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Rotorcraft Handling Qualities Engineering: Managing the Tension between Safety and Performance

32nd Alexander A. Nikolsky Honorary Lecture

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In this Nikolsky paper, I look back nearly 70 years and highlight particular events that reflect the continual growth of the handling qualities discipline. This growth has brought us to a point where designers have, within their grasp, the performance standards, the criteria and test techniques, the understanding of rotorcraft aeromechanics and control, and the design tools, to ensure that handling deficiencies never again have to define the boundary of the operational flight envelope. This point is considered very important in the evolution of the discipline and the associated flight control technologies. The pilot is a vital component in the rotorcraft system; a nearly perfectly functioning component normally, but one that can be stressed, fatigued, or overloaded, particularly when dealing with the consequences of handing qualities deficiencies, and when managing high tension between flight performance and safety. It is argued that this tension is more manageable when an aircraft has good handling qualities, throughout all missions, including flight in degraded environments and hazardous operations. This paper tells the story of how our industry has arrived at this point, how the standards and the enabling technologies have developed, spurred by user needs, and enabled by research. The paper also looks forward, highlighting how we need to strive for super-Level 1 handling qualities, a state where pilot errors, in any shape or form attributable to deficient flight characteristics, are things of the past.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2013-01-01

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  • The Journal of the American Helicopter Society is the world's only scientific journal dedicated to vertical flight technology. It is a peer-reviewed technical journal published quarterly by AHS International and presents innovative papers covering the state-of-the-art in all disciplines of rotorcraft design, research and development. (Please note that AHS members receive significant discounts on articles and subscriptions.)

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