Debrief Full Down Autorotation Practice With Gary Cleveland

Sep 21, 2018

     Hey, it's Kenny Keller with Helicopter Online Ground School. I just want to do a quick debrief on Gary's full down autorotations. We've done a couple of the flights in the past month or two just to keep him fresh, but today's the first day we did full downs. We just went out, we had an absolute blast, we didn't do just the standard old, straight-in 180s, we also did 90s, we did a 360, we did a zero airspeed, and we did hover autos, and of course everything was all to the ground.

Debrief Full Down Autorotation Practice With Gary Cleveland

      We did it in two flights.  In two flights we covered a whole bunch of stuff, and just want to shoot a video real quick while we're kind of in the moment, because it was a really awesome day. Gary's has had for real engine failures. Once in a Hiller, and once in a Rotorway, where he had a failure and had to land. So he's done it before in the real world, but not full down practice.

     He did a super job, by the end of the two hours we pretty much had these full downs nailed, and what's cool is what we noticed today...I've been doing a lot in the Robinson R-44, today we jumped in the Enstrom to do them.  Although the Robinson R-44 is a great helicopter and the autos are pretty mild mannered.

Debrief Full Down Autorotation Practice With Gary Cleveland

     About 10 knots of wind, a rotor system like this, little bit of a flare, get rid of that speed, and the thing that we learned today, and Sara kind of had the same problem Gary did at first, they're flaring, leveling, but then pulling too soon. And like they level and they're pulling too soon and the energy runs out just before we hit. But once we kind of got that problem ironed out, and realized that, got Gary in the mindset of  level, pause, and then raise just before touching the ground.

     By the time we were done, they were flipping smooth, and it was really cool. Gary, tell us again, you know, you've done a couple for real, but you had no choice with those. That wasn't about technique, that was "Oh-oh, I am going to land. I have to land now."  So how different was it doing it in practice? Was it intimidating at all, and what did you think after the fact?

Gary Cleveland: I think for me it was just a tremendous confidence builder. You know, to go out and get them out of the way, and not just one or two, to leave us thinking that I was lucky, but just hammer at them for a couple of hours and having so many good successful touchdowns. It's got my confidence where it needs to be for my checkride.

Kenny Keller: Yup, and I told him we're getting ready to schedule his checkride just after Sara's, and I told him today after those two hours, he's pretty much got it down in those two flights, and we'll do another hour or two of flying if he wants, just to keep that sight picture and the feel, but pretty much we've got no more than three to four hours in the flying time getting him ready for the CFI, and kind of the point I want to make is, you don't always need 10 hours or 20 hours when somebody's trying to sell a great big CFI package.

Debrief Full Down Autorotation Practice With Gary Cleveland

     If you really need that time, that's fine, but you know, Gary was really confident in the aircraft, and I know when I did my CFI in California years ago, we did accelerated school and they said, "Guys you're already commercial pilots in the aircraft you're taking the checkride in, you should know how to fly to a good commercial standard, and you should know how to talk." So it's fly to commercial standard, talk, and we're going to have you ready in about three hours. And that's what they did.

There were two of us who went from Chicago area to California, 10 days hitting the ground school hard. All day every day, every night studying FOIs. Going through the stuff over and over and over, until you just completely had it. And then we just flew two or three hours and then we both went, both of us took our checkrides with Tim Tucker and they were tough checkrides but we got through it. So kind of the point I want to make is, it's about flying to a commercial standard, knowing the aircraft, being competent in it. And the full downs, would you say now Gary, now that you've done them in a practice environment, is the full down easier than a power recovery?

Gary Cleveland: Oh absolutely for me.

Kenny Keller: It is. You hear that until you do them, and it's really the truth. There's all this hype around full down autos, and that's kind of the other point I wanted to make, there's all this hype about the CFI, and there's all this hype about full downs. Not saying it's the easiest thing you're ever going to do, you have to apply yourself, you have to study hard, you have to work at it, but also the CFI is not as horrible as people want to make it out to be. If you're prepared, you go through the PTS, you know the things that are laid out in the PTS, you know the subject area, and the FOIs I can't stress enough, checkrides starts with FOIs so you have to know them.

Sara and Gary both struggled in the same thing. They're going through the FOIs over and over again. And it gets old, it gets redundant and you kind of get sick of it, but I told them both, "Even though you're getting sick of it, you got to keep going through them because that's where the examiner's going to start. He's going to hit the FOIs, and if you don't get through that you're not going to even finish the oral portion. Anything else you want to add there about CFI training in general? Or the autorotations, full downs or anything else?

Gary Cleveland: No, I feel a lot better about it now. I think the big deal about full down autorotations with a lot of people is they've never, ever done one.

Kenny Keller: Never had the chance to do it.

Gary Cleveland: Yeah, and then of course the emergencies I had, you're limited on your spot and you have to improvise with your speed and your angle. But today they were real pretty.

Kenny Keller: Was the first one you had for real, was that in the Rotorway when you were getting ready for the practice auto?

Gary Cleveland: Yes.

Kenny Keller: He came in one day, I'm upstairs in the office. He's been out flying his Rotorway and he walks in and he said, "I just" and this is back before Commercial even, right?

Gary Cleveland: Yeah.

Kenny Keller: This is Private working, building his time for Commercial. He walks out in the upstairs one day and he goes, "I just had an engine failure." I said, "You did? Where? Where's the helicopter? You okay?" And he's like, "Yeah, I just hovered it back in." Correct me if I'm not telling this right, but he was lining up to do a practice auto to the numbers 28, getting ready to enter it, and the engine quit! Correct?

Gary Cleveland: When I rolled the throttle down, it quit. And of course in a Rotorway the secondary system should pick it up, but it didn't, it died. And so all the way from 500 feet AGL down, I knew it was a real auto.

Kenny Keller: Right. So you get down, you flared. Did you have much run on that day, or did you get it slowed down pretty well?

Gary Cleveland: I think I only ran a couple of feet.

Kenny Keller: And did you go pretty much to the numbers?

Gary Cleveland: I was just past the numbers that [crosstalk 00:07:11] yeah.

Kenny Keller: He's getting set up for a practice autorotation with power recovery, and the engine stops and he has to do it for real. So he walked in and he told me that and I'm like, all these years of teaching, I've never had a student walk in and go, "Hey I just had an engine failure." I'm like, "Well, is the aircraft okay?" He's like, "Yeah, it restarted." So he started it up and hovered it back in.

     We'll wrap this up. Give us your autorotation stories. Put them down below, we'd like to hear them. I've never had a real one, and now Gary in his time of flying has had that one, the practice one, and then a couple of others, but they both came out successful. He got them on the ground and walked away, and everything was fine, so just a little debrief and a little bit of background on these full downs. It is not as bad as everybody makes it out to be. 

Debrief Full Down Autorotation Practice With Gary Cleveland

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