How a Helicopter Works and How a Helicopter Crashes

How a Helicopter Works and How a Helicopter Crashes

How a Helicopter Works and How a Helicopter Crashes

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento helicopter crash lawyer. Helicopters are often the subject of great wonderment as people try to understand them. The common joke is that helicopters only fly because “they’re so ugly the ground repels them.” In reality, however, helicopters are fairly simple machines. Understanding how they work can then provide insight on why they crash.

Basic Components of a Helicopter

All helicopters are made up of seven key parts, although their specific design will vary based on the make and model of the aircraft. The most recognizable components are the airframe that serves as the outer shell of a helicopter and the main rotor systems that circle overhead.

The fuselage is the section where passengers sit and has one of the most varied designs. The tail rotor is another key section that varies greatly from aircraft to aircraft.

The other three primary components are the transmission, powerplant, and, most importantly, the landing gear.

Four Keys Forces for Flight

Four key forces enable these structures to fly through the air: lift, thrust, weight, and drag. Lift refers to the forces that bring the aircraft into the air and thrust refers to the force that propels the aircraft through the air. Both of these forces are produced by the main rotor system.

Weight is a self-explanatory force that opposes lift. Meanwhile, drag is the force that restrains the aircraft along the horizontal axis, balancing out the thrust of the aircraft.

How a Helicopter Flies

When the four forces above are all in equilibrium, the helicopter is considered to be in stable flight. A pilot can increase the amount of lift by increasing the speed of the rotors. A pilot can then make the helicopter go faster by tilting the main rotor system to improve thrust.

Drag and weight serve largely as a restricting influence on the aircraft that prevent a pilot from losing control of the aircraft when manipulating the lift and thrust.

Why Helicopters Crash

Helicopters crash when the lift, thrust, and drag fall out of balance quickly or without warning. This can be caused by a mechanical failure, pilot error, or the natural environment, as described below.

How Terrain Can Impact Helicopter Crashes

Terrain can have a large impact on a helicopter’s ability to fly because an aircraft’s lift is partially dependent on its relation to the ground. The downward flow of air from the helicopter’s rotor wash push against the ground, offering the helicopter more lift. Therefore, a rapid shift in terrain can impact the lift necessary for flight.

Smaller rotary wing aircraft cannot actually fly over large holes in the ground like mining pits as the loss of ground effect will cause the helicopters to crash.

How the Weather Can Contribute to Helicopter Crashes

As the stability of the four forces described above is key, weather can seriously impact helicopter operations as it influences the lift, thrust, and drag. High winds can be especially dangerous for this reason as they greatly influence the helicopter’s thrust and drag.

If you, or someone you love, have been serioulsy injured or lost their life during a flight, please contact an experienced California helicopter accident lawyer right away.

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Attorney Ed Smith

California Helicopter Accident Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento helicopter crash lawyer. If you, or a loved one has been injured in a helicopter accident, I encourage you to call me at (916) 921-6400 for free, friendly advice. You may also call me free of charge at (800) 404-5400.

I have been practicing wrongful death and personal injury law for more than three decades and am here to help you in your time of need.

To see how I have helped others, look at my reviews on Yelp, Avvo, and Google Plus.

You are also welcome to look at my Past Verdicts and Settlements page.

I am also a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, a group of trial lawyers that have won multiple settlements or verdicts worth more than one million dollars.

Image Attribution: Wikimedia Commons By © Raimond Spekking / CC BY-SA 4.0 (via Wikimedia Commons), CC BY-SA 4.0,

Source of Helicopter Crashes ~ Law Offices of Edward A. Smith

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