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Aircraft Design (MSc)

Course Description

Course Description

The Aircraft Design option of the MSc in Aerospace Vehicle Design (AVD) aims to provide a comprehensive overview of aircraft performance, structures and systems. A holistic teaching approach is taken to explore how the individual elements of an aircraft can be designed and integrated using up-to-date methods and techniques. You will learn to understand how to select specific systems such as fuel systems, and their effect on the aircraft as a whole.
This course is suitable for students with a background in aeronautical or mechanical engineering or those with relevant industrial experience.


Modern aircraft design focuses on the integration of new technologies and systems, with current and advanced configurations to lead us towards environmentally friendly and cost effective aviation in the civil arena and high performance and effective aviation in the military arena. This includes new structures, materials and manufacturing processes. New aircraft design is essential to address issues such as carbon footprint reduction, lower noise pollution and improved passenger comfort as well as contributing to national security.

Our work in this field covers all flying vehicles including civil and military aircraft, helicopters, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems (UAVS), ultra-high capacity airlines and space vehicles. Current research being undertaken includes:

Advanced Configurations – such as blended wing and morphing wing aircraft design. This includes both fixed wing and rotorcraft vehicles.

Advanced Systems Integration – such as Distributed Propulsion using hydrogen or alternative fuels for power and high temperature superconducting materials technology.

Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Processes – exploring the benefits achieved through the application of advanced composite materials.

Advanced Design Methodologies – developing techniques to ensure that optimum designs are achieved.

Airworthiness Compliance – ensuring new designs demonstrate the same safety requirements as traditional aircraft.

Operational Aspects – cost, performance, reliability and maintainability are important features of aircraft design as well as advanced techniques such as Integrated Vehicle Health Management (IVHM). Vulnerability and susceptibility also have a major impact.

Biomimetics – taking lessons from nature for example insects and birds, and their application in aviation such as launch, recovery and flight.

English Language Requirements

If you are an international student you will need to provide evidence that you have achieved a satisfactory test result in an English qualification. The minimum standard expected from a number of accepted courses are as follows:

IELTS - 6.5
TOEFL - 92
Pearson PTE Academic - 65
Cambridge English Scale - 180
Cambridge English: Advanced - C
Cambridge English: Proficiency - C

In addition to these minimum scores you are also expected to achieve a balanced score across all elements of the test. We reserve the right to reject any test score if any one element of the test score is too low.

We can only accept tests taken within two years of your registration date (with the exception of Cambridge English tests which have no expiry date).


The Aircraft Design option consists of a taught component, a group design project and an individual research project.

In addition to management, communication, team work and research skills, each student will attain at least the following outcomes from this degree course:

•To build upon knowledge to enable students to enter a wide range of aerospace and related activities concerned with the design of flying vehicles such as aircraft, missiles, airships and spacecraft
•To ensure that the student is of immediate use to their employer and has sufficient breadth of understanding of multi-discipline design to position them for accelerated career progression
•To provide teaching that integrates the range of disciplines required by modern aircraft design
•To provide the opportunity for students to be immersed in a 'Virtual Industrial Environment' giving them hands-on experience of interacting with and working on an aircraft design project


The taught programme for the Aircraft Design masters is generally delivered from October to March. As well as completing the 12 compulsory taught modules, students have an extensive choice of optional modules to match their specific interests.

- Airframe System Design
- Design and Analysis of Composite Structures
- Initial Aircraft Design (including Structural Layout)
- Loading Actions
- Aircraft Stability and Control
- Aircraft Performance
- Design for Manufacture and Operation
- Fatigue Fracture Mechanics and Damage Tolerance
- Aeroelasticity
- Reliability, Safety Assessment and Certification
- Flight Experimental Methods (Jetstream Flight Labs)
- Detail Stressing

- Computing Aided Design (CATIA)
- Aircraft Aerodynamics
- Structural Dynamics
- Structural Stability
- Aircraft Accident Investigation
- Aircraft Power Plant Installation
- Avionic System Design
- Aerospace System Development and Life Cycle Model
- Integrated Vehicle Health Management
- Sustaining Design (Structural Durability)
- Finite Element Analysis (including NASTRAN/PATRAN Workshops)
- Crashworthiness

Individual Project

The individual research project aims to provide the training necessary for you to apply knowledge from the taught element to research, and takes place from March to September. The project may be theoretical and/or experimental and drawn from a range of topics related to the course and suggested by teaching staff, your employer or focused on your own area of interest.

Recent Individual Research Projects include:
- Ultra Long Range Science UAV Structure / Systems Development
- Conceptual Design of a Hypersonic Space Launcher and Global Transportation System
- Effect of Aerodynamics on the Conceptual Design of Blended Wing Body Aircraft
- Review, Evaluation and Development of a Microlight Aircraft
- Feasibility of the Application of Low Cost Scaled Aircraft Demonstrators.

Group Project

The extensive group design project is a distinctive and unique feature of this course. This teamwork project takes place from October to March, and recreates a virtual industrial environment bringing together students with various experience levels and different nationalities into one integrated design team.

Each team member is given responsibility for the detailed design of a significant part of the aircraft, for example, forward fuselage, fuel system, or navigation system. The project will progress from the conceptual phase through to the preliminary and detail design phases. You will be required to run project meetings, produce engineering drawings and detailed analyses of your design. Problem solving and project coordination must be undertaken on a team and individual basis. At the end of the project, groups are required to report and present findings to a panel of 200 senior engineers from industry.

This element of the course is both realistic and engaging, and places the student group in a professional role as aerospace design engineers. Students testify that working as an integrated team on real problems is invaluable and prepares them well for careers in a highly competitive industry.


The taught modules (10%) are assessed by an examination and/or assignment. The Group Project (50%) is assessed by a written technical report and oral presentations. The Individual Research Project (40%) forms the remainder of the course.

Career opportunities

The MSc in Aircraft Design is valued and respected by employers worldwide. The applied nature of this course ensures that our graduates are ready to be of immediate use to their future employer and has provided sufficient breadth of understanding of multi-discipline design to position them for accelerated career progression.

This course prepares graduates for careers as project design engineers, systems design, structural design or avionic engineers in aerospace or related industries, with the aim of progressing to technical management/chief engineer. Graduates from the MSc in Aircraft Design can therefore look forward to a varied choice of challenging career opportunities in the above disciplines.

Many of our graduates occupy very senior positions in their organisations, making valuable contributions to the international aerospace industry. Typical student destinations include BAE Systems, Airbus, Dassault and Rolls-Royce.

For further information

on this course, please visit our course webpage http://www.cranfield.ac.uk/Courses/Masters/AVD-Option-Aircraft-Design

Visit the Aircraft Design (MSc) page on the Cranfield University website for more details!

(Student Profile)

Jenny Cham

“Cranfield was a really good choice; I went to Vienna for my project due to Cranfield’s partnerships with other European University’s. I also got the opportunity to attend conferences across Europe, write reviews and contribute to my very first peer-reviewed scientific paper - which was well received!
The staff were very supportive, in particular a lady from the Careers Service gave up her time to help prepare me for job interviews, which I found really helpful.
Overall it’s a great environment in terms of access to other really intelligent interesting people. I think that’s a really nice part of being a student at Cranfield.”

(Student Profile)

Lauren Carter

"I believe my MSc was invaluable in preparing me for my current role – covering a broad range of subjects has been extremely useful when liaising with different departments.
I got my job through the links Cranfield had with the company I’m currently working for, who were really impressed by the range of subjects covered as well as the detail and professionalism of my project.”

(Student Profile)

Nsisong Ukut

After researching online and looking at the Cranfield University website, I thought this was the right choice for me. It is the only stand-alone postgraduate university in the UK that specialises in aerospace and engineering and has a great heritage. I had also observed my colleagues in Nigeria who had studied at Cranfield and watched the meteoric rise in their careers. I saw the functions they could handle and how they had launched into global careers.
I found my studies at Cranfield very rewarding – the lecturers give you comprehensive support to help you fully wrap your mind around your subject. Project supervisors are quite amazing too – they connect you into a group project and then with an industrial partner so that you can transform your theoretical knowledge into practical solutions to find the best outcome. This really prepares you for your future career.
Cranfield is a place where you can do a lot! I got involved with the Cranfield Students Association (CSA) in the role of School Representative. This gave me an opportunity to see across the entire school and to see how teaching and non-teaching staff impact the student experience. The support the CSA offers is tremendous – everything to make a good social life and to balance out your academic work. There is an ultra-modern sports centre to keep you fit whilst studying and plenty of clubs and societies that you can get involved in.
Cranfield is the right place to meet the right people in the right environment with the right contacts. The atmosphere is mature and professional and an ideal base to launch your global career.
My advice to anyone who chooses Cranfield is to make use of all the opportunities it offers – embrace it all and make the most of it.
You don’t just get a certificate when you graduate at Cranfield, you get a rewarding experience that will improve the quality of your life.


Cranfield Postgraduate Loan Scheme (CPLS) - 20+ Awards

Cranfield University is now able to offer you a more affordable way to study an MSc with loans managed by Prodigy Finance.With a Cranfield Postgraduate Loan it is possible for you to take up your MSc studies with no repayments while you study. This will leave you free to concentrate on your course and enhance your career prospects.Launched in February 2014, the scheme is designed to support UK and EU students entering postgraduate study and is intended to attract those who may not otherwise progress to this level because of financial constraints.Loans of up to £15,000 are available (dependent on the tuition fees for your chosen course).
If you are a UK student, loans are available for tuition fees and maintenance. EU students can apply for a loan covering only tuition fees.Loans are repaid over a seven year period and repayments start six months after you complete your degree. As a not-for-profit scheme, funded by Cranfield and HEFCE, the loans are competitively priced (6.92% APR representative) and considerably more affordable than a standard career development loan.

Value of Scholarship(s)

Loans of up to £15,000 total


You can apply for a loan if you:• are domiciled in the UK or EU and qualify for ‘Home/EU’ fees and
• have an admissions offer to a Cranfield full-time, taught MSc course in a STEM (Science, Technology Engineering or Mathematics) subject

Application Procedure

If you already have an applicable course offer you can apply online through Prodigy Finance. You will need to provide Prodigy Finance with details of your offer from Cranfield. Your loan application will be considered and responded to within a few days.If you are yet to secure an offer of a place you can register your interest in the scheme and we will keep you up-to-date.

Further Information


Entry Requirements

A first or second class UK Honours degree (or equivalent) in an engineering discipline. There is a limited opportunity for candidates with other qualifications to enter the course via a one-year Pre-Masters preparatory course, which provides the necessary level of knowledge of engineering principles applicable to aerospace design.

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