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AAE45100 Aircraft Design
Prof. Crossley

Spring 2019

[Course Description]
[Course Goals]
[Campus Emergencies]
[Graded Items]
[Collaboration and Academic Integrity]
[Course Grades]
[Course Materials]
[Discussion / Lecture Handouts]

[Homepage] - [Syllabus] - [Project]

Course Description

This course will offer students the opportunity to define an aircraft concept, starting from a basic opportunity description.  Students will work in teams to identify customers, formulate a basic business case, establish a basic concept of operations, develop the system requirements, generate concepts, conduct trade studies and sizing to determine the most promising aircraft design, and pursue conceptual design of the aircraft, with as much detail as time permits.  The course will try to replicate industry or government conceptual aircraft design studies as closely as possible in a 15-week semester.

For the Spring 2019 semester, the Aircraft Design class will use the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Undergraduate Team Aircraft Design Competition as the topic for the class.  The student teams will be able to use the work in AAE 451 to prepare a design proposal that they can enter into the AIAA competition.

Course Goals

The course is intended to help you to:
  1.     deepen your knowledge of topics relevant to aircraft design
  2.     identify and formulate the design requirements for an aircraft
  3.     conduct a set of trade studies to make decisions about the aircraft design
  4.     describe an aircraft design that is likely to meet the set of requirements
  5.     use modern engineering tools to complete the design process
  6.     apply engineering knowledge and skills acquired in previous classes to the design problem
  7.     solve problems as part of a team
  8.     effectively communicate by giving oral design reviews and writing design reports / proposals



The University Regulations Handbook reads: "Students are expected to be present for every meeting of the classes in which they are enrolled." Regular attendance - except for design review presentations - will not be taken, but if you must miss a class, you are responsible for the lecture material, assignments and/or announcements made. 

The design review presentations are analogs to mid-term exams in more traditionally formatted courses; attendance for the entire session in which your team presents is required.  Your design deliverable grade will be reduced if you are not in attendance and do not turn in your evaluation forms.

Students are also expected to participate in meetings with their team.  If students habitually miss class meetings and / or team meetings, their score will be reduced through the peer evaluations.

Campus Emergencies

In the event of a major campus emergency, course requirements, deadlines and grading percentages are subject to changes that may be necessitated by a revised semester calendar or other circumstances.  Information about these changes will be available from Purdue's Blackboard site, via e-mail sent to the class, and / or my office phone (765-496-2872).

Graded Items

There are two types of graded items for the course: design deliverables and quizzes.  The grades for each major deliverable are based largely on the overall effort of the team; however, a “merit pool” approach using teammate peer evaluations will allow each student to receive a different grade on the team-based deliverables.

Design Deliverables

There are three major "deliverables" for this class.  As the semester proceeds, time available may dictate some changes in these deliverables.
  1. A presentation and subsequent written document for the System Requirement Review (SRR)
  2. A presentation and subsequent written document for the System Definition Review (SDR)
  3. A presentation and subsequent written document for the Conceptual Design Review (CoDR)
The relative importance increases with each deliverable to reflect that the content of each becomes more comprehensive.  These design deliverables are analogs to mid-term exams in a more traditional class; attendance for the entire session in which your team presents is expected.

Team-to-team Peer Grading of the Design Review Presentations

The design review presentations will be presented to a panel of engineers via web meeting (WebEx or similar).  Making presentations to "real, practicing" engineers involved with aircraft design adds to the relevance of the capstone aircraft design class experience, provides practice making these kinds of professional-level presentations, and allows the panelists to provide feedback both about the approach to the design project and about the presentation style, format, and delivery. See the project page for additional information about the review panels.  

The instructor and teaching assistant(s) will not conduct a formal review of the presentations before the teams make these presentations to the review panelists.  This helps enhance the impact of the review panelists' feedback.  The instructor will take notes during the presentations and provide this written feedback to the teams. The instructor, teaching assistant(s) and the review panelists will not provide any grade for the review presentation, because the intent is for the design teams to get feedback they can use to improve the quality of the subsequent written design review document.

However, a small portion of each team's review deliverable grade will be based upon a team-to-team peer evaluation and feedback process. Here is how this will work.  

Each design review session includes presentations from three teams to one set of review panelists.  For this discussion, assume that teams 1, 2 and 3 present during the same session.  When Team 1 presents, each member of teams 2 and 3 will complete a form to evaluate Team 1's presentation.  Each reviewer will assign a letter grade to each category on the rubric, will point out areas of excellence and areas for improvement, and can provide other constructive feedback.

The teaching team will collect these forms and develop an average peer evaluation score for Team 1's design review.  This will be 15% of the review deliverable grade.  The average peer evaluation score and the anonymized written feedback will be provided to Team 1.

If a member of team 2 or team 3 does not submit his / her evaluation form, that individual student will be penalized 15% of the available score for the corresponding design deliverable.

Teaching Team Grading of the Design Review Reports

The written reports will be graded by the instructor, teaching assistant(s) and, if one is assigned, the grader.  They will use a basic rubric to assess how well the reports address several different categories; these categories will align with the categories in the team-to-team peer grading form for the presentations.  From this report rubric, each report will receive a numerical score from the teaching team. This will be 85% of the review deliverable grade.  The team will also receive comments the teaching team makes while grading the report.

Report Base Grade and Teammate Peer Evaluation Merit Pool

The instructor will assign a "base score" to the team as a whole for each report.  Because this is a team project, there is often great concern about the "unfairness" of assigning one grade to all team members, especially when some of the group members feel that they have been conducting a disproportionately large amount of the work.  To address some of these issues, the instructor will use a “merit pool” approach to assign the project report score for the course relying upon a teammate peer evaluation process.  The merit pool distribution should distinguish students who contributed positively to the team effort from those who did not.

For AAE 451, each review presentation and document will be assigned a score from the combination of the team-to-team peer evaluation of the presentation and the teaching team evaluation of the document; the “base score is assigned as the report’s score minus 15 points.  The distribution of the merit pool will allow students to receive individual grades that are higher or lower than the report score.

Here is an example of assigning grades via merit pool for each deliverable in the AAE 451 course:

A team of five students has worked on the system requirements review document.  When they turn in their written document, the students also complete their teammate peer evaluations to distribute the merit pool.  The total merit pool will be 15 points multiplied by the number of students on the team.  In the example below, a five student team will have a total merit pool of 75 points. 

For illustration here, assume the peer evaluations result in the following merit pool distribution:

Team Member Merit Pool
Student A 22 points
Student B 19 points
Student C 15 points
Student D 11 points
Student E 8 points

In this example, the team’s SRR receives a score of 89.  Each team member receives a "base score" of 74, fifteen (15) points less than the overall score.  The available merit pool for this team is 75 points (15 points multiplied by five team members).  With this "base score" and the merit pool distribution, the instructor assigns scores to each team member equal to the sum of the base score and each member's share of the merit pool, allowing the individual grades to range from A to B-:

Team Member Base Grade Merit Pool Individual Grade
Student A 74 22 96
Student B 74 19 93
Student C 74 15 89
Student D 74 11 85
Student E 74 8 82

For each deliverable, each member will provide their distribution for the merit pool along with short statements justifying their evaluations.  The instructor and teaching assistant(s) will compile these into the merit pool distribution.

This approach to grading group assignments provides opportunity for abuse by irresponsible team members. Because of this, the instructor retains ultimate authority over assigning the final grades to individual students.


In addition to these three major deliverables, a quiz score contributes a portion towards the final course grade.  There will be six or seven quizzes given throughout the semester on an approximately bi-weekly basis.  These will usually be performed at the beginning of the lab sessions.  The lowest quiz score will be dropped, with the remaining quizzes contributing to the overall quiz score.

The quizzes will take approximately 20 minutes and consist of qualitative and very short quantitative questions, designed to reinforce in the student an understanding of important concepts related to aircraft and aircraft design.

Collaboration and Academic Integrity

Collaboration with other students for the design project deliverables is an expected part of the course.

Plagiarism in any of the project deliverables is not acceptable.  The instructor and teaching assistants may use plagiarism detection software to screen work submitted by the students.

If copying and / or plagiarism is detected, this will result minimally with a failing or zero grade for that particular assignment and, at the instructor’s discretion, may result in a failing grade for the course.  Additionally, as recommended by the Provost’s office, all incidents of academic misconduct will be forwarded to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities (OSRR), where university penalties, including removal from the university, may be considered.

Quizzes are to be completed individually by each student in the course.

Students may report issues of abuse of or violation of academic integrity that they observe through the Office of the Dean of Students (http://www.purdue.edu/odos/) by calling 765-494-8778 or by email to integrity@purdue.edu.

Course Grades

The final course grades will use the following weighting:

Graded itemContribution to total course score
System Requirements Review Document 20%
System Definition Review Document 30%
Conceptual Design Review Document40%

After computing the scores for each student using the merit pool-weighted design review / report scores and the contribution of the quiz scores, the following table converts the numerical percentage score, rounded to the nearest integer value (e.g. 91.55% becomes 92%, 91.45% becomes 91%), to the corresponding letter grades.  The instructor intends to use this straight-scale approach to assigning final grades for the course, including the use of plus/minus modifiers.

Numerical Score to Letter Grade Conversion
Score Grade Score Grade Score Grade Score Grade
98 to 100% A+ 88 to 89% B+
78 to 79% C+ 68 to 69% D+
93 to 97% A 83 to 87% B 73 to 77% C 63 to 67% D
90 to 92% A- 80 to 82% B- 70 to 72% C- 60 to 62% D-

Course Materials

Discussion / Lecture Handouts

For each discussion or lecture topic, I will provide a set of handouts in Adobe Acrobat format that you will need to download from the Blackboard site, print (or download to your device, assuming you can “write” onto the handout), and have with you as you watch the class lecture. These handouts are intentionally incomplete; during the lecture, we will add information to these slides. My idea is to have you participate by taking notes during the lecture, because the activity of taking notes is associated with better retention of the material. However, with some of the material already provided, you should not need to rush to keep up with the notes and can listen more intently to the lecture.

These notes are copyrighted by Prof. William A. Crossley, Purdue University and are for the use of students registered in AAE45100.  You may not sell or otherwise distribute these notes.


In addition to the required and suggested textbooks, several resources are available from the Blackboard page for the course.  Students will also need to find other relevant references to complete the project.

Required Textbook

Raymer, D., Aircraft Design: A Conceptual Approach, Sixth Edition, AIAA Education Series, 2018.

Dan Raymer is a Purdue graduate who wrote this book in a conversational style making it easy to read and understand.  The content draws from Dan’s experiences working in aircraft design for major aircraft companies and his continuing experiences as a consultant and instructor of aircraft design courses.  I expect you will want to keep this text after you are finished with AAE 451. 

Obviously, the most recent edition has the most updated content, including an entire chapter on electric aircraft, but slightly earlier versions of the text will also be useful.

I have made this a required text, so that students have a consistent resource that covers material not explicitly discussed during class lecture.  I expect students to read and apply approaches from this textbook for many aspects of the course, particularly in the development of a sizing code for their aircraft.

Suggested Textbook

Nicolai, L. and Carichner, G., Fundamentals of Aircraft and Airship Design: Volume 1 - Aircraft Design, Revised Edition, AIAA Education Series, 2010.

Lee Nicolai and Grant Carichner have a cumulative of 85 years working in aircraft design related areas.  Both have spent most of their industry careers in the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works. The text contains relevant information for AAE 451. There are many similar themes to Raymer's text, but often approaches for analysis and design predictions differ from Raymer's text making this a nice complementary suggested text. This excellent book is also easy to read and understand.

Modified January 23, 2019