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Certainty Uncertainty Understanding Global

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Climate change has become a major threat to global population because of its impacts on the environment, economy and society (Estrada, et al., 2017); (Luber & Prudent, 2009); (Mishra, et al., 2010); (Rai & Rai, 2013) (Wang, et al., 2014). As a result of this, stakeholders in every sector are making efforts to minimize the impacts of this phenomenon. Aviation is one of the forms of transport that are energy intensive and produce a lot of greenhouse gases (Taber, 2010). It is estimated that 2% of global carbon dioxide emissions resulting from human activities are contributed by aviation industry (ATAG, 2017) and this is projected to hit 5% by 2050 (Banu, 2012). As global population and development continue to increase, demand for air transport is also rising rapidly, resulting to a possibility of higher greenhouse gas emissions. This has prompted aircraft manufacturers to develop various practices of reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions during production and operation of aircrafts. Some of these approaches include: use of renewable energy, use of recycled and recyclable materials, lean manufacturing, use of light and composite materials and nanomaterials, application of advanced technological and energy efficient processes; improve aircraft engine designs, increase fuel efficiency, etc. (Beck, et al., 2011); (Lee & Mo, 2011). Governments have also developed policies aimed at monitoring and controlling emissions from the aviation industry (Capoccitti, et al., 2010); (Sikorska, 2015); (Zheng, et al., 2017).

Irrespective of the approach chosen to minimize emissions in aviation industry, design processes of aircrafts are very critical and largely influences the success or failure of minimizing emissions during manufacturing and operating phases. During design process, the design team comprehensively analyzes various technical and performance parameters of the aircraft throughout its lifecycle thus making decisions that will help achieve predetermined emission targets. This is the approach that is being used by companies and organizations promoting the concept of green aircrafts, such as National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Boeing (Gonzalez, 2017); (MacDonald, 2015).

The aim of this report is to analyze the preliminary design, detailed design and development, and system test, evaluation & validation and optimization of an aircraft manufacturing project. The report also discusses essential human factors to be considered when executing an aircraft manufacturing project. These are very essential process in aircraft manufacturing project especially if the project aims at improving resource efficiency and safety and comfort of aircraft users, and cutting down costs and greenhouse gas emissions.    

The key design processes of an aircraft are shown in below


Preliminary design

In preliminary design stage, the design team is tasked to create a fundamental proof of concept that was developed or chosen from the conceptual design phase (Domun, 2016). The design team uses advanced analytical method to calculate various requirements and parameters that the aircraft has to comply with so as to fly and perform its intended function effectively (Schwinn, et al., 2016). Some of the requirements and parameters that the design team determines include; flight mechanics, aerodynamics, stability, tunnel testing and structural stresses, among others. In general, preliminary design stage is where the design team proves the feasibility of the aircraft concept developed in the conceptual design stage. In other words, the team has to demonstrate how the preferred concept will meet the performance requirements of the aircraft, how it can be manufactured using available methods and resources, and also identify any constraints related to manufacturing process of the aircraft. An aircraft comprises of different modules and subsystems, each with varied specifications. It is in this stage that the design team defines all the necessary specifications of the aircraft. This includes: system specifications that entails technical, performance, functional, support and maintenance features of the aircraft, development specifications that entails the need for new research design or development mechanisms, product specifications that entails stipulations of each module and subsystem, process specifications that entails the necessary services and processes for the manufacture and operation of the aircraft such as testing services, production services, maintenance services, etc., and material specifications that entails a list of resources or supplies needed to create the aircraft. 

The key components that the design team analyzes in preliminary design stage include: wings, fuselage, control surfaces (rudder, stabilizers, elevators, aileron, trim tab, etc.), power plant devices, propulsion devices (propeller), lift control devices (flap, spoiler and slat), landing gear (main gear and nose gear), cockpit (navigation, information and communication devices) and systems (hydraulic, pneumatic, electric etc.). The analyses in this stage are done based on these design criteria: usability, functional capability, producibility, reliability, security, safety, maintainability, serviceability, supportability, durability, affordability, interoperability, sustainability and disposability. For this to be achieved, professionals from different engineering fields must be involved and work together as a team. The key professionals to be involved include those from the following fields: design engineering, software engineering, manufacturing engineering, quality engineering, environmental engineering, value engineering, maintainability engineering, logistics engineering, reliability engineering, safety and security engineering, and ergonometric engineering. Last but not least is that every activity finalized in preliminary design stage is reviewed comprehensively for improvement in subsequent stages of the project.  

Detailed design and development

This stage is largely about fabrication of the aircraft that is to be manufactured. Here, the design team uses existing strategies and policies to fabricate the real aircraft. The team determines the best design, size, number and location of various components of the aircraft. Various aspects of the aircraft such as structural, aerodynamic, performance and control that were identified in the preliminary design stage are also tested. Generally, detailed design stage is where the designs developed in the preliminary design stage are turned into a functioning aircraft, in terms of mockups and models (engineering and prototype), after creating several simulations (Monroe Aerospace, 2017).

Detailed design stage is iterative and completed by following eight steps (Blanchard & Fabrycky, 2010). First is to create proper design requirements of aircraft components centered on the specifications that were developed in preliminary design stage. Second is to carry out necessary technical works. Third is to find the best approach of integrating all components of the aircraft that will ensure maximum efficiency during manufacturing and operation phases. Fourth is to identify suitable engineering software and design tools for the project, such as CAD (computer aided design) software, CAE (computer aided engineering) software, lean manufacturing techniques, etc. Fifth is to use the chosen design and engineering tools and systems to prepare necessary documents and designs. The documents include list of aircraft components, cost estimations, programme or schedule of the project, analyses and reports. Sixth is the development process, which entails creating mockups, models and simulations of the aircraft to be manufactured. The simulations are used to establish the functional capability and producibility of the aircraft. Seventh is to analyze the design and develop reviews. Last but not least is to evaluate the design reviews and feedback, and use them to make appropriate improvements or changes to the aircraft design.


System test, evaluation & validation and optimization

These are also very important processes when designing an aircraft. The necessary testing, evaluation and validation processes are identified during conceptual design stage so that the design team can have adequate time to prepare on how to perform them. Preparation also entails identifying the required equipment, tools, personnel, training and facilities for each test, evaluation and validation processes. Testing process basically involves subjecting individual components of the aircraft then subsystems and the whole aircraft so as to determine whether they meet or fail to meet the requirements of the project, including design specifications. Some of the tests performed include: structural tests, usability tests, functional tests, producibility tests, reliability tests, security and safety tests, software system tests, maintainability tests, control tests, serviceability tests, supportability tests, durability tests, affordability tests, interoperability tests, sustainability tests, disposability tests and environmental tests. The results obtained from each of these tests are evaluated and used to validate or invalidate the individual components, subsystems or the whole aircraft. Any components that fails to pass the tests has to be reviewed and redesigned until it passes the tests. It is also important to identify qualified and specialized individuals or companies to carry out individual tests. The results obtained should also be analyzed by different qualified professionals. Some of the validations that must be obtained for the design and safety of aircraft include: human safety factors, aircraft software, components manufacturer approval, technical standards orders, etc.

Optimization is another crucial process where the design team identifies the best solution for every problem related to the aircraft manufacture project. It is believed that every solution has numerous alternatives and therefore the best should always be selected. In this process, the design team applies relevant mathematical equations and formulae, simulations and calculations to evaluate the effects of changing different parameters of the design and use the outputs to come up with the best matrices or combinations. Some of the strategies that the design team can apply to optimize the designs include: use of alternative for manufacturing and operation processes of the aircraft, use of locally available materials to minimize transportation emissions during manufacturing process, use of lean manufacturing principles to reduce wastage, automation, etc. At the end of optimization process, the aircraft should be allowed to go into full production and use.


Human factors

Human factors are another very important aspect of aircraft design because they cause a significant percentage of aircraft accidents (Lei, et al., 2014). These factors are the ones that should influence the layout and design of the cockpit. Therefore the design team should always have the pilot and other users of the aircraft in mind when designing the cockpit and the entire aircraft. This means that the design team should not only focus on the avionics systems but also on how the pilot will interact with these systems. The ultimate goal is to simplify pilots’ tasks and minimize their workload. The most important human factors that are considered in the design of aircrafts include: anthropometric factors (body dimensions, foot size, hand size, thigh length, muscle strength, standing height, sitting height, sitting eye height, length of legs and arms, body thickness and width, sitting elbow rest length/height, etc.), pilot comfort, workspace constraints (space and positioning of controls and other devices), human sensory factors (smell, vision and noise), and physiological factors (vibration, extreme temperature, toxic substances, humidity, radiation, etc.), safety harness, display (design, colour and light), control design and layout, standardization, control loading, direction, colours and shapes, warning system, checklists and automation (Paulson, 2012). Besides the pilots, the design team should also look at the perspectives of passengers, other crew members and maintenance technicians of the aircraft by considering factors such as safety, comfort, reliability, affordability and ease of work. With modern technology, it is possible to incorporate all appropriate human factors cost effectively.



Aircrafts are used for various purposes and their importance in modern society cannot be overemphasized. However, the environmental impacts of aircrafts, which also translates into economic and social impacts, have come under great scrutiny because of the climate change concerns. For this reason, designers have a major role to play so as to minimize environmental impacts of aircrafts. Design process is very important in an aircraft manufacture project because the way an aircraft is designed influences how it is manufactured and operated. The design team has to follow appropriate procedures and consider the right parameters during preliminary design stage, detailed design and development stages, and system test, evaluation & validation and optimization stages. Doing so helps in ensuring that the aircraft designed meets the functional, technical, interoperability, usability, sustainability, reliability, safety, maintainability, affordability, producibility, supportability, serviceability and disposability, requirements of the project. Completion of these processes requires effective communication, coordination and cooperation of all stakeholders involved in the project. The persons involved in the design process should also have relevant qualifications in terms of knowledge and skills. It is also very important for the design team to incorporate necessary human factors when designing the aircraft.



ATAG, 2017. Facts & figures. [Online]
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Banu, S., 2012. Aviation and climate change: global sectored approach is the need of the hour. International Journal of Low-Carbon Technologies, 7(2), pp. 137-142.

Beck, A., Hodzic, A., Soutis, C. & Wilson, C., 2011. Influence of implementation of composite materials in civil aircraft industry on reduction of environmental pollution and greenhouse effect. IOP Conference Series: Materials Science and Engineering, Volume 26, pp. 1-9.

Blanchard, B. & Fabrycky, W., 2010. Systems engineering and analysis. 5th ed. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Capoccitti, S., Khare, A. & Mildenberger, U., 2010. Aviation industry - mitigating climate change impacts through technology and policy. Journal of Technology Management & Innovation, 5(2).

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