Helicopter Performance Maneuvers, how safe are they?
What are they; just what is a Performance Maneuver? In the PTS, there are three maneuvers classified as 'Performance Maneuvers', though I can't for the life of me figure out what ever possessed the FAA to title them as performance maneuvers; these are:
- Rapid Deceleration, aka Quick Stop - A properly executed Quick Stop should have no altitude loss during the flare portion, and the flare should not be overly aggressive. After the helicopter is leveled, then a stabilized descent to normal hover should occur. A descending flare is inappropriate.
- Straight in autorotation - There is relatively little risk involved in a straight-in autorotation with consideration of a few simple factors. If the autorotation is not stable before descending through 300 feet agl, immediately increase throttle then collective and abort; by committing to the abort early, it can be executed more controlled and smoothly. Don't introduce autorotations to students with less then 10-hours; the gain just doesn't outweigh the risks.
- 180° autorotation - As above, immediately abort if not stable below 300 feet agl including the completion of turns. Don't delay turns; get into the turn immediately, especially the first 90 degrees. As the turn is initiated (the first 90 degrees), the pilot must quickly analyze if the rest of the turn should be delayed momentarily or continued. Don't just complete the turn then discover that it was to early. If the turn was to early execute an early abort and live to try again.
There are no other "Performance Maneuvers" mentioned in the PTS. This term is frequently used by inexperienced pilots who wish to go out and sport around in an air taxi simulating crop dusting techniques etc. These inexperienced individuals are those who frequent the accident database in their quest to impress themselves or others. No such maneuvers (other than those in the PTS) should be taught to any student who has not achieved a high enough level of experience to understand the inherent dangers involved, AND who is about to move into a job where these types of maneuvers are necessary such as Agriculture Aerial Application, Cattle Mustering, AND they should only be taught by someone who actually has significant experience in the field.
The photo to the left is an example of what occurs when someone attempts to teach something they don't actually know anything about. In this case, I had recently sold a flight school, where my students had always bugged me to teach them "AG maneuvers", but I always refused. The new owner had employed a 350 hour Flight Instructor who was all to eager to teach these high risk maneuvers which he really didn't know anything about, and on the third day this photo was taken. Some would say that it was because it was a Robinson, but they would be wrong. It wouldn't have mattered what make or model helicopter this pilot was flying because he was exceding his capabilites a great deal. This idiot instructor had given a pre-flight briefing to the class on the "performance maneuvers" they would be practicing that day. After the crash, it was learned that this wasn't his first.
Remember that if something goes wrong in a helicopter at low altitude, the outcome will likely be disastrous; serious damage to the helicopter is highly likely, as well as serious personal injury or even death. The accident depicted in this photo was a direct result of the teaching of these such maneuvers by a low time instructor whom was previously taught by someone else who didn't know what they were doing; "monkey see, monkey do".
Real Helicopters, Real Egos
Many moons ago, when I was interested in taking helicopter flight lessons, I called a flight school, one of several, for information. This particular school operated a Bell 47 and an Enstrom F28. The person on the phone stated, "we fly real helicopters...". When I inquired what was meant by real, I was told in part, "...as opposed to Robinson helicopters...". At that time, Robinson Helicopters were making deep intrusions into the training market making training afordable to many more people where it had been dominated by the Hughes/Schweizer, Bell 47, and the Enstrom which costed much more to operate. Some of these earlier operators were very upset as the small market they once controlled was now opening up. The point here is that one should be cautious anytime egotistical terms such as "REAL", or "PERFORMANCE MANEUVER", etc., are used. Every maneuver you are taught during training is REAL whether the conditions are simulated or not. The moment you enter the ramp area with the intent to fly, things are as real as anything ever gets. Every helicopter is a REAL helicopter regardless of its size or brand. Every time EGO enters the training environment, the risk increases tremendously; it does not matter what issue raised the EGO level.
I suggest that all students take the time to take the Hazardous Attitude Inventory, a simple "situation" quiz which will teach you a lot about yourself, and demonstrate the tendencies of any particular individual and provide suggestive guidelines in preventing such potentially hazardous attitudes from entering into the flight environment whether or not it is a training flight. ENDJump to Top