The University of Southampton

SESA1015 Aircraft Operations and Flight Mechanics

Module Overview

This is an introduction to Aeronautics, which lays down the foundations of all of the aeronautical engineering modules that follow in subsequent years. The Aircraft Operations element creates the context against which the later design modules will have to be viewed by the student. The second part is an application of the fundamental laws of Newtonian mechanics to the flight of fixed wing aircraft, an essential basis upon which the later mechanics of flight, aerodynamics, propulsion and design modules will be built.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• To provide background and context for aircraft and airline operations • To introduce students to the basics of flight mechanics as applied to fixed-wing aircraft

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • Understand the fundamentals of and major influences on aircraft and airline operations, including economic, safety, regulatory and environmental factors.
  • Understand and predict the behaviour of fixed wing aircraft undertaking a typical flight profile
  • Understand the factors that influence aircraft design and limit aircraft performance


No. of lectures Introduction to aeronautics and aircraft operations - 1 Airline economics - 1 Aviation safety and certification - 3 Aviation meteorology - 1 Aerodromes -1 Aircraft anatomy and terminology -1 Humans in the atmosphere – physics, physiology, limitations - 2 Air traffic management -1 Remotely piloted vehicles -1 Flight mechanics: fundamental concepts and definitions - 3 • Flight path, relative wind • Lift, drag and their coefficients • Shape parameters (aspect ratio, taper, sweep, etc.) Typical aerodynamic characteristics - 3 • Variation of lift and drag with AoA • Sources of drag • Pitching moment characteristics • Centre of pressure, aerodynamic centre, etc. Performance - 8 • Equilibrium of forces and moments • Clmax stall, • Minimum drag and power • Gliding and climbing flight • Endurance and range • Cruise-climb and alternative cruise patterns Simple accelerated flight - 3 • Take off and effect of ambient conditions • Coordinated turn: lift, load factor and thrust limits Introduction to longitudinal stability - 3 • Static stability. Longitudinal trim. • Neutral point and static margin Introduction to aerodynamic controls - lab +self-study Revision classes - 2 • Summary of concepts • Past exam papers Guest lectures - 6 • Industrial input and applications covering aircraft design, propulsion, systems and spacecraft design, applications and missions.

Special Features

Guest lectures from industry .

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • Lectures, including guest lectures from industry • Worked examples and problem sheets • Coursework assignments • Flight Simulator laboratory Learning activities include • Working through examples in lectures and self-study time • Individual coursework, design calculations and analysis using Excel spreadsheets • Flight simulator laboratory • Directed reading

Supervised time in studio/workshop1
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

The Design of the Aeroplane. 

Kermode, A.C.. Mechanics of Flight. 

Anderson, J.D., Jr. ' (1989). Introduction to Flight. 

Stinton, D (1985). The Anatomy of the Aeroplane. 

Kermode, A.C.. Flight Without Formulae. 

Shevell, J.D., Jr. (1983). Fundamentals of Flight. 

Barnard, R.H. & Philpott, D.R. (1995). 'Aircraft Flight'. 

Hale, F.J. (1984). Introduction to Aircraft Performance, Selection and Design. 

Mair, W.A. and Birdsall, D.L., (1992). Aircraft Performance. 

Vinh, N.M., (1995). 'Flight Mechanics of High Performance Aircraft. 

Sóbester, A. (2011). Stratospheric Flight. 


Assessment Strategy

The learning outcomes of this module will be assessed under the Part I Assessment Schedule for FEE Engineering Programmes which forms an Appendix to your Programme Specification. Feedback will be available on the formative work undertaken during the module.


MethodPercentage contribution
Part I Assessment Schedule 100%
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