Most helicopters, other than smaller piston-powered helicopters, incorporate the use of hydraulic actuators to overcome high control forces. [Figure 1] A typical hydraulic system consists of actuators, also called servos, on each flight control, a pump which is usually driven by the main rotor transmission and a reservoir to store the hydraulic fluid. Some helicopters have accumulators located on the pressure side of the hydraulic system. This allows for a continuous fluid pressure into the system. A switch in the cockpit can turn the system off, although it is left on under normal conditions. When the pilot places the hydraulic switch/circuit breaker into the on position, the electrical power is being removed from the solenoid valve allowing hydraulic fluid to enter the system. When the switch/circuit breaker is put in the off position, the solenoid valve is now de-energized and closes, which then allows the pilot to maintain control of the helicopter with the hydraulic fluid in the actuators. This is known as a failsafe system. If helicopter electrical power is lost in flight, the pilot is still able to maintain control of the hydraulic system. A pressure indicator in the cockpit may also be installed to monitor the system.
|Figure 1. A typical hydraulic system for helicopters in the light to medium range|
When making a control input, the servo is activated and provides an assisting force to move the respective flight control, thus reducing the force the pilot must provide. These boosted flight controls ease pilot workload and fatigue. In the event of hydraulic system failure, a pilot is still able to control the helicopter, but the control forces are very heavy. In those helicopters in which the control forces are so high that they cannot be moved without hydraulic assistance, two or more independent hydraulic systems may be installed.
Some helicopters use hydraulic accumulators to store pressure, which can be used for a short period of time in an emergency if the hydraulic pump fails. This gives you enough time to land the helicopter with normal control.