A Historical, Technical, and Military Look at Helicopter Aviation

Feb 01, 2018
While many of us may have studied the physics of flight in middle school, it is unlikely that those basic four forces of flight—lift, gravity, drag, and thrust—were taught in the form in which helicopter aviation uses them. The helicopter is essentially a rotorcraft that uses horizontal and vertical propellers to develop lift and thrust to combat the counterforces of thrust and drag. A helicopter is technically a collection of little wings! 

A Helicopter History
The famous Leonardo da Vinci visualized and sketched the physics of the first concept of the helicopter. It was labeled an ornithopter which morphed from the Greek root ornithos “bird” and pteron “wing”. It is hard to believe that this took place over five hundred years ago, circa 1485. The ornithopter used bird-like functions to fly with wings that flapped like a bird. 

Igor Sikorsky later designed the VS-300, which was eventually mass produced and still exists today. He took his first tethered flight in 1939 and took off the training tethers in 1940. The French and the Germans designed similar aircraft in the early 1900s, but Sikorsky is still known as one of the most notorious engineer of the craft. 

Piloting a Helicopter
It takes diligence and concentration to man a helicopter as the pilot is in charge of four flight control inputs at all times. 

It takes diligence and concentration to man a helicopter as the pilot is in charge of four flight control inputs at all times. 

     - Cyclic Controls: These controls change the rotor blades’ pitch angle. 
     - Collective Controls: The change of the main rotor blades’ pitch angle to be in synch       yet independent of their position on the aircraft is managed by the collective controls.
     - Anti-torque pedals: These pedals operate the tail rudder which controls the direction       of the nose
     - Throttle: A critical control, the throttle dictates the power of the engine via fuel input.

The Heroic Huey
The Bell UH-1 Iroquois is that omnipresent olive-green helicopter that most movie-goers have seen in action-packed movie rescues. But it is not just a fictional hero. First labeled by Bell as the HU-1, the two-blade main rotor, single shaft turbine-powered helicopter was the first turbine powered helicopter to be produced by Bell for the United States military. 

Although the craft was later referred to as UH-1 post-1962, the early name of HU-1 morphed into the "Huey" moniker that most people are familiar with when they see or hear this helicopter. It is the Huey that emits that familiar "whump-whump" blade sound that is familiar to both civilians and military personnel. Over 16,000 military and civilian variations of the Huey family have been manufactured and production continues today.

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