Author: Austin Meyer

Better Fuselage Dynamics Through Science

It turns out that my teachers in college, a ton of engineering textbooks, and the internet in general all seem to understand what wings do. Also my airplane has wings, and those wings are designed to interact with the air as much as possible, so I can flight-test my airplane at any time (and I constantly do) to collect information about what the wings in said airplane do. And then I use the information from the several sources listed above to really dial in the flight dynamics in X-Plane. Without question, on my death-bed I will look back on my many flights flown while frantically scribbling down notes and flying the airplane at the same time fondly. This is a challenge that not enough people get to enjoy, and then turning that knowledge into a simulator that then turns into money for me… well, let’s just say I have very little to complain about. Read More

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X-Plane 11 Propeller Modeling

OK the new engine modeling for X-Plane 11 is great, but what good is an engine to us pilots without a propeller?

X-Plane has historically done an excellent job of estimating the THRUST of propellers, typically to within just a few percent… but what about the SPIRALING SLIPSTREAM? This has been an area where X-Plane has been much weaker… I just don’t see any good solid references for determining the spiraling slipstream angles for propellers…
and it’s a real shame because the spiraling slip-stream hitting the vertical stab is so responsible for the left-turning tendency in single-engine props.

BUT, can we do better? How would we estimate the slipstream angle, exactly?

Well, as it turns out, there is a pretty darn cool way to do it, which is going into X-Plane 11 Beta-4: A spinning prop is just a spinning pair or trio or quartet of wings (as X-Plane has long understood) and those wings have LIFT and DRAG.

The LIFT from the propeller blade is referred to as THRUST. The DRAG on the propeller blade is what opposes rotation and makes them so darn hard to TURN. Read More

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Jet engine modeling in X-Plane 11

OK I overhauled and upgraded the jet engine model as well.

Here is how it works: For SUBSONIC dynamics, I curve fit maximum engine thrust ratio to static max thrust as a function of density altitude, Mach number, and engine bypass ratio. This is pretty easy and boring and I have been doing this for years.

But here is where it starts to get good: As the inlet is dragged by an over-speeding airplane above it’s critical Mach number, normal shocks will now form across the inlet, DECIMATING the efficiency of the engine and robbing you of thrust.

No arbitrary losses above your critical Mach number, the normal shock, only a few atoms thick, slows all air that hits it across the space of a few atoms, dumping a huge amount of the incoming streams valuable kinetic energy and turning it instead into HEAT.. the last thing you want coming into the front of your engine.

So that is for subsonic inlets being dragged above their critical Mach number. What about supersonic inlets?

OK this gets good: As we move through Mach 1, we transition from the subsonic curve fit for subsonic engines to the pressure-recovery of the total energy of the airstream. Here is where this gets interesting: The faster you go, the higher the Mach number of air incoming to the inlet, and the more energy is available from the airstream to turn into THRUST!
So, the faster you go, the more thrust you get! This is one reason that supersonic jet airplanes just keep speeding up, and up, and up, and up!

Planes like the F-4 Phantom, for example, take about FIVE MINUTES to get from Mach 1 to Mach 2 (a long time because the thrust only builds as the speed builds) but darn they hit Mach 2 and are still slowly accelerating!

Now, nothing this good lasts forever. At some point, the aircraft speed overwhelms the inlets’ ability to accept the shockwaves, and losses occur. We simulate this with a normal shock, and the inlet efficiency gradually moves from ideal (total pressure recovery) to the worst possible (normal shock) as the inlet moves to and then past it’s maximum allowable Mach number.

Here’s the equation for the losses across the normal shock, by the way:

	const xflt gamma   =1.4    ;
	const xflt gamma_m1=1.4-1.0;
	const xflt gamma_p1=1.4+1.0;

	xflt nrm_shock_press_rat= xpow((gamma_p1 * sqr(M_use) ) / (gamma_m1 *sqr(M_use) + 2.0			) , gamma	/gamma_m1)	// https://www.grc.nasa.gov/www/k-12/airplane/normal.html
							* xpow((gamma_p1			  ) / (2.0 * gamma * sqr(M_use) - gamma_m1	) , 1.0		/gamma_m1);	// normal shock total pressure ratio

So, if you open the F-4 Phantom in Plane-Maker, go to the engines window, and then the Jet Curves tab on the right, you will be able to SEE EVERYTHING that I just talked about.

On the left, at Mach 0, you see the static thrust for each altitude.

Then as you move right to Mach 0.5, the thrust falls as the turbine can’t deliver much ‘oomph’ due to the rapid inflow of air… like trying to climb a rope ladder while the rope is falling, trying to get thrust from an airstream always coming at you is simply an uphill battle that does not work too well. So the thrust FALLS as you speed up.

Then, above Mach 0.5 or so, something interesting happens: the energy in the oncoming airstream becomes significant, and the inlet starts decelerating that incoming airstream, using that deceleration to INCREASE the air pressure inside the inlet, which actually helps the inlet do the job FOR the engine! Now, that thrust starts BUILDING!

Now as we move to Mach-1, it’s crazy-time. The airstream pushing at the airplane is packing HUGE energy from all that speed, and nice, efficient, oblique shocks start capturing all that energy, slowing and pressurizing that air efficiently, and handing that high-pressure to the engine. A well-designed inlet at this point might develop MORE thrust than the engine itself… the job of the engine is simply to pressurize the inlet here. And, the faster we go, the farther to the right we move on those curves, and the greater the thrust becomes as we speed up. This is a recipe for an airplane that just never seems to stop accelerating. Enter the F-4. And the SR-71.

But, at some point, the shockwaves overpower the design of the inlet, and we start heading to the (terrible) efficiency of the normal shock. Here you see the curves dropping thrust hugely, on the fast-side of the max expected Mach number for the inlet.

So, you can see the thrust curves in Plane-Maker and now know what forms them. Set the reference Mach number on the lower left for you inlet on your plane to get the thrust peak right around the top speed for your airplane.

And then finally, MAXIMUM thrust is not the only thing here: We also need thrust variation with N1, and DRAG from the engine at idle at various speeds. Those things have been tuned and tested as well.

For testing:

I have a full Citation Mustang POH with aircraft speeds and power settings, to test and tune the low subsonic flight regime for jets, and a recently de-classified F-4 Phantom Pilots Operating Handbook with subsonic and supersonic deceleration times (to tune the DRAG) and acceleration times (to tune the THRUST) to test and tune the high subsonic and supersonic flight envelopes of jet engines. All of the math above checked out very well with the POH’s for these airplanes… much of the accel/decel timing on the F-4 Phantom to within 1 second to get to and from various subsonic and supersonic speeds at full and idle thrust.

And a quick little detail: Low/high jet engine bypass types: GONE! Now we ONLY go off the bypass RATIO that you entered! This lets cool things like exhaust smokiness and engine mass for mass distribution all be floating point with bypass ratio for infinite variation, which is nice.

So, jet simulation has been improved now for V11, especially in the supersonic regime… because getting that F-4 PERFECT is just going to be soooooooo cool!

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Flight Model Improvements Done for X-Plane 11.00

Thanks to a few hundred hours of flight experience in my Lancair Evolution so far, I am really improving the flight model in X-Plane in the area of PT-6 engines, electrical, and pressurization systems! And, while in the systems code, I’ve improved a lot of other systems simulations as well, which is always fun.

So, here is the new stuff done for 11.00 so far in the flight and systems modeling area! Read More

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