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Robust Conceptual Design of Transonic Airfoils

  • Olson, Erik D.
Publication Date
Jan 06, 2020
NASA Technical Reports Server


This paper describes an integrated, multi-fidelity analysis and heuristic design approach that can be used to derive initial airfoil designs for transonic flight. If successful, the final result is a geometry that can be expected to produce reasonable aerodynamic performance when used with higher order analysis methods. A key aspect of the methodology is the use of a sonic-plateau pressure distribution as the target distribution for inverse design. The sonic- plateau distribution is easily parameterized and has the advantage of automatically resulting in a smooth airfoil shape without any discontinuities built into the surface due to the presence of a shock in the target pressure distribution. Inverse design is performed on each airfoil using a parametrically defined pressure distribution at a reduced lift coefficient and Mach number from the design condition. The methodology is demonstrated by designing an airfoil at 38% of the wing semispan for a 737-200-like aircraft. The demonstration problem shows that the methodology is able to achieve rapid and robust convergence to the solution. The calculated designed airfoil was found to be sufficiently higher than Mach number, and the maximum thickness was close to the targeted value.

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