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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: June 2012

4 - Static Aeroelasticity


I discovered that with increasing load, the angle of incidence at the wing tips increased perceptibly. It suddenly dawned on me that this increasing angle of incidence was the cause of the wing's collapse, as logically the load resulting from the air pressure in a steep dive would increase faster at the wing tips than at the middle. The resulting torsion caused the wings to collapse under the strain of combat maneuvers.

–A. H. G. Fokker in The Flying Dutchman, Henry Holt and Company, 1931

The field of static aeroelasticity is the study of flight-vehicle phenomena associated with the interaction of aerodynamic loading induced by steady flow and the resulting elastic deformation of the lifting-surface structure. These phenomena are characterized as being insensitive to the rates and accelerations of the structural deflections. There are two classes of design problems that are encountered in this area. The first and most common to all flight vehicles is the effects of elastic deformation on the airloads, as well as effects of airloads on the elastic deformation, associated with normal operating conditions. These effects can have a profound influence on performance, handling qualities, flight stability, structural-load distribution, and control effectiveness. The second class of problems involves the potential for static instability of the lifting-surface structure to result in a catastrophic failure. This instability is often termed “divergence” and it can impose a limit on the flight envelope.