Browse Publications Technical Papers 2002-01-1512

Functional Digital Aircraft: Designing Flight Controls 2002-01-1512

“Functional Virtual Prototyping” is a process for designing the function of a complex system, such as aircraft landing gear or flight controls, in a computer-based environment. The process can be used to explore design variations up front before a physical prototype is built.
Recent advances in software engineering have been used to build a more complete virtual prototyping environment. For instance, a complete virtual prototyping environment for performing full aircraft simulations for ground, taxi, takeoff, and landing maneuvers has been demonstrated. This framework can be used as a starting point to understand design issues for performing in-flight maneuvers, such as approach, climb, cruise, and general maneuvering. For flight maneuvers, the design and analysis of the mechanical components that control and stabilize the aircraft are critical. Example problems include secondary control surface binding, chattering, and performance under failure conditions such as cable snap.
This paper addresses the overall issues with developing a flight controls module to fit within this virtual prototyping framework. This flight controls module is being designed with input from aircraft and supplier companies as well as regulatory agencies. The concept of virtual prototyping for an entire aircraft is introduced as the “functional digital aircraft” concept. Comparisons are made to the ground test process used in certification, such as the ‘iron bird’, as well as design tools that are used to assess flying qualities and flight controls mechanism performance. Relevant previous work with modeling flight controls and pilot response dynamics is cited and plans for further work are presented.


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