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Training Maneuvers 2.0…Is There a Risk?

Posted 2 years 34 days ago ago by Admin

Over the past few years, the manner or methods in which helicopter instructors conduct training of certain flight maneuvers has changed. In many cases, recommendations from industry safety groups to include the United States Helicopter Safety Team (US-HST) utilize accident data to make recommendations to enhance safety during flight training. In addition, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will also provide updated information for their manuals to enhance safety. Most recently, the FAA updated the Helicopter Emergencies and Hazards section of the Helicopter Flying Handbook (FAA-H-8083-21) which now includes the Vuichard Recovery as a procedure to exit Vortex Ring State (VRS).

With change comes an expectation of a different result or outcome. However, the result may not always be as desired. Making changes solely based on perceived safety enhancements may seem to be a good idea, but the risk you’re trying to avoid may show itself in a different manner.

I was recently introduced to a company that conducted autorotations without removing the throttle from the flight position. Essentially this maneuver was being flown solely by lowering the collective while the engine remained in the flight position. The maneuver conducted was Power Failure at Altitude with Power Recovery. The question is: does this procedure for teaching this maneuver develop the skillsets necessary to complete an autorotation after an actual engine failure?

Per the company, the intent behind not reducing throttle during a practice autorotation was to minimize the risk of a rotor or engine overspeed. Ironically, it was this procedure that cost the company an engine overhaul because the instructor did not anticipate the engine acceleration rate with rotor RPM increase near the bottom of the power recovery. So, the change made to the standard procedure was not properly developed with known instructional intervention strategies to prevent the new risk items from occurring.

By risk, I’m referring to minimal information being provided to the cadre of instructors on proper teaching techniques of the maneuver, and more importantly, the instructional intervention techniques when the student does the maneuver incorrectly.     

With the introduction of the Vuichard Recovery as an alternative recovery for Vortex Ring State (VRS), instructors have altered the traditional recovery procedures. Recent accidents have been shown to occur during the teaching of VRS. Previously, this type of accident was very rare however, we’re now seeing an increase in such events. What has changed? In this case, the only change was the introduction of the Vuichard Recovery as a new procedure.

It’s important to note that I’m not saying there is an issue with this procedure. There may be an issue with the methods by which instructors are being trained to teach the maneuver or worse, not receiving any training at all. Additionally, in a situation where the student makes a gross error, the lack of instructional intervention techniques to recover from such a maneuver may lead to an accident.

In the 90’s, an issue with Low-G pushovers was known as the Robinson R-22 helicopter was proliferating as a training helicopter solution in the US civilian helicopter market. The manufacturer was proactive and began teaching the recovery from this situation during in-aircraft flight training. The result of the Low-G flight training did not reduce the number of accidents as it may have contributed to even more. The solution that worked well was to simply prohibit that maneuver all together.

It seems that the best of intentions to alter tried-and-true procedures may provide a very different result. As an instructor, don’t engage in new flight procedures without first receiving comprehensive procedural training on teaching the maneuver. More importantly, don’t teach a maneuver without first understanding the instructional intervention methods and procedures to keep you out of an unsafe situation.

Some maneuvers may seem simple on the surface and equivalent in safety, but the hidden risk of a poorly executed maneuver may be significantly more difficult to recover. Learning this lesson the first time while engaged in such a maneuver may prove deadly.         

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. Rowles is the owner/president of Helicopter Institute.

Visit Helicopter Institute's website for more information
Website: www.helicopterinstitute.com
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