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Helicopter Flight Model

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grhodes_at_work    1385
To code up a flight model, or flight simulator, you need to research "helicopter flight dynamics" or "rotary-wing flight dynamics." The core of flight simulation is the "flight dynamics." You will find a lot of material on helicopter or rotary-wing "aerodynamics" which is not the same thing. Aerodynamics deals with computing the forces that are applied to the body. And although the forces are required by the flight simulator, you can''t simulate with only the aerodynamics. A good reference on flight dynamics is almost certain to include enough basic information on the aerodynamics to get a basic simulator working.

I''ve studied fixed wing aerodynamics and flight dynamics extensively. And a bit of rotary-wing aerodynamics (advanced turboprop propellers, for my Master''s degree). But not rotary-wing dynamics. So I can''t strongly recommend a particular source of info. However, the AIAA series of books are usually quite good (albeit rather advanced). You might try the following:

"Helicopter Flight Dynamics: The Theory and Application of Flying Qualities and Simulation Modeling" by Gareth Padfield, ISBN 1-56347-205-8, published in 1996.

That one is part of the AIAA education series, which are more geared towards students than the general series. Unfortunately, it ain''t cheap. Count on paying US$100. You might get lucky if you have a local University with a comprehensive engineering library. You might get it cheaper direct from the AIAA, if you sign up for a student membership first. (

There is also a book called "Basic Helicopter Aerodynamics." I''d probably stay away from this one, since it focuses more on the aerodynamics than the dynamics. You need both, and the dynamics part is more critical to writing a simulator. The same comment applies to "Bramwell''s Helicopter Dynamics."

"The Art and Science of Flying Helicopters," by Shawn Coyle, ISBN 0-8138-2169-X, 1996,

looks like it could be interesting.

There is also a book called "Dynamics of Helicopter Flight," by George Saunders, ISBN 0471755095, published in 1975. Most likely out of print long ago, but if you can find it maybe cheaper than the Padfield book. Again, look in a library.

I would also suggest you stay away from "Helicopter Dynamics and Aerodynamics" by Payne. It was originally published in 1959, and guaranteed to be undecipherable.

Graham Rhodes
Senior Scientist
Applied Research Associates, Inc.

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