Enhancement of aircraft wake vortex decay in ground proximity: Experiment versus Simulation

Anton Stephan, Frank Holzäpfel, Takashi Misaka, Reinhard Geisler, Robert Konrath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Aircraft wake vortex evolution in ground proximity is investigated experimentally in a water towing tank, as well as numerically with wall-resolved large eddy simulation (LES). With these complementary instruments the enhancement of wake vortex decay by obstacles, introduced at the ground surface, is analyzed. The experimental methods include time-resolved stereo particle image velocimetry and vortex core visualization. For comparison with the experiment, the LES considers the turbulent wake of the strut, holding the towed aircraft model. Wake vortex trajectories and circulation decay are compared at different distances from the obstacle. Tracers are employed to visualize the obstacle’s effects on the vortex core, in LES and experiment. The experimentally obtained trajectories and decay characteristics are reproduced qualitatively by simulations, whereas the agreement is degraded at later times. Beyond that, the vortex dynamics, deduced from the LES results, help to understand the experimental observations. The obstacles trigger helical secondary vortex structures, propagating along the primary vortices. The observed propagation speed of the helical disturbance is fairly well predicted by the suggested simple model. It is shown that the obstacles significantly modify the vortex interaction with the ground and substantially accelerate vortex decay. Two neighboring obstacles lead to colliding disturbances that further enhance vortex decay rates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-125
Number of pages17
JournalCEAS Aeronautical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013 Nov 27


  • Decay enhancement
  • Ground effect
  • Large eddy simulation
  • Obstacles
  • Particle image velocimetry
  • Towing tank
  • Wake vortex flow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Transportation
  • Aerospace Engineering


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