Copyright © A. Filippone (2001). All Rights Reserved.



Flight mechanics is a subject dealing with the vehicle performance, its stability and control. Performance is defined by a large set of parameters and flight envelope curves. Stability and control deal with the vehicle’s response to static and dynamic changes of attitude. Books on this subject either focus on the first aspect (performances) or the second (stability and control). This is an engineering discipline that requires knowledge of many fields (mathematics, aerodynamics, aeroelasticity, aircraft design).

The art and science of flying an airplane owes much to stability and control. Sturdy structures and powerful power plants are simply not enough. Badly located centers of gravity (CG) may bring airplanes down.

When this feature [stability and control] has been worked out, the age of flying machines will have arrived, for all other difficulties are of minor importance.

[The Papers of Wilbur and Orville Wright, Vol I, McGrawHill, 1953]

This course deals mostly with performances of the fixed-wing aircraft in the atmosphere, but some stability issues will be treated as well. The last part of the course deals with orbital flight (satellites and other trans-atmospheric vehicles).

Course Unit: EA-1201

  • Level: 1
  • Credit rating: 10
  • Pre-requisites: None
  • Teaching Arrangements: 22 hours lectures, 6 hours tutorials, 2 labs.
  • Degrees: Aerospace Engineering (BEng, MEng)

Course Objectives

Upon completion of the course, the students will:
  • Understand the role of the primary aircraft components
  • Be able to assess gliding performances
  • Be able to calculate the level flight performance of a range of aircraft types
  • Be able to assess performance in climbing and turning flight
  • Be able to calculate simple satellite orbits
  • Be able to run a flight simulator
The students will also be asked to anwer critically the following statement

… any pilot can successfully fly anything that looks like an airplane.

[Otto Koppen, J. Aero. Sciences, Feb. 1940]

Course Outline

  • The atmosphere
  • Introduction to aircraft flight
  • Generation of lift and drag, stall
  • Engines types
  • Aerodynamics, performance in steady flight, climb, turning and pull out
  • Aircraft stability, controls and configurations
  • Performance specifications
  • Aircraft flight instruments and navigation aids
  • Introduction to satellite orbit theory and rockets (with Mr Ziegler)
  • Course Details
NB: The official syllabus is published by the undergraduate office.

Course Work

One homework will be assigned 4 weeks into the course (week 4). Students are required to solve problems and report the solution within the time allotted.


The assignement consists of a Flight Simulation Laboratory, to be performed at George Begg Building. The scope of this assignement is to learn the basics of aircraft flight, to determine simple performance curves in straight flight and to understand the difficulties of flight models. (with Dr David Petty).

Reference Literature

  • Eshelby, ME. Aircraft Performance – Theory and Practice, Arnold Publ, London, 2000.
  • Ojha K. Flight Performance of Aircraft, AIAA Educational Series, 1995.
  • Philpott, B. Aircraft Flight, Longman Scientific, 1999.
  • Chobotov VA (editor). Orbital Mechanics, Washington, DC, AIAA education series, 1991.
  • Additional Literature for the enthusiasts


  • 2 hour closed-books exam at end of semester, 80 %
  • Course work, laboratory work and set problems, 20 %


  • Date and place of the exam is set by the undergraduate office sometime in the middle of the semester.
  • Attending lectures is strongly recommended and will be strictly monitored.
  • Class attendance will reflect upon your final grade.

Course Work Policy

  • All laboratory and course work is to be submitted within 2 weeks from the date of the experiment or assignement
  • Course work submitted after deadline will not be marked.
  • Extension of the deadline can be granted, but only on a case-by-case basis
  • Reports cannot be submitted via email or fax

How Much Should you Study ?

For every hour of lecture you are expected to
  • have two hours of study, or
  • one hour of tutorial and one hour of study

NB: You are encouraged to solve standard problems, for example past examination papers, that are available from the undergraduate offices.

Seeking Help

  • The instructor will be available to answer students questions after each lecture or tutorial.
  • The instructor is available for questions in his office on Mondays and Thursdays at 17:00-18:00, or via e-mail at any time.

Rules of Conduct in the Class Room

  • Mobile telephones are to be switched off at all times.
  • Students are expected to be punctual and lectures to start on time.
  • The instructor expects silence from the students. Background noise will not be tolerated.
  • Horseplay and willful misconduct have no place in the class room.
  • No Smoking, No Drinking, No Eating.
  • Learn More on the Students Chart.

Ethical Standards

Ethical standards are needed to avoid cases of plagiarism and cheating. These include (but are not limited to): attempts to submit laboratory reports and course work without attending experiments/lectures; submitting the work done by another person; failure to give credit for ideas; copying from books; photocopying books and publications covered by Copyright. Assisting other persons to cheat is also considered an offense, and may be subject to disciplinary procedures. Acts of plagiarism are reported to the undergraduate office and to the examiners. Please refer to the students handbook for further details.

Dr A. Filippone
Dept. Mechanical Engineering
Thermo and Fluids Division
George Begg Building, Office C-38
Manchester M60 1QD
United Kingdom

Phone (+44) 161- 200 3702 (direct)
Fax (+44) 161- 200 3723

[ For Orbital Mechanics ]
Mr S. Ziegler
Applied Mechanics Division
Pariser Building, Office C-23

Phone (+44) 161- 200 3836 (direct)
Fax (+44) 161- 200 4537

[ For Flight Simulation Labs ]
Dr D. Petty
Manufacturing Division
Main Building, Office C-51

Phone (+44) 161- 200 3813 (direct)
Fax (+44) 161- 200 xxxx

Copyright © A. Filippone (2001). All Rights Reserved.