The University of Victoria, where I did my undergraduate degree offers a unique upper-level technical elective to mechanical engineering students—aircraft design. Aircraft design is a specific branch of mechanical engineering that has developed its own engineering models and design procedures. In the course, students were taught how to use these engineering models and the simplified design process, which has become the standard in the aircraft design industry.
In addition to studying the theory, students were put into groups of six to design their own VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) aircraft using the principles taught in class. The design process included
- defining the scope of the problem,
- concept generation and selection,
- initial sizing,
- propulsion method and sizing,
- fuselage sizing and design, and
- tail design.
My design group ended up with a jet-type aircraft with lift fans in the wings, which we presented to the rest of the class at the end of the term. Although the engineering principles used in aircraft design are very specific, the project offered a great opportunity to learn how to refine complex engineering and physics principles into a design procedure that can be applied to a whole industry.