Right first flight

EU researchers are developing a new computer-aided system to assist with the early phase of aircraft design.


EU researchers, co-ordinated by the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, are developing a new computer-aided system to assist with the early phase of aircraft design.


The EU project, dubbed SimSAC, will develop software to allow aircraft stability and control characteristics to be simulated while an aircraft is still at the conceptual phase of its development.


‘Today control systems are usually developed only after the main features of the plane have been determined, often using handbook and experiential data as a basis. By designing the control system earlier in the developmental process, you increase the chances of getting it right the first time,’ said Arthur Rizzi, a professor at the Department of Aeronautical and Vehicle Engineering at the Royal Institute of Technology, the project coordinator.


‘Up to 80 percent of the total cost of an airplane’s life cycle is set during the early design phase, so mistakes are expensive. Faulty assumptions about stability and control lead to costly and failed test flights. This can involve the loss of prototypes and, in the worst case, human life. To minimise risks, multidisciplinary analyses should be introduced early in the developmental process, and decisions should be based more on simulations than on empirical data,’ he added.


Seventeen leading representatives of the European academic community and the aeronautics industry from nine countries will be collaborating in the SimSAC project.


Sweden is represented by the Royal Institute of Technology, the Swedish Defense Research Agency and SAAB Aerosystems.


The initiative for the project came from the Royal Institute of Technology and EADS (Germany), which are both active in the field of developing designs and products that are “first-time right”.


The budget for the new project is €5.1m, with €3.3m provided by the EU Commission.