Helicopter Antitorque and Drive System

Antitorque System

Helicopters with a single, main rotor system require a separate antitorque system. This is most often accomplished through a variable pitch, antitorque rotor or tail rotor. [Figure 1] Pilots vary the thrust of the antitorque system to maintain directional control whenever the main rotor torque changes, or to make heading changes while hovering. Most helicopters drive the tail rotor shaft from the transmission to ensure tail rotor rotation (and hence control) in the event that the engine quits. Usually, negative antitorque thrust is needed in autorotations to overcome transmission friction.

Helicopter Antitorque System
Figure 1. Antitorque rotor produces thrust to oppose torque


Another form of antitorque system is the fenestron or “fanin-tail” design. This system uses a series of rotating blades shrouded within a vertical tail. Because the blades are located within a circular duct, they are less likely to come into contact with people or objects. [Figure 2]

Helicopter Antitorque System
Figure 2. Fenestron or “fan-in-tail” antitorque system. This design provides an improved margin of safety during ground operations


Using the natural characteristics of helicopter aerodynamics, the NOTAR antitorque system provides safe, quiet, responsive, foreign object damage (FOD) resistant directional control. The enclosed variable-pitch composite blade fan produces a low pressure, high volume of ambient air to pressurize the composite tailboom. The air is expelled through two slots which run the length of the tailboom on the right side, causing a boundary-layer control called the Coanda effect. The result is that the tailboom becomes a “wing,” flying in the downwash of the rotor system, producing up to 60 percent of the antitorque required in a hover. The balance of the directional control is accomplished by a rotating direct jet thruster. In forward flight, the vertical stabilizers provide the majority of the antitorque; however, directional control remains a function of the direct jet thruster. The NOTAR antitorque system eliminates some of the mechanical disadvantages of a tail rotor, including long drive shafts, hanger bearings, intermediate gearboxes and 90° gearboxes. [Figure 3]

Helicopter Antitorque System
Figure 3. While in a hover, Coanda effect supplies approximately two-thirds of the lift necessary to maintain directional control. The rest is created by directing the thrust from the controllable rotating nozzle

Antitorque Drive Systems

The antitorque drive system consists of an antitorque drive shaft and a antitorque transmission mounted at the end of the tail boom. The drive shaft may consist of one long shaft or a series of shorter shafts connected at both ends with flexible couplings. This allows the drive shaft to flex with the tail boom. The tail rotor transmission provides a right angle drive for the tail rotor and may also include gearing to adjust the output to optimum tail rotor rpm. [Figure 4] Tail rotors may also have an intermediate gearbox to turn the power up a pylon or vertical fin.

Helicopter Antitorque Drive System
Figure 4. The tail rotor driveshaft is connected to both the main transmission and the tail rotor transmission