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Title: Criteria for acceptable stick force gradients of a light aeroplane
Author: Bromfield, Michael
ISNI:       0000 0004 2726 5199
Awarding Body: Brunel University
Current Institution: Brunel University
Date of Award: 2012
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During the period 1980 to 2008 there were 359 fatal accidents involving UK registered light aeroplanes of which 36% occurred in visual meteorological conditions. In all, 216 lives were lost with accidents being attributed to the pilot 'failing to maintain proper control resulting in a stall or spin'. Dissimilar fatal stallrelated accident rates are evident for aeroplane makes & models of similar design. During the course of this programme of research, flight testing of two similar aeroplane models using a case study method showed marked differences in the variation of stick force with airspeed or stick force gradient in all flight conditions. This suggested that 'control feel' was a contributory factor towards the pilot’s failure to maintain proper control. Current certification standards for light aeroplanes rely upon the subjective assessment of stick force gradients by test pilots, requiring that substantial changes in airspeed are accompanied by clearly perceptible changes in stick force with no specified minimum gradient. This programme of research has been carried out to determine acceptable criteria for stick force gradients of a light aeroplane in all flight conditions. Criteria has been determined from flight tests of aeroplanes with different in-service safety records and subjective pilot workload assessment using simulated flying tasks with different stick force gradients performed by twenty GA pilots. Simulation tests indicated that pilot mental demand increased significantly (p > 0.05) when stick force gradient was reduced to ‘zero’, representing an aeroplane with neutral longitudinal static stability. A predictive model has been developed to estimate stick force gradients for a light aeroplane in any flight condition under quasi-static, longitudinal, non-manoeuvring flight and 1-g loading conditions. The model builds upon previous published work limited to cruising flight, and enables the estimation of stick forces and gradients due to high lift devices in the climb and landing condition by consideration of the combined effects of wing loading, CG, elevator gearing, flaps and elevator trim setting. Implemented using MATLAB, the model has been validated by comparing with flight test results for the case study aeroplanes and showed mean differences of ±0.025 daN/kt. The predictive model should be used in preliminary aeroplane design to assess tendencies towards neutral stability in high workload, safety critical flight conditions such as the take-off and landing. In addition, the model should be used to analyse existing aeroplanes with comparatively low or neutral stick force gradients in safety critical flight phases and to predict the effects of changing CG and/or flap limits to increase stick force gradient and improve control feel. The combined results of these studies suggest that a minimum acceptable stick force gradient for a non-aerobatic light aeroplane in all flight conditions should be nonzero and between 0.10~0.13 daN/kt. A stable and predictable stick force variation with airspeed will ensure that any substantial deviation from trimmed airspeed is accompanied by a stick force change clearly perceptible to the pilot and also provide additional warning of the proximity to the stall. The use of specific criteria to complement qualitative test pilot opinion, will assist in confirming compliance and provide consistency with current standards for sailplanes/powered sailplanes and large commercial aeroplanes, both of which already have defined minimum acceptable gradients.
Supervisor: Gratton, G. Sponsor: Thomas Gerald Gray Charitable Trust Research Scholarship Scheme ; Brunel University School of Engineering and Design/Department of Mechanical Engineering
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Flight safety ; Control feel ; Pilot workload ; Flight simulation ; Flight test