Aircraft Handling Qualities

In This Section

Aircraft Handling Qualities


This course aids understanding of the balance between workload and performance when the pilot is controlling an aircraft. Basics of flight dynamics and control are covered, along with the longitudinal and lateral-directional criteria that govern handling qualities. Recent additions include more real-world lessons learned, demonstration of of analysis methods, flight test approaches and suggestions for specifications, including extension to unmanned aircraft. The emphasis is still on insight into the design, analysis and test processes.

Key Topics:

  • Basics of flight dynamics
  • Effects of feedback control systems
  • Human-in-the-loop modeling
  • Criteria for handling qualities
  • Pilot-Induced Oscillations
  • Lessons learned in aircraft development programs

Who Should Attend:

This course will be of interest to control engineers, aerodynamicists, avionics specialists, pilots, flight test engineers, simulation engineers and others who need some depth or appreciation of this important and challenging interface.

Course Information:

Type of Course: Instructor-Led Short Course
Course Level: Intermediate

Course scheduling available in the following format:

  • Course at Conference
  • On-site Course
  • Standalone/Public Course

Course Length: 2 days
AIAA CEU's available: yes


Course Outline:

I. The definition and importance of flying/handling qualities and pilot opinion
II. The importance of requirements for cost-effective design and safety
III. Pilot rating scales: Cooper-Harper, PIO. Pitfalls with ratings, and their relation to safety
IV. Static stability, longitudinal axes, equations and transfer functions
V. Illustrate how dynamic derivatives are obtained
VI. Short- and long-period longitudinal modes: physical meaning, contributing factors
VII. The lateral-directional modes: spiral, roll, Dutch roll and coupling parameters
VIII. Pilot in the loop analysis
IX. Introduction to closed-loop control: advantages and pitfalls of fly-by-wire
X. effects of control features: robustness, feedforwards, nonlinearities, good design principles
XI. Longitudinal short period and requirements
XII. Low Order Equivalent Systems: history, motivation, application, recent lessons
XIII. Other longitudinal criteria: bandwidth, Neal-Smith, RSmith, Nelson, Gibson
XIV. High-angle-of-attack criteria
XV. Conducting effective flight simulations and flight tests
XVI. Design for good handling qualities: CONDUIT
XVII. Lessons learned (many example aircraft)


Course Materials:

Since course notes will not be distributed onsite, AIAA and your course instructor highly recommend that you bring your computer with the course notes already downloaded to the course. 

Once you have registered for the course, these course notes are available about two weeks prior to the course event, and remain available to you in perpetuity. 

Students will have the opportunity to purchase the recommended textbook “Aircraft Handling Qualities” (AIAA Education Series) authored by Dr. John Hodgkinson. 


Course Instructor:

Mr. John Hodgkinson’s handling qualities experience includes fighter/attack aircraft and transports at British Aerospace, Northrop Grumman, McDonnell Douglas, Boeing, and NASA. He has published extensively on handling qualities, and is author of the only available book on the subject.