Helicopters have a speed limit
that has nothing to do with laws. Well, unless you count the laws of physics. Hey it’s me Destin. Welcome back to Smarter Every Day.
The show where we do science. So today I’m gonna explain to you something pretty interesting about the dissymmetry of rotor flight. But before we get too serious, let’s just have a little fun. Check this out. Nighttime flying with Carl. ( rotor noise )
Sick! ( rotor noise ) ( excited shouts ) ( laughing ) Right there. ‘kay we’re going to do some light painting with a helicopter at night. ( rotor noise ) ( music ) ( music ) Did you see that?
Look real close. Go back to the image. If you look on one side you see this really tight radius of curvature. But on the other side you see a much larger radius
of curvature. What’s going on there? OK so to explain the effects of this
unsymmetric travel of the blades I’ve rigged one up on a stick here,
and I’m gonna try, let’s see if this works. There we go.
So as the advancing blade comes around, it’s moving faster relative to the air because
the helicopter’s moving so you add those two values together,
but the retreating blade, you subtract away the velocity of the blade from the forward
air speed and that’s the total relative velocity of the blade through the air.
This causes some funny things. OK Let’s start the blades and check things out.
As the chopper flies forward, the air flows over both sides of the helicopter.
The advancing blade is also travelling forward so this adds to the air velocity
of the rotor on that side. Now as long as the air speed of the rotor stays
under the sound barrier you’re OK. But if the helicopter goes too fast you’ll
create shock waves and start to damage things. The retreating blade sees
the same airflow of the vehicle movement but because the blade is travelling in the opposite
direction from that movement the actual air speed of that rotor is less.
This creates something called Dissymmetry of Lift, and to counterract this
the rotor on the retreating side is given more pitch to produce
more lift. This works up to a point, but if the helicopter goes too fast,
the pitch becomes too great and you lose lift creating what’s called a retreating blade stall. The cool thing about a retreating blade stall is that it is
a self correcting problem. If you think about it due to gyroscopic procession, if you have
a dissymmetry of lift between a left and right side of the helicopter, it won’t roll the helicopter
like you think it would, it actually pitches it. That’s good news because as you’re
flying along if you get too fast and you get a retreating blade stall, it’ll just slow
the helicopter down, automatically. OK There’s a lot of things I did not cover in this video series, but for the most part you should be way smarter than when we started on helicopters.
Smart enough in fact where you can make an educated guess as to which of these three helicopters
is the fastest in the US Army inventory. While you’re thinking about that please consider going to the Facebook page. I put all the photos from the night flights on there. Go download them, use them as your
desktop background, stuff like that. While you’re there please Like the Facebook page. Also if you have ideas for future Smarter Every Day episodes please Tweet me, I’d appreciate that, at SmarterYoutube. It’s been about a year since we started Smarter Every Day. If you have ideas for a one year episode I’m all ears. OK. Enough babbling. The answer is the Chinook.
It is the fastest in the US Army inventory. I’m Destin. You’re getting Smarter Every Day.
Have a good one. ( music ) [ Captions by Andrew Jackson ]