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Helicopter rotor system

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Helicopter rotor system

Main article: Helicopter rotor

The rotor system, or more simply rotor, is the rotating part of a helicopter which generates lift. A rotor system may be mounted horizontally as main rotors are, providing lift vertically, or it may be mounted vertically, such as a tail rotor, to provide lift horizontally as thrust to counteract torque effect. In the case of tiltrotors, the rotor is mounted on a nacelle that rotates at the edge of the wing to transition the rotor from a horizontal mounted position, providing lift horizontally as thrust, to a vertical mounted position providing lift exactly as a helicopter.

The rotor consists of a mast, hub and rotor blades. The mast is a cylindrical metal shaft which extends upwards from and is driven by the transmission. At the top of the mast is the attachment point for the rotor blades called the hub. The rotor blades are then attached to the hub by a number of different methods. Main rotor systems are classified according to how the main rotor blades are attached and move relative to the main rotor hub. There are three basic classifications: semirigid, rigid, or fully articulated, although some modern rotor systems use an engineered combination of these types.


Semirigid rotor system
Semirigid rotor system

A semirigid rotor system allows for two different movements, flapping and feathering. This system is normally comprised of two blades, which are rigidly attached to the rotor hub. The hub is then attached to the rotor mast by a trunnion bearing or teetering hinge and is free to tilt with respect to the main rotor shaft. This allows the blades to see-saw or flap together. As one blade flaps down, the other flaps up. Feathering is accomplished by the feathering hinge, which changes the pitch angle of the blade. Since there is no vertical drag hinge, lead-lag forces are absorbed through blade bending.

Helicopters with semi-rigid rotors are vulnerable to a condition known as mast bumping which can cause the rotor flap stops to shear the mast. Mast bumping is normally encountered during low-G maneuvers, so it is written into the operator's handbook to avoid any low-G conditions.


Fully articulated

In a fully articulated rotor system, each rotor blade is attached to the rotor hub through a series of hinges, which allow the blade to move independently of the others. These rotor systems usually have three or more blades. The blades are allowed to flap, feather, and lead or lag independently of each other. The horizontal hinge, called the flapping hinge, allows the blade to move up and down. This movement is called flapping and is designed to compensate for dissymmetry of lift. The flapping hinge may be located at varying distances from the rotor hub, and there may be more than one hinge. The vertical hinge, called the lead-lag or drag hinge, allows the blade to move back and forth. This movement is called lead-lag, dragging, or hunting. Dampers are usually used to prevent excess back and forth movement around the drag hinge. The purpose of the drag hinge and dampers is to compensate for the acceleration and deceleration caused by Coriolis Effect. Each blade can also be feathered, that is, rotated around its spanwise axis. Feathering the blade means changing the pitch angle of the blade. By changing the pitch angle of the blades you can control the thrust and direction of the main rotor disc.



In a rigid rotor system, the blades, hub, and mast are rigid with respect to each other. The rigid rotor system is mechanically simpler than the fully articulated rotor system. There are no vertical or horizontal hinges so the blades cannot flap or drag, but they can be feathered. Operating loads from flapping and lead/lag forces must be absorbed by bending rather than through hinges. By flexing, the blades themselves compensate for the forces which previously required rugged hinges. The result is a rotor system that has less lag in the control response, because the rotor has much less oscillation.[21] The rigid rotor system also negates the danger of mast bumping inherent in semi-rigid rotors.[22]



Modern rotor systems may use the combined principles of the rotor systems mentioned above. Some rotor hubs incorporate a flexible hub, which allows for blade bending (flexing) without the need for bearings or hinges. These systems, called "flextures",[23] are usually constructed from composite material. Elastomeric bearings may also be used in place of conventional roller bearings. Elastomeric bearings are bearings constructed from a rubber type material and have limited movement that is perfectly suited for helicopter applications. Flextures and elastomeric bearings require no lubrication and, therefore, require less maintenance. They also absorb vibration, which means less fatigue and longer service life for the helicopter components. Read more...