Aviation is an important and growing industry around the world — in fact, global commercial helicopter sales were predicted to reach about $5 billion in 2017 alone. But aircraft haven’t always been this popular and commonly used. The world of aviation has undergone a lot of changes over the years, particularly regarding aircraft propellers. And in this article, we’re going to explore the evolution of propellers and how the design has changed to help with vibration and balance issues.
The design of propellers can actually be traced back to the design of the screw, due to their similarities. The screw was invented by Archytas of Tarentum, who died in 350 B.C. — then in the mid-1400s, Leonardo DaVinci drew up the first design of a helicopter, which utilized a rotating screw design.
Finally in the mid-1700s, discussion on how to use the screw technology to power boats began. And in the 1800s, using propellers had become the common method to move boats. However, it wasn’t until Sir George Cayley designed a flying machine in 1843 that propellers were actually used for aircraft.
Of course, the 1903 Wright Flyer designed and built by the Wright Brothers was the first major use of propellers in aircraft and from there, propellers became essential in any and all aircraft design.
Over time, propellers have evolved from fixed pitch wood propellers, which were not ideal for optimal performance of the aircraft, to today’s automatic propellers made from much more durable and lightweight materials.
When propellers are manufactured, they have to be made without geometric inaccuracies. If a propeller is the slightest bit off, transient balance can be thrown off, causing problems like poor functioning and excessive bearing vibration or noise. Fortunately, with the right vibration balancing equipment, helicopter rotor track and balance can be controlled.
Fortunately, today’s propellers are designed to be flawless and work as they should. This is especially true when they’re bought from a reputable seller. But it’s always important to have the right tools on hand to help control transient balance and mitigate any potential problems, like vibration balancing equipment and propeller balancers.