Aerospace America’s Year in Review 2013

I’ve mentioned before that my favorite issue of AIAA’s magazine Aerospace America is the annual Year in Review issue that comes out every December. It’s the only issue I keep and have since I joined AIAA in 1980. [Maybe I should pull those out and review a couple of decades. Hmm.]

aero-amer-yir-2013-coverAnyway, I like to note where CFD is mentioned in this issue. So here’s 2013 organized by technical committee in the order in which they appear in the magazine.


A biphasic fluid (i.e. liquid/water) was simulated using CFD to design the hull of the PrandtlPlane, a amphibious light aircraft with a box-like wing structure. Development of this aircraft is part of the EU’s Idintos Project.

Applied Aerodynamics

The U.S. government’s CREATE program (Computational Research and Engineering Acquisition Tools and Environments) released three software programs for air vehicle design: Kestrel 4.0, Helios 4.0, and DaVinci 2.0.

Sikorsky is validating Helios on their X2TD aircraft and Georgia Tech is developing rotorcraft icing models for CFD.

The 2nd high lift prediction workshop studied the DLR F11 high-lift model with CFD codes and generally showed that wake profiles were captured better by structured versus unstructured grid-based solvers.

Analysis [computational?] tools have improved enough to aid in the design of low-sonic-boom aircraft with high performance.

Wind tunnel tests of a C-5M validated CFD predictions of a 4% fuel burn reduction due to winglets.

Atmospheric and Space Environments

At NASA Glenn, work with 3D scanning lasers can capture the shape and surface roughness of ice accretion on wings for use in mesh generation for CFD.


Not CFD, but interesting. In the 2nd half of 2013, six asteroids came within half a lunar distance of earth.

Fluid Dynamics

At my alma mater, Syracuse University, fluid entrainment into vortical structures is being studied with an eye toward flow control.

The University of Illinois used multi-disciplinary direct numerical simulation to study the interaction of compressible boundary layers over thin-walled structures (e.g. wings).

The University of Michigan showed that adaptive CFD could vastly reduce the number of grid cells needed for accurate simulations including cases from the drag prediction workshop.

Both North Carolina A&T and Vanderbilt used CFD to simulate flapping wing flight.

Ground Testing

JAXA’s wind tunnel tests of a 80% copy of NASA’s common research model showed that accounting for wing deformation improves the comparison of measured lift and pressure with CFD.

Meshing, Visualization and Computational Environments

When it comes to meshing, there are several paths to achieve the right mesh.

Overset meshes continue to provide a means of facilitating mesh movement for components such as flaps and slats. Also in the field of overset grid assembly, Pointwise‘s USAF-funded research yielded an adaptive method for remediating orphan points. Grid rupturing is a technique developed at U. Tennessee Chattanooga for moving unstructured grids.

At Stanford, adaptive techniques – both adjoint and feature-based – continue to evolve. And at Univ. British Columbia, adaption techniques focus on combining the best aspects of structured and unstructured grids.


Data recorded during the descent of Curiosity to the Martian surface are being used to reconstruct the thermal environment for validating CFD tools.

Legal Aspects

Everyone’s favorite topic, ITAR, is supposedly under review by the State Dept. with the goals of clarification, elimination, and scope change.

Computer Systems

The capabilities of computers available for CFD trend toward the petaFLOP arena. Oak Ridge’s Titan can achieve 17.6 petaFLOPS and Livermore’s Sequoia reaches 17.2.

Air-Breathing Propulsion Systems Integration

CFD was used extensively to optimize the acoustic, aerodynamic, and aeromechanical performance of Pratt & Whitney’s Geared TurboFan ultra-high bypass system.

Propellants and Combustion

XPACC is a new center for Exascale Simulation of Plasma-Coupled Combustion. There’s a lot of discussion here about predictive simulations and advanced computing architectures.


The overall effect of reading this entire issue – CFD or not – is a sense of awe at the breadth and depth of accomplishments in the aerospace engineering field and pride for being involved in even a  small part of it.

Let me know if I missed anything.

You can learn more about AIAA’s technical committees here. If you are an AIAA member, TC membership is a great way to network with like-minded people and contribute to your field of interest in an extra-curricular way that also benefits you in your workplace.

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2 Responses to Aerospace America’s Year in Review 2013

  1. jdrch says:

    Nice summary. I wish Aerospace America were more like Desktop Engineering, Power Engineering, or even Communications of the ACM. The latter 3 examples provide much more technical detail, so that the reader learns how new developments work as opposed to just merely being informed of things happening.

  2. John Chawner says:

    Judah, I’m going to assume you’re referring to the magazine in general and not just the year in review issue. The latter would be huge if each TC went into technical detail about a year’s worth of accomplishments. Regarding the former, I’m going to guess that AIAA thinks conference papers and journal articles are the best forum for technical detail. DE obviously doesn’t have those venues so their articles can be more detailed. I also like ACM’s magazine for the broad scope of articles but I don’t know enough about their other publications to see where it fits into their universe of articles. Thanks for the comment.

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