Always Expect the Unexpected

by Stuart Doyle MSc., Civil Aviation Safety Inspector, Commercial Flight Standards (AARTF), Aerial Work, Air Taxi, Commuter

As chief pilot of a military helicopter squadron, I was training an experienced pilot for an operational deployment in a single-engine helicopter, and part of that training required an entry to autorotation from 3 000 ft AGL at zero groundspeed. The weather was good, with 10 kt of wind under a cloudless sky. After a brief on the ground and reminder in the air, we set up over a field chosen for its suitability, I “chopped” the throttle, and the pilot smoothly entered autorotation: so far so good. Then the pilot associated the sound of the rotor RPM (RRPM) recovering to the normal level with a rotor overspeed condition, which he reacted to with a rather generous application of collective lever. As the RRPM reduced to below the minimum limit, I took control, but only just managed to get the RRPM back to a manageable figure before we landed without injury to anyone or damaging the aircraft. I should point out that this was the type of helicopter that once the throttle was at the idle position, you were committed to landing.

What did I learn?

  • Experienced pilots are far more likely to do unexpected things than are inexperienced pilots.
  • Always have an escape route.
  • Never put a student/candidate/trainee in a position that you cannot get out of.