Abstract The dynamic response of an axially accelerating, elastic, tensioned beam is investigated. The time-dependent velocity is assumed to vary harmonically about a constant mean velocity. These systems experience a coriolis acceleration component which renders such systems gyroscopic. The equation of motion is solved by using perturbation analysis. Principal parametric resonances and combination resonances are investigated in detail. Stability boundaries are determined analytically. It is found that instabilities occur when the frequency of velocity fluctuations is close to two times the natural frequency of the constant velocity system or when the frequency is close to the sum of any two natural frequencies. When the velocity variation frequency is close to zero or to the difference of two natural frequencies, however, no instabilities are detected up to the first order of perturbation. Numerical results are presented for different flexural stiffness values and for the first two modes.