How does a helicopter's stabilizer bar work?

Written by mike mcguiness
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How does a helicopter's stabilizer bar work?
Radio controlled helicopters come in all shapes and sizes. (helicoptere modele reduit turbine image by jerome scalvini from

The learning curve to fly a radio-controlled helicopter can be quite steep. Mastering the skills involved includes becoming familiar with how the helicopter's stabilising system works.

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Stabiliser bars stabilise the helicopter while in flight. There are two types: the Bell system and the Hiller system, each deriving their names from real-world helicopters. The Bell stabilising method places a small bar on top of the main rotors and limits gyroscopic forces, while the Hiller system uses a stabiliser bar with paddles and affects stability aerodynamically.


On the Bell system, maneuverability is sacrificed for stability. Because the Bell system hinders gyroscopic forces, control inputs lag slightly while the main rotor works to catch up with the stabiliser bar. With the Hiller system, control inputs are immediate as this stabilisation system uses an aerodynamic method to stabilise the rotor system. This latter feature makes the Hiller-type helicopters more desirable for aerobatic activities.


Most RC helicopters on the market today use a combination called the Bell-Hiller system. This set-up combines the benefits of both systems and provides the most stability while preserving maneuverability.

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