Helicopter Weight and Balance – General Concepts

in Aircraft Weight and Balance

All of the terminology and concepts that apply to airplane weight and balance also apply generally to helicopter weight and balance. There are some specific differences, however, which need to be identified.

Most helicopters have a much more restricted CG range than do airplanes. In some cases, this range is less than 3″. The exact location and length of the CG range is specified for each helicopter, and usually extends a short distance fore and aft of the main rotor mast or centered between the main rotors of a dual rotor system. Whereas airplanes have a center of gravity range only along the longitudinal axis, helicopters have both longitudinal and lateral center of gravity ranges. Because the wings extend outward from the center of gravity, airplanes tend to have a great deal of lateral stability. A helicopter, on the other hand, acts like a pendulum, with the weight of the helicopter hanging from the main rotor shaft.

Ideally, the helicopter should have such perfect balance that the fuselage remains horizontal while in a hover. If the helicopter is too nose heavy or tail heavy while it is hovering, the cyclic pitch control will be used to keep the fuselage horizontal. If the CG location is too extreme, it may not be possible to keep the fuselage horizontal or maintain control of the helicopter.