Posted 3 years 73 days ago ago by Randy Rowles
A student I was training for a night vision goggle (NVG) instructor course was tasked to teach a segment on confined area operations. The student lesson plan included settling-with-power as a consideration when conducting confined area operations. The scenario I provided for the student was that this confined area operation would be conducted at night using NVGs. The recovery technique the student selected to teach was the Vuichard Recovery, which is a lateral recovery method that provides a more expeditious recovery with minimal altitude loss.
For many years, helicopter pilots within the utility segment of our industry conducting external load, long-line operations have utilized a lateral recovery technique when encountering settling-with-power situations. Although mentioned in the Helicopter Flying Handbook (FAA-H-8083-21A-chapter 11) as applicable to (many) helicopters, the lateral recovery method for a settling-with-power situation is void of a descriptive, procedural technique.
Although the Helicopter Flying Handbook does not expound upon a lateral recovery technique, it does provide a caution referencing obstacles when attempting such a recovery. An excerpt from the Helicopter Flying Handbook states “lateral cyclic combined with lateral tail rotor thrust will produce the quickest exit from the hazard assuming that there are no barriers in that direction.” (emphasis added)
After the student provided a well-prepared lesson about confined area operations, I asked for an FAA reference recommending a lateral settling-with-power recovery and the procedures on how this maneuver is to be conducted. To the student’s credit, knowledge of the lack of FAA reference on the subject was identified, however several documents on the subject to include the U.S. Helicopter Safety Team’s “Airmanship Bulletin” were provided. I was very impressed with the student’s preparation and knowledge on the subject, however I was concerned by the lack of regard in the presentation to situations where this maneuver would not be prudent or correct.
For the flight portion of the lesson, I had selected a confined area near a high-tension power line that would be to the right side and parallel of our final approach path. After conducting a high- and low-reconnaissance of the confined area, we continued to the final approach of the maneuver. At 200 feet agl, the radar altimeter decision altitude tone activated, and the student verbally confirmed our height above the ground. The approach angle was steep, power was applied correctly, and the aircraft rate-of-descent was acceptable. It was now that I asked the student to demonstrate a lateral recovery profile, as described. It is important to note that this was not a settling-with-power demonstration and the student had received advance notice of such a request. We were flying the profile without the negative aerodynamic influence on the main rotor.
Without hesitation or thought, the student moved the cyclic to the right, increased power, and applied left pedal while providing a clear and concise verbal explanation of how to execute the maneuver. I immediately took control of the helicopter and stopped our lateral movement. To the student’s surprise, the continued flight path would have flown us directly into the powerlines. I conducted a right pedal turn from a 100 feet agl hover.
I support the implementation of new techniques and procedures that enhance safety in our industry, however we must be very careful when offering these new ideas to our students. We must place an equal amount of emphasis on the dangers of such techniques as we do on the benefits.
Too much hype from industry experts without a balanced discussion on potential negative situations can be dangerous. A lateral recovery from settling-with-power may be more expeditious, but altering a pre-defined flight path blindly within an obstacle rich environment may be life ending!
About Randy: Randy Rowles has been a FAA pilot examiner for 20 years for all helicopter certificates and ratings. He holds a FAA Gold Seal Flight Instructor Certificate, NAFI Master Flight Instructor designation, and was the 2013 recipient of the HAI Flight Instructor of the Year Award. Randy is currently Director of Training at Epic Helicopters in Ft. Worth, Texas.