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The University of Southampton

SESA3040 Introduction to Aircraft Design

Module Overview

This is an aerospace design synthesis module. The aircraft operations, aerodynamics, mechanics of flight, mechanics of solids and propulsion modules of Part I and II having equipped the students with the building blocks of aerospace engineering science, this module places them into the context of aircraft design in the ‘real world’, as represented by regulatory, performance and cost constraints

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

To introduce students to the fundamentals of aircraft design

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • The aircraft design engineering process, as constrained by regulatory and certification requirements
  • Systematic design methodologies
  • The place of analytical and numerical simulation techniques in the aircraft development process, from performance analysis to the evaluation of handling qualities
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Critically analyse alternative aircraft design configurations and design choices
  • Apply fundamental engineering analysis knowledge as part of an aircraft design process
  • Identify information requirements and critically appraise sources of data and analysis for aircraft design and evaluation
  • Apply computer simulations (including flight simulation) in the aircraft design process
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Use legacy design data in a discerning way
  • Collate and synthesise/prioritise information according to design objectives


The module includes a series 36 of lectures, which cover: Aircraft design as an optimization problem: objectives and constraints (AS) Typical constraints and objective functions in aircraft design. Formulation of the design problem. Stages of the design process: conceptual, preliminary, detailed (AS) Design decision making along the design process. Typical tools and methods at each stage. Certification (KT). The need for certification. Organisations in the UK and abroad. Documents (standards) and certification categories. Liability. Fundamentals of aircraft performance (KT) Mission modelling from take-off to landing. Propulsion system selection and sizing. Handling qualities (GT) Assessment of handling qualities as part of the design process. Fundamentals of flight simulation. Available software tools – features, advantages, disadvantages. Constraint analysis (AS) Classical thrust to weight and wing loading space analysis. Conceptual and preliminary level analysis: structures and flow (KT) Analytical models. Fast structural sizing. The use of low fidelity flow simulations in design. Parametric geometry modelling (AS) Parameterization principles. Parametric models of lifting surfaces and enclosures. Computer Aided Design in aircraft engineering (JPS) Setting up the parametric CAD model of an aircraft, from 2d sketches to 3d whole aircraft models. Value-driven design, cost modelling, systems engineering aspects (JPS) Basic life cycle cost analysis. A systems-level view of aircraft design. Design rationale capture (JPS) The role of design rationale capture in the design process. Documenting and using design rationale.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures Supervised laboratory exercises

Preparation for scheduled sessions10
Wider reading or practice20
Practical classes and workshops14
Completion of assessment task30
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

General Aviation Aircraft Design.

Solidworks CAD software and flight simulation software.



MethodPercentage contribution
Computer assisted assessment 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Computer assisted assessment 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

Pre-requisites: FEEG2005 Materials And Structures, SESA2025 Mechanics Of Flight.

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