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Faulty Training = Faulty Checkride

Posted 7 years 7 days ago ago by Admin

Many of the helicopters utilized in today’s training market are equipped with an engine governor. The governor assists the pilot with managing and maintaining appropriate engine/rotor RPM to safely operate the helicopter. When conducting system failure training, the engine governor will be turned off and the pilot will be required to manipulate the throttle manually. In situations where the engine governor fails and mismanages engine/rotor RPM, the pilot may be required to isolate or turn off the governor. Adequate training and proficiency is critical in these situations.

When conducting an FAA examination, I will simulate a failing governor during the flight. The failure is induced by causing the engine/rotor RPM to increase/decrease erratically, or by simply turning the governor off. [NOTE: It is important  that prior to any system failure simulation, a comprehensive pre-flight briefing between the instructor/examiner and student/applicant must be completed to ensure both participants are clear on the expected action.] The intent of this simulation is to verify the applicant’s ability to identify the correct system that has failed, execute the emergency procedure appropriate to the failure, and determine the applicant’s proficiency in maintaining safe, effective aircraft control throughout the procedure.

While conducting a flight instructor examination in a Robinson R22 helicopter, I advised the applicant during the pre-flight briefing that I would be simulating an engine governor failure during the flight. The applicant confirmed that she had conducted this emergency procedure previously, and correctly articulated the procedure in accordance with the Pilot Operating Handbook (POH). During the flight, I simply turned off the engine governor which illuminated the corresponding Governor OFF light. To my surprise, the applicant began counting.

“One, two, three…”, I continued watching, waiting, and wondering what she was doing. When she announced “10”, she abruptly reached down and pulled the clutch circuit breaker. At the same time, she lowered the collective without manipulating the throttle. Since the R22 helicopter is equipped with a throttle correlator, the engine/rotor RPM decreased. At this point, the applicant abruptly entered autorotation and said, “engine failure.”

I took control of the aircraft, recovered the governor and clutch circuit breaker, and proceeded back to the pad. Once on the ground, I asked the applicant to explain the procedure she had executed during the governor failure. Her response was that “she had never had an actual governor-off light in-flight before .I  asked, “Why did you pull the clutch circuit breaker?” The applicant answered, “The light was on for so long, I remembered I needed to pull that breaker.” We discussed the entry into autorotation as well ... but I think you get the point!

During the post-flight briefing of the exam, I learned that the applicant’s instructor would periodically disengage the clutch switch in-flight requiring the pilot to pull the clutch circuit breaker. The applicant observed, “This always scared me.” When the light came on, she immediately reacted to her fear, not the correct emergency procedure. I support scenario-based training, however disengaging the clutch switch in-flight is dangerous. 
As a career flight instructor, I hate to see the result of poor training.  Seeing the eventual result of unsafe flight training is far, far worse!