An experimental study was conducted to investigate the inception patterns of rotating stall at different rotor blade stagger-angle settings with the aim of extending the stable operating range for a variable-pitch axial-flow fan. Pressure and velocity fluctuations were measured for a low-speed axial-flow fan with a relatively large tip clearance. Two stagger-angle settings were tested, the design setting, and a high setting which was 10 degrees greater than the design setting. Rotating instability (RI) was first observed near the peak pressure-rise point at both settings. It propagated in the rotation direction at about 40 to 50% of the rotor rotation speed, and its wavelength was about one rotor-blade pitch. However, the stall-inception patterns differed between the two settings. At the design stagger-angle setting, leading edge separation occurred near the stall-inception point, and this separation induced a strong tip leakage vortex that moved upstream of the rotor. This leakage vortex simultaneously induced a spike and a RI. The conditions for stall inception were consistent with the simple model of the spike-type proposed by Camp and Day. At the high stagger-angle setting, leading edge separation did not occur, and the tip leakage vortex did not move upstream of the rotor. Therefore, a spike did not appear although RI developed at the maximum pressure-rise point. This RI induced a large end-wall blockage that extended into the entire blade passage downstream of the rotor. This large blockage rapidly increased the rotor blade loading and directly induced a long length-scale stall cell before a spike or modal disturbance appeared. The conditions for stall inception were not consistent with the simple models of the spike or modal-type. These findings indicate that the movement of the tip leakage vortex associated with the rotor blade loading affects the development of a spike and RI and that the inception pattern of a rotating stall depends on the stagger-angle setting of the rotor blades.

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