Aircraft Design Tools, Projects, and Information

Open Source Aircraft Design Resources:
Links lead to free downloads, Q&A, User Manuals etc.

Open Vehicle Sketch Pad: software designed to let the  user rapidly create high-fidelity parametric design/structural layout for conceptual aircraft designs, resulting in models that can be processed into formats suitable for engineering analysis. OST Revolution post on Open VSP is here.

Elmer is open-source finite element software for multi-physics problems (FEA/FEM/CFD). It has been developed in collaboration with Finnish universities, research laboratories and industry. Elmer includes physical models of fluid dynamics, structural mechanics, electromagnetics, heat transfer and acoustics. OST Revolution post on Elmer is here.

SU Squared is open source finite element analysis software developed by Stanford University Aerospace Design Lab. The SU Squared software suite specializes in high fidelity PDE analysis and design of PDE constrained systems on unstructured domains. Sweet computational fluid dynamics package; some assembly required.

Free Aircraft Design Software for Aerodynamics, Stability, and Structures (list mostly stolen from the Ibis Canard Experimental Homebuilt Page.)

XFOIL is an interactive program for the design and analysis of subsonic isolated single-segment airfoils. It was written at MIT by professor Mark Drela.

XFLR5 uses XFOIL as its computation kernel and adds a graphical user interface for Windows operating systems. You still need the XFOIL manual to find your way around. XFLR5 also offers a 3D wing design capability, using two different calculation schemes. The one similar to MIAReX (described further down below) uses the built in XFOIL kernel to determine local wing section properties.

Tornado Vortex Lattice Method (VLM) is implemented in MATLAB. The code is intended for linear aerodynamic wing design applications, in conceptual aircraft design or in aeronautical education. Among other things it can do such nice things as computing and displaying the Treffz plane velocity vector field. Known Cessna C-172 data were used to validate the code against other codes such as AVL, VIRGIT and CMARC.

Athena Vortex Lattice Method(AVL) is a program for the aerodynamic and flight-dynamic analysis of rigid aircraft of arbitrary configuration. It employs an extended vortex lattice model for the lifting surfaces, together with a slender-body model for fuselages and nacelles. General nonlinear flight states can be specified. The flight dynamic analysis combines a full linearization of the aerodynamic model about any flight state, together with specified mass properties.

MIAReX is a calculation method for Xfoil and multi-airfoil wings, based on formulae developed by James C. Sivells & Robert H. Neely in NACA TN-1269 (1947). Basically it takes 2D wing section data and integrates the various 2D section properties across the span to arrive at a 'semi-3D' solution.

is a Free Software Three-Dimensional Structural Finite Element Program.
With CalculiX Finite Element Models can be built, calculated and post-processed. The pre- and post-processor is an interactive 3D-tool using the openGL API. The solver is able to do linear and non-linear calculations. Static, dynamic and thermal solutions are available. Both programs can be used independently.

CEASIOM is a FREE Conceptual Aircraft design tool. It was developed within the frame of the SimSAC (Simulating Aircraft Stability And Control Characteristics for Use in Conceptual Design) Specific Targeted Research Project (STREP) approved for funding by the European Commission 6th Framework Programme on Research, Technological Development and Demonstration

Project Falcon:  (at least temporarily) free interactive wind tunnel simulation software. User imports STL files, Project Falcon automatically generates meshes and updates flow and wind pressure results in close to real time in response to changes in wind speed and direction.

Open Source Aircraft Design Projects

MakerPlane: The Open Source Aircraft Project: MakerPlane is an open source aircraft project which will enable people to rapidly build and fly their own safe, high quality reasonable cost plane using advanced personal manufacturing equipment such as CNC mills and 3D printers. The project will also include open source avionics software to enable state-of-the-art digital flight instruments and display capabilities. The plans and instructions will be available for free. The MakerPlane team is actively seeking new team members.

OpenEZ: a 2-place tandem canard pusher based on the Rutan Long-EZ with technology and design updates from the canard community. composite construction

Texas Parasol: a small LSA compliant design that is available in the public domain. The Texas Parasol has been adapted to parasol wings, shoulder wing, biplane, and cabin biplane. Construction drawings and construction plans are available here.

Ligeti Stratos: a joined-wing microlight which cruises at 112 kts on 1.3 gph. The Stratos was originally designed and flown 20 years ago in Australia by Charles Ligeti. Charles' son Ron Ligeti and his family have agreed to release the new “Second Generation” Ligeti Stratos as Open Source. The designs, specifications, supplier lists and supporting documentation will be made available through a gratis “Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike” licence currently under development. The license will specifically address safety and other concerns unique to aircraft design and construction. Interested parties are encouraged to join the mailing list and discussion groups, and to participate in the community that will create and continually improve all of the design, documentation and build processes of the Second Generation Ligeti Stratos.

Karolina Model 1 (Single Zygger): long endurance high efficiency single engine (+ 2 electric motors) plane with two additional electric motors, FAR part 23 safety requirements for landing speed and stall/spin behavior (As of June 2012, most recent activity was Dec. 2009)

Karolina Model 2 (Twin Zygger): Long range twin engine hybrid with 2 gasoline engines and at least 1 electric motor. (As of June 2012, most recent activity was Oct. 2009)

Jumbolino: an open source aircraft development project, targeting the complete development of a community aircraft. Judging by the sourceforge page, Jumbolino looks completely dead, but the project may be thriving elsewhere. (1 post by 1 author)

If you have any other leads, let me know!

For Inspiration:  Cool Concept Aircraft
Elektra One solar powered aircraft
this list should be way longer...send me leads of you have them!
Synergy Aircraft Project: high efficiency, high speed, low-drag aircraft incorporating lots of methods for drag reduction, including laminar flow, wake propulsion, open thermodynamics, and subsonic area ruling.  1/4 scale electric prototype is flying; full scale build is in progress.


  1. Great post! I'll put a link to it from my blog. I'm compiling a list of aircaft design software :

  2. You can add JavaFoil in there. It's not for full aircraft design, but it can definitely help with airfoil design.

  3. Hello! This blog is the best blog I found so far! Looking forward for new updates and posst. This site has description to lots of actives tools and design. Go ahead and make your own model. Good Luck!!

  4. I’ve been absent for a while, but now I remember why I used to love this website. Thank you, I’ll try and check back more frequently. How frequently you update your web site?
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  5. I would like to add creately diagramming and collaboration software to this list.

  6. Sir,I am sasikumar i am complite BE(AERONAUTICAL ENGINEERING ).If i can study for aircraft design software what type of software i can chose please reply sir

  7. Can we get an updated list? :) I'm working on an article dealing with airplane design in which I'd like to address the possible existing software and current projects (notably the amazing Solar Impulse 2). Please get in touch with me:
    THANKS and great post

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