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Rotor configurations

Helicopter rotor system

 Controlling flight

Alternative power sources


Hazards of helicopter flight

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A Canadian Helicopter Corporation Bell 206

A helicopter is an aircraft which is lifted and propelled by one or more horizontal rotors, each rotor consisting of two or more rotor blades. Helicopters are classified as rotorcraft or rotary-wing aircraft to distinguish them from fixed-wing aircraft because the helicopter derives its source of lift from the rotor blades rotating around a mast. The word 'helicopter' is adapted from the French hélicoptère, coined by Gustave de Ponton d'Amecourt in 1861. It is linked to the Greek words helix/helik- (ἕλικ-) = "spiral" or "turning" and pteron (πτερόν) = "wing".

As an aircraft, the primary advantages of the helicopter are due to the rotor blades that revolve through the air, providing lift without requiring the aircraft to move forward the way an airplane does. This creates the ability for the helicopter to take off and land vertically without the need for runways. For this reason, helicopters are often used to operate in congested or isolated areas where airplanes are generally not able to take off or land. The lift from the rotor also allows the helicopter to hover in one area for extended periods of time, and to do so more efficiently than other forms of vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft, allowing it to accomplish tasks that airplanes are unable to perform.

Although helicopters were developed and built during the first half-century of flight, some even reaching limited production, it wasn't until 1942 that a helicopter designed by Igor Sikorsky became the first helicopter to enter full-scale production,with 131 aircraft built.Even though most previous designs utilized more than one main rotor, it was the single main rotor with antitorque tail rotor configuration of this design that would come to be recognized worldwide as the helicopter.