Stability theory for a pair of trailing vortices
AIAA Journal 8 (12): 2172--2179 (December 1970)

Trailing vortices do not decay by simple diffusion. Usually they undergo a symmetric and nearly sinusoidal instability, until eventually the join at intervals to form a train of vortex rings. The present theory accounts for the instability during the early stages of its growth. The vortices are idealized as interacting lines; their core diameters are taken into account by a cutoff in the line integral representing self-induction. The equation relating induced velocity to vortex displacement gives rise to an eigenvalue problem for the growth rate of sinusoidal perturbations. Stability is found to depend on the products of vortex separation b and cutoff distance d times the perturbation wavenumber. Depending on those products, both symmetric and antisymmetric eigenmodes can be unstable, but only the symmetric mode involves strongly interacting long waves. An argument is presented that d/b = 0.063 for the vortices trailing from an elliptically loaded wing. In that case, the maximally unstable long wave has a length 8.6b and grows by a factor e in a time 9.4(AR/CL)(b/V0), where AR is the aspect ratio, CL is the lift coefficient, and V0 is the speed of the aircraft. The vortex displacements are symmetric and are confined to fixed planes inclined at 48° to the horizontal.
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