5 CFD Simulations for Aircraft Design

SimScale -Aircraft design

Aircraft design is one of the ares where engineering simulation was used first, together with automotive.


Central Framework Of Leonardo’s Human-Powered Ornithopter – ca. 1485. Source:

From nanotechnologies and micro-composite materials to futuristic wings profiles, many research projects in aircraft design focus on finding better solutions and bringing them to market faster, reducing costs at the same time.

Using engineering simulation software as part of their development process, aerospace companies and engineers can evaluate different designs early in the development process, thus reducing the number of required physical prototypes.

The novelty SimScale brings is the possibility to simulate the designs completely in the web browser, giving access to all analysis capabilities and collaboration options. As a Cloud-based CAE platform, SimScale makes it possible to perform powerful CFD, FEA or thermal analyses from any device.

Here are a few aerospace simulation projects from the SimScale Public Projects library, which demonstrate how aircraft engineers can use CFD analyses to virtually test and optimize different aircraft systems and components.

Aircraft Design Aerodynamics Analysis

This simulation shows the airflow distribution around an aircraft design at low subsonic compressible flow regime. The project was used in the Aerospace Workshop featuring EUROAVIA – Session3 organised by the SimScale team.

SimScale Aircraft Design

Velocity distribution for a commercial aircraft

The flow of air around the commercial aircraft model was simulated via the Reynolds Averaged Navier-Stokes (RANS) method. The flow conditions were Mach number M = 0.35, Angle of Attack = 2 degreees, Pressure P = 100000 pa and temperature T = 0 degrees Celcius. For turbulence modeling the K-Omega SST model was used with wall function approach. A ramping of the velocity boundary condition was applied up to the free stream value for better convergence.

If you want to try your own simulation project see the step-by-step tutorial on how to set up and perform this simulation.



Velocity streamlines of a landing gear

Aircraft Landing Gear CFD Analysis 

This aircraft design simulation shows how SimScale can be used for an airflow analysis around an aircraft landing gear. Landing gears are among most critical components of an aircraft. During takeoff and landing operations, the wheels can cause problems that may affect the security of the plane and passengers.

In this airflow analysis, the Large Eddy Simulation (LES) method was used. The geometry is a simplified version of a common front landing gear configuration for any commercial aircraft. The free stream flow velocity was 35m/s at standard conditions. A ramping of the velocity boundary condition was applied to gradually increase the velocity from a low value to the free stream value for faster convergence. The simulation analysis the instantaneous velocity profiles and the wake vortices. The simulation results give an insight of the flow field in the wake regions.

Optimisation of a Wing with CFD Simulation

The shape and positioning of the wings is most often the guarantee of an efficient behavior of an airplane in flight.

SimScale Aircraft Design

Wing simulation with SimScale

This project simulates 2 designs of aircraft wings and their aerodynamic effects. This project was also a homework exercise for the SimScale Aerospace Workshop  – Session 2. This exercise involves simulating the aircraft wing with applied bending and torsional load due to wind pressure.

The task asks to set up 6 different configurations with 3 different models and then compare the results. The purpose is to see how the deformation and stresses change with each structural optimization of a wing. The figure shows the possible load configurations with the initial model.

You can watch and follow the recording of the Aerospace Workshop in this tutorial.


Velocity field for a wing with winglet

Wingtip Vortices Simulation

Spanwise difference in lift generation generates wingtip vortices. These vortices cause a destabilization and loss of performance in the form of a reduction in lift. This project demonstrated that winglets can be the best solution and an effective measure to reduce the strength of wingtip vortices.

The simulation project analyzed the velocity fields in 2 parallel models, for a wing with and without a wingtip attachment. The simulation clearly demonstrated losses of performance in the model without a wingtip attachment due to the vortices that are reducing the lift effect on the wing.

In the second model, wings with winglets generate larger lift than those without, when all other parameters are the same.

Aircraft Cabin Ventilation

Ventilation system in an aircraft flying trip is essential for the passengers’ comfort. Here is a project which simulates the airflow in an aircraft cabin.

ss037-4The simulation shows two cabin configurations and their effect on the airflow pattern. First, it involves a ventilation simulation inside an aircraft cabin. To find the better solution, the engineer established six different configurations of inlet and outlet.

This project was also used in the Aerospace Workshop organised by SimScale in July 2016. The homework task was to set up 6 different configurations by considering hence various possible configurations of inlet and outlet – see attached figure.

Want to learn more? Watch the recording of the SimScale Aerospace Workshop – Session 1.

SimScale is the world's first cloud-based simulation platform, enabling you to perform CFD, FEA, or thermal analyses. Sign up for the 14-day free trial and join the community of 70 000 engineers and designers. No payment data required.