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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: May 2013

1 - Introduction

Summary

The Helicopter

The helicopter is an aircraft that uses rotating wings to provide lift, propulsion, and control. Figure 1.1 shows t he principal helicopter configurations. The rotor blades rotate about a vertical axis, describing a disk in a horizontal or nearly horizontal plane. Aerodynamic forces are generated by the relative motion of a wing surface with respect to the air. The helicopter with its rotary wings can generate these forces even when the velocity of the vehicle is zero, in contrast to fixed-wing aircraft, which require at ranslational velocity to sustain flight. The helicopter therefore has the capability of vertical flight, including vertical take-off and landing. The efficient accomplishment of heavier-than-air hover and vertical flight is the fundamental characteristic of the helicopter rotor.

The rotor must supply a thrust force to support the helicopter weight. Efficient vertical flight means a high power loading (ratio of rotor thrust to rotor power required, T/P), because the installed power and fuel consumption of the aircraft are proportional to the power required. For a rotary wing, low disk loading (the ratio of rotor thrust to rotor disk area, T/A) is the key to a high power loading. Conservation of momentum requires that the rotor lift be obtained by accelerating air downward, because corresponding to the lift is an equal and opposite reaction of the rotating wings against the air.

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