The Helicopter Rotor System

in Introduction to the Helicopter

The helicopter rotor system is the rotating part of a helicopter that generates lift. A rotor system may be mounted horizontally, as main rotors are, providing lift vertically; it may be mounted vertically, such as a tail rotor, to provide lift horizontally as thrust to counteract torque effect. In the case of tilt rotors, the rotor is mounted on a nacelle that rotates at the edge of the wing to transition the rotor from a horizontal mounted position, providing lift horizontally as thrust, to a vertical mounted position providing lift exactly as a helicopter.

Tandem rotor (sometimes referred to as dual rotor) helicopters have two large horizontal rotor assemblies; a twin rotor system, instead of one main assembly and a smaller tail rotor. [Figure 1-4] Single rotor helicopters need a tail rotor to neutralize the twisting momentum produced by the single large rotor. Tandem rotor helicopters, however, use counter-rotating rotors, with each canceling out the other’s torque. Counter-rotating rotor blades won’t collide with and destroy each other if they flex into the other rotor’s pathway. This configuration also has the advantage of being able to hold more weight with shorter blades, since there are two sets. Also, all of the power from the engines can be used for lift, whereas a single rotor helicopter uses power to counter the torque. Because of this, tandem helicopters are among some of the most powerful and fastest.

Figure 1-4. Tandem rotor helicopters.

Figure 1-4. Tandem rotor helicopters.

Coaxial rotors are a pair of rotors turning in opposite directions, but mounted on a mast, with the same axis of rotation, one above the other. This configuration is a noted feature of helicopters produced by the Russian Kamov helicopter design bureau. [Figure 1-5]

Figure 1-5. Coaxial rotors.

Figure 1-5. Coaxial rotors.

Intermeshing rotors on a helicopter are a set of two rotors turning in opposite directions, with each rotor mast mounted on the helicopter with a slight angle to the other so that the blades intermesh without colliding. [Figure 1-6] The arrangement allows the helicopter to function without the need for a tail rotor. This configuration is sometimes referred to as a synchropter. The arrangement was developed in Germany for a small anti-submarine warfare helicopter, the Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri. During the Cold War the American Kaman Aircraft company produced the HH-43 Huskie, for USAF firefighting purposes. Intermeshing rotored helicopters have high stability and powerful lifting capability. The latest Kaman K-MAX model is a dedicated sky crane design used for construction work.

Figure 1-6. HH-43 Huskie with intermeshing rotors.

Figure 1-6. HH-43 Huskie with intermeshing rotors.

The rotor consists of a mast, hub, and rotor blades. [Figure 1-7] The mast is a hollow cylindrical metal shaft which extends upwards from and is driven by the transmission. At the top of the mast is the attachment point for the rotor blades called the hub. The rotor blades are then attached to the hub by a number of different methods. Main rotor systems are classified according to how the main rotor blades are attached and move relative to the main rotor hub. There are three basic classifications: semirigid, rigid, or fully articulated, although some modern rotor systems use an engineered combination of these types.

Figure 1-7. Basic components of the rotor system.

Figure 1-7. Basic components of the rotor system.

With a single main rotor helicopter, the creation of torque as the engine turns the rotor creates a torque effect that causes the body of the helicopter to turn in the opposite direction of the rotor. To eliminate this effect, some sort of antitorque control must be used with a sufficient margin of power available to allow the helicopter to maintain its heading and prevent the aircraft from moving unsteadily. The three most common controls used today are the traditional tail rotor, Fenestron (also called a fantail), and the NOTAR®.

51l0aN891BL._SX396_BO1,204,203,200_Are you ready to start your journey learning to fly helicopters? Learning to Fly Helicopters, Second Edition, provides details on the technical and practical aspects of rotarywing flight. Written in a conversational style, the book demystifies the art and science of helicopter flying.


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