Aircraft Design and Sizing

Back to Software Review
Back to Content


Use:aircraft sizing and optimization/mission analysis
Author:many contributors from NASA Ames and Virginia Tech
Address:now available from Phoenix Integration, Inc.
1750 Kraft Dr., Suite 2200, Blacksburg, VA 24060, Phone: 1-800-500-1936, FAX: (540) 961-5831, WWW:, E-Mail:
Platform: workstations
Documentation: many papers, key references (Gregory, 1974, Vanderplaats, 1976, Wampler et al, 1988, Jayaram et al, 1992)
Availability:commercial and educational
License: Single and group licensing available with flexible pricing options
Code: Analysis is FORTRAN, Graphics is PHIGS and lots of C.
Graphics: yes
Discussion:ACSYNT is PHIGS based and runs on all workstations. It is an extremely sophisticated aircraft configuration sizing and optimization code, which can also be used for mission analysis. It also has a good cost module, as well as several other capabilities.

Fully interactive, ACSYNT allows the user to create geometry parametrically (using design parameters such as wing area and taper ratio) instead of specifying 3-D points and curves. The CAD capability includes a "spreadsheet" format for entering data for the analysis modules. The spreadsheet has on-line help for all the analysis variables, formula capabilities, and can be custom-tailored for individual user's needs.

This code is an example of a professional level code. It requires a significant investment in time and energy to use it effectively. Out of a class of thirty students my experience would be that perhaps four or five would become effective users.

This program was developed in the early 90s in The ACSYNT Institute, which was a venture to commercialize NASA technology. It became a commercial operation starting in 1996. Much of the work done by Phoenix Integration is actually the application of methodology developed with ACSYNT in mind to other applications, such as combining large legacy codes, developing user-oriented optimization environments, and CAD modeling with an ability to use the models for analysis.
Back to Aircraft Design and Sizing


Use: aircraft sizing, optimization/mission analysis
Author: Arnie McCullers
Address: ViGYAN Inc., Mail Stop 412, NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA 23681-0001, (804) 864-7631, email:
Platform: workstations
Documentation: A large user's manual is online, but the theory Doc is limited, primarily one conference paper (McCullers, 1984)
Availability: available under some circumstances, check with NASA, the NASA ADP Program Schools seemed to be able to acquire it
License: -
Code: FORTRAN 77, required for workstation installation
Graphics: yes, a graphics version is now available
Discussion: This is an excellent code under continual development. It has a similar capability to ACSYNT, and numerous modules for noise,detailed takeoff and other capabilities. We have used it extensively in our graduate program with good results. We did not use it in the undergraduate program because we did not have workstations access for large numbers of undergraduates.
Back to Aircraft Design and Sizing


Use: aircraft design and analysis
Author: Prof. Roskam and associates
Address:DARcorporation, 1440 Wkarusa Drive, Suite 500, Lawrence, KS, 66049, Phone: 1-800-DAR-7144, (785) 832-0434, fax: (785) 832-0524.
Platform:originally workstations, now available on PCs
Documentation:extensive, based on Roskam's books and subsequent development
Availability:Commercially available. Education discounts available.
License:a variety of single and multi-node licenses are available, as are educational discounts
Discussion: The AAA (Advanced Aircraft Analysis) code started out as a computerized version of Roskam's eight-volume text: Airplane Design, Parts I-VIII, featuring a user-friendly interface. The code operates on a number of workstations, and PCs running Windows. See the DARcorp web site for current pricing and details. Many of the analysis packages are also available separately for PCs. The company has been developing this code for a number of years, and it now has advanced beyond the capability of a computerized version of Roskam's design books. Because of Roskam's background, it has considerable capability in the stability and control area. I have not personally been associated with a project that has used this code.
Back to Aircraft Design and Sizing

Chuck Eastlake Codes

Use:simple general aviation/executive jet sizing and cost estimation
Author:Prof. Chuck Eastlake
Address:Aerospace Engineering Department, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, 600 S. Clyde Morris Blvd., Daytona Beach, FL 32114-3900, voice: (904) 226-6000, fax: (904) 226-6459
Platform:any PC with BASIC
Documentation:a modest amount of Doc is available
Availability:I think Prof. Eastlake will provide this code upon request.
Code:user gets BASIC source code
Graphics:yes, some
Discussion:Prof. Eastlake has written several useful programs. LITECOST calculates the purchase cost and LITEOPS calculates the the operation cost of light aircraft. EXECCOST calculates the purchase cost and EXECOPS calculates the operation cost of executive aircraft. These programs have been used for several years by Prof. Eastlake, and contain adjustments to previously published algorithms to include his own experience. I think the sizing is closely related to Nicolai's method (Nicolai, 1975).

Prof. Eastlake has also written some aircraft design programs to use in high school outreach programs. These programs give the weight and size of light and executive jet type aircraft as a function of a number of basic parameters. Both the programs and the cost programs are written in BASIC. Although available in IBM format, I converted them to run in QuickBASIC on the Macintosh quite easily.
Back to Aircraft Design and Sizing


Use:aircraft design, sizing and performance
Author:Dan Raymer
Address:STUDENT: contact the AIAA Publications Customer Service Center, 9 Jay Gould Court, P.O. Box 753, Waldorf, MD 20604, voice: 1-800-682-AIAA, or (301) 645-5643 Dept. 415, fax: (301) 843-0159.
Professional Version: Conceptual Research Corporation, PO Box 5429, Playa del Rey, CA 90296 Office/Shipping Address: 411 Rees St., Playa del Rey, CA 90293 Phone: 310 577 3773, fax: 818 743 7483
Platform:IBM, at least a 286 processor.
Documentation:Based on his book and a manual that comes with the disk (Raymer, 1992)
Availability:The Student Version is available from the AIAA at $54.95 for AIAA members. A professional version is available from Raymer's company. Note: Raymer makes a small sizing code available for free on his web site!
License:Single user license, the program may not be installed on a network or a multi-user computer (i.e., computer laboratory) RDS-STUDENT may not be used for actual aircraft design or other professional activities. The AIAA site license is too expensive to consider for use at Virginia Tech. It's much cheaper for students to each purchase a copy of the code on their own. This prevents this code from being formally used at Virginia Tech in the design course.
Code:user gets executable
Graphics:yes, CAD module available to develop the geometry.
Discussion:This is a software package put together by Raymer, and implements the approach described in his book. It is published by the AIAA and runs on IBM computers. It has a rather restrictive site license. However, it is relatively inexpensive and includes both a CAD package and analysis modules. This program includes cost analysis, as well as airline economics. This program runs quickly and could be quite useful in a design class. It can probably simulate many current airplanes reasonably well. As with all industrial sizing codes, adjustment factors are available to change the code predictions to account for circumstances where the internal weight, drag and thrust estimates are not accurate. It has a relatively complete mission capability, and is probably the best PC code available in this price range. Professional Version: This is a much more comprehensive and expensive version being sold by Raymer. It appears to be quite capable, but I keep missing the demos of the program.
Back to Aircraft Design and Sizing


Use:aircraft design
Author:Dr. D. Simos
Address: Lissys Limited, 6 Paterson Drive, Woodhouse Eaves, LE12 8RL, United Kingdom
Platform:Any Apple Macintosh
Documentation:Interactive built-in user's guide, plus detailed hardcopy manual
Availability:from Lissys, contact them for pricing
License:a variety of arrangements are available.
Code:user gets executable
Discussion:This is complete aircraft design program for Macintosh computers from Great Britain. Essentially, it does everything that is needed in conceptual design environment. This includes weight and mass analysis, geometric and wetted area calculations, and aerodynamic performance estimates. It then computes a complete performance evaluation and can also be used in an optimization mode. It is oriented toward FAR Part 25 commercial aircraft. This program is distributed by Dr. S. Simos, who has published numerous papers on aircraft design. I would expect this program to be quite good, but I have not heard of it being used in the US. Check out their web site for more details, it's a good one.
Back to Aircraft Design and Sizing

Madsen Aircraft Design Program (M.A.D.) V2.0.1

(as of Dec. 1, 2000, this is considered to be an obsolete version, new versions may be available, contact Madsen at the address below)

Use:evaluation of a design for performance and stability and control
Author:Ned Madsen
Address:Ned Madsen, 1212 Patrick Henry St., Derby KS 67037, E-Mail: (Updated info on Dec. 1, 2000)
Documentation:User's guide describes the methods. The manual contains all the equations used, and is generally very thorough.
Availability:The M.A.D. 2.0 program is shareware, and costs $25. With this fee you get a copy of the program without the shareware screen, the User's Guide and future upgrades.
License:shareware, may not be sold.
Code:you get an executable compiled from QuickBASIC
Discussion:From the shareware description: This Macintosh program was written to aid the aircraft designer with the conceptual design phase using the Mac user interface. The interactive nature of the program is ideal to quickly modify and reanalyze the design. For example, increasing the wing span has many effects on the aerodynamic characteristics of the aircraft. The program evaluates changes easily. It does not have any fancy graphic capabilities, it is intended to be a number cruncher.

The design should first be sketched with approximate dimensions for easy input to the program. There are over 100 inputs. An input list is available under the FILE menu. The inputs are self explanatory. The program evaluates the design in the areas of weight and balance, lift and drag, stability, controllability, and performance. Many of the outputs are simple. Others require a knowledge of some aircraft design parameters.

All of the outputs are explained in the User's Guide. The User guide contains a comprehensive overview of the execution of the program, all of the equations used, and a detailed explanation of the inputs and outputs from the program. The outputs are also shown in graphical form to further assist the designer in evaluating the design. The code is available from

The code is oriented toward general aviation aircraft, and contains an excellent database of airfoils and engines for GA aircraft. It is well worth the shareware fee. It evaluates the design in terms of weight and balance, lift and drag, stability, controllability, and performance.
Back to Aircraft Design and Sizing

Computer Aircraft Designer (out of business in 1997?)

Use:CAD for aircraft layout, point performance and stability estimates
Address: COMPUTER AIRCRAFT DESIGN, P.O. Box 96, Herndon, VA 22070, Phone: (703) 444-0308, email:, bbs: (703) 476-9832
Documentation:A manual comes with the code
Availability:The program costs $79.95. A demo is available from the bbs.
Code:user gets an executable module
Discussion:This is a "design" program written by RC modelers, This program is for IBM and compatibles. It is intended to be used for RC model design. It prints out plans on dot matrix printers, and is CAD oriented. It evaluates a given design, and provides details of the range of cg positions for which the plane is stable. It also calculates the performance. It does not perform sizing as such. Interestingly, it handles multi-fuselage, asymmetric and canard aircraft. It also evaluates the design for stability and performance characteristics. The look of the program is very professional. We had a hard time establishing contact with this company, but the product appears to be of good quality. However, at present there is very limited documentation of the methods used.
Back to Aircraft Design and Sizing

Airplane Design

Use:evaluation of a given design
Author:Donald R. Crawford
Address:Crawford Aviation, P.O. Box 1262-, Torrance, CA 90505, (310 or 213?) 375-9227
Platform:any computer with BASIC
Documentation:a book by Crawford (Crawford, 1986)
Availability:listings in the book, disk available
License:buy the book
Code:BASIC Source Code is provided.
Discussion:This is a book collecting a series of articles that appeared in Kitplanes, together with BASIC listings. It contains a variety of useful design codes. A disk of BASIC codes is available for IBM computers. A performance book and disk are also available. Some of my students have been happy with this program. The book is about $25, and and the disk is about $40. However, it would be informative to type in the listings and examine exactly what is going on. Naturally this book is also oriented toward GA aircraft. Specific programs include: 1. simple performance, 2. simple stability and control, 3. V-n diagram, 4. endurance, range and fuel efficiency, 5. Propeller parameters, 6. Std. Atmos. and Perf., 7. Horseshoe vortex induced velocity, 8. Vortex lattice wing code, 9. Transformation matrix from Euler Angles, 10. NACA 4 and 5 digit airfoils, 11. Solution of a quartic for stability analysis, 12. Longitudinal stability, 13. Lateral stability
Back to Aircraft Design and Sizing


Use:MDO of a transonic airplane
Author:Brett Malone
Address:ACSYNT Institute (see detailed address above)
Platform:a strong PC, Macintosh or workstation
Documentation:Virginia Tech AOE Report and several AIAA papers (Malone and Mason, 1995, Malone and Mason, 1992, Malone and Mason, 1991)
Availability:available for free, report is available for the cost of the copy
License:This code is free, but it requires the DOT optimization tools, a commercial code. See the DOT writeup below in the optimization section for details.
Code:FORTRAN, DOT package is not available from VPI, the user must acquire it from VMA.
Graphics:no, but puts out files for Quatro Pro
Discussion:This codes uses the global sensitivity approach to arrive at an optimum design. The various disciplines are modeled with simple analytic representations. The example is a C-17 like transport. Some students have had good success with this program.
Back to Aircraft Design and Sizing


Use:very simple aircraft sizing
Author:W. H. Mason
Address:Virginia Tech
Platform:any computer with BASIC
Documentation:in Aircraft Design Class course notes and Nicolai's text (Nicolai, 1975).
Availability:acsize, acsweep
Code:user gets QuickBASIC source code
Discussion:This is a straight-forward implementation of Nicolai's sizing method. It was written in BASIC because it was originally used on an Apple ][. I thought that keeping it in BASIC would force the students to look at the code to understand what was going on before translating it to a modern language. I was wrong. Students still find BASIC, and many run the code without looking at the details. acsize is the actual sizing code and acsweep computes the available and required empty weights over range of takeoff gross weights to provide insight into the process.
Back to Aircraft Design and Sizing