Preparing an introductory course in the field of aerospace engineering has many challenges. The depth and breadth of material that prospective aerospace engineers are expected to know as they enter the workplace has grown substantially in recent decades. It is important to design an introductory course that provides a strong foundation and prepares students for further study and future careers in the industry. Furthermore, the emphasis on life-long learning has never been more critical.

There have been many discussions and debates during the last decades about what course material constitutes a thorough introduction to the subject matter relevant to aerospace engineering. Many possible answers have been given, including by distinguished academics, and many applicable and valuable books have been written. Interestingly, the industry’s perspective is somewhat different from those in academia, which usually emphasizes the need for more practical skills. However, it is unarguable that the root requirement for success is a solid grounding in all of the fundamental technical principles, including mathematics, physics, and chemistry. Striving for a good balance between theory and practical skills is also crucial for a successful aerospace engineer.

This eTextbook (or webbook) was initially written for AE201 Aerospace Flight Vehicles students at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) in Daytona Beach, Florida. It is a free, open-access resource to ERAU students, students at other colleges and universities, and to anyone else who might be interested and find it helpful. It is freely distributed worldwide under a Creative Commons, non-commercial, and non-derivative license. By being freely accessible and distributed, it has the potential to reach a wider audience and provide educational opportunities for those who might not otherwise have access to such resources. This license also ensures that the material will remain unaltered and available for future generations to use and build upon.

The AE201 course was first introduced into the Aerospace Engineering program at ERAU in the Fall of 2017. This new course was designed to cover, at an introductory level, a broad range of fundamental technical topics relevant to aerospace engineering. The course was also designed to bring aerospace topics into the 4-year aerospace program earlier and cover essential prerequisites for later studies. Based on student and faculty feedback, the success of this course has been remarkable and has better-prepared students for the rigors of the aerospace engineering curriculum at ERAU.

This eTextbook is structured and split into lessons centered around a 50-minute lecture period. It has an attractive, interactive design that promotes evidence-based teaching practices such as scaffolded learning. Each lesson includes text content with detailed illustrations, application problems, a self-assessment quiz, and topics for further discussion inside or outside the classroom. In addition, hyperlinks to additional resources are provided to support students who might want to delve deeper into each topic. At the end of the eTextbook there are many more worked example and application problems for the student, which are mostly all former homework or exam questions. While many lessons will be covered entirely in the classroom by the instructor, in the interest of time, some lessons may be covered in less detail or other parts assigned for self-study.

The overarching concept of this eTextbook is to give students a broad-based introduction to the aerospace field, emphasizing technical content while still making the material interesting and digestible. The more advanced topics at the end of this eTextbook are intended chiefly for self-study and to provide a primer for the continuing student on important technical subjects such as high-speed flight, stability and control, vertical flight, and space flight. This particular approach can help students build a stronger foundation for their future careers in aerospace engineering.

Much success and best wishes in your future studies!

J. Gordon Leishman, B.Sc., Ph.D., D.Sc.(Eng.), F.R.Ae.S.
Distinguished Professor of Aerospace Engineering, ERAU, Daytona Beach, FL.
Professor Emeritus of Aerospace Engineering, University of Maryland, College Park, MD.