Stability analysis of whirl flutter in rotor-nacelle systems with freeplay nonlinearity

Christopher Mair*, Branislav Titurus, Djamel Rezgui

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Tiltrotor aircraft are growing in prevalence due to the usefulness of their unique flight envelope. However, aeroelastic stability—particularly whirl flutter stability—is a major design influence that demands accurate prediction. Several nonlinearities that may be present in tiltrotor systems, such as freeplay, are often neglected for simplicity, either in the modelling or the stability analysis. However, the effects of such nonlinearities can be significant, sometimes even invalidating the stability predictions from linear analysis methods. Freeplay is a nonlinearity that may arise in tiltrotor nacelle rotation actuators due to the tension–compression loading cycles they undergo. This paper investigates the effect of a freeplay structural nonlinearity in the nacelle pitch degree of freedom. Two rotor-nacelle models of contrasting complexity are studied: one represents
classical whirl flutter (propellers) and the other captures the main effects of tiltrotor aeroelasticity (proprotors). The manifestation of the freeplay in the
systems’ dynamical behaviour is mapped out using Continuation and Bifurcation Methods, and consequently the change in the stability boundary is
quantified. Furthermore, the effects on freeplay behaviour of (a) model complexity and (b) deadband edge sharpness are studied. Ultimately, the freeplay nonlinearity is shown to have a complex effect on the dynamics of both systems, even creating the possibility of whirl flutter in parameter ranges that linear analysis methods predict to be stable. While the size of this additional whirl flutter region is finite and bounded for the basic model, it is unbounded for the higher complexity model.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages25
JournalNonlinear Dynamics
Publication statusPublished - 27 Feb 2021


  • Whirl flutter
  • Continuation and bifurcation methods
  • Nonlinear aeroelasticity

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