Whitcomb, Richard T. Langley Research Center, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Langley Field, Virginia.
Last reviewed:January 2021
- Shock waves
- Effects on flight characteristics
- Corrective means
- Area rule
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
In aerodynamics, flight of a vehicle at speeds near the speed of sound. When the velocity of an airplane approaches the speed of sound, roughly 660 mi/h (1060 km/h) at 35,000 ft (11 km) altitude, the flight characteristics become radically different from those at subsonic speeds. The drag increases greatly, the lift at a given attitude decreases, the moments acting on the airplane change abruptly, and the vehicle may shake or buffet. Such phenomena usually persist for flight velocities somewhat above the speed of sound. These flight characteristics, as well as the speeds at which they occur, are usually referred to as transonic. For configurations designed for subsonic flight these changes may occur at velocities of 70–110% of the speed of sound (Mach numbers of 0.7–1.1); for airplanes intended for transonic or supersonic flight they may be present only at Mach numbers of 0.95–1.05. See also: Flight characteristics; Mach number
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