Tailrotors are an Achilles heel of helicopters and fail more often than airworthiness authorities find acceptable—a 2003 report by the U.K.’s Civil Aviation Authority concluded the failure rate was significantly worse than even military requirements. The study found the drive system was responsible for a third of tailrotor failures, but increasing design margins in the shafts, gearboxes and couplings cannot overcome the fact that conventional mechanical drive is a single point of ...

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