Autorotation – Landing Without An Engine

For those not familiar with autorotation, it’s a maneuver that allows a helicopter to make it to the ground in one piece if the engine fails. While the rotors are turning, they create SOME lift and reduce the rate of descent. The first half-second after entering the auto is the equivalent of your average roller coaster free fall.

My First Autorotation

You want me to do what?

Today, I was back with my regular instructor. Another very cold, very clear, very calm day in the air. Pretty much perfect flying weather.

After some pattern work, we moved away from the airport, climbed to 1500 feet AGL and found a nice open field. At this point, my instructor informed me we would be practicing autorotation. I’d been fearing this day since I took my intro flight. For the record, I HATE roller coasters. I’ll ride them, but under extreme protest. I’ve never liked the free fall feeling where your testicles end up in your stomach. The boys belong between my legs and nowhere else.

My instructor explained that it’s important that we communicate very clearly during autorotation practice. First, we make sure there are no warning lights on and that all gauges are in the green. Then we check carb heat to make sure it’s full on. After that, we do something truly irrational… we drop collective fully and roll off throttle.

If you’re thinking that we just disengaged the engine in a helicopter at 1500 feet above the ground, gold star for you.

There’s an initial free fall feeling and then just a smooth float to the ground.  I say smooth, but we’re actually careening toward the earth at about 2000 feet per minute.  As we approach the ground, we apply aft cyclic to flare and slow our descent.  Then it’s forward cyclic to level the skids as we roll the throttle back on to bring back engine power.  That all happens VERY quickly!

We did this a few times over the open field and then returned to KSFF to practice at the runway. It was much less terrifying after the first couple of times.

Total Hours To Date: 10.0
Total Training Cost To Date: $3750.00
Total Books, Supplies, and Tuition To Date: $2109.48

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