This paper reports an experimental study of axial compressor surge and rotating stall. The experiments were carried out using a three stage axial flow compressor. With the experimental facility the physical parameters of the compression system could be independently varied so that their influence on the transient system behavior can be clearly seen. In addition, a new data analysis procedure has been developed, using a plenum mass balance, which enables the instantaneous compressor mass flow to be accurately calculated. This information is coupled to the unsteady pressure measurements to provide the first detailed quantitative picture of instantaneous compressor operation during both surge and rotating stall transients. The experimental results are compared to a theoretical model of the transient system response. The theoretical criterion for predicting which mode of compression system instability, rotating stall or surge, will occur is in good accord with the data. The basic scaling concepts that have been developed for relating transient data at different corrected speeds and geometrical parameters are also verified. Finally, the model is shown to provide an adequate quantitative description of the motion of the compression system operating point during the transients that occur subsequent to the onset of axial compressor stall.

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