Exercise 22 - Low Level Operations

Ground School Points

CRC Chapter 2, Section 534



For the student to learn safe techniques flying at low level.


Rapid Decelerations - Exercise 20.


Although helicopter pilots should fly as high as is reasonable possible, operational tasks often dictate the need for flying close to the ground.


  • Lookout - obstacles, other aircraft.
  • Low level emergency procedures.

Teaching Points

    1. Explain that low level operations pose special considerations. Straight line navigation is generally only possible in remote areas that are also flat and free of obstacles. Low level operations will generally involve frequent changes of track for the following reasons:
      1. Wires

        Point out that wire strikes are a frequent cause of helicopter accidents. Explain that low level operations demand a constant lookout for wires and describe the technique for crossing lines at posts or towers, preferably at 45° to the line's direction. Describe how wires hang in valleys and how best to locate them. Explain the crew system of alerting each other to the fact that wires have been spotted in front of the aircraft.

      2. Persons and Livestock

        Frightening or annoying people and livestock by flying overhead at low level, is at the very least, poor public relations. It is also in many cases illegal and dangerous and must be avoided. Mink farms and racing stables among others are particularly sensitive areas.

      3. Trees

        Helicopter operations very often involve flying low over trees and the pilot has no choice in the matter despite the obvious dangers of an engine failure or similar emergency. However, when the pilot does have a choice, he should fly the clearest flight path available to him.

      4. Rising Ground

        Pilots should fly towards rising ground at an angle less than 90°. This will make turning away easier in the event of an emergency or meeting downdrafting air.

      5. Water

        Always keep within gliding distance of the shore unless equipped to fly over water. During winter operations do not stray away from references on a shoreline over ice covered bodies of water, risking white out conditions.

    2. Point out the hazards of flying low level in high winds, including:
      1. drift during turns; and
      2. the danger of losing airspeed when turning from into wind to downwind. This is particularly hazardous when flying at high AUW at high density altitudes.
    3. Point out that radio performance generally deteriorates quickly at low altitudes.
    4. Describe the technique for carrying out a low-level autorotation.
    5. Assign a local cross-country to be flown at minimum safe altitude, involving as many of the above points as possible.



    1. Fly the cross-country as assigned, and planned by the student.
    2. Demonstrate low level flying techniques.
    3. Student practice.


    1. Brief the student on the use of both cyclic and collective together to avoid obstacles, such as wires or trees.
    2. Include a check of temperatures and pressures at each turning point to ensure they are not forgotten.