Have The Right Emergency Plan For Helicopter Safety

Published: 13th March 2009
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Flying a helicopter is a challenge for most pilots simply because helicopters struggle with opposing forces in order to keep itself airborne. As such, there is a need to ensure the safety of helicopter flights using proper energy management. Energy management can help the helicopter fly safely in case of engine failure and prevent it from rising to unusual altitudes.

All aircraft safety relies on energy management. An airplane, for example, relies on potential energy to maintain altitude and kinetic energy to maintain forward speed. A pilot needs to play between these two kinds of energies in order to successfully maneuver the plane and bring it gently to the ground if they need to land it or if they experience engine failure.

With a helicopter, a pilot has to manage three types of energy: potential energy to maintain altitude, kinetic energy to maintain forward speed and angular momentum to maintain blade speed. Unlike airplanes in mid-air, helicopters can't fly without an engine. If the rotor blades slow down, you simply can't convert potential energy into kinetic energy and make the rotor blades spin.

Say for example the helicopter is losing altitude because the engine stops. There is no need to waste more energy on trying to kick start the rotor blades. You'll have to lower the helicopter's collective pitch to flatten the rotor. They will now be spun by the wind that passes through them as the helicopter falls. You can then use the remaining energy on adjusting the cyclic to maintain forward speed, all the while aiming for your landing zone.

As the ground nears, you'll have to pull back the cyclic in order to reduce forward speed. This helps flare the helicopter. Seconds before it touches the ground (about 6' feet from the ground), you can stop the flare and keep the helicopter parallel to your landing area. Once you raise the collective, you simply use the potential energy on the blades against gravity and allow the helicopter to land safely.

Maintaining the descent rate means using more power. To settle, the helicopter must be flown forward, away from the vertical descending column of its rotor downwash. A full collective will only deplete the helicopter's energy reserves, which are better off used to produce a forward motion.

If you have a high-performance helicopter, energy management may not be as much of a concern. These helicopters allow sufficient power reserves that prevent vertical descent, provided of course, that your helicopter flies without an extra load.

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