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How Helicopters Work

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How Helicopters Work

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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


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Janette Vince

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