Helicopter controls

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A helicopter has four main controls:

  • The cyclic pitch lever controls movement horizontally forward, backwards and to the sides; these are often separated into aileron and elevator, reflecting airplane parlance.
  • The collective pitch lever controls movement vertically.
  • The anti-torque control, often called rudder, controls the direction the helicopter is pointing, usually via the tail rotor.
  • The throttle controls the amount of power generated by the main motor or engine. On a collective pitch helicopter the throttle should be managed to keep a constant rotor speed in the face of changing power demands as the other controls are used. On a fixed pitch helicopter the throttle controls movement vertically by changing the main rotor speed as the motor develops more or less power.

Which controls on your transmitter operate these functions will depend on the transmitter mode you use.

The collective and throttle are usually controlled by the same lever on the transmitter, and how each control moves is set by the pitch curve and throttle curve, allowing throttle to be correlated with the amount of collective pitch used. Often the terms collective and throttle are used interchangeably when talking about vertical control.

While the controls are, individually, quite simple to understand, each of them tends to have some effect on the other controls, and so requires a large degree of anticipation and skill to fly the helicopter well. Additionally, the direction the controls work appears to change as the helicopter moves from tail in, to side on, nose in or inverted, and it is important that the pilot learns to respond to the different orientations instinctively.

See also

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