How to fly a helicopter.

How to fly a helicopter
How to fly a helicopter? Isn’t that a cool thing to know? Remember your childhood days when the guy who knew how to drive a car was cool? Well, times have indeed changed. How do we know that? Say thanks to this show:

Helicopter episode - Neeya naana 

For the uninitiated, you’ve got to watch this reality TV debate show Here a girl has special wedding demands. She wants to land in a helicopter for her wedding with her groom. We cannot blame her…. expectations were set.

After watching the show my friend Shyam wanted me to do some research and come up with an article.

 

How do I fly a helicopter?
So let’s go!! But before that, you need to hit LIKE below and stay connected with the control tower on Facebook.

First, let’s take a small lesson on how helicopters are able to fly.


How helicopters fly: 

It is obvious that the helicopter is able to fly because of its rotary blades. The blades are in a way like an aircraft‘s wings.

Helicopter rotor blades
Now, the aircraft and the helicopter are able to fly because of Bernoulli’s principle.

 
It’s the same thing that’s happening here:

bernoulli's principle in helicopters 
When air with varying velocities move over a body, it can cause a lift or a drop.
This is because air moving with higher velocity creates a low-pressure zone. Air with lesser velocity creates a high-pressure zone. This causes the body to move from high-pressure to low-pressure zone, experiencing a lift. If the high-pressure zone were to be above the body, it will experience a drop.
Bernoulli's principle in helicopters
 
That is what is happening at the aircraft‘s wings and the helicopter’s blades. Flights create air velocity by moving itself against air by cruising at high speeds. Helicopters create air velocity by moving its blades at high speeds in a rotary motion.
 
So, the helicopter lifts off or lands by adjusting the angular position of the rotary blades. It is known as the pitch angle of the blade.

pitch angle of helicopter blade 
The swashplate is the mechanism that controls the angular position of the blades. By causing changes in the pitch angle of blades at particular points of their rotation, it is able to induce a directional thrust for the helicopter.
 
They are able to stand in a fixed position by making sure the lift force created by the blades is equal to their weight. This is known as hovering.

Maintaining helicopter hover 
They’re able to bank because of the swash plate. It causes the blades to alternate their position cyclically while rotating. This creates a lift on one side and a drop on the other. So the chopper will experience a bank.

 
One last thing you need to know about the chopper is the rotor at its tail.
Since the blades are rotating and lifting the chopper up, it’s almost like a stone tied to a string being lifted up. It experiences an angular torque that will make it spin. To counter that spin, the rotor at the tail produces a counter torque.

helicopter tail rotor action
Now let’s look at the helicopter’s controls. We will then take a look at some basic maneuvers like starting the chopper, take off, landing, and turning.


Understanding helicopter controls:

There are four main controls in the helicopter. They are:
  1. The cyclic control.
  2. The collective control.
  3. Anti-torque pedals and
  4. The throttle.
 
 

The cyclic control:

 
The cyclic is what you see the pilot holding in his hand. It’s either like a joystick, or looks like this:

cyclic control in helicopters 
The second one can be managed by either of the pilots. What you will use the cyclic for is to navigate the helicopter. It’s more like the heli’s steering system.
 

The cyclic controls the swash plate. We know that the swash plate makes the helicopter bank and turn. So what happens when you move your cyclic towards a particular direction is that the heli banks to that side. This means that the position of the blades has been made to alternate by the swash plate.

cyclic control in helicopters

2. The collective control:

 
The collective is a lever at the left side of the pilot. Almost similar to a car handbrake lever in appearance and working. It’s function, of course, is different. What it does is, it controls the pitch angle of all the blades at once. So it causes the ascent or descent.

collective control in helicopter 
So if you get yourself seated in a helicopter and pull this lever up, you’re going to be taking off!
 
Use of the collective along with the cyclic control will make the chopper dive down or swoop upwards. So if you were to pull the collective and push the cyclic forward, you’re going to be making a forward ascent.
 

3. The Anti-torque pedals:

 
These can be seen at the front of the pilot’s seat on the floor. They resemble the car pedals, but their function is entirely different. Remember the rotor in the helicopter’s tail? These pedals are used to control that rotor.

Anti torque pedals in a helicopter
By depressing the pedal on the left, you increase the thrust produced by the tail rotor. This will rotate the chopper’s tail towards the right and the nose towards the left.
 
If you depress the one on the right, it will decrease the tail rotor thrust. The tail will rotate towards the left and the nose towards the right.
 
While in flight, the pilot uses the pedals to keep the helicopter facing straight. You can also make the chopper do a clock-wise about turn by depressing the right pedal. Depressing the left pedal will do the vice versa.
 

4. Throttle:

 
The throttle consists of a twistable handle on the collective lever. For most helicopters, the rotor speed is a set constant value. The throttle controls the engine’s power output. During the flight, though, pressure variations will need the pilot to make changes. So to make sure the rotor speed is maintained constant, the throttle is made us of.

helicopter throttle
So, here’s an overview of helicopter control systems to conclude:
helicopter controls 
Let us now look at some of the maneuvers and how we will be able to do it. Let’s start by learning how to start a helicopter. Here’s a simple video that takes a tour of helicopter flight controls.
 

How to start a helicopter:

 
Now, it is obvious that no two helicopters are the same. Even with the same heli, no two occasions of taking off are the same. Thus there is a checklist known as preflight checklist. Each manufacturer will have a flight check manual for his vehicle. Preflight checks include stuff like checking fuel levels, weather, air traffic etc.

helicopter preflight checklist 
The basic start up process includes the following:
 
  1. Turn the battery on and throw the ignition switch on
  2. Use the throttle to set engine RPM at 50 to 60%
  3. Engage the clutch by turning on the switch. The blades will start rotating.
  4. You’ll have to turn on the alternators, avionics, the governor and the headset.
  5. Increase throttle to set engine RPM a notch above 100%. Lift the collective up slowly and you’re ready for take off.
 
Let’s take a look at how you can lift off in your helicopter.
 

How to perform a take off with a helicopter:

 
Helicopter lift off is a lot of work. This is because, in a helicopter, a change in one control system will set off a list of changes. That will demand that the pilot makes adjustments to the other controls as well. 
 
Thus a helicopter lift off is not limited to lifting the collective lever. it involves the following actions and adjustments.
 
  1. After the helicopter is made ready for take off, the collective lever is lifted. The chopper will lift off.
  2. Control the helicopter from rotating clockwise by using the left anti-torque pedal. Make sure the nose of the helicopter is always facing straight towards your heading.
  3. Make use of the cyclic to neutralize unwanted movements and stabilize the heli.
  4. A proper lift off has to be steady. This demands that the pilot makes sensitive adjustments to the controls.

helicopter take off 
Now, that you know how to lift off the chopper, let’s learn to hover forward.
 

How to hover with a helicopter:

 
Hovering refers to a maneuver where the helicopter is stationary at a point in the air. People refer to it as the most difficult maneuver in a helicopter. To hover in a stabilized position, you’ll have to make minor adjustments to the controls. After take off, make use of the cyclic to stabilize the helicopter’s movements. Use the collective to control altitude and the anti-torque pedals to control heading. Keep making adjustments to maintain balance.

Helicopter hovering
A helicopter hovering over water.

 

How to hover forward in a helicopter:

 
To hover forward in a helicopter, you’ll have to take the cyclic forward. The collective will control the level of the helicopter while it hovers forward.
 
The same way sideways and rearwards movement of the cyclic will induce banking movements. All the while, other controls such as the anti- torque pedals need attention too.

Helicopter hovering forward, backward and banking movements
Clockwise: 1. Hovering forward 2. Banking sideways 3. Hovering backwards

 

How to perform a cyclic hovering turn in a helicopter:

 

A cyclic hovering turn is a maneuver in which the helicopter’s nose takes a turn. The copter is hovering in a stationary position and makes an 180-degree turn. The anti-torque pedal movements make it possible. When the chopper is in the hovering position, by depressing the left pedal, you cause it to turn left.

 

helicopter cyclic hovering turn
Helicopter cyclic hovering turn principle.
 

How to land the helicopter:

 
To land the helicopter, you’ll have to make the copter hover over the landing point. Stabilizing the other controls, the collective is lowered to make the landing. Just before touchdown, the collective is raised slightly to cushion the landing.

Helicopter landing procedure 
Of course, this is only a whiteboard explanation of the procedures. Most pilots consider flying a helicopter to be more difficult than flights. It requires an instinctive feel for the heli’s controls. There is more than meets the eye to flying a helicopter. And here, we’ve talked about only what meets the eye. So go ahead and learn more and fly higher. Let us know through the comments if you know more about flying a copter.
 
Here’s some reference material based on which the article was written.
 
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