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49th AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting including the New Horizons Forum and Aerospace Exposition

4 - 7 January 2011, Orlando, Florida

AIAA 2011-1191

Gyroplane Rotor Aerodynamics Revisited Blade Flapping and RPM Variation in Zero-g Flight
Eugene E. Niemi, Jr.,1 and B.V.Raghu Gowda 2
University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, MA, 01854

This paper reviews some phenomena related to gyroplane rotors: the concept of hump
speed, and the behavior of an autorotating rotor encountering zero-g flight. Government
accident reports on small sport gyroplanes are discussed, and the phenomena of thrust line
offset, horizontal stabilizer use and rotor shaft pitch changes are discussed qualitatively.
Equations for the rotor system alone, uncoupled from any airframe, are summarized and
used to predict the behavior of rotor blades experiencing the equivalent of zero-g flight.
Small scale rotor model tests on a 3 ft diameter autorotating rotor are presented, both
qualitatively regarding zero-g flight and then quantitatively at high advance ratios regarding
rotor hump speed.

Nomenclature
a
B
b
c
cdo
cl
dCM
e
g
Ih
Ip
l
n
q
R
V
W
x
xc
s

1
2

=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=

airfoil section lift curve slope


tip-loss factor
number of rotor blades
blade section chord
airfoil section profile drag coefficient
airfoil section lift coefficient
distance from flapping hinge to blade mass center
distance from center of flapping hinge to rotor shaft center line
acceleration due to gravity
moment of inertia of rotor blade about flapping hinge
polar moment of inertia of rotor system about shaft
distance from pivot point on rotor shaft to rotor hub center
index used in summation over number of rotor blades
rotor shaft pitching rate
radius of rotor blade
velocity of rotorcraft
weight of rotor blade
ratio of blade element radius to rotor blade radius, r/R
non-dimensional cutout radius, rc/R
rotor shaft angle of attack
blade flapping angle with respect to hub plane
rotor blade Lock number, acR4/Ih
collective pitch angle at blade root
advance ratio, Vcoss/R
non-dimensional hinge offset distance, e/R
air density
rotor solidity, bc/R
inflow angle at blade element

Professor, Mechanical Engineering Dept., One University Ave., Senior Member.


Graduate Student, Mechanical Engineering Dept., One University Ave., Student Member.

1
American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Copyright 2011 by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc. All rights reserved.

= blade azimuth angle measured from downwind position in direction of rotation


= rotor angular velocity

I. Introduction

YROPLANE is the generic term for aircraft that rely on an autorotating rotor for their primary lift. Sometimes
the term autogyro or gyrocopter is also used, but technically these are both proprietary names. No typecertified production gyroplanes are currently manufactured in the United States, although some are still in the
certification process. However, sport gyroplanes have maintained their popularity, and see extensive use in many
areas of this country and overseas. Also, a considerable number of recent journal articles (referenced later) show the
continued strong interest in this type of aircraft. Leishman1 gives a summary of the history of gyroplane (autogyro)
development, and a few points from his paper will be discussed later in the present article. Probably the most recent
seminal report on gyroplanes is that presented by the British Civil Aviation Authority in Ref. 2, illustrating the
current serious interest in gyroplane aerodynamics, especially overseas.
While production gyroplanes generally have a good safety record, there still continues to be a significant
accident rate with sport gyroplanes. The accident rate is high enough to warrant a technical discussion for some of
the reasons. One of these important reasons is the situation of zero-g flight. Government accident reports on this
type of aircraft can be found in Refs. 3 and 4. Although some of the information presented in the current paper has
been discussed in qualitative form in the popular literature,5,6 this paper presents the information on a more
quantitative technical level.
A number of different designs of FAA type-certified gyroplanes have been manufactured in the past, and Fig. 1
illustrates a typical configuration. They usually have a 3-bladed articulated rotor, a horizontal stabilizer, and a
pusher propeller as common features. These rotors have cyclic pitch control, but collective pitch is fixed at a
relatively low angle, except for those designs that have a two position collective to provide for jump takeoffs. Sport
gyroplanes, on the other hand, usually have a 2-bladed teetering rotor, pusher propeller, and a small horizontal
stabilizer that is often no more than a flat plate having a short moment arm, as seen in Fig. 2. Early versions of sport
gyroplanes sometimes had no horizontal stabilizer at all. Because of the simple configuration of the teetering rotor,
rotor shaft tilt is used to achieve the same effect as cyclic pitch control. A jet propelled, folding gyroplane
configuration was even once proposed for functioning as a pilot ejection seat.

Fig. 1 Typical production gyroplane of the 1970s (note 3-bladed fully articulated rotor)

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Fig. 2 Typical sport gyroplane (note 2-bladed teetering rotor)

General performance data on sport gyroplanes can be found in the works of Schad7,8 and Niemi,9,10 and more
technical information on stability and control of sport gyroplanes can be found in the extensive works of Houston
and others.11-15

II. Gyroplane Rotor Characteristics


A gyroplane rotor is always operating in autorotation except for short periods when the rotor may be pre-spun up
to a certain rpm prior to the take-off run, or where it may be oversped temporarily for a jump takeoff. Otherwise the
rotor operates in autorotation with forward propulsion being provided by a propeller or small jet engine. As such,
the rotor disk (tip path plane) is tilted rearward relative to the velocity vector, producing lift and drag much like an
airplane wing; rather than tilted forward and producing a forward component of thrust as well as lift, as with a
helicopter. Figure 3, from Ref. 1, shows the coning and flapping angles typical of a rotor in autorotation. The blade
flapping motion as a function of azimuth is often written in the form
    
    

Fig. 3 Illustration of blade flapping angles (Courtesy of J. G. Leishman and AIAA)

To understand how the rpm of an autorotating rotor varies under load, we must look at the concept of
accelerating and decelerating torques.

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(1)

A. Accelerating and Decelerating Torque Coefficients


For a rotor in autorotation, there are certain regions within the rotor disk where the aerodynamic torques tend to
accelerate the rotor rpm, and other regions of the disk where the aerodynamic torques tend to decelerate the rotor.
Steady-state autorotation occurs when the net effect of the accelerating torques balances the effect of the
decelerating torques. Figure 4 shows a schematic view of a cross section of an inboard rotor blade airfoil section
where the net aerodynamic force is a driving force as well as a thrust force. As can be seen from this figure, the
local section blade angle of attack at the inboard regions of the rotor is such that it provides a net forward component
of force, thus tending to accelerate the rotor rpm. A view of the relative velocity components and forces at the
outboard sections of the rotor would show a net rearward component of force tending to decelerate the rotor.

Fig. 4 Section of rotor blade airfoil from inboard accelerating torque region
(Courtesy of Leishman and AIAA)

Figure 5 shows a plan view of a rotor blade showing both the inboard accelerating torque region as well as the
outboard decelerating torque region. The far inboard section of the rotor is the stalled region.

Fig. 5 Plan view of rotor blade showing accelerating and decelerating torque regions
(Courtesy of Leishman and AIAA)

An overall plan view of the entire rotor disk with accelerating and decelerating torque regions is shown in Fig. 6.
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Fig. 6 Plan view of rotor disk showing the three regions of operation, acceleration,
deceleration, and stall area (From Ref. 16, FAA)

An increase in rearward cyclic or shaft angle of attack at a constant forward speed increases the proportion of the
disk where accelerating torques act and the rotor rpm increases to a new steady-state value. This would be
accompanied by more lift and a resulting climb. Conversely, a decrease in rearward cyclic or shaft angle of attack
increases the region of decelerating torques in the rotor disk, and the rotor slows down to a new equilibrium rpm,
accompanied by a decrease in lift and a descent. This is always occurring automatically in response to the pilots
cyclic stick inputs to maintain the desired flight condition for whatever gross weight and velocity the aircraft is
operating at.
Two characteristics of gyroplane rotors will first be discussed here, the concept of hump speed when starting
the rotor, and the rotor behavior in flight when encountering zero-g operation.
B. Rotor Hump Speed
The early sport gyroplane pilots followed a self-training procedure whereby the pilot learned to fly the gyroplane
as an unpowered glider in towed flight behind an automobile, or sometimes on floats behind a motorboat. This
type of operation is illustrated in Fig. 7 (now pilot training is just as often done in two seat powered gyroplanes).

Fig. 7 Sport gyroplane (gyroglider) in towed flight behind automobile

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These sport gyroplanes had rotors that had to be hand started from rest before commencing the take-off run. The
procedure would typically be as follows, assuming no wind: With the gyroplane sitting at the end of the runway
behind the tow car, the pilot would reach up and gradually start turning the rotor by hand. He would continue this
procedure until he reached the maximum rpm he could physically achieve, typically on the order of 100 rpm. At
that point, he would tilt the rotor shaft back to around 9o and the automobile would quickly accelerate to 15 to 18
mph and hold this speed. If this were done properly, the air passing through the rotor would gradually accelerate it
to approx 200-250 rpm, then the rotor shaft could be tilted back to its full 18o and the car could gradually accelerate
to something on the order of 30-40 mph. The procedure was a little different if wind existed. Takeoff would
typically occur at approximately 30 mph and 300 rotor rpm (variations on all these numbers could exist, of course).
If the car accelerated too quickly (too high an advance ratio) or the shaft was tilted too far back early in the
procedure, the rotor rpm would decrease, accompanied by blade flapping to the stops, the so called mast bumping
phenomenon, which could damage the rotor or the rotor head assembly. Many early pilots had trouble doing the
correct procedure properly. Typically the first take-off ground run in this case was on the order of 1000 ft, but
subsequent takeoffs could be done with a short ground roll on the order of a hundred feet if automobile speed and
rotor shaft angle were handled properly. Accomplishing this procedure in a float mounted hydroglider could be
extremely difficult if there was much wave action. In that case, it was very difficult to avoid some mast bumping.
The term hump speed then came to be applied to the minimum rpm that had to be achieved by hand to make a
successful takeoff.
In more recent years, sport gyroplanes have been designed with a small (typically one hp) motor mounted at the
top of the rotor mast to spin the rotor up to approximately 200 rpm prior to starting the takeoff roll (see Fig. 2 again).
With this addition, the take-off roll could be reduced to 100 feet. Alternatively, flexible shaft drives have been used
for a power takeoff from the main engine to pre-rotate the rotor for takeoff.
C. Zero-g Flight
Zero-g flight is a maneuver that should never be attempted in a gyroplane, but which has often occurred
unintentionally with low time gyroplane pilots. Typically, this maneuver is performed in the same manner as it is
deliberately done by the famous Vomit Comet airplane, by making a sharp pull up into a climb, followed by a
gradual pushover into a dive. At the end of the dive, a pullout again follows before the airspeed builds up too much.
If done properly (which really means improperly in the case of a gyroplane), zero-g occurs. During this maneuver,
the rotor is producing no lift and its rotational speed decreases rapidly, and this will result in excessive blade
flapping when lift is applied again. This excessive flapping can force the rotor blades down into the pusher
propeller or vertical tail surfaces. Furthermore, if power is applied during the zero-g portion of the maneuver and
the propeller thrust line does not pass through the rotorcraft c.g., this could lead to rapid pitch up, or more
commonly pitch down (the so-called buntover), causing the rotorcraft to tumble inverted a few times, with similar
disastrous consequences.
As examples of the allowable rpm ranges for typical production gyroplane rotors, Table 1 below gives some
values.
Table 1. Production gyroplane rotor rpm limits
Gyroplane
Gross weight
Rotor diameter
designation
(lb)
(ft)
Gyroplane A17
Gyroplane B18

1550
1800

26
35

Never exceed
speed, Vne
(mph)

Maximum
rotor rpm

Minimum rotor
rpm

106
97

480
320

300
200

The upper limit on the allowable rpm range is usually due to centrifugal force limits, while the lower rpm limits
quoted (which could occur during partial unloading of the rotor or flight at very light weights) would be to prevent
excessive blade flapping during subsequent loading of the blades again. Leishman1 alludes to this situation, but does
not stress it seriously. Warnings against this maneuver have been presented often in the popular literature, but these
types of accidents continue to happen in the sport gyroplane community. The small, low moment arm horizontal
stabilizer or inadvertent thrust line offset does not help to prevent the situation either.
This characteristic of rapid rotor slowdown with decrease in shaft angle as the rotor is unloaded is noticed
immediately by gyroplane pilots when they land and begin taxiing, or stop taxiing even in a wind and reduce the
cyclic pitch or shaft angle to zero.
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III. Equations of Motion for a Pitching, Autorotating Rotor


To study the behavior of an autorotating rotor undergoing the zero-g phenomenon, the equations of motion were
derived for a rotor pitching about some arbitrary point on the rotor shaft. The problem was approached as a basic
applied mechanics problem with dynamic shaft motion inputs, rather than as a complete coupled aircraft, rotor
system configuration. This was to separate the study from any particular airframe geometry or rotorcraft
maneuver, focusing instead on the rotor system alone, and making the analysis consistent with small scale rotor
model tests that were to be conducted. The focus was on how an autorotating rotor system would respond when
the shaft was pitched forward through the zero or negative angle of attack range, and then back to positive angles,
and the items of interest were the blade flapping and the rpm variation during this type of maneuver.
The equations of motion for a pitching, autorotating rotor with flapping hinges are derived in Refs. 19 and 20.
Assumptions used to develop the theory were the classical ones of quasi-static, two-dimensional, non-linear
aerodynamics, with a blade tip loss factor of 0.97. Blade sweep effects and radial flow were neglected, and the
induced velocity was assumed to be uniform across the rotor disk. The blades were treated as rigid, with offset
flapping hinges and no lag hinges. The blades were also assumed to have a uniform mass distribution. Airfoil
data were obtained for each airfoil, or in some cases estimated, for the different Reynolds numbers encountered by
the various size rotor models considered, and for the prototype gyroplane rotor that was studied. The equations
derived were then programmed in FORTRAN for numerical solution. The final rotor blade equations of motion
are listed below. The rotor blade flapping angle is determined from the solution of Eq. 2, which accounts for the
accelerations imposed on the blades by a pitching rotor shaft. This equation is coupled to the rotational equation
through the variable angular velocity term.
Ih   q cos  2q cos2 sin  sin cos 2  q2 sin2 


Wd#$
2eq cos sin  lq( cos  e sin (  q( cos ( )
g

) q cos e cos  l sin   gcos *s cos  sin *s sin cos 



.<

1
 c( R. / 0 u( x  c4 cos 5 dx  0 u( x  c9: sin 5 dx=
2
78

78

(2)

This equation can be simplified considerably if the shaft pitching angular velocity q is much less than the rotor
angular velocity , and if the rotor shaft angle of attack and blade flapping angles are small. Furthermore, if it is
assumed that the rotor pitches about the rotor hub center, l = 0, and Eq. 2 simplifies to
Ih   >Ih 

eWdCM
g

A 2  2q sin  q cos  WdCM


.<

1
 c( R. / 0 u( x  c4 cos 5 dx  0 u( x  c9: sin 5 dx=
2
78

(3)

78

This equation reduces to the flapping equation of Ref. 21 for the special case of no rotor shaft pitching, i.e., for q = q
= 0 and for = constant.
The rotational equation, as derived in Ref. 19, simplifies to Eq. 4 below:
Ip  

c2 R4
2

D /0 u2 cl sin 5   x   cos dx
n1

xc
1.0

 0 u2 cdo cos 5   x   cos dx=


xc

(4)
2n1
b


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Solutions to Eqs. 3 and 4 for a typical gyroplane rotor are presented later in this paper. Equations 3 and 4 are also
used for comparison with model rotor tests, as well as for predicting the behavior of a full scale rotor.

IV. Autorotating Rotor Model Tests


A. Model Rotor Design
To verify the previously discussed rotor characteristics, both qualitatively and quantitatively, a small model
rotor was built for wind tunnel testing. The design selected was a three bladed rotor (to simulate the larger
production gyroplanes), with flapping hinges but no lag hinges. The rotor was three feet in diameter and had blades
of approximately two inch chord. The blades had a solid aluminum spar leading edge and a balsa wood trailing
edge. They were designed such that the blade elastic axis, center of pressure, and center of mass were all within one
percent chord of each other. This was to minimize the possibility of flutter problems that could conceivably arise in
some types of testing, although the blades were very stiff. The blades were provided with flapping hinges but no lag
hinges. The stops provided for the flapping hinge permitted flapping angles of 30o. A photograph of the model
rotor is shown in Fig. 8.
The airfoil section used was the NASA 0012 airfoil. This airfoil has good autorotative tendencies even in small
rotor models, as pointed out by Razak22.

Fig. 8 Three ft diameter rotor model for autorotation tests

The collective pitch setting could be manually adjusted between tests by loosening two screws on each blade
grip block and rotating the blades to the desired pitch setting. No provision was necessary for cyclic pitch control,
this being simulated by rotor shaft tilt. Complete geometric and inertial data for the model rotor are presented in
Table 2.
Table 2. Model rotor geometric and inertia characteristics
Geometric Parameters
Values
Diameter
36.24 in
Number of blades
3
Chord
1.96 in
Solidity,
0.104
Airfoil section
NASA 0012
Blade twist
None
Cutout radius
3.31 in
Flapping hinge offset
1.00 in (5.5% radius)
Blade weight moment
0.222 ft-lb
Blade flapping inertia
0.00588 slug-ft2
Lock number,
2.1
A simple test stand was built to allow rotor shaft angle changes that simulated a cyclic pitch change, with the
rotor system designed to pivot about the center of the rotor hub; which remained located at the center of the wind
tunnel while the rotor disk was changing angle of attack. A detailed description and illustration of the test stand can
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be found in Ref. 19. The wind tunnel used was a 4 ft x 4 ft open jet wind tunnel at the University of Massachusetts
Amherst. This tunnel has a maximum speed of 60 ft/s.

B. Experimental Procedure
The model was used for both quantitative and qualitative evaluation of hump speed behavior and
rotor blade flapping under various operating conditions. The qualitative results will be reported first.
1. Qualitative Evaluation of Rotor Hump Speed
Qualitative experiments to explore the concept of hump speed were first conducted as follows: The blade
collective pitch and shaft angle of attack were first set at the desired values. The rotor was then powered to
approximately 800 rpm using a small electric motor temporarily attached to the lower end of the rotor shaft. The
wind tunnel was then started and the driving torque was removed from the rotor. The tunnel jet speed was then
increased to its maximum value and steady state autorotation of the model was established.
This procedure was repeated for several different shaft angles of attack and three collective pitch settings: 0o,
o
+1 , and +2o. All tests were conducted at the maximum tunnel velocity of approximately 60 fps. The upper limit on
shaft angle of attack was selected to keep the model rotor rpm below a maximum value of 2500 rpm, this limit being
based on the maximum allowable centrifugal force in the flapping hinge pin. Autorotation was successfully achieved
in all these cases, indicating that the initial rotor rpm of 800 was above the hump speed required for the tunnel
speed of 60 fps and shaft angle of attack initially set. As the collective pitch setting was set at higher values, the
shaft angle of attack required to maintain autorotation increased, while the advance ratio during autorotation
decreased. Tests were not conducted at negative angles of collective pitch. Table 3 summarizes these experimental
results.
Table 3. Summary of conditions required for rotor model autorotation
Tunnel velocity, V
Minimum shaft angle, s,
Advance ratio,
Collective pitch angle, o
(deg)
(ft/s)
for autorotation (deg)

0
1
2
3

60
60
60
58

6.8
9
10.8
>24

0.37
0.31
0.22
not achieved

As seen from the table, at o = 0o, the minimum shaft angle that would allow steady state autorotation was
6.8 , corresponding to an advance ratio of 0.37. At o = 1o, the lowest shaft angle allowing autorotation was 9o,
achieved at an advance ratio of 0.31. At o = 2o, the minimum shaft angle allowing autorotation was 10.8o, at an
advance ratio of 0.22. Operation at a collective pitch angle of +3o was found to be impossible for a tunnel speed of
58 fps and a shaft angle of attack of 24o or less. During an attempt to obtain autorotation under these conditions, the
rotor would immediately slow down with the tunnel on when the driving torque was removed, even at the high
positive shaft angle of attack. This showed that the hump speed had to be greater than 800 rpm in this case, or that
the decelerating torques were greater than the accelerating torques for this collective pitch regardless of shaft angle.
Full scale rotors will autorotate at collective pitch settings as high as 6o, but Reynolds number effects prevent
small rotor models from autorotating at such high pitch settings.
o

2. Qualitative Zero-g Rotor Behavior


The rotor behavior was then investigated qualitatively in conditions simulating gyroplane zero-g flight. The
shaft was pitched down to zero and then negative angles for short periods of time. This technique was approached
cautiously by gradually approaching smaller shaft angles, and then increasing the shaft angle back up to positive
values. During pitchdown to zero angle, the rotor rpm would rapidly decay, with a decrease in blade flapping, and
then increase again with an increase in blade flapping as the shaft was pitched back up to the initial positive starting
shaft angle. This behavior confirmed rotor behavior in zero-g flight. As mentioned earlier, if this situation were
carried to an extreme in a prototype gyroplane, the increased blade flapping at low rotor rpm, especially when
coupled with blade flexibility, could drive the rotor blades into the pusher propeller or tail surfaces. Furthermore, as
pointed out in Ref. 4, improper pilot application of thrust could cause pitching moments (the so-called buntover
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where the gyroplane tumbles, creating an unrecoverable flight situation). In the case of the wind tunnel model, if the
model rotor shaft was maintained at a negative angle of attack, the rpm would rapidly decay to zero, and then the
rotor would accelerate in the reverse direction, accompanied by blade flapping motion to the 30o stops.
Obviously, these tests had to be done carefully to prevent damage to the blades and were not conducted on a
prolonged basis. This behavior confirms the hump-speed concept discussed earlier. Rotor blades that need to be
hand-started by sport gyroplane pilots have to be set on the hub at low pitch angles of -1o to perhaps 0o. If power
assist prerotation is available, they can be set on the order of +1o and then give better overall performance. Steady
state test data were also taken in a quantitative manner, as reported next.

V. Confirmation of Theory with Test Data

Rotor angular velocity , ( RPM)

A. Steady State Rotor Angular Velocity and Blade Flapping Angle Prediction
The figures below give some of the steady state performance data for the model rotor. Figure 9 shows
experimental data for rotor angular velocity versus shaft angle of attack for a model collective pitch of 2o. The
agreement between theory and experiment is seen to be generally good down to the lower rotor angular velocities.
2800
Test data, =2
2400
2000
Theory, Cd min
=.016

1600
1200

Model would not


auto-rotate for s
10.8

800
400
0
0

12

16

20

24

28

Shaft angle of attack, s ( deg.)


Fig. 9 Rotor angular velocity vs shaft angle of attack, 3 ft diameter model

Figure 10 presents a comparison between theory and experiment for the rotor blade flapping angles at 0o and
180 azimuth angle. Again, the agreement between theory and experiment is seen to be reasonable. Similar data for
blade collective pitch settings of 0o and 1o are reported in Ref. 23. Theory-experiment agreement is also good at
these pitch settings.
o

Blade flapping angle - ( deg.)

8.0

4.0
Test data, = 0
Test data, = 180

0.0

______ Theory

-4.0

-8.0
10.0

14.0

18.0
22.0
Shaft angle of attack - s ( deg.)

26.0

Fig. 10 Blade flapping angles vs shaft angle of attack, 0 = 2o, 3 ft diameter model

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B. Accuracy of Model Tests Results


A detailed discussion of the accuracy of all experimental measurements is presented in Ref. 19. To summarize
this discussion, it is estimated that all rpm values were measured to 1% accuracy. Atmospheric conditions and the
use of the perfect gas law for air density were estimated to be accurate within about 2%.
Collective pitch values were probably a little less accurate primarily because of some play in the flapping hinges
and partly due to the individual tolerance allowed in the setting of each blades collective pitch. This combination
was such that the collective pitch angles were probably accurate to within 0.2o. Blade flapping angles were
measured to an accuracy on the order of 1/2o.
Because the primary purpose of the experiments was the determination of rotor angular velocity behavior, the
lesser accuracy obtained in the measurement of blade flapping angles does not impose a significant limitation on the
use of the results. The low rotor blade Lock number is partly responsible for the small flapping angle magnitudes.
C. Unsteady-State Rotor Behavior Prediction
Very few data appear to be available for autorotating rotors undergoing significant changes in angular velocity.
The 3 ft diameter model rotor was not tested quantitatively under decelerating or accelerating rpm conditions, but
some early test data were located for a 6 ft diameter gyroplane rotor undergoing varying rpm. These data are
reported in Ref. 24. The characteristics of the model are summarized in Table 4.
Table 4. Specifications for 6 ft diameter rotor model
Geometric Parameters
Values
Rotor diameter
6.0 ft
Number of blades
4
Chord
5.36 in
Solidity,
0.189
Airfoil section
Gottingen
429 (mod.)
Collective pitch
3o
Blade twist
none
Cutout radius
6 in
Flapping hinge offset
2 in
Blade weight moment
2.18 ft-lb
Blade flapping inertia
0.118 sl-ft2
Lock number,
4.2
Rotor polar inertia
0.63 slug-ft2

Angular velocity ,
( rad./sec.)

The theory was compared with available experimental data for the model rotor decelerating from an initial
angular velocity of 76 rads/s at a constant tunnel speed of 32ft/s. Figure 11 shows the comparison of experiment and
theory carried out to 9 seconds time. It can be seen that the agreement is generally good, especially considering
some estimates that had to be made for the rotor characteristics.
80
70
Theory

60

Experiment
50
40
0

10

Time, t (seconds)
Fig. 11 Comparision of theory and experiment for a 6 ft diameter,
4 bladed, decelerating rotor, 0 = 3o, s= 17.5 o, V= 32ft/s

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A similar comparison of theory and experiment was made for the 6 ft rotor accelerating from an angular velocity
just above the hump speed. Near the hump speed, rotor behavior is critically dependent on airfoil section drag
coefficient data, and care must be taken to use reasonable data for the Reynolds numbers expected in operation. The
comparison in Fig. 12 for these conditions indicates that there is good agreement out to about 11 seconds of
calculation.

Angular velocity ,
( rad./sec.)

60
50
40
Theory
30
Experiment
20

Hump speed

10
0
0

10

12

Time, t (seconds)
Fig. 12 Comparision of theory and experiment for a 6 ft diameter,
4 bladed, accelerating rotor, 0 = 3o, s= 17.5o, V= 32ft/s

In light of the level of agreement shown in all the preceding figures, the theory presented can be seen to provide a
good tool for predicting prototype rotor behavior. This will be considered next.

V. Prediction of Rotor Behavior in Zero-g Flight


To completely simulate gyroplane behavior in zero-g flight, one would need to select a particular rotorcraft
geometry and use coupled rotor-airframe equations, and input control and propeller thrust variations to simulate
various maneuvers and determine the resulting rotor behavior. In a deliberately flown zero-g trajectory, the flight
path angle would first increase with high propeller thrust applied for a pull-up, followed by rotor cyclic pitch or
shaft angle being reduced to a low or zero angle. During the climb, airspeed would decrease to a minimum at the
top of the trajectory and then increase again during the descent. Propeller thrust would normally be reduced to idle
during the pushover portion of the maneuver. This would be followed by a pull-up with application of propeller
thrust and rearward cyclic to resume level flight again. During the zero-g portion of the flight, rotor rpm would
steadily decrease, and assuming the recovery were executed soon enough and the rotor slowdown were not too
drastic; rotor rpm would increase again. However, the rate of rotor slowdown can be so rapid that any deliberate
maneuver of this type is dangerous. Another more drastic way to enter zero-g flight would be a pushover from level
flight into a zero-g descending arc. In this case velocity would increase due to gravity effects, as opposed to an
initial velocity decrease if the maneuver is initiated with a climb. During the simulations presented here, the
forward flight velocity was kept constant. A rotor alone analytical solution keeping the forward velocity constant
is a compromise between these two types of zero-g flight. Obviously it is not practical to conduct flight tests to
explore zero-g behavior, except possibly to approach it very cautiously closer and closer, so an analytical solution
was conducted using the equations of motion for the rotor alone with a pitching rotor shaft.
A. Prototype Configuration Selected
A representative configuration typical of a production gyroplane was selected for analysis. Table 5 gives the
characteristics of the rotor system selected. If compared to Table, 1 it will be seen that the values are for an average
of a few different actual gyroplanes, so they are not representative of any one design, but similar to a variety of
designs.
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Table 5. Representative full-scale gyroplane rotor system


Rotor Parameters
Rotor diameter
Number of blades
Chord
Solidity,
Airfoil section
Collective pitch
Blade twist
Cutout radius
Flapping hinge offset
Blade weight moment
Blade flapping inertia
Lock number,
Rotor polar inertia

Values
30 ft
3
9 in
0.0478
NASA 0015
6o
none
1 ft
0.3 ft
294 ft-lb
90 slug-ft2
5.75
300 slug-ft2

Shaft Angle of Attack, s


(deg.)

B. Simulated Maneuvers Conducted


The figures below give the behavior of this 30 ft diameter, 3 bladed rotor based on Eqs. 3 and 4 for two selected
flight maneuvers. The first case considered is a rotor shaft pitched from a positive 4 degree shaft angle down to zero
degrees and return. Fig. 13 summarizes the rotor behavior for a relatively short 2 second time period pitch down
and recovery. Initial conditions were a rotor rpm of 380, advance ratio = 0.20, and thrust coefficient CT = 0.005.
8
4
0
-4
-8
0

4
Time, t (secs.)

Fig. 13a Rotor dynamics for rapid pitchdown maneuver,


shaft angle of attack vs. time, o = 0.2, CTo = 0.005

400

Rotor RPM

380
360
340
320
0

4
Time, t (secs.)

Fig. 13b Rotor dynamics for rapid pitchdown maneuver,


rotor rpm vs. time

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Blade Flapping Angle , 


(deg.)

10
8
6
4

= 180

2
0
-2
0

4
Time, t (secs.)

Blade Flapping Angle , 


(deg.)

Fig. 13c Rotor dynamics for rapid pitchdown maneuver,


blade flapping angle vs. time for = 180

10
8
6
4
= 0

2
0
-2
0

4
Time, t (secs.)

Fig. 13d Rotor dynamics for rapid pitchdown maneuver,


blade flapping angle vs. time for = 0

Shaft Angle of Attack, s


(deg.)

The blade flapping angle excursion is not severe, and the rotor rpm decays from an initial value of 380 to a
minimum of approximately 365 and then starts to recover again. This rpm variation is not serious, but in an actual
maneuver with the velocity initially decreasing in the climb portion of the zero-g, the rpm decrease would be even
greater.
Next, a more severe maneuver was considered where the rotor shaft is pitched down over a longer time period
through zero to a negative angle of attack and then returned back to the original state. The rotor system behavior is
shown in Fig. 14.
8
4
0
-4
-8
0

4
Time, t ( secs.)

Fig. 14a Rotor dynamics for pitchdown through negative shaft angles of attack, shaft angle
of attack vs. time, o = 0.2, CTo = 0.005

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Rotor RPM

400
380
360
340
320
0

4
Time, t ( secs.)

Blade Flapping Angle,


( deg.)

Fig. 14b Rotor dynamics for pitchdown through


negative shaft angles of attack, rotor rpm vs. time

10
6
= 180
2
-2
0

4
Time, t ( secs.)

Fig. 14c Rotor dynamics for pitchdown through


negative shaft angles of attack, blade flapping angle vs. time for = 180

Blade Flapping Angle,


( deg.)

10

6
= 0

-2
0

Time, t ( secs.)
Fig. 14d Rotor dynamics for pitchdown through
negative shaft angles of attack, blade flapping angle vs. time for = 0

In this case, the rotor rpm has decreased from 380 down to approximately 335, and shows little sign of
recovery when the rotor shaft is pitched back to a positive angle. The rpm decay has brought the rotor
rpm down near the hump speed in which case rpm recovery would be too slow. This rotor rpm decay is
much more serious, and does not show signs of a recovery to the original rpm.
VI. Conclusions
Equations for the behavior of a pitching rotor in autorotation have been derived and verified both
qualitatively and quantitatively using data from two small rotor models. The equations have been used to predict the
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American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

behavior of a prototype gyroplane rotor undergoing pitching maneuvers. It is shown that extended operation with an
unloaded rotor can lead to serious problems where the rotor rpm may not increase again during an attempted
recovery, and negative blade flapping may occur. Possible collisions between the rotor blades and a pusher
propeller or vertical tail surface can occur, especially if propeller thrust line location or horizontal stabilizer design is
improper. This is a characteristic of autorotating rotors, which should always be flown in flight conditions
maintaining a positive g load on the rotor.

References
1

Leishman, J.G., Development of the Autogyro: A Technical Perspective, Journal of Aircraft, 41 (4), July-Aug. 2004.

Anon., The Aerodynamics of Gyroplanes, CAA Paper 2009/02, UK Civil Aviation Authority, West Sussex, England, August
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3
Anon., Airworthiness Review of Air Command Gyroplanes, Air Accidents Investigation branch, Aldershot, England, U.K.,
Sept. 1991.
4
Gremminger, G., Safety Report: Gyroplane Accident Causes per NTSB Report, Popular Rotorcraft Association, Mentone,
Indiana, Sept. 2002.
5

Anon., Pilot Talk, Zero g Flight, Popular Rotorcraft Flying, 3(4), 1965.

Cudney, A., Watch That Zero G, Popular Rotorcraft Flying, 8(5), 1970.

Schad, J. L., Readers Forum Small Autogyro Performance, Journal of the American Helicopter Society, 10 (3), July 1965,
pp 39-43.

Schad, J. L., Gyrocopter Modifications and Their Performance, Popular Rotorcraft Flying, 4(2), 1966.

9
Niemi, E., The Effect of Various Cabin Designs on the Performance of a Small, Unstreamlined Autogyro, M.S. Thesis, M.E.
Dept., Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, MA, January 1964.
10

Niemi, E., Know Your Gliding Speed and Range, Popular Rotorcraft Flying, 2(3), 1964.

11

Houston, S.S., Identification of Autogyro Longitudinal Stability and Control Characteristics, Journal of Guidance, Control
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12

Houston, S.S., Validation of a Rotorcraft Mathematical Model for Autogyro Simulation, Journal of Aircraft, Vol. 37, No. 3,
May-June 2000, pp. 403-409.

13

Houston, S.S., and Thomson, D.G., Calculation of Rotorcraft Inflow Coefficients Using Blade Flapping Measurements,
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14
Thomson, D.G., Houston, S.S., and Spathopoulos, V.M., Experiments in Autogyro Airworthiness for Improved Handling
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Murakami, Y., and Houston, S.S., Dynamic Inflow Modeling for Autorotating Rotors, Aeronautical Journal, Vol. 112, No.
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16

Anon., Rotorcraft Flying Handbook, FAA-H-8083-21, U.S. Dept. of Transportation, FAA, Washington, D.C., 2000.

17

McCulloch J-2 Gyroplane Approved Rotorcraft Flight Manual, McCulloch Aircraft Corporation, May 1970.

18

Air and Space 18A Gyroplane, FAA Approved Gyroplane Flight Manual, Air and Space Corporation, May 1965.

19

Niemi, E., A Method for Determining the Effects of Rapid Inflow Changes on the Dynamics of an Autorotating Rotor, Ph.D.
Dissertation, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA, April 1974.

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American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

20
Niemi, E., A Mathematical Model for Predicting the Dynamics of an Autorotating Helicopter Rotor, Proceedings of the
SIAM 1986 National Meeting, Boston, MA, July 21-25, 1986.
21

Gessow, A. and Crim, A., A Method for Studying the Transient Blade-Flapping Behavior of Lifting Rotors at Extreme
Operating Conditions, NACA TN 3366, Jan. 1955.
22

Razak, K., Blade Section Variation on Small Scale Rotors, Journal of the Aeronautical Sciences, 11, 1943.

23

Niemi, E., and Cromack, D.,Comparison of Experimental and Analytical Data for a Wind Milling Model Rotor, Journal of
the American Helicopter Society, 21(1), pp. 27-31, Jan. 1976.
24

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American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics