Art of the Helicopter

1st Edition

Print ISBN: 9780750657150
eBook ISBN: 9780080472034
Imprint: Butterworth-Heinemann
Published Date: 17th December 2003
Page Count: 416
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The modern helicopter is a sophisticated device which merges a surprising number of technologies together. This wide range of disciplines is one of the fascinations of the helicopter, but it is also makes a complete understanding difficult.

Those searching for an understanding of the helicopter will find The Art of the Helicopter invaluable. John Watkinson approaches every subject associated with the helicopter from first principles and builds up in a clearly explained logical sequence using plain English and clear diagrams, avoiding unnecessary mathematics.

Technical terms and buzzwords are defined and acronyms are spelled out. Misnomers, myths and old wives tales (for there are plenty surrounding helicopters) are disposed of. Whilst the contents of the book are expressed in straightforward language there is no oversimplification and the content is based on established physics and accepted theory. The student of helicopter technology or aerodynamics will find here a concise introduction leading naturally to more advanced textbooks on the subject.

Key Features

  • Designed to complement the instruction of PPL(H) flying training in order to assist helicopter pilots in-training to achieve their "wings".
  • Clear and simple diagrams aid verbal explanations to provide an easy to understand account of how helicopters are made, how they fly and how to fly them.
  • The only book to cover all the aspects of helicopter design, manufacture and performance in one volume.


Students of Aeronautical Engineering; Trainee PPL(H) (Private Helicopter Pilot's License) students; Flying Schools and Flying Instructors; Qualified Helicopter pilots; Aviation enthusiasts.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction to Rotorcraft Applications of the helicopter; A short technical helicopter history; Types of rotorcraft; Rotor configurations; The essential elements; The airframe; Engine and transmission; The fuel system; The landing gear; Oleos and ground resonance; The rotors; The control system; Electrical and hydraulic systems; Instruments and avionics.

Chapter 2. Technical Background Introduction to mechanics; Force, mass and acceleration; Resultants and components of forces; Moments and couples; Work, energy, power and momentum; Efficiency; The mechanics of oscillation; The mechanics of rotation; Sidebands; Fourier analysis; Centrifugal and Coriolis forces; Rotating masses and precession; The gyroscope; Piezo-electric and laser gyroscopes.

Chapter 3. Introduction to Helicopter Dynamics Creating and controlling lift; The centre of pressure; The coefficient of lift; Collective control; In the hover; Forces on the blades; Rotor coning; Torque and thrust in rotors; The rotor as an actuator; Blade element theory; Disc loading; Figure of merit; Blade twist and taper; Swirl; Vertical autorotation; Tip loss and the vortex ring; Ground effect; Cyclic control; Basic manoeuvres; In translational flight; Inflow and coning roll; Rotor H-force; Blade stall and compressibility; The speed limit; Harmonic generation; Vibration in rotors; Harmonic pitch control; Blade design.

Chapter 4. Rotors in Practice The rotorhead; Control; Cyclic and collective mixing; Swashplates, spiders and servo tabs; The advance angle; Force feel and trim systems; Feathering; Why articulated rotors are used; Axes galore; The shaft axis; The tip path axis; The control axis; Flapping; Droopstops; Dragging; Order of hinges; Types of rotorhead; Zero-offset heads; Dangers of zero-offset heads - negative g; Rotor response; Tilting heads; Ground resonance; Air reson


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"The theory and dynamics of helicopter flight are complex and for the uninitiated, difficult. But in this book, British helicopter pilot and technical author John Watkinson sets out to simplify the concepts, and explain in lay-man's terms how a helicopter operates. Using photographs and over 400 diagrams, all aspects of rotary flight are covered including the history of rotor-craft, helicopter dynamics, rotors, tails, power plants and control. This is an excellent book for any helicopter enthusiast." Airforce, Fall 2004 "...clear and simple diagrams that aid verbal explanations of how helicopters are made." -AOPA, 2004 "The Art of the Helicopter is designed to de-mystify the complexity as it examines helicopter aerodynamic theory, design and performance. The book aims to discuss its subjects readably, begin each subject from first principles and build on those in a "clearly explained logical sequence using plain English and clear diagrams, avoiding unnecessary mathematics"... - Flight Safety Digest, May 2004