Training: Surviving a Real Helicopter Autorotation
Completing a safe landing after a power failure or autorotation requires regular training, the International Helicopter Safety Team (IHST) reminds helicopter students and flight instructors. A successful autorotation also demands a clear understanding of the differences between a practice forced landing, in which the engine is assumed to have quit completely and results in a power-off touchdown, and a practice autorotation, in which the pilot explores the helicopter’s flight envelope in autorotation progressively closer to the ground before recovering with power and not touching down. Autorotations are required maneuvers on all helicopter pilot checkrides.
Because of the significant number of helicopter training accidents, the IHST recommends practicing engine failures and autorotations initially in a simulator if one is available. When it’s time to practice in the air, the student and instructor should choose a practice field that would actually provide a suitable off-airport landing site.
The IHST has identified some common pilot faults while practicing autorotations, including not fully lowering the collective, not holding the attitude steady or applying enough aft cyclic to maintain rotor rpm, attempting to turn upwind despite the helicopter’s dwindling height above the ground and becoming so focused on completing the emergency checklist that the pilot forgets to fly the aircraft.