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What are the problems/downsides/complaints about helicopters?

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Problems; Too little salary.

Downside; It's so much fun u can't live without it. Eventhough planks pay better.

Complaints; Ergonomics, altough it has got better with European ones lately. American manufacturers are still in the 60's with it.

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I'm looking for senior design projects for my Aerospace Engineering degree. What are the problems/downsides/complaints you have while flying helicopters? What are something you want to see changed?


1. vibration

2. noise

3. forward speed limited due to retreating blade stall.

Edited by Goldy
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How about seat design and overall cabin design? Some of those suckers are cramped for someone even my size, 6'0 and 190lbs.

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Ergonomics in most helicopters really bad, some just less bad. Millions of dollars per, and anything automotive after the late 50's is more user friendly.

"Hands on control" switches should be standard, at least for lights and coms.

Windows that open, are useful for ventilation and visibility, and aren't more fragile than eggs to operate.

A place to keep, at hand: RFM; logbook; a few charts; and a clipboard. That's standard kit, maybe somebody should tell the designers about that.

Decent panel lighting. On that note, LEDs and electroluminescent lights wherever possible. Incandescents are not compatible with helos.

Wheeled landing gear that minimizes maintenance, is durable and light.

Blade tie-down kits that aren't Rube Goldberg nightmares. The tip of the blade, at position "X", is always going to be "Y" distance from point "Z" on the airframe. Even in hundred mile an hour winds, that shouldn't require 60 lbs (each) of gear to secure. I've handled blades in high winds, I have an idea of the forces involved.

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I could be wrong but this being for an Aerospace Engineering degree senior design project I imagine he's looking for aerodynamically related ideas. Economic and business related topics would probably be better suited for those degrees. It appears to me only Goldy and palmfish answered his question, though Wally's list - that I very much agree with - is quite comprehensive and could be taken into account as well. IMHO, here's a little extra [unsolicited] starting material:

  • vibration - A tough nut to crack, especially considering the aeroelastic sources of vibration. Adaptive rotor RPM may help some.
  • noise - Getting rid of the need for a tail rotor would go a long way as would better mufflers for piston powered machines. Getting rid of piston engines altogether would help with both noise and vibration.
  • forward speed limited due to retreating blade stall - A combination of an absolutely rigid rotor system, adaptive rotor RPM, and reverse flow blades will go a long way here.
  • endurance - Another hard nut to crack and one that very much depends on the mission. Stopped rotors come to mind for long range endurance; hovering endurance for vertical lift operations is going to necessitate more efficient powerplants.

Unfortunately none of these are small fixes or very adaptable to existing designs. That's why there are engineers; some of them being pilots as well is helpful.



Edited by relyon
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What Wally said :)....by the time I have enough cyclic in for cruise airspeed, I have to lean forward to keep my hands on the controls...and I'm 6'2". Helicopter cockpits are not designed for tall pilots, especially WRT the overhead panel.


Just my .02

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In a perfect world it would great to "Re-Invent" the helicopter but that's not going to happen. Until you get the costs down, no one is going to spend hundreds of millions or possibly billions of dollars re-designing something that no one would be able to afford.


Before we can do any of the things everyone would love to have done to their favorite helicopter, the manufactures have to get the costs down significantly on the products they have already. Then insurance costs. Then we can work on building an aircraft similar to what Arnold had in "The 6th Day."

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Some things like retreating blade stall and the like are aerodynamic issues and the rules of aerodynamics do limit how much can be done there. Things like ergonomics can be greatly improved. Why is it that the pilot seats on a $2M Citiation Mustang are more comfortable than the seats on a $5M helicopter? Look at all the helicopter pilots with back problems. Doesn't sound like much, but an uncomfortable pilot isn't paying 100% attention to the machine. Having to stretch to reach switches. Not all of them will fit on the collective, but you shouldn't have to divert your attention to operate one.


Maintainability is another major issue. Why must I remove unnecessary parts to reach other items? Especially, inspection required items. Why must some preflight inspection and/or test items be buried, making them difficult to see accurately. Or require convoluted procedures to conduct?


Back when British Aerospace was still manufacturing airplanes, when they hired engineers out of school, these engineers were required to work on the factory floor for about two years before they were allowed to put a pencil to paper. They worked not only on the factory floor, but also in structures testing and maintenance. So when they did finally get to work as an engineer, they had an understanding of what the other folks had to go through to build and maintain the aircraft. If you talked with anyone who had maintained Jetstreams, they will tell you that the systems were laid out for the maintenance personnel.


My brother is an engineer and what he tells me about the new kids coming into the field is interesting. A lot of them do not understand tools and how they are used, plus they seem to have a tendency to want to show everyone how smart they are. That is not saying that they do not come up with good ideas. Some times they do. On the other hand, as engineers, their hands can be tied by management or the customer, by limitations placed on them.


Many of the improvements would not be major items. Many small things would improve safety, economy and productivity. MD Helicopters is making wire cutters a standard item. Why isn't everyone else? TCAS II, TWAS, Synthetic vision, better life limit times, blue sky or similar system, etc.

Edited by rick1128
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