Critical Mach number

Critical Mach Number

Critical Mach number

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In aerodynamics, the critical Mach number (Mcr) of an aircraft is the lowest Mach number at which the airflow over any part of the aircraft reaches the speed of sound.Clancy, L.J. Aerodynamics, Section 11.6

For all aircraft in flight, the airflow around the aircraft is not exactly the same as the airspeed of the aircraft due to the airflow speeding up and slowing down to travel around the aircraft structure. At the Critical Mach number, local airflow in some areas near the airframe reaches the speed of sound, even though the aircraft itself has an airspeed lower than Mach 1.0. This creates a weak shock wave. At speeds faster than the Critical Mach number:

In aircraft not designed to fly at the Critical Mach number, shock waves in the flow over the wing and tailplane were sufficient to stall the wing, make control surfaces ineffective or lead to loss of control such as Mach tuck. The phenomena associated with problems at the Critical Mach number became known as compressibility. Compressibility led to a number of accidents involving high-speed military and experimental aircraft in...
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