Assessment of Low-Altitude Atmospheric Turbulence Models for Aircraft Aeroelasticity

Geogiors Deskos, Alfonso del Carre, Rafael Palacios

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus Citations


We investigate the dynamic aeroelastic response of large but slow aircraft in low-altitude atmospheric turbulence. To this end, three turbulence models of increasing fidelity, namely, the one-dimensional von Kármán model, the two-dimensional Kaimal model and full three-dimensional wind fields extracted from large-eddy simulations (LES) are used to simulate ambient turbulence near the ground. Load calculations and flight trajectory predictions are conducted for a representative high-aspect-ratio wing aircraft, using a fully coupled nonlinear flight dynamics/aeroelastic model, when it operates in background atmospheric turbulence generated by the aforementioned models. Comparison of load envelopes and spectral content, on vehicles of varying flexibility, shows strong dependency between the selected turbulence model and aircraft aeroelastic response (e.g. 58% difference in the predicted magnitude of the wing root bending moment between LES and von Kármán models). This is mainly due to the presence of large flow structures at low altitudes that have comparable dimensions to the vehicle, and which despite the relatively small wind speeds within the Earth boundary layer, result in overall high load events for slow-moving vehicles. Results show that one-dimensional models that do not capture those effects provide fairly non-conservative load estimates and are unsuitable for very flexible airframe design.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numberArticle No. 102981
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Fluids and Structures
StatePublished - May 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Ltd

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5000-77152


  • Atmospheric turbulence
  • Dynamic aeroelasticity
  • Flight mechanics
  • Geometrically-nonlinear structures
  • Gust loads
  • Large-eddy simulation


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