High-Speed Aerodynamics – Aerodynamic Heating

in Physics

One of the problems with airplanes and high-speed flight is the heat that builds up on the airplane’s surface because of air friction. When the SR-71 Blackbird airplane is cruising at Mach 3.5, skin temperatures on its surface range from 450°F to over 1,000°F. To withstand this high temperature, the airplane was constructed of titanium alloy, instead of the traditional aluminum alloy. The supersonic transport Concorde was originally designed to cruise at Mach 2.2, but its cruise speed was reduced to Mach 2.0 because of structural problems that started to occur because of aerodynamic heating. If airplanes capable of hypersonic flight are going to be built in the future, one of the obstacles that will have to be overcome is the stress on the airplane’s structure caused by heat.