Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Aerospace Engineering


Aerospace Engineering


College of Engineering


Dr. Aaron Drake

Advisor Department

Aerospace Engineering

Advisor College

College of Engineering


This thesis discusses a comparison of the differences in aerodynamic performance of wings designed with elliptical and bell-shaped lift distributions. The method uses a Standard Cirrus sailplane wing with a lift distribution associated with the induced drag benefits of an elliptical distribution (span efficiency = 0.96) as the basis of comparison. The Standard Cirrus is a standard class sailplane with 15-meter wingspan that was designed by Schempp-Hirth in 1969. This sailplane wing was modeled and analyzed in XFLR5, then validated against existing wind tunnel airfoil data, and Standard Cirrus flight test data. The root bending moment of the baseline wing was determined and used as the primary constraint in the design of two wings with bell-shaped lift distribution. These wings were modeled in XFLR5 by adjusting chord length and geometric twist respectively, and then they were studied using fixed speed lifting line analysis. Steady state cruise conditions for the Standard Cirrus sailplane were taken from the flight test data and applied for the analysis.

The wing designed with chord variation posed incompatibilities with the lifting line method. The resulting planform was strongly tapered in the wingtip region and the reference chord length there was such that the software could not solve for a Reynolds number the magnitude resulting from two-dimensional airfoil analysis. However, the wing geometry provided insight into the design aspect of wings with bell-shaped lift distribution. Using chord variation to shape the lift distribution, the wing featured a 12% increase in wingspan but a 6.5% decrease in total wetted area when compared to the baseline.

The results of the analysis of the wing designed with geometric twist indicate that induced drag decreased by 5% when compared to the baseline wing. The constraint on root bending moment resulted in a 12% increase in wingspan. Wetted area also increased by 14.8% over the baseline yielding an estimated 15% increase in skin friction.