Choosing the Right Helicopter Landing Gear

Posted on July 19, 2023 Michael Jones Aviation

Ranging from commercial transport to military search and rescue operations, a helicopters' unique design permits a broader scope of suitable environments for takeoff and landing. Of the various design elements available, one of the most critical in determining application viability is the landing gear. The three main types of landing gear used in helicopters are wheels, skids, and floats. Each of these serves a different purpose and comes with its own sets of advantages and disadvantages. In this blog, we will detail several landing gear options, highlighting their pros and cons to help you better decide which is best for a given application.

Retractable landing gear is an excellent choice when speed and range are top priorities. By retracting the landing gear, the helicopter reduces drag, allowing it to fly faster and cover greater distances. However, retractable landing gear systems are more complex, adding to the overall cost, maintenance, and weight of the helicopter. Despite these drawbacks, larger and heavier helicopters may find the benefits of retractable landing gear outweigh the associated costs due to their relatively smaller impact on overall weight and cost.
Wheeled landing gear is more commonly found on larger and heavier helicopters. Wheels simplify ground movement, enabling helicopters to roll from one location to another with ease. On the other hand, helicopters equipped with skids often require "hover taxiing," which involves taking off into a hover and slowly flying to a new location. Although it is possible to use other machines to lift and transport skid-equipped helicopters, the additional machinery incurs its own costs. Hover taxi operations become less practical for larger helicopters that produce more downwash. The inclusion of wheels adds weight and cost to an aircraft, but the impact is relatively smaller for larger helicopters in comparison to their total weight and cost. As a general rule, helicopters weighing more than 4 tons tend to utilize wheels as their landing gear.
Furthermore, wheeled landing gear can improve run-on landings, which are necessary in situations such as engine emergencies. When a helicopter lacks sufficient power to land with zero speed, a run-on landing with reduced engine power becomes crucial. The addition of wheels facilitates these landings, as they require less engine power compared to a full-stop landing.
Wheeled landing gears can be designed to swivel either passively or be controlled by the pilot. Passive swiveling is simpler but less controllable than pilot-controlled swiveling. Again, the more expensive and complex option is often preferred for heavier and more advanced helicopters.
Skids offer simplicity and cost-effectiveness as their primary advantages. Skid-equipped helicopters are less prone to ground resonance, a phenomenon that can occur with other types of landing gear. Additionally, skids are ideal for landing in softer terrains such as snow or swampy areas. To prevent excessive sinking into wet or soft terrain, skid-equipped helicopters can be fitted with add-on "bear paws." Skids were actually invented by Bell Helicopter in the 1940s in response to reports of early wheeled helicopters getting stuck in muddy and swampy terrain.
When it comes to purchasing helicopter landing gear, it is essential to consider the specific needs of your mission and application. Factors such as speed, range, weight, cost, terrain conditions, and water operations all play a crucial role in determining the most suitable landing gear option. As an AS9120B, ISO 9001:2015, and FAA AC 00-56B accredited enterprise, Purchasing Efficiency understands the importance of delivering high-quality and reliable products to our customers.
With a wide range of helicopter landing gear options available, we are committed to providing exceptional parts and service to find the right solution for your requirements. Whether it is retractable landing gear for increased speed and range or skids for simplicity and cost-effectiveness, our expertise and dedication ensure that you make an informed purchasing decision that enhances the efficiency and safety of your craft.

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