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Development of Validation Tools for Carrier Airwake Simulations for use in Fixed-Wing and Rotary-Wing Flight Simulation

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  • Full or part time
    Dr M White
    Prof I owen
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

Project Description

This is an exciting opportunity to join an established research group with an international reputation for its research into flight simulation and maritime aircraft operations. Operating aircraft to/from ships is a demanding task for both the pilot and aircraft, particularly in the launch and recovery phases. This is true for both fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft alike where, compared to land-based operations, the ship’s flight deck is small and is constantly moving in roll, pitch and heave. In addition, the air flow behind the ship’s superstructure and over the flight deck is highly turbulent and contains vortices and shear layers which buffet the aircraft as the pilot manoeuvres over the moving deck and in close proximity to the ship’s superstructure. This turbulent flow, also known as the ‘airwake’, can adversely affect aircraft performance, and will disturb the aircraft’s flight path, requiring immediate corrective action from the pilot. Consequently, pilot workload can be high and the margins for error small, so directly affecting the safe operational envelope of the aircraft/ship combination. A reasonably new phenomenon, observed during shipboard testing of aircraft with highly-augmented digital Flight Control Systems, has been the undesirable impact of airwake on the response of the aircraft’s Air Data Systems. Therefore, even advanced aircraft with generally low pilot workload are not immune to the effects of airwake. In this project the aircraft of interest is the STOVL F35B Lightning II which is coming into service with the Royal Navy, and the ship is the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carrier.

The Heliflight-R motion-base flight simulator at the University of Liverpool is at the cutting edge of flight technology research in academia. The primary modelling and simulation package used to develop flight models for the simulator is Advanced Rotorcraft Technology’s FLIGHTLAB software. Flight mechanics models of both maritime rotorcraft and generic fixed-wing STOVL (short take-off & vertical landing) aircraft are integrated into an immersive flight simulation environment that allows the pilot to fly the aircraft to and from the ship. An essential component of the simulation environment is the air flow over the ship and this is created using advanced Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD); the quality of the airwake modelling and its subsequent integration into the simulation environment is the key driver for this project. The research carried out at the University of Liverpool will support the F35/QEC flight simulation facility at BAE Systems Warton.

Project Outcomes: The overall aim of the project will be to understand how simulation and flight test can be combined optimally by:

• Providing validation of existing unsteady airwake models using both laboratory-scale flow measurements and/or real-world data measured from the ship at-sea, during industry led Air-Flow Air-Pattern (AFAP) trials. The research will help to direct and specify the measurements taken during these at-sea trials and will use the resulting data to validate and refine existing airwake simulations.
• Developing tools and techniques to enhance airwake model validation by using novel methods to identify and track significant features in the measured datasets and match those to features in the modelled flow.
• Developing novel methods of integrating the ship airwake models with a range of air vehicle models (manned or unmanned/fixed or rotary-wing). This will involve the application of novel compression techniques, to reduce the size of the airwake datasets while ensuring maintenance of data fidelity, and advanced data storage, access and real-time look-up techniques.

Funding Notes

Funded by BAE Systems and EPSRC, the candidate will have an industrial supervisor from BAE Systems. Successful applicants will be offered funding covering tuition fees and living costs for 3.5 years (AY 2015-2016 the stipend was £15,144). Due to the nature of the funding source for this project, candidates must hold UK citizenship. Suitable for applicants with a first class degree in Aerospace Engineering or a related/relevant technical discipline. Applicants with a high scoring 2:i will be considered. Candidates should have a keen interest in flight dynamics and some background in flight simulation. Experience of using FLIGHTLAB/Matlab would be advantageous.


White MD, Owen I, Perfect P, Hodge S and Hoencamp A, “Simulator Fidelity Requirements for Rotorcraft Operations Research”, RAeS May Conference, Rotary Wing Mission Training Rehearsal & The Role of Flight Simulation, 29-31 May 2012

White MD, Perfect P, Padfield GD, Gubbels AW and Berryman AC, “Acceptance testing and commissioning of a flight simulator for rotorcraft simulation fidelity research” in Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part G: Journal of Aerospace Engineering, Volume 227 Issue 4, pp. 663 – 686, April 2013

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