The Anatomy of a Helicopter

Feb 5, 2019 | Liberty, The Helicopter Company News & Events

A helicopter is a rotor-controlled aircraft with a complex anatomy. Although a helicopter is smaller than an airplane, the fast-spinning rotors makes it much more difficult to control. Below, you will learn about the key parts to a helicopter ranging from the cockpit all the way through to the tail rotor.


The cockpit of a helicopter is the central control unit, determining all activity of the helicopter. The pilot will sit in the cockpit with a co-pilot; helicopters not requiring 2 pilots can have another person in the front seat. There are four main controls a helicopter pilot must use in flight: cyclic, collective, anti-torque pedals, and throttle.

Main Rotor

The main rotor is the most important part of the helicopter. It lets the pilot control which way they turn, change altitude and make lateral movements. The pilot communicates these with controls in the cockpit that are linked to the swash plate assembly.

Landing Gear

Landing gear comes in different forms but skids and wheels are the most common. Bear paws, floats and pontoons are also fairly common. Bear paws are attached to the skids and used for helicopters landing off airport on uneven, unstable and soft terrain helping with overall stability.


There are two main types of engines: reciprocating engine and turbine engine. Reciprocating engines use one or more pistons to convert pressure into a rotating motion creating power. Turbine engines use a process of pressurized air mixed with fuel to create high-velocity gas to turn the turbine wheels.

Tail Rotor

The tail rotor is found at the tail end of a helicopter and its primary function is to counteract the torque effect by the main rotor. If the tail rotor wasn’t there, the helicopter would spin in the opposite direction of the main rotor.


Helicopters are used for many different reasons and they may be the most versatile vehicle in the world. A helicopter can do it all: hover, land on uneven ground, travel vertically, horizontally and every other direction in between. From leg-like skids to electric tail rotors, it will be interesting to see how much further the helicopter develops