The University of Southampton

SESA6077 Aeroelasticity

Module Overview

This module will address issues related to the mutual interaction of elastic, inertial, and aerodynamic forces with particular emphasis on aeronautical applications. It builds on basic knowledge on free vibration modes, continuous and multi-degrees of freedom systems, and variational principles in dynamics, introducing students to the concepts and tools used in unsteady aerodynamics. It is intended that the student will become familiar with the important issues and philosophies associated with aeroelastic stability and response, will become conversant in the terminology of aero-servoelasticity, and will achieve a working understanding of these issues applied to various aeronautical systems. Finally, the student will acquire a solid knowledge and practical skills using professional software tools currently adopted by large aerospace industries. Pre-requisite module/s: Students who have joined Southampton should possess equivalent knowledge of SESA2022 and SESA3026

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

This module aims at providing the students with the fundamentals of aeroelasticity for fixedwing aircraft. In addition to a rigorous analytical treatment of the subject, the module will introduce the computational tools needed to support the design and development of nextgeneration environmentally-friendly aerial vehicles. In specific, students will be trained by a leading international software company to be proficient with software tools (NASTRAN, PATRAN) adopted in the major aerospace industries and to provide a targeted academic and research experience valuable for future job applications.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Static and dynamic aeroelastic effects and their impact on aircraft design process
  • Analytical and computational methods for aeroelastic analysis
  • Setup, analyse, and critically discuss problems of practical use
  • The role played by different disciplines within the context of aero-servo-elasticity
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Derive from first principle the differential equations governing aeroelastic phenomena
  • Comprehend assumptions underlying industrial aircraft design and motivate needs for enhanced simulations
  • Sustain a critical analysis of aeroelasticity in the context of next-generation aircraft
  • Critically evaluate the practical feasibility of unconventional aerial configurations
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Study and learn independently
  • Demonstrate study and time management skills
  • Solve problems systematically
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Study and learn independently
  • Solve problems using analytical and computational tools
  • Appreciate practical engineering solutions to deal with aeroelasticity and their impact on overall aircraft performances
  • Critically examine the solution of numerical problems against acquired knowledge


The topics to be covered will include static and dynamic aeroelastic stability and response, and unsteady aerodynamics for fixed-wing aircraft. Several aspects of the aeroelastic problem will also be explored for high-altitude long endurance vehicles, and wind tunnel tests. Finally, aero-servo-elasticity will be presented as a mean of modifying the aeroelastic behaviour of the system by introduction of control forces. Introduction: Module presentation: content introduction, formative and summative assessment, computer and practical laboratories, background material and suggested revisions, and organisation. Structural Dynamics: Review of single and multi-degree of freedom mechanical systems; analytical and numerical solution of ordinary and partial differential equations; discrete and continuous structural models; variational principles to derive equations of motions; modal approach. Static Aeroelasticity: Static divergence of an aerofoil section and a cantilever wing; aileron reversal and aileron effectiveness for an aerofoil section and a cantilever wing; effects of wing sweep angle and compressibility; structural design features to minimise adverse static aeroelastic effects. Unsteady Aerodynamics: Governing equations for viscous, inviscid, potential and transonic small disturbance flows; unsteady vortex lattice method and doublet lattice method; piston theory for supersonic flows; finite state aerodynamic modelling. Dynamic Aeroelasticity: Dynamic aeroelastic phenomena for an aerofoil section and a cantilever wing; effects of flexibility on wing loads; response to deterministic and stochastic external excitations; engineering solutions to the flutter problem; linear and nonlinear aeroelastic phenomena and available methods. Aero-servo-elasticity: Introduction to classic control theory based on feedback control; servo actuators; modern control theory; adverse aeroelastic interactions; active gust and manoeuvre loads alleviation. Experimental Aeroelasticity: Measurement of structural influence coefficients; ground resonance testing; measurement of inertia and structural damping; wind tunnel techniques for the measurement of oscillatory derivatives; similarity requirements for flutter model testing; model construction; wind tunnel flutter tests; flight flutter tests.

Special Features

To provide a unique background on theory and practise, students will take an aeroelasticity training course provided by MSC Software totalling 3 full days. A project of practical interest in the aeronautical field will be proposed at the end of the training course, and this will be assessed for a 20% of the total mark.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching activities include 36 hours of taught lectures which include 2 hours of seminar given by an external speaker from a major aerospace industry. Learning activities include directed reading and problem solving. The module will also include regular computer and experimental laboratories. The coursework assignment will assess the student knowledge and ability to critically analyse a problem of practical interest using a combination of analytical and computational techniques.

Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

D.H.Hodges and G.A. Pierce (2014). Introduction to Structural Dynamics and Aeroelasticity. 

R.L. Bisplinghoff, H. Ashley, and R.L. Halfman (1955). Aeroelasticity. 

J.R. Wright and J.E. Cooper, (2007). Introduction to Aircraft Aeroelasticity and Loads. 

Other Resource. Complementary to standard textbooks, a set of lecture notes distributed during the module delivery will serve as an excellent reference. Presentation slides will be uploaded regularly on Blackboard. User’s guides of the commercial software used in this module will also be available.


Assessment Strategy



Tutorial sheets


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework/ Case Study 20%
Exam  (120 minutes) 80%


MethodPercentage contribution
Exam  (120 minutes) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

Pre-requisite module/s: SESA2022 and SESA3026.


To study this module, you will need to have studied the following module(s):

SESA3026Aircraft Structural Design
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