The University of Southampton

SESA6064 Aircraft Structures

Module Overview

This module will equip you with the theoretical background and practical methods to solve problems of stress analysis encountered in the context of aircraft structures. These methods also are at the heart of more generic structural analysis.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• To further equip students with the knowledge of current techniques and practices used in the analysis of modern aerospace structures. • To facilitate the students with the understanding of modern literature in Solid mechanics.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • Theoretical foundations, the wider issues, complexities, and limitations involved in the analysis and design of modern aircraft structures. The objective of this course is to furnish students with such knowledge, increase their awareness of recent developments in structural materials/fabrication (e.g. composites), and prepare them for a possible career as a structural specialist or a researcher. This will be accomplished through clear statements, examples, and case studies delivered in lectures, supported by assignments.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Have some theoretical foundations and an exposure to variational approaches to solid mechanics.
  • Be better prepared to understand current technical literature in advanced solid mechanics
  • Be able to analyse a class of structural mechanical problems commonly encountered in the aeronautical industry.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • The ability to perform analysis, and interpret the results.
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Idealise a real aeronautical structure in an analytically or a computationally suitable form.
  • Select appropriate materials and constructions for aeronautical applications with minimisation of weight as a prime motivation.


Variational Methods in Structural Mechanics - Preliminaries: Introduction to the calculus of variations; transformation of the stress and strain tensors. Axioms: Hamilton's Principle and the Principle of Virtual Work. Kinematic and natural boundary conditions. An introduction to dynamics of rods and beams. Applications to aerospace structures. Flat Plates - Variational treatment of the mechanics of rectangular plates subjected to transverse suction loading and/or in-plate loading. Kirchoff's shear and variationally consistent set of boundary conditions. Levy's method. Rayleigh-Ritz solution using assumed approximate modes; critical buckling stress. Fibre-Reinforced Composites - The stress-strain relations for specially orthotropic and generally orthotropic laminae; analysis of layered laminates subjected to extensional and bending stresses. Structural idealisation - Boom-skin models of stiffened structures such as the fuselage and the wing. Shear flow in idealised thin-walled sections. Shear lag in thin walled structures.

Special Features

• Video recordings of a very significant part of the lectured material. • Assessed Feedback from a mid-module class-test.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • Lectures helped with several handouts and overhead projection. • Working out numerical examples. Demonstrations of typical structural constructions found in aeronautics. Learning activities include • Application of the lecture material to solve quantitative problems. Several sets of numerical problems will be assigned.

Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Shames, I.H. and Dym, C.L.. Energy and Finite Element Methods in Structural Mechanics. 

Megson, T.H.G.,. 'Aircraft Structures for Engineering Students. 

Lecture notes.  Lecture notes covering substantial part of the module would be provided by the module lecturer.

Langhaar, H. L. `Energy Methods in Applied Mechanics. 

Love, A.E.H.,. Mathematical Theory of Elasticity. 

Timoshenko S. and Woinowsky-Kreiger, S. 'Theory of Plates. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Class Exercise 10%
Exam  (120 minutes) 90%


MethodPercentage contribution
Exam 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

Pre-requisite: A part – II module on Aircraft Structures/Solid Mechanics or equivalent

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