# . Response to Atmospheric Disturbances

Helicopter flying qualities criteria try to take account of the influence of atmospheric disturbances on the response of the aircraft in terms of required control margins close to the edge of the operational flight envelope and the consequent pilot fatigue caused by the increased workload. We can obtain a coarse understanding of the effects of gusts on helicopter response through linear analysis in terms of the aerodynamic derivatives. In Chapter 2 we gave a brief discourse on response to vertical gusts, which we can recall here to introduce the subject. Assuming a first-order initial heave response to vertical gusts, we can write the equation of motion in the form of eqn 5.76:

■ Zww ^ Zwwg (5.76)

dt

The heave damping derivative Zw now defines both the transient response and the gust input gain. The initial normal acceleration in response to a sharp edge gust is given by the expression

In Chapter 2, and later in Chapter 4, we derived approximate expressions for the magnitude of the derivative Zw, and hence the initial heave bump, for hover and forward flight in the forms

Hover:

Forward flight:

A key parameter in the above expressions is the blade loading (Ma/Ab), to which the gust response is inversely proportional. The much higher blade loadings on rotorcraft, compared with wing loadings on fixed-wing aircraft, are by far the single most sig­nificant reason why helicopters are less sensitive to gusts than are the corresponding fixed-wing aircraft of the same weight and size. An important feature of helicopter gust response in hover, according to eqn 5.78, is the alleviation due to the build-up of rotor inflow. However, as we have already seen in Section 5.3.2, rotor inflow has a time constant of about 0.1 s, hence the alleviation will not be as significant in prac­tice. In forward flight the gust sensitivity is relatively constant above speeds of about 120 knots. This saturation effect is due to the cyclic blade loadings; the loadings pro­portional to forward speed are dominated by the one-per-rev lift. A similar analysis can be conducted for the response of the helicopter in surge and sway with velocity perturbations in three directions. This approach assumes that the whole helicopter is immersed in the gust field instantaneously, thus ignoring any penetration effects or the cyclic nature of the disturbance caused by the rotating blades. An approximation to the effects of spatial variations in the gust strength can also be included in the form of linear variations across the scale of the fuselage and rotor through effective rate derivatives (e. g., Mq, Lp, Nr). In adopting this approach care must be taken to include only the aerodynamic components of these derivatives to derive the gust gains.

While the 6 DoF derivatives provide a useful starting point for understanding helicopter gust response, the modelling problem is considerably more complex. Early work on the analysis of helicopter gust response in the 1960s and 1970s (Refs 5.36­5.41) examined the various alleviation factors due to rotor dynamics and penetration effects, drawing essentially on analysis tools developed for fixed-wing applications. More recently (late 1980s and 1990s) attention has been paid to understanding response with turbulence models more representative of helicopter operating environments, e. g., nap of the earth and recovery to ships (Refs 5.42, 5.43). These two periods of activity are not obviously linked and the underlying subject of ride qualities has received much less attention than handling qualities in recent years; as such there has not been a coherent development of the subject of helicopter (whole-body) response to gusts and turbulence. What can be said is that the subject is considerably more complex than the response to pilot’s controls and requires a different analytical framework for describing and solving the problems. The approach we take in this section is to divide the response problem into three parts and to present an overview: first, the characterization and modelling of atmospheric disturbances for helicopter applications; second, the modelling of helicopter response; third, the derivation of suitable ride qualities. A flavour running through this overview will be taken from current UK research to develop a unified analytic framework for describing and solving the problems contained in all three elements (Ref. 5.44).