MAE2405 - Aircraft performance - 2017

6 points, SCA Band 2, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.



Organisational Unit

Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering


Professor Scott Eberhardt

Unit guides



  • Second semester 2017 (Day)


The course provides an introduction to aircraft performance with the aim of enabling students to predict answers to questions such as: how high, how fast or how slowly can an aircraft fly, how quickly can it climb or turn in a circle, how much runway does it require to take off and land, and how much fuel does it need to travel a given distance.

The emphasis is on physical understanding, and the focus is on subsonic aircraft performance. In order to support the aircraft performance topics that form the core of the course, basic fluid mechanics is introduced so that students can understand and predict the main sources of lift and drag forces produced on aircraft.

A brief introduction is also given to airbreathing aircraft powerplants so that students understand their basic characteristics and why different powerplant classes are appropriate to different flight speed regimes. Aircraft longitudinal stability concepts are introduced, as are the basic phenomena of transonic and supersonic flight.


Upon successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. Calculate air properties at different altitudes according to the standard atmosphere model
  2. Appreciate the application of concepts of conservation of mass, momentum and energy in fluid mechanics
  3. Describe the central mechanisms of aircraft lift and drag production and using them to estimate boundary layer drag and lift-induced drag forces on aircraft
  4. Distinguish why different powerplant classes are appropriate to different flight speed regimes, and how fuel use is characterised and to calculate aircraft range and endurance in powered and unpowered flight
  5. For steady level flight be able to calculate how aircraft drag and drag power vary with flight speed and altitude, and able to calculate aircraft maximum and minimum speeds
  6. Calculate speed and angle of climb in steady climbing flight
  7. Calculate bank angle, turn speed and radius in steady horizontal turning flight at a given load factor
  8. Calculate runway lengths required for takeoff and landing
  9. Discuss the concepts of aircraft static longitudinal stability and neutral point
  10. Explain the mechanisms of lift production in supersonic flight and how that differs from subsonic flight
  11. Explain the reasoning underlying the introduction of wing sweep


Continuous assessment: 40%

Examination (2 hours): 60%

Students are required to achieve at least 45% in the total continuous assessment component and at least 45% in the final examination component and an overall mark of 50% to achieve a pass grade in the unit. Students failing to achieve this requirement will be given a maximum of 45% in the unit.

Workload requirements

3 hours lectures, 2 hours of practice classes and 7 hours of private study per week

See also Unit timetable information

Chief examiner(s)


24 Credit points