Commercial, Products, Training

Helicopter Training

By Johan Nurmi | November 1, 2004

Focus on EMS

  • EMS: Confronting Safety Challenges
  • Perfecting Autorotations
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  • News from the Field and the Factories


    CAE SimuFlite Eyes Northeast Site

    CAE SimuFlite plans to open a new training center in New Jersey to serve the large market of business-aviation operators in the Northeast United States.

    The company is negotiating with officials over three possible sites for the center-Newark International Airport, Teterboro Airport and Morristown Airport.

    The company is initially targeting business-jet operators for the new center, and scored a coup with an agreement with Dassault to provide factory-authorized training for pilots, maintenance personnel and cabin crew for the new Falcon 7X aircraft.

    CAE's group president for civil simulation and training, Jeff Roberts, said that if you draw a 400-500-nm. circle around the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, the circle would encompass about 40 percent of business jets registered in the United States.

    "Giving operators access to a truly global network of training centers so that pilots and maintenance personnel can be trained where it's most convenient to them is one of our main objectives," Roberts said.

    While the focus at the start, however, is on business jets, the same rational for a market catchment area applies to rotorcraft. A preponderance of U.S.-registered helicopters are east of the Mississippi River, and many of those operate in the Northeast. CAE SimuFlite currently provides S-76 training at its headquarters facility at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

    EMS Service Sets Up Training Center

    CJ Systems Aviation Group, a major air medical services provider, is teaming with Fidelity Flight Simulation, Inc. to set up a helicopter flight training center near Pittsburgh.

    Fidelity Flight will own and manage the facility at Allegheny County Airport outside Pittsburgh. The center initially will house a full-motion Eurocopter EC135 helicopter simulation device. Fidelity Flight developed that device in conjunction with CJ Systems' STAT MedEvac unit, which is also based in Pittsburgh. A program of leading Pittsburgh-area medical facilities, STAT MedEvac uses CJ Systems pilots to provide medical evacuation and critical-care transport services throughout the Northeast United States. CJ Systems Aviation Group manages air medical services at more than 60 base site facilities serving hospitals and communities in 17 states and the District of Columbia. Its also offers aircraft charter and management and aircraft maintenance.

    The EMS helicopter operator plans to use the device to help in training its 360 pilots, who are stationed at air medical services programs across the United States. CJ Systems currently does most of its training in aircraft, which can be a costly and inefficient method.

    "The use of this simulator will take our training to a higher level," said CJ Systems' president and COO, Larry Pietropaulo. "And not just for the EC 135s, but for other helicopters as well."

    According to Fidelity Flight, its EC135 unit is the first full-motion civil Eurocopter simulation device available in North America. The move comes as American Eurocopter is contemplating acquiring an EC135 simulator for its training center in Grand Prairie, Texas.

    "There are so few quality training devices available for this entire class of aircraft," said Graham Hodgetts, president of Fidelity Flight.

    The EC135 simulation device will be available for dry-lease to other operators, according to Fidelity Flight, and it plans in 2005 to partner with a qualified training organization to make complete Eurocopter EC135 training programs available. Fidelity also plans to place a second helicopter-specific simulation device into operation at the Pittsburgh center early in 2006. The specific aircraft type has not yet been announced.

    Sikorsky S-92 Simulator Certified

    FlightSafety International expects to receive FAA certification soon for the Sikorsky S-92 full-motion, Level D simulator based at Sikorsky's West Palm Beach, Fla. training facility. The simulator has a current interim rating as a Level C.

    Certification will allow pilots to receive type rating on the aircraft totally through use of the simulator. More than 10 pilots from Petroleum Helicopters Inc. have already completed the transition course into the S-92 and are now back at West Palm Beach for training in the S-92 simulator, according to Pat Knott, center manager for the FSI Sikorsky Learning Center. PHI has ordered two S-92s and will be receiving the first production aircraft later this summer. Sikorsky now had an order book of over 20 firm sales plus 17 options.

    Six pilots from Norsk Helicopter in Norway are also in training for the two helicopters ordered by that company. Other operators who have ordered the S-92 include Cougar, which is part of Vancouver International, and Wexner, a private operator based in the United Kingdom.

    FlightSafety has brought in a preproduction S-92, ship number five, for technician training. The full-size fuselage will also be used as part of the pilot training program, giving pilots a familiarization of the aircraft, Knott said.

    Certification of the S-92 simulator gives FSI fully certified training on all three Sikorsky products: S-92, S-76 and S-70/U-60.

    Sikorsky recently announced the first flight for the first production S-92, as well as certification under the JAR/EASA Part 29 Amendment 47 regulations.

    Elite Unveils Helicopter FTD

    Dubendorf, Switzerland-based Elite Simulation Solutions unveiled its IFR flight-training device at the International Heli-Trade show in Geneva last month.

    The Elite Evolution is based on the Eurocopter AS350B, but can be configured for other single or twin-turbine engine helicopters, such as the Bell B206 and the AS355. European regulations allow pilots to log 40 hr. towards an instrument rating in an approved flight-training device.

    The device has a fully enclosed cockpit with realistic dual controls, dual pilot instrument screens and cyclic layout, according to the company. It offers full autopilot capability with a flight director and navigation coupled to VOR and GPS.

    The device also is equipped with a three-channel external visual system, with various optional visual packages available up to 220-deg. field of view. Elite said the device can be customized for training on specific helicopter tasks, such as oil rig supply flying, external load carriage and flights in and out of helipads. The company said the device meets all standards and performance criteria to qualify for JAA, JAR-STD 3(H), CASA FSD2 Cat B STD and FAA helicopter training device requirements.


    Bell Training

    Bell Helicopter Textron expects to gain FAA approval of its night-vision goggles training course in time for the start of classes at its new training center at Alliance Airport in Ft. Worth, Texas.

    The center's newest director, Launa Barboza, said she expects to have the FAA sign-off on the NVG training before the end of November. She succeeds Ty Cross, who spent a short spell as director after a career at American Airlines. Barboza took over in October. She said Bell is making a rolling transition to the new facility, the former home of Galaxy Aircraft.

    "As we finish out each course, we'll move" over to the new facility.

    The last class at the current center is scheduled to end Dec. 17. The first classes at the new facility would start Jan. 10.

    HAL Offering Ab Initio and Conversion Training on DHRUV

    Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) is offering Ab Initio training to customers of its DHRUV advanced light helicopter(ALH), along with standard conversion into the aircraft, according to K. Badrinarayan, professional advisor, ALH customer training. The training is essentially conducted at the HAL facility, although post on-the-job training for technical personnel and operational conversion for pilots is carried out at their own premises whenever requested, to include mountain flight training. More than 50 pilots have now received conversion training by HAL, he said.

    Currently, the training primarily is for the four military services in India--the Indian Army, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard--although HAL also trains engineers and pilots from Nepal. "Even though the training imparted so far caters to the needs of the military customers, we are preparing to give similar training for civil customers covered under the civil flying regulations," Badrinarayan said. HAL is currently in discussions with the Chilean government that could lead to training requirements for that country's military pilots.

    Flight training was set up at the HAL Rotary Wing Academy in Bangalore, headed by Wing Commander Upadhyay, he said. Along with conversion training for the DHRUV, the Academy provides basic flight training to students to qualify for either the private or commercial helicopter pilot's license. Training is done on either the Schweizer 300 piston engine helicopter or the Schweizer 330 turbine-engine helicopter. Training has been certified under approval of the Indian Civil Aviation Authority (DGCA). The Academy can train from 15 to 20 students at a time, with course duration of about 15 to 18 months, Badrinarayan said.

    HAL's training facility also trains technical personnel from DHRUV customers to carry out field maintenance on the aircraft.

    "The trainees are expected to have a background on maintenance of contemporary helicopters," Badrinarayan said. However, as the DHRUV is an advanced technology helicopter with state-of-the-art systems, "the curriculum covers all (these systems) by means of well-developed computer-based training packages." The technical training ranges from seven to nine weeks "and is continuously revised," he said. Training is done by a faculty made up of "young enthusiastic graduate engineers as well as experienced veterans with practical background mainly drawn up from the Defence Services. So far we have trained more than 500 technical personnel on the maintenance of the ALH," he said.

    Agusta Aerospace Receives Full A119 Training Authority

    Philadelphia-based Agusta Aerospace will be authorized to provide full FAA, Air Transport Canada and JAA training for the A119 Koala when the first machines start rolling out of the new manufacturing facility later this year, according to Jim Anderson, training center Manager. Anderson said that Agusta already had FAA and JAA training authority for the A109 and A119, and received Air Transport Canada training for early models of the A109A through C and the A119 earlier this year. He also noted that AgustaWestland is increasing its A119 training capabilities in Italy. Agusta Aerospace currently provides short transition and recurrency training for all versions of the A109, as well as the A119. The transition course is a one-week course with four to five flight hours, while recurrency training is a two-day ground school with one to two hours of flight training.

    Anderson said that AgustaWestland has signed contracts with CAE for A109 and AB139 simulators to be installed in the main factory in Italy for training there.


    Tackling Safety

    A key focus of regulators, operators and manufacturers in the near term will be matching training initiatives to operational improvements aimed at reversing the rise in EMS-related accidents.

    This year hasn't been a good one for helicopter EMS operations in the United States. Nor was the last one. Accidents have been rising steadily and everybody involved--from flight and medical crews to operators, the FAA and federal accident investigators--is taking a close look at the situation, asking themselves: What can be done to reverse this?

    There is little doubt that among the answers to that question will be more, improved and refined training.

    When surveyed by the National Emergency Medical Services Pilots Assn., respondents said the No. 1 way to increase safety is to increase the quality and frequency of training. High on the list was adding equipment such as night-vision goggles, which carry their own training requirements.

    Everyone involved with air medical services operations has reason to be concerned with accident rates and their potential effects on the industry.

    In 1988, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board released a special study of commercial helicopter EMS operations in the United States. The study was provoked by a string of 59 accidents over the course of nine years. The safety board made a number of recommendations that were embraced by the industry. For instance, the organization that would become the Commission on Air Medical Transport Systems was created in 1990 to serve as a voluntary accrediting body for EMS operators.

    Adoption of the recommendations helped improve safety. Some tallies put the accident rate for helicopter EMS operations in the first half of the 1980s at more than 13 per 100,000 hr. flown. By 1993, the running average had dropped to slightly more than three per 100,000 flight hours. But in the late 1990s, accident numbers and rates began to creep up again.

    In 2002, for instance, the Air Medical Physician Assn. reported that the fatal accident rate for helicopter EMS operations from 1997 through 2001 exceeded that of all other aviation operations in the United States. In 2003 and so far this year, there have been 40 accidents involving U.S. helicopter EMS aircraft. The NTSB's 1988 study was prompted by 59 accidents over the course of nine years. Today, accidents in the United States are occurring at nearly three times that rate. The accident rate for EMS helicopters today is roughly double that of other Part 135 operations in the United States.

    Given those circumstances, something has to change. The reality of any highly visible, government-regulated endeavor such as aviation is that if the industry doesn't change, the feds will step in to push for change, and not necessarily for the better.

    The NTSB is again taking a close look at helicopter EMS accidents. The effort is not at the level of a "special study." In the parlance of the safety board, such a study gets a specific budget and a team of investigators and staff to delve into the subject at hand, for example through site visits and interviews of operations and management personnel.

    The review currently under way is instead looking at what is known about recent accidents, based on completed or pending investigations, and whether there are common threads that need to be addressed by the FAA and the industry. Recommendations based on the review could come as early as this month. That could generate headlines and pressure on the FAA to do something about helicopter EMS safety--and to do it now.

    To reverse the rise in accidents and make further gains, some say the industry must change its approach to safety and operations.

    "We must change our paradigm in understanding air medical accidents," Tom Judge, president of the Assn. of Air Medical Services, has said. "We must move to a level of understanding that almost all events have causes--the causes are known, predictable, and recurrent."

    Judge makes an argument common in aviation safety: "If we know the causes, we can design--and more importantly--implement mitigating interventions to interrupt and prevent tragedy."

    The likelihood of increased and refined training being among the interventions adopted is based on a simple fact. The vast majority of aviation accidents in any category involves human error.

    Some human error can be weeded out with applications of advanced technology. But it is difficult to make something foolproof, it has been said, because fools are so ingenuous. The bottom line, even if technology is applied, is that dangerous human actions and decisions must be averted by teaching the human that such steps can result in death.

    Folks on the industry side are working to correct matters before the feds step in.

    The Air Medical Safety Advisory Council has launched an Air Medical Resource Management program based on the crew resource management adopted by airlines throughout the 1990s and created with gains in airline safety. Groups like AAMS, AMPA, the Air and Surface Transport Nurses Assn., the National Flight Paramedics Assn., and the National EMS Pilots Assn. are working to update their position papers on safety issues. At its annual Air Medical Transport Conference last month in Cincinnati, AAMS dedicated one day to safety in operations.

    The key topics of discussion on how to halt the slide in helicopter EMS safety rates are familiar ones:

    Inadvertent Flight Into IMC: The NTSB's 1988 study found inadvertent entry into instrument meteorological conditions to be the most common factor in fatal helicopter EMS accidents. It remains a major problem, falling near the top of the list of common factors identified by the latest safety board review of EMS crashes.

    Among the accidents reviewed was the Feb. 20, 2003 crash of a Southwest Air Ambulance AS350B3 near Clyde, Texas after encountering IMC on a repositioning flight. The pilot told investigators the ceiling was 1,100 ft. and visibility was 7 mi. at the time of the departure. The flight paramedic told investigators the weather deteriorated rapidly en route and that he asked the pilot more than once to abort the flight. The pilot slowed the helicopter, started a descent and reversed direction. He was unaware of the descent rate and unable to slow it. The aircraft landed hard and upright on a roadway.

    Nighttime Operations: According to the AMPA, half of all EMS accidents happen at night. NTSB investigators are looking at the interplay of unprepared landing zones, visibility and disorientation, among other factors, as contributors to these accidents. A review of recent NTSB investigations reveals a number of examples. One is the July 13 crash of a Med-Trans Corp. Bell 407 that collided with trees shortly after takeoff from Interstate 26 near Newberry, S.C. The pilot, flight nurse, flight paramedic, and patient died as a result. The nighttime visual meteorological conditions were complicated by mist and light fog in the area. In another case, an Access Air Ambulance Bell 407 in cruise flight crashed into mountains 27 nm. southwest of Battle Mountain, Nev. All five people on board died. Dark night visual meteorological conditions prevailed.

    Beyond the NTSB study, many in the medical community are debating whether issues embedded in the culture of EMS operations and individual operators contribute to accidents. That's a delicate topic of conversation. It forces the focus of accident and incident investigation beyond the traditional targets of the pilot, mechanic, air traffic controller and dispatcher to look at how management and company practices affected the decision-making of those four. Old-school types see an examination of "culture" as an exercise in making excuses for pilots. Advocates of the approach argue that there is ample evidence that management and corporate practices can contribute to poor decisions by aircrews and others that result in crashes.

    A hot topic of discussion along these lines today is whether the adoption of "launch time" standards--benchmarks of how much time should lapse between dispatch and takeoff--is begging for an aviation accident to happen.

    Time pressures are often cited by accident investigators as a causes contributing to crashes. Some call the situation "getthereitis." Clearly, EMS operations are vulnerable to it. In addition to the normal requirements to move aircraft as swiftly as possible, to return them to service quickly and (for commercial operators) to squeeze as many revenue runs into a duty day as possible, EMS aircrews must cope with the psychological pressure stemming from the medical predicament of the person they are transporting. While some have called for steps to isolate the pilot from the medical care for the patient in the back, reality makes that difficult. A pilot knows why he or she was called to the scene of a medevac--and it is not because someone had minor injuries.

    Pressure on EMS flight crews can be aggravated further by, what in some markets, has become an intense competitive environment. Some major U.S. cities have a dozen or more EMS providers pursuing calls for medevac. The personnel on the ground caring for a patient aren't likely to turn away the first helicopter that arrives because it doesn't bear the right logo. Hence, potential races for patients.

    "The pressure is there to perform the mission, for competitive reasons and for emotional reasons," said Richard Healing, one of five presidential appointees to the NTSB.

    Before joining the safety board, Healing was the long-time director of safety and survivability for the U.S. Navy. In that post, he was deeply involved in those initiatives, including for Navy rotorcraft. He is an advocate for helicopter safety issues and was to address last month's Air Medical Transport Conference on the current NTSB study and the industry's accident rate.

    One of the more puzzling aspects of the current spate of EMS accidents is that they often involve seasoned pilots. The AMPA noted back in 2002 that lack of experience has not been an issue with EMS pilots. The average EMS helicopter pilot, the report noted, has more than 6,300 hr. total flight time, more than 5,000 hr. in helicopters, and 753 hr. in his or her current aircraft type and model. The report also noted was that just 15 percent of EMS pilots involved in accidents had fewer than 3,000 hr.

    Clearly, technology can help. Perhaps the most compelling technological application is greater use of night-vision goggles. Operators that adopt them seem quickly sold on their benefits.

    "Being able to see where you're going at night is just absolutely great," said Rick Gregore, chief pilot of Mercy Air in Redding, Calif., whose crews use NVGs.

    Because of the appeal of the devices, both American Eurocopter and Bell are working on adding NVG training to the curricula of their training academies. Bell expects to gain FAA certification of its course this month.

    The industry's safety record also should be helped by the replacement of older EMS aircraft with newer, more capable helicopters such as Eurocopter's EC135 and EC145, Bell's IFR-equipped 407i and Agusta's A109.

    Operators also are stepping in to fill the need for better training. CJ Systems Aviation Group, a major U.S. EMS operator, last month inked a deal with Fidelity Flight Simulation to set up a training center near Pittsburgh and place a Fidelity Flight-built EC135 simulation device there. The device will serve CJ's 360 pilots and will be leased to other customers.


    Autorotation Training

    Teaching autorotations requires training -- and remembering the basics

    This accident happened with a high time CFI practicing auto-rotations to the taxiway with a CFI student. It was the usual hot summer day in sunny California--40 deg. Celsius with a density altitude of 3,800 ft., with high humidity. The instructor and his student were both heavy-set guys and unaware that they were close to maximum gross weight at takeoff. The wind was variable, ranging from 180 to 360 deg., and there were towering cumulus clouds in the surrounding mountains with a risk for thunderstorms. The active runway was designated 18, although the CFI was uncomfortable using taxiway 18 since the windsock shifted back and forth between north and south.

    The instructor and his student practiced straight-in autos first, with the instructor noticing that he had to start his flare at approximately 60 ft. in order to level out in time.

    According to the instructor, they had practiced at least 10 autorotations, with everything to an acceptable standard. At times the student had a tendency to lower the nose of the helicopter on entry and as a consequence kept too high forward airspeed in the glide. The rpm cautionary light and warning horn came on and the student was told to move the cyclic slightly aft to correct for the low rpm and high airspeed. When the student moved the cyclic aft too quickly, the rpm increased above the red line so the instructor took over the controls to prevent an overspeed on the rotor. He lifted the collective to bring down the high rpm and slowed the helicopter to 65 kt. airspeed with a gentle aft cyclic movement.

    The instructor explained to the student that if he concentrated on keeping the nose level from the beginning to the end he would do much better. The student was instructed to look out at the horizon and bring the cyclic aft to level the ship in the entry, then lift the collective slowly to avoid a rise of rpm above the green. Before the entry, the relative wind comes from above the helicopter and moves downward through the rotor disc. But after the entry, the relative wind comes from below and moves into the rotor system, increasing blade speed. As a consequence, the collective may need to be raised a little bit in order to avoid an overspeed that can damage the spindle or put too much stress on the blades.

    The instructor explained that for the two next stages, the flare and the power recovery, the perfect rpm was in top of the green in the glide with the airspeed set at 65 kt., with the aircraft in trim.

    The straight-in autorotations were followed by 180 deg. autorotations. The entry was to be exactly the same as for the straight-in, but as the student turns the helicopter he can expect an rpm increase and may need to pull up on the collective, keeping the aircraft in trim during the turn toward the taxiway, maintaining a 65-kt. airspeed and getting rpm to the top of the green. If the collective is raised slightly, it must be lowered as the aircraft comes out of the turn. If not lowered, the flare portion will have a too low blade speed and airspeed, with an accident right around the corner.

    After approximately 1.2 hours had been spent on autorotation practice, the student was told to finish the training with one more 180 deg. auto and that would be it for the day.

    They took off and climbed to 700 ft. AGL on downwind. They had 75-kt. airspeed with the helicopter in trim. Everything looked normal. In the entry the student dipped the nose, rpm dropped and airspeed was approximately 75 kt. by the time the student became aware of the situation. He then moved the cyclic aft too rapidly and the rpm increased abruptly, passing the red-line. The instructor shouted to increase collective and push the cyclic forward to get the rpm back in top of the green and the airspeed back to 65 kt. But at that point everything was out of control. What the instructor and student did not know was that the wind had shifted from south to north and they had a 15 mph tailwind. They were descended rapidly, with too low an airspeed of approximately 45 kt. and with way too low rpm.

    The instructor took the controls and flared, but did not have sufficient lift to stop the rate of descent. The aircraft contacted the taxiway hard, knocking off the tail boom. Miraculously both pilots survived, shaken but essential unharmed.

    Analysis: This accident could have been avoided. The instructor knew about the high-density altitude condition, with limited lift due to the high-density altitude and high temperature. Aircraft performance decreases with higher than normal outside air temperatures and higher than normal density altitude conditions.

    The instructor knew that he had not trained the student from the beginning. He did not really know the student's proficiency, since this was in the beginning of their training. He did not even talk to the student's former school for an opinion on the student's overall flying skills, attitude and judgment. The instructor also knew about the shifting wind conditions. The instructor should have monitored the windsock on downwind before entering the 180-deg. autorotation.

    The CFI also should have done a weight and balance to determine whether or not they were below maximum gross weight. He never did this simple computation. Neither of them called the Flight Service Station to get a standard weather briefing. The Federal Aviation Regulations state that before take-off, a pilot needs to know " all aspects of that flight." That means visibility, ceiling, wind direction, wind speed, temperature, density altitude, dew point, pilot reports, Notams, TFRs and any other information relative to the flight.

    The instructor also made the lesson too long. One hour lessons are less tiring than dragging it to overtime.

    The rate of descent in an autorotation under normal conditions is approximately 1500 ft. per minute in the glide. In this accident the instructor stated that their rate of descent was approximately 1800 ft. per minute or more.

    Rpm can be controlled either by the collective or the cyclic. Unlike in normal flight, if a higher than normal rpm occurs, it can be brought down by slightly raising the collective, thus increasing the angle of attack on both blades, or by moving the cyclic forward. If we have a lower than usual rpm setting, we can bring the rpm back into the green arc by lowering the collective, decreasing the angle of attack on both blades, or by moving the cyclic aft.

    Sometimes the rpm fluctuations are large and quick action of both collective and cyclic is required to control the rpm.

    It is also of great importance to keep a safe airspeed in the glide. Airspeed is controlled by a combination of cyclic, collective and pedals. The aircraft must be flown in a trimmed condition to decrease excessive drag, otherwise the glide distance is shortened and the chosen spot may be missed.

    Maximum glide distance is achieved by a lower rpm, higher airspeed and in trim. After the entry the collective must be pulled up to establish a low rpm setting and the cyclic moved forward to get the higher airspeed to extend the glide.

    To be an autorotation specialist, you should go out and practice each step of the autorotation separately. Begin the practice with the entry stage. Make sure that each and every autorotation starts from at least 500 ft AGL, with minimum airspeed of 70 kt. headed into the wind.

    Lower the collective full down until the Sprague clutch disengages the engine from the rotor blades. If you enter the autorotation gently and smoothly you won't even know you are in an autorotation glide.

    It is amazing what a difference a smooth entry can do for you. When you enter the auto, make sure you hold the cyclic aft, with level attitude, looking out at the horizon. The slightest nose down will destroy the "good feeling" of entering a perfect auto. You should have a feeling of sailing when you lowered the collective correctly.

    If the aircraft is allowed to nose over, do a recovery and practice until you are able to do the entry perfectly. The entry is the " secret" of the autorotation. If you nose the helicopter up, you will end up with rpm too high and airspeed too slow. Try again! Once you can do them perfectly over and over again you have it made!

    To practice the glide, climb to 5,000 ft. and enter autorotation, showing the student how to control the rpm with both the collective and cyclic. Practice the first 5,000-ft. autorotation controlling rpm with collective only, then practice a second 5,000-ft. auto controlled by cyclic only.

    Finally, practice using both collective and cyclic. Slow down the airspeed, then increase it. Practice 360 deg. turns, watching the rpm gage to see how the rpm increases in the turn and decreases after the turn is made.

    The third stage in the autorotation is the flare. At 40 ft. and 65 kt. airspeed, with the rpm in the lower green arc, start the flare by looking out at the horizon, keeping the heading straight.

    The flare must be done nice and gentle during practice. If you flare too hard or abrupt, the rotor disc will get you into a climb instead of getting you closer to the ground--not the intent of the flare. Start out slow and progressively increase the flair until the aircraft has descended to about 8 ft., then level the ship and perform a running landing on asphalt or any other firm, smooth terrain, or do a hovering auto on rough terrain.

    Under ideal conditions, and to practice to reach optimum proficiency, practice to a full-stop hovering autorotation. At the beginning of the flair, move the cyclic aft, gradually increasing the tip path plane until the rate of descent and forward airspeed have decreased to a full stop at a 5-ft. hover with collective remaining. From that altitude it is easy to do a hovering autorotation.

    Make sure you are looking out on the horizon to keep the aircraft straight. If not, you might roll the aircraft if you perform full touch down practice landings. Practice the flare with cyclic only and with collective and cyclic together.

    Practice the full touch down auto and hovering auto technique with an experienced instructor so you know both techniques. And make sure you don't overspeed the rpm when you do the flare portion. If you move the cyclic aft too fast you will end up with too high rpm, and the only way to get it down is to lift the collective.

    The last portion of the autorotation is the power recovery. After you have leveled the ship at 8 ft., start to lift the collective smoothly, apply left pedal and increase the rpm back into the green arc gently, but firmly.

    If the helicopter drifts right, apply left cyclic to keep a straight ground track. If the warning horn and light comes on you must increase rpm rather quickly and milk the collective, lowering it gently while rolling on the rpm.

    Then, and only then, lift collective to avoid a hard landing. Many hard landing training accidents have occurred after leveling out and doing a wrong power recovery. Increasing the rpm itself is almost impossible, you must milk the collective to get the rpm back in top of green. On hot summer start the first autorotation at 50-60 ft. to give yourself room to complete the flare without coming too close to the ground. After that first high auto you can do them closer to the ground. The variables will determine how close you can go. But there is no reason to go below 40 ft. unless you are practicing full touch down autos.

    Different helicopters have different entry altitudes, glide speeds and flare altitudes. Make sure you read the pilot's operating handbook for each and every helicopter type you are going to fly. Get good instruction from a professional CFI and 10 hours of autorotation practice is good training investment.

    Make sure you attend the helicopter factory safety course each and every year, because that is well worth money. Because what if...?

    Johan Nurmi is an FAA Gold Seal Instructor pilot with the USA Academy of Aviation, French Valley Airport, Murrieta, Calif.

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