Mathematical Problems in Engineering
Volume 2 (1996), Issue 1, Pages 1-34

A general theory of rotorcraft trim

David A. Peters and Dinesh Barwey

Center of Computational Mechanics, Washington University, St. Louis 63130, MO, USA

Received 7 February 1995

Copyright © 1996 David A. Peters and Dinesh Barwey. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


In this paper we offer a general theory of rotorcraft trim. The theory is set in the context of control theory. It allows for completely arbitrary trim controls and trim settings for multi-rotor aircraft with tests to ensure that a system is trimmable. In addition, the theory allows for “optimal trim” in which some variable is minimized or maximized rather than set to a specified value. The theory shows that sequential trim cannot work for free flight. The theory is not tied to any particular trim algorithm; but, in this paper, it is exercised with periodic shooting to show how free-flying rotorcraft can be trimmed in a variety of ways (zero yaw, zero pitch, zero roll, minimum power, etc.) by use of the general theory. The paper also discusses applications to harmonic balance and auto-pilot trim techniques.