4] Bearing in mind the direction of rotation of these vortices, it can be seen that they induce an upward flow of air beyond the wingtip, and a downwash flow behind the wing’s trailing edge. This induced downwash has nothing in common with the downwash that is necessary to produce lift. It is, in fact, the source of induced drag. The greater the size and strength of the vortices and consequent downwash component on the net airflow over the wing, the greater the induced drag effect becomes. This downwash over the top of the wing at the tip has the same effect as bending the lift vector rearward; therefore, the lift is slightly aft of perpendicular to the relative wind, creating a rearward lift component. This is induced drag.

It should be remembered that in order to create a greater negative pressure on the top of the wing, the wing can be inclined to a higher angle of attack; also, that if the angle of attack of an asymmetrical wing were zero, there would be no pressure differential and consequently no downwash component; therefore, no induced drag. In any case, as angle of attack increases, induced drag increases proportionally.

To state this another way—the lower the airspeed the greater the angle of attack required to produce lift equal to the airplane’s weight and consequently, the greater will be the induced drag. The amount of induced drag varies inversely as the square of the airspeed.

From the foregoing discussion, it can be noted that parasite drag increases as the square of the airspeed, and induced drag varies inversely as the square of the airspeed. It can be seen that as airspeed decreases to near the stalling speed, the total drag becomes greater, due mainly to the sharp rise in induced drag. Similarly, as the airspeed reaches the terminal velocity of the airplane, the total drag again increases rapidly, due to the sharp increase of parasite drag. As seen in figure 3-5, at some given airspeed, total drag is at its maximum amount. This is very important in figuring the maximum endurance and range of airplanes; for when drag is at a minimum, power required to overcome drag is also at a minimum.

To understand the effect of lift and drag on an airplane in flight, both must be combined and the lift/drag ratio considered. With the lift and drag data available for various airspeeds of the airplane in steady, unaccelerated flight, the proportions of CL (Coefficient of Lift) and CD (Coefficient of Drag) can be calculated for each specific angle of attack. The resulting plot for lift/drag ratio with angle of attack shows that L/D increases to some maximum, then decreases at the higher lift coefficients and angles of attack, as shown in figure 3-6. Note that the maximum lift/drag ratio, (L/D max) occurs at one specific angle of attack and lift coefficient. If the airplane is operated in steady flight at L/D max, the total drag is at a minimum. Any angle of attack lower or higher than that for L/D max reduces the lift/drag ratio and consequently increases the total drag for a given airplane’s lift.

The location of the center of gravity (CG) is determined by the general design of each particular airplane. The designers determine how far the center of pressure (CP) will travel. They then fix the center of gravity forward of the center of pressure for the corresponding flight speed in order to provide an adequate restoring moment to retain flight equilibrium.

The configuration of an airplane has a great effect on the lift/drag ratio. The high performance sailplane may have extremely high lift/drag ratios. The supersonic fighter may have seemingly low lift/drag ratios in subsonic flight, but the airplane configurations required for supersonic flight (and high L/Ds at high Mach numbers) cause this situation.

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