What parameters are considered in estimating the weight of an aircraft in the beginning of the design process?

  • $\begingroup$ Can you please elaborate? Given that you have tagged aerobatics & aerodynamics, I assume your interested in something particular? $\endgroup$ – Sir Swears-a-lot Dec 20 '15 at 8:44
  • $\begingroup$ For? Cargo/passenger/fighter/bomber/agricultural/maritime patrol/ aerobatic /micro light? Kit/GA? $\endgroup$ – Sir Swears-a-lot Dec 20 '15 at 8:56

Any design starts with a mission profile. As a design engineer, you get the payload, range and speed, and maybe constraints like the maximum runway, and then have to come up with a configuration.

With that in hand, you look what others have achieved before. There are collections of weight data for different designs and their parts, and formulas which combine the main parameters in a way that the weights line up more or less nicely when plotted over the result of this equation. Plug in your new design's number, and you get something wich will be within ±10% of what is realistic. This is called parametric weight estimation (PDF!).

Since you can only consider what you have, you start with the boundaries of the sizing mission:

  • Payload
  • Range or endurance
  • Desired cruise speed and altitude
  • Operational constraints like runway length, operation from unprepared fields, threat scenario.


@Peter is right: Cost per kilo of airframe and per seat-mile (where applicable) is also a starting requirement, and cost minimization is taken care of by designing the smallest possible airframe which can satisfy all requirements while using proven technology. And parametric sizing only works when based on proven technology.

  • $\begingroup$ I guess what you refer to as mission profile in layman's terms would be design goals and intended purpose? Optimization of a design could be considered similar to linear programming you have objectives, variables and constraints. Depending upon a range of factors MTOW could be any off those things. $\endgroup$ – Sir Swears-a-lot Dec 20 '15 at 8:50
  • $\begingroup$ I guess in today's business world ROI, TCO & operating costs must be factors too. $\endgroup$ – Sir Swears-a-lot Dec 20 '15 at 8:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Peter: The goal is to find the smallest design which fulfills the requirements, not just any. This, and using proven technology, keeps cost down. Parametric sizing only works when based on proven technology. $\endgroup$ – Peter Kämpf Dec 20 '15 at 9:03

When designing, the designers have to take into account:

  1. The amount and type of materials used on the airframe. Many aircraft made nowadays use composite materials because they are stronger and lighter than metals. The engines also play a significant role in this because they have to create a certain amount of thrust without adding too much weight.

  2. They also have to take into account the payload that (amount of fuel, passengers, and/or cargo or other things) that the aircraft will carry.

  • $\begingroup$ Weight of the engine(s) might also be significant $\endgroup$ – Dan Pichelman Dec 19 '15 at 15:39
  • $\begingroup$ @DanPichelman Falls under the materials used. I will add something about the engines in the answer though. $\endgroup$ – SMS von der Tann Dec 19 '15 at 15:52

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