Uncertainty and Sensitivity Analysis in Aircraft Operating Costs in Structural Design Optimization

R. Curran, S. Castagne, A. Rothwell, M. Price, A. Murphy, S. Raghunathan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


The paper focuses on the development of an aircraft design optimization methodology that models uncertainty and sensitivity analysis in the tradeoff between manufacturing cost, structural requirements, andaircraft direct operating cost.Specifically,ratherthanonlylooking atmanufacturingcost, direct operatingcost is also consideredintermsof the impact of weight on fuel burn, in addition to the acquisition cost to be borne by the operator. Ultimately, there is a tradeoff between driving design according to minimal weight and driving it according to reduced manufacturing cost. Theanalysis of cost is facilitated withagenetic-causal cost-modeling methodology,andthe structural analysis is driven by numerical expressions of appropriate failure modes that use ESDU International reference data. However, a key contribution of the paper is to investigate the modeling of uncertainty and to perform a sensitivity analysis to investigate the robustness of the optimization methodology. Stochastic distributions are used to characterize manufacturing cost distributions, andMonteCarlo analysis is performed in modeling the impact of uncertainty on the cost modeling. The results are then used in a sensitivity analysis that incorporates the optimization methodology. In addition to investigating manufacturing cost variance, the sensitivity of the optimization to fuel burn cost and structural loading are also investigated. It is found that the consideration of manufacturing cost does make an impact and results in a different optimal design configuration from that delivered by the minimal-weight method. However, it was shown that at lower applied loads there is a threshold fuel burn cost at which the optimization process needs to reduce weight, and this threshold decreases with increasing load. The new optimal solution results in lower direct operating cost with a predicted savings of 640=m2 of fuselage skin over the life, relating to a rough order-of-magnitude direct operating cost savings of $500,000 for the fuselage alone of a small regional jet. Moreover, it was found through the uncertainty analysis that the principle was not sensitive to cost variance, although the margins do change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2145-2155
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Aircraft
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering


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