What is the difference between centre of pressure, aerodynamic centre and neutral point?

  • I have just started learning some aerospace concepts, and I am not able to understand the difference between the three terms centre of pressure, aerodynamic centre and neutral point. What are their functional differences?

    What would be an example that distinguishes these three?

    In this sentence: As the center of gravity (the point where the weight of the body acts) is fixed, this movement of center of gravity affects the stability of the aircraft. - surely there is a misprint or absent-minded word?? Because it should read: As the center of gravity (the point where the weight of the body acts) is fixed, this movement of center of *PRESSURE* affects the stability of the aircraft.

  • aeroalias

    aeroalias Correct answer

    5 years ago

    Any body moving in a fluid experiences pressure forces over its surface. The concepts of center of pressure, aerodynamics center and neutral point are useful in understanding the effects of these forces. Let's take an airfoil moving in air with subsonic flow attached to the body.

    Center of Pressure The center of pressure is the point where the total sum of a pressure field acts on a body. In aerospace, this is the point on the airfoil (or wing) where the resultant vector (of lift and drag) acts.

    Center of Pressure

    Source: avstop.com

    As the airfoil angle of attack changes, the pressure field changes. Due to this, the center of pressure changes with variation in the angle of attack. In the airplane's normal range of flight attitudes, if the angle of attack is increased, the center of pressure moves forward; and if decreased, it moves rearward.

    Movement of Center of Pressure

    Source: www.flightlearnings.com

    As the center of gravity (the point where the weight of the body acts) is fixed, this movement of center of pressure affects the stability of the aircraft.

    Aerodynamic Center The resultant (or the pressure forces) also cause a moment on the airfoil. As the angle of attack increases, the pitching moment at a point (for example, the center of gravity) also changes. However, the pitching moment remains constant at a particular point, which is called the aerodynamic center.

    Aerodynamic Center

    Source: www.theairlinepilots.com

    For symmetric airfoils in subsonic flight the aerodynamic center is located approximately 25% of the chord from the leading edge of the airfoil. This point is described as the quarter-chord point.

    Thus the aerodynamic center does not change with variation in angle of attack. Due to this, the aerodynamic center, rather than the center of pressure is used in the analysis of longitudinal stability.

    Neutral Point Consider the whole aircraft. The lift of the wing acting through the center of pressure is in front of the center of gravity of the aircraft. This causes a destabilizing motion (increase in lift to increase in angle of attack causes a nose up moment, further increasing angle of attack). This is counteracted by the moment produced by the lift of the horizontal stabilizer (which is a small wing), acting behind the center of gravity.

    Forces on aircraft

    "AirStability" by User_A1 - SVG derivative of Public Domain work by G J Vigurs. Licensed under GFDL via Commons.

    As the center of gravity is moved forward, the stability of the aircraft increases (as the main wing lift arm is reduced) and the aircraft is statically stable.

    Statically Stable

    Source: quest.arc.nasa.gov

    As the center of gravity is moved aft, the main wing lift moment arm increases and the aircraft stability decreases. The aircraft is said to be statically unstable.

    Statically Unstable

    Source: quest.arc.nasa.gov

    As the aircraft is stable when center of gravity is in the nose and unstable when center of gravity is in the tail, there is a position in the middle where the aircraft is neither stable nor unstable i.e the stability is neutral. This point is called the neutral point. The neutral point is fixed for a particular aerodynamic configuration of the aircraft.

    Neutrally Stable

    Source: quest.arc.nasa.gov

    Thus,

    • Center of pressure of an aircraft is the point where the Lift acts.
    • Aerodynamic center is the point in the wing where the pitching moments are constant.
    • The neutral point is where the center of gravity of the aircraft is neutrally stable

    Notice how a right sized (area) Hstab will help static stability a great deal with very little drag penalty. Ideally it would be near 0 angle of attack at cruise, holding the wing at its optimum AOA. Simple flat plate, low aspect Hstabs are common for a good reason.

    for neutral stability the aircraft's moment slope should be 0. In other words, the pitching moment is constant. The neutral point of an aircraft is its aerodynamic center. Of course, this not the aerodynamic center of its wing.

    Good answer but perhaps a slight improvement is possible. "However, the pitching moment remains constant at a particular point, which is called the aerodynamic center."-- is this for a given airspeed? Would it be more accurate to say the pitching moment COEFFICIENT remains constant if we treat the lift vector as acting at the aerodynamic center?

License under CC-BY-SA with attribution


Content dated before 6/26/2020 9:53 AM