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# BASIC OF HELICOPTER AERODYNAMIC

PROGRAM STUDI TEKNIK PENERBANGAN & TEKNIK AERONAUTIKA FAKULTAS TEKNOLOGI KEDIRGANTARAAN

Ir. Tri Susilo, MT

## Aerodynamic Glossary of Terminologies

Before launching into a detailed discussion of the various forces acting on a helicopter in flight, it is first necessary that you understand the meaning of a few basic aerodynamic terms, how the force of lift is created, and the effect that certain factors have on lift. Airfoil : The shape of a wing which produces lift. Angle of Attack : The angle between the direction of the cord of the blades and the relative direction of the wind. Center of Gravity : An imaginary point where the resultant of all weight forces in the body may be considered to be concentrated for any position of the body Center of Pressure : The imaginary point on the chord line where the resultant of all aerodynamic forces of an airfoil section may be considered to be concentrated. Chord Line : An imaginary straight line between the leading and trailing edges of an airfoil. Drag : The force that tends to resist movement of the airfoil through the air the retarding force of inertia and wind resistance.

## Aerodynamic Glossary of Terminologies

Lift : Consists of the sum of all the fluid dynamic forces on a body perpendicular to the direction of the external flow approaching that body. Pitch Angle : The rotor blade pitch angle is the acute angle between the blade chord line and a reference plane determined by the main rotor hub. Relative Wind : Relative wind is the direction of the airflow with respect to an airfoil. Stall : When the angle of attack increases up to a certain point, the air can no longer flow smoothly over the top surface because of the excessive change of direction required. This loss of streamlined flow results in a swirling, turbulent airflow, and a large increase in drag. Total Aerodynamic Force : The net force vector applied by the various forces of lift.

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Air Properties

Density is defined as the mass of an object divided by its volume. In the atmosphere, air molecules near the surface of the earth are held together more tightly than the molecules in the higher atmosphere because of the gravitational pull of the earth on all the molecules above the surface molecules. The higher up you go in the atmosphere, the fewer the molecules there are above you, and the lower the confining force. Atmospheric pressure reflects the average density (i.e. mass per cubic meter), and thus the weight, of the column of air above a given level; so the pressure at a point on the earths surface must be greater than the pressure at any height above it, in that column. Even when elevation and pressure remain constant, great changes in air density will be caused by temperature changes. Therefore, as temperature increases, air becomes less dense, density altitude is increased, and the helicopter performance decreases. When temperature and pressure are constant, changes in the moisture content of the air will change air density. Water vapor weighs less than dry air. Therefore, as the moisture content of the air increases, air becomes less dense; density altitude is increased with a resultant decrease in helicopter performance .
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Air Temperature

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Airfoil

An airfoil is any surface designed to produce lift or thrust when air passes over it. Propellers and wings of airplanes are airfoils. Rotor blades on helicopters are airfoils. The wing of an airplane is normally an unsymmetrical airfoil, that is, the top surface has more curvature than the lower surface. The main rotor blades of most helicopters are symmetrical airfoils. That is, having the same curvature on both upper and lower surfaces. On an unsymmetrical airfoil, the center of pressure is variable as the angle of attack increases, the center of pressure moves forward along the airfoil surface; as the angle of attack decreases, the center of pressure moves rearward. On a symmetrical airfoil, center of pressure movement is very limited. A symmetrical airfoil is preferred for rotor blades so that a relatively stable center of pressure is maintained. Improvements in control systems may allow more latitude in blade designs in the future.

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Airfoil Construction

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Airfoil Construction

Relative Wind

Relative Wind

Relative Wind

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Symmetrical Airfoil

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Unsymmetrical Airfoil

Angle of Attack

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Angle of Attack

Relationship between the angle of attack and relative wind for various position of the rotor blade

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Generating of Lift

The force, lift, is derived from an airfoil through a principle often referred to as Bernoulli's Principle or the "venturi effect." As air velocity increases through the constricted portion of a venturi tube, the pressure decreases. Compare the upper surface of an airfoil with the constriction in the venturi tube. They are very similar. The upper half of the venturi tube is replaced by layers of undisturbed air. Thus, as air flows over the upper surface of an airfoil, the curvature of the airfoil causes an increase in the speed of the airflow. The increased speed of airflow results in a decrease in pressure on the upper surface of the airfoil. At the same time, airflow strikes the lower surface of the airfoil at an angle, building up pressure. The combination of decreased pressure on the upper surface and the increased pressure on the lower surface results in an upward force. This is the force, lift.

## Drag & Stall

At the same time the airfoil is producing lift, it also is subject to a drag force. Drag is the term used for the force that tends to resist movement of the airfoil through the air--the retarding force of inertia and wind resistance. This force, drag, causes a reduction in rotor revolutions per minute (RPM) when the angle of attack is increased. An increase in angle of attack then not only produces an increase in lift, but it also produces an increase in drag.

When the angle of attack increases up to a certain point, the air can no longer flow smoothly over the top surface because of the excessive change of direction required. This loss of streamlined flow results in a swirling, turbulent airflow, and a large increase in drag causes a sudden increase in pressure on the top surface resulting in a large loss of lift or stall.

## Lift & Angle of Attack

As the angle of attack of an airfoil increases, the lift increases (up to the stall angle) providing the velocity of the airflow (relative wind) remains the same. Since the pilot can increase or decrease the angle of attack by increasing or decreasing the pitch angle of the rotor blades through the use of the collective pitch cockpit control, lift produced by the rotor blades can be increased or decreased. The pilot must remember, however, that any increase in angle of attack will also increase drag on the rotor blades, tending to slow down the rotor rotation. Additional power will be required to prevent this slowing down of the rotor.

## Lift & Air Density

Lift varies directly with the density of the air--as the air density increases, lift and drag increase; as air density decreases, lift and drag decreases. Due to the atmospheric changes in temperature, pressure, or humidity, the density of the air may be different, even at the same altitude, from one day to the next or from one location in the country to another. Because air expands when heated, hot air is less dense than cold air. For the helicopter to produce the same amount of lift on a hot day as on a cold day, the rotor blades must be operated at a higher angle of attack. This requires that the blades be operated at a greater pitch angle which increases rotor drag and tends to reduce rotor RPM. Therefore, to maintain a constant rotor RPM, more throttle is required. For this reason, a helicopter requires more power to hover on a hot day than on a cold day.

## Lift & Air Velocity, Weight

As the velocity of the airflow (relative wind) increases, the lift increases for any given angle of attack. Since the pilot can increase or decrease the rotor RPM which, in turn, increases or decreases the velocity of the airflow, the amount of lift can be changed. As a general rule, however, the pilot attempts to maintain a constant rotor RPM and changes the lift force by varying the angle of attack.

The total weight (gross weight) of a helicopter is the first force that must be overcome before flight is possible. Lift, the force which overcomes or balances the force of weight, is obtained from the rotation of the main rotor blades.

## Helicopter performance is reduced at high elevations

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## High humidity (especially on hot days) reduces helicopter performance

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## Calm wind reduces helicopter hovering performance

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## Lift & All Conditions

The most adverse conditions for helicopter performance include the combination of high density altitude, heavy load (high gross weight) and calm wind
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Nomenclature

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References

Donald M. Layton, Helicopter Performance, Matrix Publishers. Inc., Beaverton, Oregon, 1984. G.J.J. Ruijgrok, Element of Airplane Performance, Delft University Press, Netherland, 1990. Jacob Shapiro, Principles of Helicopter Engineering, McGraw-Hill Book Co.Inc, New York, USA, 1956. Prouty, R.W. Helicopter Performance Stability and Control, PSW Engineering, Boston, 1986. http ; www.helicopter.com.

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