Helicopter Structures (Part Two)

in Aircraft Structures

Fully Articulated Rotor System

Fully articulated rotor blade systems provide hinges that allow the rotors to move fore and aft, as well as up and down. This lead-lag, drag, or hunting movement as it is called is in response to the Coriolis effect during rotational speed changes. When first starting to spin, the blades lag until centrifugal force is fully developed. Once rotating, a reduction in speed causes the blades to lead the main rotor hub until forces come into balance. Constant fluctuations in rotor blade speeds cause the blades to “hunt.” They are free to do so in a fully articulating system due to being mounted on the vertical drag hinge.


One or more horizontal hinges provide for flapping on a fully articulated rotor system. Also, the feathering hinge allows blade pitch changes by permitting rotation about the spanwise axis. Various dampers and stops can be found on different designs to reduce shock and limit travel in certain directions. Figure 1-98 shows a fully articulated main rotor system with the features discussed.

Figure 1-98. Fully articulated rotor system.

Figure 1-98. Fully articulated rotor system.

Numerous designs and variations on the three types of main rotor systems exist. Engineers continually search for ways to reduce vibration and noise caused by the rotating parts of the helicopter. Toward that end, the use of elastomeric bearings in main rotor systems is increasing. These polymer bearings have the ability to deform and return to their original shape. As such, they can absorb vibration that would normally be transferred by steel bearings. They also do not require regular lubrication, which reduces maintenance.

Some modern helicopter main rotors have been designed with flextures. These are hubs and hub components that are made out of advanced composite materials. They are designed to take up the forces of blade hunting and dissymmetry of lift by flexing. As such, many hinges and bearings can be eliminated from the tradition main rotor system. The result is a simpler rotor mast with lower maintenance due to fewer moving parts. Often designs using flextures incorporate elastomeric bearings. [Figure 1-99]

Figure 1-99. Five-blade articulated main rotor with elastomeric bearings.

Figure 1-99. Five-blade articulated main rotor with elastomeric bearings.

Antitorque System Ordinarily, helicopters have between two and seven main rotor blades. These rotors are usually made of a composite structure. The large rotating mass of the main rotor blades of a helicopter produce torque. This torque increases with engine power and tries to spin the fuselage in the opposite direction. The tail boom and tail rotor, or antitorque rotor, counteract this torque effect. [Figure 1-100] Controlled with foot pedals, the countertorque of the tail rotor must be modulated as engine power levels are changed. This is done by changing the pitch of the tail rotor blades. This, in turn, changes the amount of countertorque, and the aircraft can be rotated about its vertical axis, allowing the pilot to control the direction the helicopter is facing.

Figure 1-100. A tail rotor is designed to produce thrust in a direction opposite to that of the torque produced by the rotation of the main rotor blades. It is sometimes called an antitorque rotor.

Figure 1-100. A tail rotor is designed to produce thrust in a direction opposite to that of the torque produced by the rotation of the main rotor blades. It is sometimes called an antitorque rotor.

Similar to a vertical stabilizer on the empennage of an airplane, a fin or pylon is also a common feature on rotorcraft. Normally, it supports the tail rotor assembly, although some tail rotors are mounted on the tail cone of the boom. Additionally, a horizontal member called a stabilizer is often constructed at the tail cone or on the pylon.

A Fenestron® is a unique tail rotor design which is actually a multiblade ducted fan mounted in the vertical pylon. It works the same way as an ordinary tail rotor, providing sideways thrust to counter the torque produced by the main rotors. [Figure 1-101]

Figure 1-101. A Fenestron or “fan-in-tail” antitorque system. This design provides an improved margin of safety during ground operations.

Figure 1-101. A Fenestron or “fan-in-tail” antitorque system. This design provides an improved margin of safety during ground operations.

A NOTAR® antitorque system has no visible rotor mounted on the tail boom. Instead, an engine-driven adjustable fan is located inside the tail boom. NOTAR® is an acronym that stands for “no tail rotor.” As the speed of the main rotor changes, the speed of the NOTAR® fan changes. Air is vented out of two long slots on the right side of the tail boom, entraining main rotor wash to hug the right side of the tail boom, in turn causing laminar flow and a low pressure (Coanda Effect). This low pressure causes a force counter to the torque produced by the main rotor. Additionally, the remainder of the air from the fan is sent through the tail boom to a vent on the aft left side of the boom where it is expelled. This action to the left causes an opposite reaction to the right, which is the direction needed to counter the main rotor torque. [Figures 1-102]

Figure 1-102. While in a hover, Coanda Effect supplies approximately two-thirds of the lift necessary to maintain directional control. The rest is created by directing the thrust from the controllable rotating nozzle.

Figure 1-102. While in a hover, Coanda Effect supplies approximately two-thirds of the lift necessary to maintain directional control. The rest is created by directing the thrust from the controllable rotating nozzle.

Controls

The controls of a helicopter differ slightly from those found in an aircraft. The collective, operated by the pilot with the left hand, is pulled up or pushed down to increase or decrease the angle of attack on all of the rotor blades simultaneously. This increases or decreases lift and moves the aircraft up or down. The engine throttle control is located on the hand grip at the end of the collective. The cyclic is the control “stick” located between the pilot’s legs. It can be moved in any direction to tilt the plane of rotation of the rotor blades. This causes the helicopter to move in the direction that the cyclic is moved. As stated, the foot pedals control the pitch of the tail rotor blades thereby balancing main rotor torque. Figures 1-103 and 1-104 illustrate the controls found in a typical helicopter.

Figure 1-103. The collective changes the pitch of all of the rotor blades simultaneously and by the same amount, thereby increasing or decreasing lift.

Figure 1-103. The collective changes the pitch of all of the rotor blades simultaneously and by the same amount, thereby increasing or decreasing lift.

Figure 1-104. The cyclic changes the angle of the swash plate which changes the plane of rotation of the rotor blades. This moves the aircraft horizontally in any direction depending on the positioning of the cyclic.

Figure 1-104. The cyclic changes the angle of the swash plate which changes the plane of rotation of the rotor blades. This moves the aircraft horizontally in any direction depending on the positioning of the cyclic.