Experimental and numerical studies have been done to examine the effects of excess air ratio and tertiary air swirl number on the formation characteristics of NO in a pilot scale combustor adopting a multi-air staged burner. In numerical calculation the mathematical models for turbulence, radiation and nitric oxide chemistry were taken into account. The radiative transfer equation was solved using the discrete ordinates method with the weighted sum of gray gases model. In the NO chemistry model, the chemical reaction rates for thermal and prompt NO were statistically averaged using a probability density function. The results were validated by comparison with measurements. For the experiment, a 0.2 MW pilot multi-staged air burner has been designed and fabricated. Using the numerical simulation developed here, a variation of thermal and prompt NO formation was predicted by changing the excess air ratio and tertiary air swirl number. As the excess air ratio increased up to 1.9, the formation of the total as well as thermal NO at exit increased while the prompt NO decreased. The formation of thermal NO was more affected by concentration Of O-2 and N-2 than gas temperature. When the tertiary air swirl number increased, the formation of the total as well as the prompt NO slightly decreased because of enhanced mixing of fuel and oxygen in the upstream reaction zone and reduced gas temperature at exit. (C) 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.