Optimal symmetric flight with an intermediate vehicle model

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


Optimal flight in the vertical plane with a vehicle model intermediate in complexity between the point-mass and energy models is studied. Flight-path angle takes on the role of a control variable. Range-open problems feature subarcs of vertical flight and singular subarcs as previously studied.

The class of altitude-speed-range-time optimization problems with fuel expenditure unspecified is investigated and some interesting phenomena uncovered. The maximum-lift-to-drag glide appears as part of the family, final-time-open, with appropriate initial and terminal transient maneuvers. A family of, climb-range paths appears for thrust exceeding level-flight drag, some members exhibiting oscillations. Oscillatory paths generally fail the Jacobi test for durations exceeding a period and furnish a minimum only for short-duration problems.

Minimizing paths of long duration follow a certain corridor in the V-h chart. The features of the family sharpen for the special case of thrust and drag independent of altitude, and considerable analytical attention is accorded to this for the insight it provides to the more general model.

The problem of "steepest climb" is found to be ill-posed with the vehicle model under consideration, straight-vertically-upward maneuver sequences being furnished by a family of paths alternating between upward and downward vertical flight and including a limiting "chattering" member.