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WILJAM FLIGHT TRAINING

Chapter 11. Ground Effect


Introduction When an aircraft flies close to a surface, e.g. ground or water, the lift, drag and stability characteristics are significantly affected. The changes that occur are collectively known as ground effect, and are noticeable whenever an aircraft is one wingspan or less above the surface. The closer to the surface the more pronounced the effect. The Characteristics of Ground Effect Ground effect takes place because the surface interferes with, and alters the airflow pattern around the wings. Primarily the surface restricts the formation of the wingtip vortices (Fig. 11.1).

FIG. 11.1

This results in a reduction in the amount of induced downwash behind the wing, and increases the wings effective angle of attack (Fig. 11.2).
INCREASED LIFT

INCREASED EFFECTIVE ANGLE OF ATTACK

FIG. 11.2

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It also alters the pressure distribution around the wing, and the amount of lift developed. This occurs because the change in effective angle of attack increases the wings coefficient of lift (CL), and thus its lifting capability at any given angle of attack. The aircraft will also stall at a lower angle of attack when flying in ground effect. (Fig.11.3).

AIRCRAFT IN GROUND EFFECT COEFFICIENT OF LIFT CL CLMAX

AIRCRAFT OUT OF GROUND EFFECT

ANGLE OF ATTACK

FIG. 11.3

The magnitude of the wing tip vortices, and thus downwash, also determine the amount of induced drag produced by the wing. Thus the closer the aircraft is to the surface, the greater the reduction in induced drag, at any given angle of attack (Fig. 11.4).

60 50

PERCENTAGE 40 REDUCTION IN INDUCED DRAG 30


20 10 0 0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.7 0.8 0.9 1.0 1.1 RATIO OF WING HEIGHT TO SPAN, h b

FIG. 11.4

The reduction in induced drag is approximately 1% at a height of one wingspan above a surface, and approximately 50% at a height of one tenth of the wingspan. This effect is therefore significant during the take-off and landing phases of flight when induced drag may
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account for over 80% of the total drag. The overall reduction in drag also reduces the amount of thrust required to maintain a given airspeed (Fig. 11.5).

THRUST REQUIRED (N)

AIRCRAFT OUT OF GROUND EFFECT

AIRCRAFT IN GROUND EFFECT

VELOCITY, KNOTS

FIG. 11.5
The second characteristic associated with ground effect is the change in aircraft trim and stability. This occurs because the downwash acting behind the wing is deflected by the surface, thus altering the angle at which the airflow meets the tailplane (Fig. 11.6).

DOWN LOAD

REDUCED DOWN LOAD


DOWNWASH

DOWNWASH

DOWNWASH PATH OUT OF GROUND EFFECT

DOWNWASH PATH IN GROUND EFFECT

FIG. 11.6

This places the tailplane at a less negative or increased angle of attack, and reduces the download, acting on the tailplane. In this condition the aircraft will experience a nose-down pitching moment, although high T tailed aircraft do not respond in this manner, since the tailplane is outside the influence of the downwash.

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The Influence of Ground Effect on Landing When an aircraft enters ground effect during the landing phase of flight the sudden increase in lift and reduction in drag will cause it to experience a floating tendency. The aircraft will also tend to pitch nose-down due to the reduction in download on the tailplane. The Influence of Ground Effect on Take-Off During the take-off phase of flight as the aircraft leaves ground effect the wing tip vortices will rapidly grow in magnitude, producing an increase in downwash behind the wing. This will cause the lift produced at a given angle of attack to suddenly reduce, and the associated rapid increase in induced drag may prevent a successful take-off. The increased downwash acting on the tailplane will increase the download, and a nose-up pitching moment will result. It is therefore important that the take-off is not attempted at speeds less than the designated takeoff speed, because even though the aircraft may be able to fly in ground effect, it will be unable to climb out of it. The aircraft may even sink as it flies out of ground effect, and will resettle on the ground. The Influence of Ground Effect on Trailing Edge Flaps When flying in ground effect with the trailing edge flaps deflected the surface will increase the adverse pressure gradient over the flap, and will also induce earlier separation of the airflow (Fig. 11.7).

FLOW SEPARATION AT FLAP DUE TO HIGH PRESSURE ON GROUND

FIG. 11.7

This will significantly reduce the maximum lift capability of the wing, compared to that obtained outside ground effect. This is one of the main reasons why STOL aircraft are manufactured with a high wing configuration.

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