Pitch Axis Response Criteria

Before we embark on a discussion of pitch axis flying qualities criteria, it is useful to reflect on the different axis pairings that arise in flying qualities. The conventional approach places roll and yaw together, and pitch and heave together, in classical lateral – directional and longitudinal motions. This is certainly the approach we took in Chapter 4 when analysing flight dynamics in terms of the natural modes. But when it comes to flying qualities criteria, we typically find roll and pitch having much in common. Just as with fixed-wing aircraft, in high-speed flight the pilot has the most powerful control over an aircraft’s flight path with his centre-stick, through ailerons and elevator or lateral and longitudinal cyclic. At hover, and in low-speed flight, the cyclic is used to redirect the helicopter rotor’s thrust, and harmony between roll and pitch flying qualities is particularly important because mixed pilot commands are a regular occurrence. In this context we should expect similar formats for roll and pitch flying qualities criteria. While this is the case in low-speed manoeuvres, the requirements on the pitch axis in forward flight are quite different from roll in many details. Pitch cyclic is the primary speed control, provides the mechanism for pulling g in manoeuvres, enables fuselage pointing and is a powerful motivator for the control of flight path angle in high-speed flight. Pilots of conventional helicopters are familiar with an impure response type in the pitch axis in forward flight rate in the short term, washing off quite rapidly as speed and incidence change, to give an attitude change in the mid term. The longitudinal stick position therefore provides a powerful cue to the pilot of the forward airspeed and pitch attitude of the helicopter. In response-type terms, however, this most closely resembles a rate response type and hence the related criteria apply.

As we examine the criteria for different areas on the response diagram, we shall find many similarities with the roll axis, but we will also see differences, especially in the areas of dynamic and quasi-static stability. Comparison with equivalent criteria for fixed-wing aircraft will provide interesting points for discussion when comparing the different roles and associated task bandwidths associated with the two types of aircraft.

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