Aeroelasticity is the term used to denote the field of study concerned with the interaction between the deformation of an elastic structure in an airstream and the resulting aerodynamic force. The interdisciplinary nature of the field can be best illustrated by Fig. 1.1, which depicts the interaction of the three disciplines of aerodynamics, dynamics, and elasticity. Classical aerodynamic theories provide a prediction of the forces acting on a body of a given shape. Elasticity provides a prediction of the shape of an elastic body under a given load. Dynamics introduces the effects of inertial forces. With the knowledge of elementary aerodynamics, dynamics, and elasticity, the student is in a position to look at problems in which two or more of these phenomena interact. One of those areas of interaction is the field of flight mechanics, which most students have studied in a separate course by the senior year. The present text will consider the three remaining areas of interaction:
between elasticity and dynamics (structural dynamics),
between aerodynamics and elasticity (static aeroelasticity), and
among all three (dynamic aeroelasticity).
Because of their importance to aerospace system design, these are appropriate for study in an undergraduate aeronautics/aeronautical engineering curriculum. In aeroelasticity one finds that the loads depend on the deformation (aerodynamics), and the deformation depends on the loads (structural mechanics/dynamics); thus one has a coupled problem. Consequently, prior study of all three constituent disciplines is necessary before a study in aeroelasticity can be undertaken.