Settling With Power is a condition of powered flight where the helicopter settles into its own downwash.
It is also known as Vortex Ring State.

Conditions conducive to settling with power are a vertical or nearly vertical descent of at least 300 feet per minute and low forward airspeed. The rotor system must also be using some of the available engine power (from 20 to 100 percent) with insufficient power available to retard the sink rate. These conditions occur during approaches with a tailwind or during formation approaches when some aircraft are flying in turbulence from other aircraft.

Under the conditions described above, the helicopter may descend at a high rate which exceeds the normal downward induced flow rate of the inner blade sections. As a result, the airflow of the inner blade sections is upward relative to the disk. This produces a secondary vortex ring in addition to the normal tip vortex system. The secondary vortex ring is generated about the point on the blade where airflow changes from up to down. The result is an unsteady turbulent flow over a large area of the disk which causes loss of rotor efficiency even though power is still supplied from the engine.

This graphic shows induced flow along the blade span during normal hovering flight:

Downward velocity is highest at the blade tipwhere blade airspeed is highest.
As blade airspeed decreases nearer the disk center,downward velocity is less.

This graphic shows induced airflow velocity pattern along the blade span during a descent conducive to settling with power:

The descent is so rapid that induced flow at the inner portion of the blades is upward rather than downward.
The upflow caused by the descent has overcome the downflow produced by blade rotation.

If the helicopter descends under these conditions, with insufficient power to slow or stop the descent, it will enter vortex ring state:

During the vortex ring state, roughness and loss of control is experienced because of the turbulent rotational flow on the blades and the unsteady shifting of the flow along the blade span.

This graphic shows the horizontal speed versus vertical speed relationship for a typical helicopter in a descent. Straight lines emanating from the upper left corner are lines of constant descent angle. Superimposed on this grid are flow state regions for the typical helicopter. From this, several conclusions regarding vortex ring state can be made:

The vortex ring state can be completely avoided by descending on flightpaths shallower than about 30 degrees (at any speed).
For steeper approaches, vortex ring state can be avoided by using a speed either faster or slower than the area of severe turbulence and thrust variation.
At very shallow angles of descent, the vortex ring wake is shed behind the helicopter.
At steep angles, the vortex ring wake is below the helicopter at slow rates of descent and above the helicopter at high rates of descent.

Power settling is an unstable condition. If allowed to continue, the sink rate will reach sufficient proportions for the flow to be entirely up through the rotor system. If continued, the rate of descent will reach extremely high rates. Recovery may be initiated during the early stages of power settling by putting on a large amount of excess power. During the early stages of power settling, the large amount of excess power may be sufficient to overcome the upflow near the center of the rotor. If the sink rate reaches a higher rate, power will not be available to break this upflow, and thus alter the vortex ring state of flow.

Normal tendency is for pilots to recover from a descent by application of collective pitch and power. If insufficient power is available for recovery, this action may aggravate power settling resulting in more turbulence and a higher rate of descent. Recovery can be accomplished by lowering collective pitch and increasing forward speed. Both of these methods of recovery require altitude to be successful.

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Page Last Updated on: Dec-23-2002