Conference paper Open Access

De-risking flight trials using airwake simulations

Ward, C M

Air operations around naval vessels are inherently challenging and a major contributor to this is the turbulent airflow around the vessels, colloquially known as the airwake. To manage the risks associated with these unsteady airflows and to help define safe operating limits for the ship and the aircraft, the Royal Navy undertakes First of Class Flight Trials (FOCFTs). However, these trials inherently carry their own risks as well as being costly and time consuming. This paper discusses how Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulations have been used to de-risk flight trials and operations on the Queen Elizabeth Class (QEC) carriers. The simulations are shown to be in excellent agreement with full-scale LiDAR and anemometer measurements, which provides the requisite confidence to use them as a basis for de-risking. 
 
To de-risk the rotary wing FOCFTs, the turbulence approach parameter was defined as a proxy for pilot workload. It is shown that this parameter can be used to identify the wind conditions that are likely to be the most difficult for pilots, and to advise on changes to the approach paths that would reduce pilot workload. Test pilots were briefed with this airwake information prior to the FOCFTs, and the flow features identified in the CFD were found to be consistent with the pilots’ experiences. In the future this analysis could be used to reduce the time and cost associated with flight trials, manage through-life risks, and assess the impact of design decisions on the airwake during ship design. The work has also been used to de-risk F-35 trials and operations. In particular, the findings show that it may be possible to extend the operating envelope of the aircraft using a novel real-time system to predict airwake turbulence. In addition, CFD simulations were used to de-risk ondeck operations by ensuring that aircraft are within their exposure limits when tied-down. This information was used by the FOCFTs teams during rotary wing trials.

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