Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Aviation Systems

Major Professor

Stephen Corda

Committee Members

Frank G. Collins, UP Solies


Despite the recent improvements to the T-38 airframe and engines, the United States Air Force is still seeking ways to improve the aircraft’s takeoff, cruise, and landing performance. One potential way to improve the performance is to change the design of the wing. Using the Digital Performance Simulation aircraft-performance computer code, a T-38C performance evaluation sensitivity study was performed by parametrically varying the wing design. The computer model was a three degree of freedom, pointmass, batch simulation. The design changes investigated included varying aspect ratio with constant wing area, varying wing area with constant aspect ratio, and the addition of a winglet. These preliminary design estimates compared the differences in takeoff, cruise, and landing phases resulting from the modifications to the current baseline configuration. Using a variety of aerodynamic theories, new aircraft lift curves and drag polars were developed. These new aerodynamic models were then used in the computer simulation to determine the new aircraft performance during the various phases of flight. While incremental improvements were made in maximum range, maximum speed, and landing distances, a major improvement in the single-engine climb performance was found with a small increase in wing area from the baseline value of 170.0 square feet to 183.7 square feet. With a weight gain of only approximately 138 pounds, the operational envelope of the aircraft can be significantly increased. This larger wing will provide a 10 knot improvement in single engine takeoff speed and a 7.5% reduction in landing distance and will allow continued operation of the aircraft in the most demanding environmental conditions.

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