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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. The module takes an applied, computational approach, introducing the students to key concepts through hands-on examples.

Aims and Objectives

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
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 computational analysis and modelling 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


Aircraft design as an optimization problem: objectives and constraints. Typical constraints and objective functions in aircraft design. Formulation of the design problem. Stages of the design process: conceptual, preliminary, detailed. Design decision making along the design process. Typical tools and methods at each stage. Airworthiness. The need for certification. Organisations in the UK and abroad. Documents (standards) and certification categories. Mission modelling from take-off to landing. Constraint analysis. Classical thrust to weight and wing loading space analysis in a computational optimisation framework. Parametric geometry modelling. Parameterization principles. Computer Aided Design in aircraft engineering. 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 Basic life cycle cost analysis. A systems-level view of aircraft design. Design rationale capture. 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

Practical classes and workshops9
Preparation for scheduled sessions10
Wider reading or practice30
Completion of assessment task40
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Python codes for aircraft conceptual design. 

Solidworks CAD software. 

General Aviation Aircraft Design.


Assessment Strategy

Via coursework and exam.


MethodPercentage contribution
Continuous Assessment 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Set Task 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

Pre-requisites: FEEG2005 and SESA2025

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