Saturday, November 21, 2009

Turning off the engine...

Well, not really. But its as close as you can get in helicopter training to simulating an engine failure. Today we began autorotations.

Helicopters rely on a main rotor to supply both the airfoil and the thrust, or power, to stay aloft. Think of an airplane wing and engine combined. If you lose power, the main rotor continues to function as the "wing" to allow the chopper to glide. Now, to be honest, the glide ratio (how far you can glide compared to your altitude) is not as good as an airplane. Possibly 2:1 compared to 6:1 -- but, you need a much smaller spot to land if that's any consolation.

The key to any autorotation is to keep the main rotor turning. You see if it were to stop, you would fall like a rock. So to practice this maneuver you ascend to an altitude that will give you some time to practice before you land (say, 1400 ft AGL) and find a good open field as a target. And with my flight instructor Caleb counting down "3,2,1" I would lower collective (reduces power out of the main rotor), apply aft cyclic (pitches up the nose and causes air reversal through the blades), apply right pedal (weird thing about helicopters -- if you reduce power they want to turn to the left), and roll off throttle (reduce the engine speed to simulate an engine failure).

Then its just a matter of keeping 70 knots airspeed which is the best speed to give you the best distance, watch the main rotor RPM so that it stays around 100% (not to fast or to slow), and keep the field in sight. When you get close to your spot (since its just practice), pull in collective, set your pitch attitude, add back throttle, and climb to your altitude and do it all over again.

Its an essential skill in learning to fly a helicopter, and I have to tell you, a lot of fun. I'll keep you posted.

No comments:

Post a Comment