Open Access
Grasser, Nicholas Jared
Graduate Program:
Aerospace Engineering
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
April 27, 2016
Committee Members:
  • Mark David Maughmer, Thesis Advisor/Co-Advisor
  • Sven Schmitz, Committee Member
  • Philip John Morris, Committee Member
  • Aircraft Design
  • Aerodynamics
  • Airplane Simulation
  • Winglets
  • Airfoils
  • Red Bull
  • Air Racing
  • MXS-R
  • Airplane Performance
  • Airplane Design
Since its inception in 2003, the Red Bull Air Racing World Championships has sparked interest in airplane racing. While the Edge 540 and Extra 300 were flown during first years of the competition, several pilots moved to the MXS-R as the competition progressed. The 2016 season opened with two pilots flying the MXS-R and twelve pilots flying two versions of the Edge 540. However, all of these airplanes are being used for an off-design purpose, allowing for improvements to be made. Several teams had made attempts to improve the aerodynamic efficiency of their airplane, as both of the MXS-R and two of the Edge 540 airplanes have been equipped with winglets. As previous design work on the MXS-R has been conducted and is available for reference, this airplane serves as the base for this body of work. Several notable design changes on the MXS-R are investigated for their effect on flight performance. These alterations include: the addition of winglets to the airframe and changing the wing airfoil to an NACA 6-series laminar flow airfoil. For the former, the CG location is also examined for potential gains. The design changes are analyzed for aerodynamic efficiency, quantified with the airplanes’ lift-to-drag ratio. Winglets contribute to a significant drag reduction over the production MXS-R, as the maximum lift-to-drag ratio increases by 7.66%. By changing to a laminar flow airfoil, further gains can be made in drag reduction, particularly at high speeds. At the entry speed of 200 knots, the NACA 63(3)-012 and NACA 64A-012 yield increases of 9.91% and 9.04% in lift-to-drag ratio, respectively. Additionally, the aft-most CG location leads to the greatest gains for the MXS-R. An optimized flight path is found to give the quickest flight time through a course for each airplane configuration, allowing for a quantitative analysis of the designs. The Dallas - Fort Worth course from the 2014 Championship season is used for this purpose. The production MXS-R posts a time of 56.67 seconds, the slowest when compared to the altered designs. The MXS-R with winglets is slightly faster with a time of 56.25 seconds, while the NACA 63(3)-012 and NACA 64A-012 airfoils stop the iv clock at 55.32 seconds and 55.44 seconds, respectively. The trajectory analysis shows that the laminar flow airfoils better allow the airplane to accelerate out of high g turns, thus recovering more airspeed than the other design changes.