Are YOU Struggling with setting up Helicopter Approaches?

May 09, 2024

Mastering Helicopter Approaches: Tackling the Normal, Steep, and Shallow

Helicopter flying is an intricate dance with precision, requiring a pilot to understand and execute approaches accurately. Whether you are a student pilot, a commercial professional, or preparing for your CFI checkride, mastering the art of helicopter approaches can seem daunting. In today's discussion, Kenny Keller, creator of Helicopter Online Ground School, will break down the process of setting up normal, steep, and shallow approaches with clarity and simplicity, ensuring you gain confidence in your ability to handle any angle needed during your flights.



Understanding Approach Angles
Helicopter approaches are all about the angles and understanding how to set them correctly for each type of landing. During the podcast, Kenny Keller simplifies this by categorizing the approaches into three primary types: shallow, normal, and steep. Shallow approaches are defined by a 5-degree angle, normal at 10 degrees, and steep at 15 degrees. Remembering these basic numbers gives pilots a solid foundation to start from.

Visualizing and Measuring Approaches
Utilizing simple tools, like a plotter, can profoundly aid in visualizing these angles. By physically drawing lines representing 5, 10, and 15 degrees, pilots can develop a better sense of spatial awareness and how these angles appear during flight. 

Setting Up Your Approach
Kenny emphasizes the importance of nailing the normal approach first. By mastering the 10-degree angle, pilots can make more informed adjustments for both shallower and steeper approaches. When you understand and feel comfortable with the standard approach, adjusting to others becomes significantly more intuitive.

Systematic Setup at 300 AGL
A consistent setup is crucial for a successful approach. Kenny advises pilots to establish their aircraft at 300 AGL (above ground level) before intercepting their intended approach path. This setup not only provides a safety buffer but also gives the pilot ample opportunity to adjust their approach if necessary.

Practical Tips for In-flight Execution
When flying, especially during training or familiarization flights, identifying specific landmarks can help in maintaining the correct approach angle. Whether it's a tree line, a farmhouse, or specific runway markings, these visual cues can serve as guides to maintaining the right trajectory.

Interior Aircraft Markings
In an innovative approach to training, Kenny discusses how different markings inside the cockpit, like string attachments on the windshield or parts of the compass, can correspond with different approach angles. This method personalizes the learning experience, making it easier for pilots to remember and execute during flight.

Learning Through Repetition and Consistency
Repetition is the key to mastering helicopter approaches. By consistently practicing at 300 AGL and using the same setup procedures, pilots can develop muscle memory and a deeper understanding of how different approaches feel.



Adapting to Different Aircraft and Environments
While the principles of approach angles remain constant, each aircraft might have slight variations in how these angles are best achieved. Pilots must learn to adapt these principles to their specific aircraft and flying conditions, which might involve slight adjustments from the general guidelines.

Building Confidence Through KnowledgeLearning to set and fly various helicopter approaches confidently marks a significant milestone in any pilot's education. By understanding the fundamentals of approach angles, setting up correctly, using visual cues effectively, and practicing consistently, pilots enhance their skills and preparedness for any flying condition.

Kenny's practical advice sheds light on common challenges and offers actionable solutions that help bridge the gap between novice uncertainty and expert precision. As you incorporate these techniques into your training regimen, remember that every flight provides an opportunity to refine your skills and build toward becoming a proficient helicopter pilot.