The presence of cracks in a structure can considerably affect its behaviour. This paper presents a finite element study on the vibration, buckling and dynamic stability behaviour of a racked cylindrical shell with fixed supports and subject to an in plane compressive/tensile periodic edge load. The effects of crack length and orientation are analysed. Under tension load, the results show that the frequency of the shell initially increases with the load, but then decreases as the load further increases leading to buckling due to tension load. The size and the orientation of the crack and the loading parameter can all have a significant effect on the dynamic stability behaviour of the shell under both compressive and tensile loading. The effects of these parameters are discussed in detail. (C) 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.