Skip to main content

A parametric aircraft fuselage model for preliminary sizing and crashworthiness applications


The aircraft design process generally comprises three consecutive phases: conceptual, preliminary and detailed design phase. In the conceptual design phase a basis aircraft layout is defined using multidisciplinary analysis procedures. For the structural layout, however, the preliminary design phase is of particular interest as more detailed calculations are introduced to enhance the basic design of the primary structure. Up to date, semi-analytical methods are widely used in this design stage to estimate the structural mass. Although these methods lead to adequate results for the major aircraft components of standard configurations, the evaluation of new configurations (e.g., box wing, blended wing body) or specific structural components with complex loading conditions (e.g., center wing box) is very challenging and demands higher fidelity approaches based on Finite Elements (FE). To accelerate FE model generation in a multidisciplinary design environment, automated processes based on a parametric model description have been introduced. To easily couple in- and output of different tools, a standardized data format—CPACS (Common Parametric Aircraft Configuration Schema)—is used. The versatile structural description in CPACS, the implementation in model generation tools, but also current limitations and future enhancements will be discussed. Recent development on the progress of numerical process chains for structural sizing and crashworthiness applications on solid ground and on water (ditching) are presented in this paper.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8
Fig. 9
Fig. 10
Fig. 11
Fig. 12
Fig. 13
Fig. 14
Fig. 15


  1. V/STOL = Vertical and/or Short Take-Off and Landing.

  2. uID = unique Identifier. uIDs are used to distinguish between individual entries which have been defined previously.


  1. Raymer, D.P.: Aircraft Design—A Conceptual Approach, 2nd ed. American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc., 1992

  2. Jenkinson, L.R., Simpkin, P., Rhodes, D.: Civil jet aircraft design. Arnold, 1999

  3. Piperni, P., DeBlois, A., Henderson, R.: Development of a multilevel multidisciplinary-optimization capability for an industrial environment. AIAA J. 51(10), 2335–2352 (2013)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Böhnke, D., Nagel, B., Gollnick, V.: An approach to multi-fidelity in conceptual aircraft design in distributed design environments. In: IEEE Aerospace Conference, 2011

  5. Martins, J.R.R.A., Lambe, A.B.: Multidisciplinary design optimization: a survey of architectures. AIAA J. 51(9), 2049–2075 (2013)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Athanasopoulos, M., Ugail, H., Castro, G.G.: Parametric design of aircraft geometry using partial differential equations. Adv. Eng. Softw. 40(7), 479–486 (2009)

    Article  MATH  Google Scholar 

  7. Lee, V.A., Ball, H.G., Wadsworth, E.A., Moran, W.J., McLeod, J.D.: Computerized aircraft synthesis. J. Aircr. 4(5), 402–408 (1967)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Gregory, T.J.: Computerized preliminary design at the early stages of vehicle definition. NASA-TM-X-62303, 1973

  9. Wampler, S.G., Myklebust, A., Jayaram, S., Gelhausen, P.: Improving aircraft conceptual design—a PHIGS interactive graphics interface for ACSYNT. In: AIAA/AHS/ASEE Aircraft Design, Systems and Operations Conference, 1988

  10. Jayaram, S., Myklebust, A., Gelhausen, P.: ACSYNT—a standards-based system for parametric computer aided conceptual design of aircraft. In: Aerospace Design Conference, 1992

  11. Myklebust, A., Gelhausen, P.: Improving aircraft conceptual design tools—new enhancements to ACSYNT. In: AIAA Aircraft Design, Systems and Operations Meeting, 1993

  12. Mason, W.H., Arledge, T.K.: ACSYNT aerodynamic estimation—an examination and validation for use in conceptual design. In: AIAA/AHS/ASEE Aerospace Design Conference, 1993

  13. Malone, B., Myklebust, A.: ACSYNT—commercialization success (software development project for AirCraft SYNThesis). In: Space Plane and Hypersonic Systems and Technology Conference, 1996

  14. Shahab, H.: ‘Web-ACSYNT’—conceptual-level aircraft systems analysis on the Internet. In: World Aviation Congress, 1997

  15. Stroud, W.J., Sobieszcanski-Sobieski, J., Walz, J.E., Bush, H.G.: Computerized structural sizing at NASA Langley Research Center. In: AIAA Conference on Air Transportation: Technical Perspectives and Forecasts, 1978

  16. Sobieszczanski-Sobieski, J., Haftka, R.T.: Multidisciplinary aerospace design optimization: survey of recent developments. In: 34th Aerospace Sciences Meeting and Exhibit, 1995

  17. Österheld, C., Heinze, W., Horst, P.: Preliminary design of a blended wing body configuration using the design tool PrADO. In: CEAS Conference on Multidisciplinary Aircraft Design and Optimisation, 2001

  18. Ledermann, C., Ermanni, P., Kelm, R.: Dynamic CAD objects for structural optimization in preliminary aircraft design. Aerosp. Sci. Technol. 10(7), 601–610 (2006)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Luo, X., Rajagopalan, H., Grandhi, R.: MIDAS: multidisciplinary interactive design and analysis system—integration of ASTROS and I-DEAS. In: 37th AIAA/ASME/ASCE/AHS/ASC Structures, Structural Dynamics, and Materials Conference and Exhibit, 1665–1679, 1996

  20. Townsend, J.C., Samareh, J.A., Weston, R.P., Zorumski, W. E.: Integration of a CAD system into an MDO framework. NASA/TM-1998-207672, 1998

  21. Ledermann, C., Hanske, C., Wenzel, J., Ermanni, P., Kelm, R.: Associative parametric CAE methods in the aircraft pre-design. Aerosp. Sci. Technol. 9(7), 641–651 (2005)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Azamatov, A., Lee, J.-W., Byun, Y.-H.: Comprehensive aircraft configuration design tool for integrated product and process development. Adv. Eng. Softw. 42(1–2), 35–49 (2011)

    Article  MATH  Google Scholar 

  23. Piperni, P., Abdo, M., Kafyeke, F.: The application of multi-disciplinary optimization technologies to the design of a business jet. In: 10th AIAA/ISSMO Multidisciplinary Analysis and Optimization Conference, 2004

  24. Piperni, P., Abdo, M., Kafyeke, F., Isikveren, A.T.: Preliminary aerostructural optimization of a large business jet. J. Aircr. 44(5), 1422–1438 (2007)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Crossley, W.A., Rutherford, J.W.: Sizing methodology for reaction-driven, stopped-rotor vertical takeoff and landing concepts. J. Aircr. 32(6), 1367–1374 (1995)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Davis, S.J, Rosenstein, H., Stanzione, K.A., Wisniewski, J.S.: HESCOMP user’s manual. NADC-78265-40, 1979

  27. Schoen, A.H., Rosenstein, H., Stanzione, K., Wisniewski, J.S.: User’s manual for VASCOMP II, 1980

  28. Hirsh, J.E., Wilkerson, J.B., Narducci, R.P.: An integrated approach to rotorcraft conceptual design. In: 45th AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting and Exhibit, 2007

  29. Johnson,W.: NDARC—NASA design and analysis of Rotorcraft. NASA/TP–2009-215402, 2009

  30. Johnson, W.: NDARC—NASA design and analysis of rotorcraft: theoretical basis and architecture. In: American Helicopter Society Aeromechanics Specialists’ Conference, 2010

  31. Johnson, W.: NDARC—NASA design and analysis of rotorcraft: validation and demonstration. In: American Helicopter Society Aeromechanics Specialists’ Conference, 2010

  32. Hürlimann, F.: Mass estimation of transport aircraft wingbox structures with a CAD/CAE-based multidisciplinary process. Doctoral thesis, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule ETH Zürich, 2010

  33. van der Velden, A., Kelm, R., Kokan, D., Mertens, J.: Application of MDO to large subsonic transport aircraft. In: 38th AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting and Exhibit, 2000

  34. Mainini, L., Maggiore, P.: Multidisciplinary integrated framework for the optimal design of a jet aircraft wing. Int. J. Aerosp. Eng. 2012, 1–9 (2012)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Chen, X., Yan, L., Luo, W., Xu, L., Zhao, Y., Wang, Z.: Research on theory and application of multidisciplinary design optimization of flying vehicles. In: 47th AIAA/ASME/ASCE/AHS/ASC Structures, Structural Dynamics, and Materials Conference, 2006

  36. Hahn, A.S.: Vehicle sketch pad: a parametric geometry modeler for conceptual aircraft design. In: 48th AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting and Exhibit, 2010

  37. Fredericks, W.J., Antcliff, K.R., Costa, G., Deshpande, N., Moore, M.D., San Miguel, E.A., Snyder, A.N.: Aircraft conceptual design using vehicle sketch pad. In: 48th AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting and Exhibit, 2010

  38. VSP, Vehicle Sketch Pad. (2010). Accessed 22 Apr 2015

  39. Munjulury, R.C., Staack, I., Berry, P., Krus, P.: A knowledge-based integrated aircraft conceptual design framework. CEAS Aeronaut. J. 7(1), 95–105 (2016)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Roth, G.L., Livingston, J.W., Blair, M., Kolonay, R.: CREATE-AV DaVinci: computationally based engineering for conceptual design. In: 48th AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting Including the New Horizons Forum and Aerospace Exhibition, 2010

  41. CPACS homepage, CPACS—common parametric aircraft configuration schema. (2016). Accessed: 28 Jan 2016

  42. Travaglini, L., Ricci, S., Bindolino, G.: PyPAD: a multidisciplinary framework for preliminary airframe design. In: 4th EASN Association International Workshop on Flight Physics & Aircraft Design, 286–305, 2014

  43. Zhang, M., Rizzi, A., Nangia, R.: Geometry modeling, parametrization and meshing of conventional and joined-wing aircraft. In: 4th EASN Association International Workshop on Flight Physics & Aircraft Design, 485–500, 2014

  44. Dorbath, F.: A flexible wing modeling and physical mass estimation system for early aircraft design stages, Doctoral thesis, Technical University Hamburg-Harburg, Germany (2014)

  45. Deinert, S., Petersson, Ö., Daoud, F., Baier, H.: Aircraft loft optimization with respect to aeroelastic lift and induced drag loads. In: 10th World Congress on Structural and Multidisciplinary Optimization, 2013

  46. Cerulli, C., Meijer, P., van Tooren, M., Hofstee, J.: Parametric modeling of aircraft families for load calculation support. In: 45th AIAA/ASME/ASCE/AHS/ASC Structures, Structural Dynamics & Materials Conference, 2004

  47. La Rocca, G., Langen, T.H.M., Brouwers, Y.H.A.: The design and engineering engine. Towards a modular system for collaborative aircraft design. In: 28th International Congress of the Aeronautical Sciences, 2012

  48. Rizzi, A., Zhang, M., Nagel, B., Böhnke, D., Saquet, P.: Towards a unified framework using CPACS for geometry management in aircraft design. In: 50th AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting including the New Horizons Forum and Aerospace Exposition, 2012

  49. Liersch, C.M., Hepperle, M.: A distributed toolbox for multidisciplinary preliminary aircraft design. CEAS Aeronaut. J. 2, 57–68 (2011)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Kroo, I., Altus, S., Braun, R., Gage, P., Sobieski, I.: Multidisciplinary optimization methods for aircraft preliminary design. In: 5th Symposium on Multidisciplinary Analysis and Optimization, 1994

  51. Padula, S., Gillian, R.: Multidisciplinary environments: a history of engineering framework development. In 11th AIAA/ISSMO Multidisciplinary Analysis and Optimization Conference, 2006

  52. OpenMDAO, OpenMDAO. (2015). Accessed 22 Apr 2015

  53. Phoenix Integration, ModelCenter. (2015). Accessed 05 Aug 2015

  54. Alzubbi, A., Ndiayej, A., Mahdavi, B., Guibault, F., Ozell, B., Trepanier, J.-Y.: On the use of JAVA and RMI in the development of a computer framework for MDO. In: 8th AIAA/USAF/NASA/ISSMO Symposium on Multidisciplinary Analysis and Optimization, 2000

  55. Chen, B., Liu, D., Mahdavi, B., Zhou, Q., Bouhemhem, D., Ndiaye, A., Guibault, F., Ozell, B., Pelletier, D., Trepanier, J.-Y.: A data-centric distributed framework for MDO management. In: 6th International Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work in Design, 279–284, 2001

  56. Stephenson, W.J., Zeune, C.H., Blair, M.: Computational design of an advanced mobility concept. In: 11th AIAA/ISSMO Multidisciplinary Analysis and Optimization Conference, 2006

  57. Mukhopadhyay, V., Hsu, S.-Y., Mason, B.H., Hicks, M.D., Jones, W.T., Sleight, D.W., Chu, J., Spangler, J.L., Kamhawi, H., Dahl, J.L.: Adaptive modeling, engineering analysis and design of advanced aerospace vehicles. In: 47th AIAA/ASME/ASCE/AHS/ASC Structures, Structural Dynamics, and Materials Conference, 2006

  58. Anemaat, W.A.J., Kaushik, B., Hale, R.D., Ramabadran, N.: AAARaven: knowledge-based aircraft conceptual and preliminary design. In: 48th AIAA/ASME/ASCE/AHS/ASC Structures, Structural Dynamics, and Materials Conference, 2007

  59. Stephenson, W.J., Veley, D.E., Hill, S.: Composite vehicle design environment. In: 48th AIAA/ASME/ASCE/AHS/ASC Structures, Structural Dynamics, and Materials Conference, 2007

  60. Kroll, N., Abu-Zurayk, M., Dimitrov, D., Franz, T., Führer, T., Gerhold, T., Görtz, S., Heinrich, R., Ilic, C., Jepsen, J., Jägersküpper, J., Kruse, M., Krumbein, A., Langer, S., Liu, D., Liepelt, R., Reimer, L., Ritter, M., Schwöppe, A., Scherer, J., Spiering, F., Thormann, R., Togiti, V., Vollmer, D., Wendisch, J.-H.: DLR project digital-X: towards virtual aircraft design and flight testing based on high-fidelity methods. CEAS Aeronaut. J. 7(1), 3–27 (2016)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  61. Seider, D., Litz, M., Schreiber, A., Gerndt, A.: Open source software framework for applications in aeronautics and space. In: IEEE Aerospace Conference, 2012

  62. Seider, D., Basermann, A., Mischke, R., Siggel, M., Tröltzsch, A., Zur, S.: Ad hoc collaborative design with focus on iterative multidisciplinary process chain development applied to thermal management of spacecraft. In: 4th CEAS Air & Space Conference, 2013

  63. TIXI homepage, TIXI. (2015). Accessed 13 Apr 2015

  64. TIGL homepage, TIGL. (2015). Accessed 13 Apr 2015

  65. Kunde, M., Schreiber, A.: Advantages of an integrated simulation environment. In: 4th CEAS Air & Space Conference, 869–877, 2013

  66. Scherer, J., Kohlgrüber, D.: Overview of the versatile options to define fuselage structures within the cpacs data format. In: 4th EASN Association International Workshop on Flight Physics & Aircraft Design, 2014

  67. Harbig, K.: Entwicklung eines parametrisierten Netzgenerators zur automatisierten Crashsimulation von Flugzeugrumpfstrukturen. DLR-IB 435-2010/22, 2010

  68. Schwinn, D.B., Kohlgrüber, D., Harbig, K., Scherer, J.: Development of a fully parameterized process chain to evaluate the crash behaviour of transport aircraft in the preliminary design phase. In: Aerospace Structural Impact Dynamics International Conference, 2012

  69. Schwinn, D.B., Scherer, J., Kohlgrüber, D., Harbig, K.: Development of a multidisciplinary process chain for the preliminary design of aircraft structures. In: NAFEMS World Congress, 2013

  70. Scherer, J., Kohlgrüber, D., Dorbath, F., Sorour, M.: A finite element based tool chain for structural sizing of transport aircraft in preliminary aircraft design. In: Deutscher Luft- und Raumfahrtkongress, 2013

  71. Liepelt, R., Chiozzotto, G.P., Schmidt, H.: Variable fidelity loads process in a multidisciplinary aircraft design environment. In: 4th CEAS Air & Space Conference, 822–832, 2013

  72. Dorbath, F., Nagel, B., Gollnick, V.: Implementation of a tool chain for extended physics-based wing mass estimation in early design stages. In: 71th Annual Conference of Society of Allied Weight Engineers, Inc., no. 3547, 2012

  73. Dorbath, F., Nagel, B., Gollnick, V.: Extended physics-based wing mass estimation in early design stages applying automated model generation. Proc. Inst. Mech. Engin. Part G J. Aerosp. Engin. 228(7), 1010–1019 (2014)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  74. Nagel, B., Kintscher, M., Streit, T.: Active and passive structural measures for aeroelastic winglet design. In: 26th International Congress of the Aeronautical Sciences, 2008

  75. Bruhn, E.F.: Analysis and Design of Flight Vehicle Structures. Tri-State Offset Company, 1973

  76. Jackson, K.E., Boitnott, R.L., Fasanella, E.L., Jones, L.E., Lyle, K.H.: A history of full-scale aircraft and rotorcraft crash testing and simulation at NASA Langley Research Center. In: 4th Triennial International Aircraft and Cabin Safety Research Conference, 2004

  77. Schwinn, D.B.: Integration of crashworthiness aspects into preliminary aircraft design. Appl. Mech. Mater. 598, 146–150 (2014)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  78. Schwinn, D.B.: Parametrised fuselage modelling to evaluate aircraft crash behaviour in early design stages. Int. J. Crashworthiness 20(5), 413–430 (2015)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  79. Groenenboom, P.H.L., Siemann, M.H.: Fluid-structure interaction by the mixed SPH-FE method with application to aircraft ditching. Int. J. Multiphysics 9(3), 249–265 (2015)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  80. Siemann, M.H., Groenenboom, P.H.L.: Modeling and validation of guided ditching tests using a coupled SPH-FE approach. In: 9th international SPHERIC workshop, 2014

Download references


The authors would like to thank Maria Inês Costa Cadilha from the University of Lisbon and gratefully acknowledge her contribution to the numerical simulations of aircraft ditching of generic transport aircraft. The developments and results presented in this paper were partly accomplished in: (1) the framework of the 4th aeronautical research program of the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi) under grant 20W0903C, as part of the LuFo-IV project AZIMUT, (2) the 7th framework program of the European Commission under grant FP7-266172, as part of the SMAES project.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to D. B. Schwinn.

Additional information

This paper is based on a presentation at the German Aerospace Congress, September 16-18, 2014, Augsburg, Germany.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Schwinn, D.B., Kohlgrüber, D., Scherer, J. et al. A parametric aircraft fuselage model for preliminary sizing and crashworthiness applications. CEAS Aeronaut J 7, 357–372 (2016).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Structural design
  • Fuselage sizing
  • Crashworthiness
  • Multidisciplinary analysis
  • Parametric modeling