A Comment on the Location of Minimum Pressure (Maximum Velocity)

Examining the shape of the NACA 0012 airfoil shown at the top of Figure 11.8, note that the maximum thickness occurs at x/c = 0.3. However, examining the pressure coefficient distribution shown at the bottom of Figure 11.8, note that the point of minimum pressure occurs on the surface at xjc = 0.11, considerably ahead of the point of maximum thickness. This is a graphic illustration of the general fact that the point of minimum pressure (hence maximum velocity) does not correspond to the location of maximum thickness of the airfoil. Intuition might at first suggest that, at least for a symmetric airfoil at zero degrees angle of attack, the location of minimum pressure (maximum velocity) on the surface might be at the maximum thickness of the airfoil, but our intuition would be completely wrong. Nature places the maximum velocity at a point which satisfies the physics of the whole flow field, not just what is happening in a local region of the flow. The point of maximum velocity is dictated by the complete shape of the airfoil, not just by the shape in a local region.

We also note that it is implicit in the approximate compressibility corrections discussed in Sections 11.4 and 11.5, and their use for the estimation of the critical Mach number as discussed in Section 11.6, that the point of minimum pressure remains at a fixed location on the body surface as Mx is increased from a very low to a high subsonic value. This is indeed approximately the case. Examine the experimental pressure distributions in Figures 11.8 and 11.10, which are for three different Mach numbers ranging from a low, incompressible value (Figure 11.8) to Мж = 0.725 (Figure 11.10&). Note that in each case the minimum pressure point is at the same approximate location, that is, at x/c = 0.11.

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