X-Plane is a flight simulator developed by Laminar Research. However, unlike most flight simulator, X-plane includes tools to create a custom aircraft and calculate its aerodynamic of flight mechanic characteristic based on the aircraft’s geometry and configuration. Consequently, X-Plane can also be used as a tool to design and evaluate an aircraft in terms of aerodynamic and flight mechanics.
X-Plane packages consists of X-Plane itself (the flight simulation program) and other tools for aircraft design, such as Plane-Maker and Airfoil-Maker. Plane-Maker is X-Plane’s supplemental program used to create a custom aircraft for use in X-Plane, while Airfoil-Maker is X-Plane’s supplemental program used to create a custom airfoil for use as lifting surface’s cross-section or propeller’s in Plane-Maker.
For its flight model, X-Plane uses blade element theory to predict the aerodynamic and flight mechanic characteristic of the aircraft. With blade element theory, X-Plane tries to predict aerodynamic forces and moments on a lifting surface by dividing it into several segment, estimating the aerodynamic forces and moment for each segment from lift, drag, and moment polar of the lifting surface’s cross-section (airfoil), and integrating the aerodynamic forces and moment at all segments. This method provide good estimation on aircraft’s flight characteristic, however, it requires data of lift, drag, and moment polar of all airfoils before it can be used.
For more information about X-Plane, visit X-Plane’s official website.