Rotorcraft Handling Qualities Engineering

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Gareth Padfield of the School of Engineering at the University of Liverpool will deliver a talk on "Rotorcraft Handling Qualities Engineering: Managing the Tension Between Safety and Performance." The talk is presented by the Vertical Lift Research Center of Excellence. 


This Nikolsky paper on rotorcraft handling qualities has been written under the enduring influence of a community of very dedicated engineers and pilots. The author looks back nearly 70 years and highlights particular events that reflect the continual growth of the handling qualities discipline and have brought us to where we are in 2012. We are at a point where designers have, within their grasp, the performance standards, 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. The tension between flight performance and flight safety is properly managed by ensuring that Level 1 handling qualities are there for pilots throughout missions, including degraded environments and hazardous operations. This paper tells the story of how our industry has arrived at this point. Looking forward, we now need to strive for super-Level 1 handling quality, a state where pilot errors, in any shape or form attributable to deficient flight characteristics, are things of the past. The presentation takes the form of a narrative, describing the story of the idea that HQs can be quantified. During the first few years of the 20th century, the Wright brothers had carefully and thoroughly documented developments with their 1901-2 gliders to their 1903-5 powered aircraft. In contrast, no such recordings are available of the flight behavior of rotary wing aircraft in the 1920 or 1930s. The story therefore begins with the post-war work in the UK and U.S. research laboratories to understand better helicopter flight characteristics and the emergence of the first rotorcraft handling qualities requirements specification. The story then unfolds based on documents in the public domain written by engineers and pilots from European and North American industry, research laboratories and academia. This version of the story is also restricted to the single main rotor, “penny-farthing” configuration.

Speaker Bio:

Gareth Padfield received his BSc in aeronautical engineering from the University of London in 1969 and PhD in flight dynamics at Cranfield College of Aeronautics in 1976. He joined the Royal Aircraft Establishment in 1977 where he specialized in helicopter flight research, engaged in flight test, modeling and simulation, handling qualities and flight control developments; he was appointed rotorcraft chief scientist (air systems) in 1995. Padfield took up the James Bibby Chair in Aerospace Engineering at The University of Liverpool in 1999 and was engineering department head between 2004 and 2010. He was a member of the US DoD JSHIP Accreditation Council and UK Focus Officer for TTCP (flight simulation, handling qualities and flight control, 1985-99), receiving a TTCP achievement award in 1995, along with colleagues at the U.S. Army Aeroflightdynamics Directorate, Hoh Aeronautics and the Canadian Flight Research Laboratory, for the development of Aeronautical Design Standard ADS-33 – Handling Qualities Requirements for Military Rotorcraft. Padfield is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society. He is an honorary member of the AHS Modeling and Simulation and Handling Qualities Technical Committees, and a member of the Safety and Education Committees. Padfield was appointed a member of the UK Defence Science Advisory Council in 2011. 


  • Workflow Status:Published
  • Created By:Amelia Pavlik
  • Created:10/05/2012
  • Modified By:Fletcher Moore
  • Modified:10/07/2016