Flight Dynamics and Control

Module aims

The purpose of this module is to provide you with a working understanding of the concepts associated with the dynamics, stability and control of flight vehicles. Though both a review of the theoretical background and its practical application using the Department's Flight Simulation facility, the techniques available to predict and control the dynamic behaviour of aircraft are studied. 

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing this module, you should be able to:

1. appreciate the need for flying vehicles to demonstrate acceptable flying and handling qualities and manoeuvrability;  
2. derive the equations of motion for a flying vehicle utilising a system of body-fixed axes;
3. apply dynamical systems theory to non-linear dynamical systems to predict their response to perturbations about an equilibrium;
4. demonstrate understanding of how design parameters affect the vehicle's stability and control derivatives and its dynamical response;
5. apply standard flight testing techniques to characterise the dynamic modes of a fixed-wing aircraft;
6. develop and tune a simple closed-loop controller.

Module syllabus

Basic qualitative understanding of flight mechanics without equations.
Aircraft modelled as rigid body which rotates and translates in response to moments and forces applied to it.
Introduction of the body fixed coordinate system.
Rigid body evolution equations applied to aircraft by specifying that moments and forces acting on it arise from gravitational and aerodynamic forces.
Aircraft motions represented in state space; application of dynamical systems theory to aircraft equations of motions and derivation of their linearised form.
Stability derivatives as they appear from this linearised form and ways to model them.
Eigenvalue analysis of the linearised equations of aircraft motion and reduction of the state space of the aircraft into subspaces.
Derivation of several natural models of aircraft motion.
Open Loop control of an aircraft and derivation of control derivatives.
Introduction to closed-loop control strategies.

Teaching methods

The module will be delivered primarily through large-class lectures introducing the key concepts and methods, supported by a variety of delivery methods combining the traditional and the technological. The content is presented via a combination of slides, whiteboard and visualiser.

Learning will be reinforced through tutorial question sheets and laboratory exercises making use of the Department's Flight Simulation facility and featuring analytical, computational and experimental tasks representative of those carried out by practising engineers.  
Visualisation tools, allowing you to visualise the impact of design and operating parameters on the vehicle's dynamic response are further made available. 


This module presents opportunities both for formative and summative assessment. 
You will be formatively assessed through a number of progress tests and tutorial sessions.
Additional opportunities are provided for you to self-assess your learning via tutorial problem sheets.
Summative Assessment takes the form of a written exam at the end of the module as well as practical laboratory assessments and one written laboratory report.

Assessment type Assessment description Weighting Pass mark
Examination Written examination 75% 40%
Coursework Flight Simulation and Control laboratory 25% 40%
You will receive feedback both during the laboratory sessions and following the coursework submission.
You will receive feedback on examinations in the form of an examination feedback report on the performance of the entire cohort.
You will receive feedback on your performance whilst undertaking tutorial exercises, during which you will also receive instruction on the correct solution to tutorial problems.
Further individual feedback will be available to you on request via this module’s online feedback forum, through staff office hours and discussions with tutors. 

Reading list