My Top Ten Autorotation Practice Tips

Sep 10, 2018

My Top Ten Autorotation Practice Tips

Hello, I'm Kenny Keller the creator of Helicopter Online Ground School. I want to give you my top 10 best autorotation practice tips.

Important Note: Always refer to the Pilot's Operating Handbook and or The Rotorcraft Flight Manual for the specific aircraft you fly for best speed and procedures!

Number 1: You need to have a nice entry. If you enter it nice, it's going to be nice. If you enter it sloppy, it's going to be sloppy. In this case we'll use the R44 as an example. These tips are pretty common no matter what aircraft type you fly in. The elements of a good autorotation in general are the same. In this example we use 70 for air speed, 500 AGL when we enter and I want to be at 0 rate descent when I enter. We want to give ourselves enough time that when we get to our entry point we can have a nice entry. Again, zero vertical speed, the air speed entry that we need, the altitude we want and the trim that we want. I've heard my examiner say many times during the check ride, private, commercial, CFI, "if it takes you ten minutes to get set up for the straight in auto, take ten minutes to get set up for the straight in auto." You want to have everything ready to go. If you enter it nice, it will be nice. If you enter it sloppy, it's going to be sloppy.



 My Top Ten Autorotation Practice Tips 

Number 2: You need a small aft cyclic pull at entry. We talked about having everything set up. I like to use 70 for the glide in the R44. I enter about 75 in the R44, when I enter and I give that small aft cyclic pull the nose does not dive. You're setting your speed when you enter the autorotation with a small aft cyclic pull. If you do that and you set your speed correctly at the beginning, chances are you'll have a nice glide going down. If you screw up the speed at the beginning then you'll start going forward, backward, air speed up and down, RPM, trim everything kind of goes wacky. Getting that speed set at the beginning is very, very important.

 Number 3: You need three things simultaneously at entry. We just mentioned the aft cyclic so you need a little bit of aft cyclic, a little bit of right pedal, whatever it takes to put yourself in trim and also lower the collective. All three of these things should be done together. If you done one, then the other, then the other, then you're kind of monkeying the thing around and it's not going to be that nice. You need to do all three of these entry points, aft cyclic, right pedal, down collective, all simultaneously.

My Top Ten Autorotation Practice Tips

Number 4: Roll off enough throttle to split your needles. No throttle chops. Back in the old days they chopped that throttle all the way off. Where when you do a throttle chop you have a chance of the engine actually stopping, then you're going for a real engine failure when you're trying to do a practice engine failure. You want to roll off enough throttle to split the needles, do it smoothly, gently and split the needles to the point that it's appropriate for the aircraft that you're flying.


Number 5: Control your airspeed during the glide. As an example we're using 70, if you set it right and you get it at 70 and you don't start moving the cyclic around, keep that airspeed nice, then it makes everything nice. Again, you start messing with airspeed, then things change with RPM, so on so forth. Really work on focusing inside, outside. You have a crosscheck, inside is your airspeed, outside is your spot, inside at RPM, outside look at your spot, inside trim, outside to your spot. You want to really focus on keeping that airspeed steady.

My Top Ten Autorotation Practice Tips

Number 6: Raise enough collective smoothly to control RPM. On most aircraft, depending on the day, after you enter the RPM is going to start to rise and your probably going to have to pull up collective a little bit. Now, this could be different on varying aircraft. I'm not saying that every single instance, but most generally after you enter the autorotation the RPMs going to start to rise. Be prepared and know that it's going to rise on you and start raising a little bit of collective ahead of time to keep it from getting to high. If you catch it early it makes the auto nice. If you wait till RPMs too high, then you're making more of an abrupt up movement with the collective and it makes things messy. Not only are you focusing on your airspeed, your trim, you're really focusing on keeping that RPM under control.

Number 7: Maintain trim during the glide. I can tell you, it's amazing, if you get that trim in there and you have the aircraft trimmed into the wind, it actually seems like it comes down a little bit slower, it's more controlled and a lot of people will enter it, they'll put in the pedal but not enough or too much and they come down out of trim. If you fly the thing in trim, no matter which aircraft it is, it will come down, seemingly lslower by being in trim.


 My Top Ten Autorotation Practice Tips 

Number 8: Set RPM close to range where the needles will join when the throttle is added. Again, this could vary a little bit depending on the aircraft or maybe an instructor, the way a certain instructor wants you to do it. But in general about halfway through the green range is pretty usually close to the actual operating range for the engine. That could vary on instructor and technique. I'm just saying in general high isn't necessarily the best and low isn't necessarily the best. Usually about halfway through the green range. Again, depending on the aircraft and depending on circumstances. If you're trying to stretch a glide, you might go to the lower side of the RPM. There are other factors taken into consideration. This is kind of an in general versus being to high or to low, I like to be about the center of the green RPM range for the rotor system.

Number 9: Start with a gentle flare at approximately tree top level. Now again, depending on what aircraft your flying it may say start your flare at 40 feet, it may say 50 feet, it may say 100 feet. Again, it depends on the manufacturers recommendation on what point to start your flare. Personally I use tree top level. It's hard for me to distinguish between 40 feet, 50 feet. I use the term tree top level. As I'm coming down, I'm actually watching the tree line and as I pass the top of the tree line is when I start a gentle flare. During the flare I start a small half pull just below tree top level. As I get closer to the ground I make it bigger, and I make it bigger, and I make it bigger and then I level and raise the collective.

What I'm doing is, I'm doing that gradually so that depending on the wind for the day, I can decide as I start with a gentle flare, do I need to be aggressive because it's not windy or can I have more of a shallow flare because it is windy. Depending on the day, as you pull it you can decide, I need to get more aggressive with it or I can leave it a little less aggressive because I have a lot of wind and then level out. Again, this technique some people teach, they get down closer they get more aggressive near the ground and then level it. I struck a tail rotor once during a practice autorotation. Because of that reason I'm a little more conservative. I was also taught this early on by an instructor who I thought very highly of and he taught me a lot of really good stuff. That's where he taught me, start it with gentle and as you get closer make it bigger, make it bigger, make it bigger. Deciding how much you need to flare and then level the helicopter.

Number 10: When the speed is almost gone, level the aircraft, raise collective, roll on throttle. Now this can vary a little bit too on technique but if you remember in order what's going to happen, it's speed is almost gone, level, raise collective, roll on throttle. Now depending on the the technique, some people pull a little collective before they level. That's okay, depending on the aircraft, the inertia in your rotor system. I personally don't really start pulling collective until I have it leveled out and then I raise collective and roll on the throttle. For me, that works really well. I understand that that's tough for people cleaning it all up at the end but you'll get better with practice and as long as you have the technique in mind of what it is your going to do that will help you cleaning up that autorotation at the end.

That was basically for one of our members that emailed me this morning and he said, "Kenny, I'm really struggling with the autos." He gave me a long list of the different problems he was having and I thought over the years of teaching and all the different aircraft that I've flown and got the chance to instruct in, the basics of the maneuver, the 10 tips that I just gave you are pretty much what I think are the general elements of a good auto. I sat down and did the first 10 that come to mind. We could probably do another 30 of those on tips, but those are the top 10 that came to mind. The things that I see that people struggle with, whether it's messing up the airspeed or messing up the trim or whatever the case is, those are the most common problems that I see.

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