Towards a better understanding of the flight mechanics of compound helicopter configurations

Ferguson, Kevin M. (2015) Towards a better understanding of the flight mechanics of compound helicopter configurations. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
[thumbnail of edited version, copyright material removed.] PDF (edited version, copyright material removed.)
Download (4MB)
Printed Thesis Information:


The compound helicopter is a high speed design concept that is once again being explored due to the emerging requirements for rotorcraft to obtain speeds that significantly surpass the conventional helicopter. The speed of the conventional helicopter is limited by retreating blade stall, however the introduction of compounding delays the onset of this aerodynamic limitation until greater flight speeds. There are two common types of compounding known as lift and thrust compounding. Lift compounding, provided by the addition of a wing offloads the main rotor of its lifting responsibilities in high speed flight. Thrust compounding, provided by the addition of a propulsive source such as a propeller, provides additional axial force divorcing the main rotor of its propulsive duties at high speeds. The addition of compounding to the helicopter design can therefore increase the maximum speed of the aircraft. This increase in speed, provided that efficient hover capability is maintained, would make the compound helicopter suitable for various roles and missions in both military and civil markets.

The compound helicopter is not a novel idea with many compound helicopter configurations flight tested in the 1960's. Due to these test programmes, as well as other studies, there is some material relating to the compound helicopter in the literature. However, the majority of the compound helicopter work describes flight tests of experimental aircraft or focuses on the design of the aircraft configuration. There are no systematic studies of the flight dynamics of compound helicopters which have been published. This Thesis targets this gap in the literature. Consequently, the aim of this Thesis is to investigate the effects of compounding on the conventional helicopter and how this addition to the helicopter design influences the flight mechanics of this aircraft class. With the renewed interest in the compound helicopter design this work is both original and timely. To investigate the flight dynamics of this aircraft class, two mathematical models of compound helicopter configurations are developed and compared with a conventional helicopter. The first compound helicopter configuration features a coaxial rotor with a pusher propeller providing additional axial thrust, and is referred to as the coaxial compound helicopter. The second configuration, known as the hybrid compound helicopter, features two wings each with a tip mounted propeller providing thrust compounding. The conventional helicopter features a standard helicopter design with a main rotor providing the propulsive and lifting forces, whereas a tail rotor, mounted at the rear of the aircraft, provides the yaw control.

Other authors have focused on design considerations and have quantified all of the benefits of compounding but to date, a comprehensive study of the effect of compounding on the flight dynamics of a helicopter has not been published. The strategy of the work is to take the three aircraft configurations, the two compound helicopter configurations and the conventional helicopter, and determine their flight mechanics characteristics. Subsequently, the compound helicopter results can be compared with the baseline configuration, thereby isolating the effects of compounding. The flight mechanics characteristics that are determined in this Thesis include: trim, performance, stability and manoeuvrability attributes of the three helicopter configurations. These attributes are assessed by calculating the control angles which result in a steady flight condition and by the use of numerical linearisation and inverse simulation algorithms. All of these flight mechanics characteristics were assessed with the results, in some aspects, reinforcing the potential of the compound helicopter as well as highlighting some possible difficulties that will have to be addressed in the design of a compound helicopter.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Compound helicopter, flight mechanics, rotorcraft
Subjects: T Technology > TL Motor vehicles. Aeronautics. Astronautics
Colleges/Schools: College of Science and Engineering > School of Engineering > Autonomous Systems and Connectivity
Supervisor's Name: Thomson, Dr. Douglas
Date of Award: 2015
Depositing User: Mr Kevin Ferguson
Unique ID: glathesis:2015-6859
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 09 Nov 2015 15:12
Last Modified: 22 Dec 2015 15:45

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year