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The University of Southampton

SESA3033 Wing Aerodynamics

Module Overview

The Wing Aerodynamics module concerns the application of basic fluid dynamics principles to flow over external aerodynamic surfaces. This includes methods to calculate the potential flow outside the boundary layer as well as method to calculate the boundary layer itself. Understanding and ultimately controlling flow over wings requires understanding laminar and turbulent boundary layers as well as the process of transition to turbulence and these subjects are considered in some detail.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • The key assumptions of potential flow and boundary layer theory.
  • Potential flow over aerofoils and wings, including slender wings.
  • Exact laminar boundary layer solutions.
  • eN method of transition prediction
  • Structure of turbulent boundary layers.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Explain how panel methods are constructed.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Communicate work in written reports.
  • Study and learn independently.
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Analyse aerofoil flows using VII codes such as XFoil.
  • Check the accuracy of grids for CFD of wings.


Coursework (e.g. CFD of nozzle flow exercise) and examples sheets Introduction - Review of aerofoil and wing flow regimes, force and moment coefficients. Viscous flow analysis -Newtonian fluid. The Navier-Stokes equations for incompressible flow. Vorticity dynamics. Decomposition of flows into potential and rotational regions. Viscous-inviscid interaction. XFoil. Introduction to high lift airfoils. Calculation of potential flow around aerofoils and wings - Recap of main results for potential flow. Lumped vortex method for thin aerofoils. Source, vortex and doublet panels. Outline of a full panel method for 2D aerofoils. Applications of the complex potential. Slender wing theory including comparisons with real flow over a slender delta wing. Vortex lattice method for wings. Effects of seep, taper, twist. Laminar boundary layer theory - Order of magnitude analysis leading to the boundary layer equations. Pohlhausen’s profiles with pressure gradient parameter. Boundary layer separation Falkner-Skan solutions of the boundary layer equations. Numerical solution of boundary layer equations. Momentum integral equation (MIE). Deductions based on MIE. Thwaites' integral method with examples. Transition to turbulence - Phenomenology of transition to turbulence with an overview of prediction methods based on stability theory. Natural laminar flow and laminar flow control. Swept wing transition. Turbulence and numerical modelling - Characteristics of turbulent flow. Dimensional analysis leading to Kolmogorov energy spectrum. Mean flow structure of a turbulent boundary layer. Mixing length and eddy viscosity modelling. Outline of turbulence prediction methods. Drag reduction techniques. Revision Coursework (e.g. Solution of laminar BLE, XFoil or CFD exercise for flow over aerofoil) and examples sheets.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include Lectures (3 per week). Supporting material on Blackboard.

Preparation for scheduled sessions18
Completion of assessment task15
Follow-up work54
Total study time150


Assessment Strategy

Can be repeated externally (100% exam) or internally.


MethodPercentage contribution
Continuous Assessment 20%
Final Assessment  80%


MethodPercentage contribution
Set Task 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Set Task 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

Pre-requisite module/s: SESA2022

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