A test bench for rotors supported by air bearings floating on O-rings is designed in order to study the whirl phenomenon and characterize the stability threshold with damping elements mounted on bearings. The work includes a description of the test bench and some preliminary experimental results. A rotor of mass and diameter is rotated up to by an air turbine machined on the rotor. Capacitance probes, placed in two radial planes, allow orbit scanning of both the rotor and the bushing at different rotating speeds and suitable load devices permit measurement of the static and dynamic stiffness of the rotor-bearing system. Curves of rotational response using rubber O-rings of three different materials are shown and compared. Also presented are the Fourier spectra of the signals for rotor displacement. The phenomenon of whirl instability is shown in terms of whirl frequency and orbit amplitudes of the rotor and bearings. The effects of both supply pressure and angular velocity on the stability threshold are shown.