Take the 2-minute tour ×
Aviation Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for aircraft pilots, mechanics, and enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Pretty straightforward: what is the difference between forward flight, straight flight, level flight, and cruise flight in helicopters?

share|improve this question

1 Answer 1

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Forward flight is how the helicopter flies in most situations. It flies similar to an airplane in this situation, with pitching up and down to increase and decrease airspeed. This is controlled by use of forward and aft cyclic.

Straight flight is where the tail rotor is set so that it opposes the turning tendency of the main rotor. This essentially prevents the helicopter from yawing while in flight. This is controlled by using the tail rotor pedals.

Level flight is simply when the helicopter is flying at a constant altitude. This does not mean, however that its nose is pointed ahead, or that it is flying forward, merely that it is not gaining or losing altitude.

I'm not sure exactly what cruise flight is. When a helicopter is "cruising", it most likely is maintaining altitude and flying straight ahead, but I don't think there is a separate term for it.

share|improve this answer
To be pedantic: Straight also implies in balance since it is possible to have yaw perfectly countered but to be flying anything other than straight. I still have scars on my head from being slapped by my instructor for not having the string in the middle. Isn't it strange how someone had to point it out when you're learning but with the hours comes that natural feeling of discomfort with flying out of balance. I am guessing that cruise flight refers to the attitude and power setting required for range vs speed vs endurance? –  Simon Mar 4 at 22:40

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.