Introduction to Flight Simulation

Lecture: Tuesday, 2-4, Room 25
Exercise: Tuesday, 4-6, Room 7

Aim of the Course

The course has three goals:


You should have knowledge of C++, and of linear algebra. It is good if you know something about differential equations and complex numbers.

Planned Topics

  1. Newton mechanics for point masses. Energy versus impulse. Specific impulse of a rocket engine, the inherent exponential cost of rocket propulsion. We will do some calculations on planets and rockets. The physics of rockets is much easier to understand than the physics of airplanes, so it is a good starting point.
  2. Elements of linear algebra, dot and cross products. The notions of torque and moment.
  3. Usage of quaternions for the representation of orientations.
  4. Laws of motion for rigid, non-point objects. Everyone knows Newton's law, F = m.a, which can be used for determining how a point with mass m reacts to a force with strength F. But what if the object is not a point, and the force does not work in the middle of the object? In that case, the object will start to rotate. We will derive laws that connect eccentric forces and resulting rotation to the mass distribution of an object.
  5. Modelling of Wings. Understanding the qualitive relation between angle of attack, drag and lift.
  6. How the airplane is flown: Take off, landing, turning, descending, climbing. Importance of stability.
  7. Explanation of the causes of some historical accidents that formed modern aviation. (Tenerife collision, Comet accidents, Elektra design flaw, incidents with Airbus 320.)
  8. Modelling and designing automatic control. Maintaining a given altitude, maintaining a given heading, maintaining a certain speed. Design of stable circuits using Laplace transform.
  9. Navigational aids, VOR, NDB and ILS. Structure of air traffic control. Understanding ATC communication.
  10. If there is time for it, some fluid dynamics: Normal flows, which are are flows that have no divergence and no rotation. Normal flows are quite easy to understand mathematically. We will formally derive and numerically simulate the Kutta-Zhukowsky theorem, so that you understand why wings of an airplance generate lift.

Installing SFML (Simple and Fast Multimedia Library)

SMFL can be obtained from here . I installed it under Debian Linux, and it was quite straightforward. The desription is quite clear.

You have to install a couple of include files (for g++), and a couple of libraries. The simplest way is to download the include files and use the precompiled libraries from the site, but this did not work for me. Linking resulted in a load error: Couldn't load std::ctype < char > :: M_widen_init. In order to solve it, I updated Linux from etch to lenny. This did not solve the problem. After that I compiled the libraries by myself, (it is described on the site how to do that) and this solved the problem. I don't know if updating to lenny played a role in solving the problem, but it was something that needed to be done anyway.

Open GL

SFML supports computer graphics through openGL. I am sure that everyone in the rooms knows much more about computer graphics than I do, so I will be short on this topic. The homepage of Andrzej Lukaszewski contains a lot of pointers to openGL. This is the homepage of open GL. Try to read the Red Book . A browsable list of commands .




How the grades are determined. . The grading scale was changed on Feb. 18th!