Rotary-wing aircraft are used for a wide range of applications including military operations, medical emergencies, and tourism. Moreover, each component comprising these vehicles plays an important role in ensuring their safety, reliability, and efficiency. That being said, rotary-wing aircraft incorporate integral parts such as a fuselage, airframe, main rotor system, engine, and more, to stay aloft, all of which will be discussed in further detail below.
1. Fuselage: The Fuselage serves as the outer core of the airframe that houses the cockpit, cabin, and other critical components. It includes landing gear, fuel tanks, and other essential equipment like the skids or wheels which support the aircraft's weight and store fuel that powers the engine.
2. Airframe: The airframe is the portion of the aircraft structure that supports the helicopter's major components, such as the engine, rotor system, and fuselage. Furthermore, it is composed of the frame, skins, spars, and ribs. The frame provides stability and support, whereas the skins provide aerodynamic properties. Meanwhile, the spars and ribs transfer loads to the frame from the engine and rotor system.
3. Main rotor system: The main rotor system is a critical part of rotary-wing aircraft, serving as a means to generate lift and stability, and it consists of rotor blades, a hub, and a mast. The mast is a cylindrical metal shaft that extends upwards from the transmission, and the top of the mast is the attachment point where the rotor blades or the hub are affixed. There are three main types of rotor systems: semirigid, rigid, and fully articulated. While semirigid rotor systems allow their blades to flap, rigid rotor systems have blades that do not flap, but rather bend to accommodate these motions, also called feathering. Finally, a fully articulated rotor system allows for blade leading, lagging, flapping, and feathering, and is only found on helicopters equipped with more than two main rotor blades.
4. Swash plate assembly: The swash plate assembly consists of a stationary and rotating swash plate, and it works to convert stationary control inputs from the pilot into rotating inputs that can be transmitted to the rotor blades or control surfaces. The stationary swash plate is affixed to the mast, while the rotating swash plate is attached to the stationary swash plate, and both swash plates tilt and slide up and down as one unit.
5. Engine: The engine provides power to the main rotor system and other components of the helicopter. There are different types of engines, including reciprocating engines, which are used in smaller helicopters, and more powerful turbine engines, which are used in airplanes. A typical engine consists of a compressor, combustion chamber, turbine, and accessory gearbox, and in such systems, air is compressed by the compressor, mixed with fuel in the combustion chamber, and ignited to produce hot gasses that drive the turbine, powering the main rotor system and other components.
6. The transmission system: transfers power from the engine to the main rotor system and other components. It consists of the main rotor transmission, tail rotor drive system, clutch, and freewheeling unit. The freewheeling unit allows the main rotor transmission to power the tail rotor drive shaft during autorotation. The drive shaft connects the various components of the transmission system and transfers power between them, allowing the proper operation of the aircraft.
7. The fuel system: stores and delivers fuel to the engine, and it consists of two components focused on supply and control. The fuel supply systems feature fuel tanks, fuel quantity gauges, a shut off valve, fuel filter, and fuel pumps. The fuel tanks store the fuel, while fuel lines transport it from the tanks to the engine, providing the necessary pressure to move the fuel through the system. At the same time, fuel filters remove impurities and debris before the fuel enters the engine. In the engine fuel control system, several components work to meter the quantity of fuel necessary to produce the required amount of power.
8. The tail rotor system: in rotary-wing aircraft is used for anti-torque control. It consists of tail rotor blades, a hub, tail rotor gearbox, and pedals. The tail rotor blades are connected to the hub and are smaller in size than main rotor blades, and they transfer power from the engine to the tail rotor gearbox. The pedals are used by the pilot to control the direction of the tail rotor, enabling the helicopter to turn left or right.
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