How Helicopters Work

Request a Private Jet Charter

How Helicopters Work

Silhouette of helicopter taking off at sunset

How Helicopters Work

How Helicopters Work

By Janette Vince

Helicopters are more maneuverable than planes or any other small aircraft.  While a plane can only move forward, a helicopter can hover in place, move side-to-side, rotate 360 degrees, and even fly backwards.   These amazing capabilities make helicopters extremely versatile.  They're used as rescue craft, military vehicles, and law enforcement and surveillance craft.

To explain how a helicopter stays in the air, it helps to understand how a plane's wing works.  A plane's wing is wide at the front and tapers to a point in the back.  This shape forces air beneath the wing as the plane moves forward, giving the vehicle lift.  A helicopter's blades are tapered like an airplane's wing.

A plane must keep moving forward to maintain lift.  A helicopter, however, can keep its "wings" or blades moving continuously.  This endlessly forces air beneath them and generates lift, even while the aircraft itself is hovering in place.  It does this using rotary motion.  Two or more blades are attached to a central shaft, which spins like a ceiling fan.   This construction is situated at the roof of the vehicle, and is called the main rotor.

If you've ever seen a helicopter, you've probably noticed that there's another, smaller propeller at the tail.  That's the tail rotor.  To keep the main rotor spinning quickly enough to achieve lift, most helicopters need a powerful turbine engine.  When the helicopter is off the ground, the force of the engine will spin the body of the helicopter along with the main rotor.  The tail rotor propels the tail of the vehicle sideways, not up.  It provides a resisting force that keeps the body still while the main blades rotate.

To fly a helicopter, you need to use both hands and both feet.  One hand controls a lever called the "cyclic," which moves the helicopter left, right, forward, and backward.  The other hand grips the "collective." This controls the up-and-down movement of the craft, as well as the speed of the engine.  Both feet are resting on pedals that control the tail rotor, which can spin the helicopter on its axis.

The main rotor controls the lift, the direction, and the side-to-side motion of the craft.  The machinery beneath the rotor can change the angles of all blades at the same time, affecting the amount of lift and allowing the craft to move up or down at varying speeds.  In addition, the angles of the blades can be adjusted individually.  This controls the helicopter's horizontal movement, including forward, backward, left, and right.

The tail rotor makes it possible for the helicopter to rotate in a circle.  By changing the angles of the rotor blades, the helicopter can spin on its axis in a complete circle, or make partial turns.

Hovering is the one of the most difficult maneuvers a helicopter can perform.  To hover, the pilot must use the cyclic to keep the helicopter at one point over the ground, use the collective to maintain a certain altitude, and use the foot pedals to keep the helicopter pointing in the right direction.  Windy conditions can make hovering difficult and dangerous, but it's an extremely useful ability.  Helicopter pilots often hover for long periods of time during rescue operations, military maneuvers, and law enforcement missions.

Military helicopters have a slightly different design than civilian helicopters.  Apache helicopters, for instance, have blades sheathed in titanium and graphite composite.  Military helicopter pilots often fly low to the ground in order to avoid surface-to-air missile attacks, and the sturdier blades are built to withstand encounters with tree branches, power lines, and other obstacles.  Apaches are also equipped with missiles, guns, sensors, and armour.

Black Hawk helicopters are also specially equipped.  Because they're often used to transport equipment in war zones, they're designed with two detachable stub wings attached on either side of the fuselage.  Each of these is built with a pylon that can hold up to 9,000 pounds.  Black Hawk helicopters also have a cargo hook on the undercarriage, which can be used to attach large cargo that dangles below the helicopter as it flies.   Black Hawks also have an autopilot feature which stabilizes the craft automatically.

Helicopters are perhaps the most versatile aircraft ever invented.  With their astonishing flight capabilities, they can perform maneuvers no other aircraft can do.  Helicopters are truly remarkable--and they are used to transport equipment, perform crucial military maneuvers, and save lives every day. If you've ever taken a ride in one, you know it's an unforgettable experience.

Janette Vince is managing director of [http://www.thanksdarling.com] For more articles and the opportunity to book helicopter flights and lessons in the UK visit [http://www.thanksdarling.com/categories/flying-lessons.htm]

Article Source: https://EzineArticles.com/expert/Janette_Vince/51962


Janette Vince

Read More from Science of Aviation...

Flying pterodactyl over the sky

Did Pterodactyls Have Challenges With Aerodynamic Flight Flutter - What Was Evolution's Solution?

Flight flutter kills, especially when an aircraft is low and slow, or traveling at a high rate of speed ready to rip apart. What's it like, it's like experiencing chaos in its most natural form. If yo ...

Science of Aviation

Science of Aviation

The Science of Aviation, which allows us to fly, works hand-in-hand with design to create the machines we so admire. Fully comprehending the artistry of aircraft requires understanding the physics and ...

Close up section of jet engine with titanium blades and section of the wing on a blue sky background.

Titanium Metals in Aviation

Just why is titanium so widely used in aviation? Titanium metal has numerous properties that make it an ideal choice when building and manufacturing various parts for airplanes, jet engines, and other ...

Read More from Artistry of the Machine...

Hanriot Monoplane 1900

Reflections of the Hanriot Monoplane by Bill King

This article discusses the design characteristics of the Hanriot Monoplane. It then offers insight by a pilot who has flown it at Cole Palen's Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome in New York for a quarter of a ce ...

Mock-up of boy`s room with airplane pictures and models.

Kids Airplane Decor

If your children or child love the thought of being a pilot and soaring through the air, kids airplane decor may be just what you need. ...

Businessman shows concept hologram 3d helicopter on his hand

Transitional Flight - Rotor Blades Becoming Wings on 3-Bladed Helicopters Considered

The perfect VTOL aircraft design has been the desire of many an aerospace engineer, a flying machine which can go from vertical takeoff to high-speed flight flawlessly, efficiently, and effortlessly. ...

Read More from PJC Flights of Fancy...

Arches and big windows of the 5-star historical boutique hotel with furniture and antiques

Luxury Holidays: Planning Can Extract Maximum Pleasure

Take a journey and set yourself free; put aside your stresses and burdens; omit the pressure from your life; this is to be demanded and expected by people who will be taking vacations. Today's cutting ...

People visit Ben Thanh night market in Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam

Nocturnal Adventures - Shopping in Saigon's Night Market

One of the best parts of traveling abroad is the opportunity it gives us to be adventurous. This includes doing usual, everyday things in unusual settings - shopping, for instance. Nothing compares to ...

Float Plane in the Wilderness with pilot - used for hunting, fishing, trapping, hiking, camping and scenic flight trips into remote back country areas around Alaska

Flying a Float Plane: Benefits and Downsides

Have you ever wanted to fly through the air? Have you ever thought of flying into the wilderness and landing on the water? Check out this article to find out more about how to make this dream a realit ...

Submit an Article


Submit Article

Image (1280px x 600px PNG or JPEG Files Only)
Thumbnail (300px x 300px PNG or JPEG Files Only)