The influence of three-dimensional flow structures within a compressor blade passage has been examined computationally to determine their role in rotating stall inception. The computations displayed a short length-scale (or spike) type of stall inception similar to that seen in experiments; to the authors’ knowledge this is the first time such a feature has been simulated. A central feature observed during the rotating stall inception was the tip clearance vortex moving forward of the blade row leading edge. Vortex kinematic arguments are used to provide a physical explanation of this motion as well as to motivate the conditions for its occurrence. The resulting criterion for this type of stall inception (the movement of the tip clearance vortex forward of the leading edge) depends upon local flow phenomena related to the tip clearance with the implication that for this and possibly other stall mechanisms the flow structure within the blade passages must be addressed to explain the stability of an axial compression system that exhibits such short length-scale disturbances.

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