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Skid it on

Helicopter running landings

The power requirement of helicopters is sometimes backwards to that of an airplane.
Illustration by Charles Floyd
Illustration by Charles Floyd

On landing, for example, an airplane becomes a glider and needs no power, whereas transitioning into a hover and then landing is one of the highest power needs helicopters have. While fine under normal circumstances, it can lead to problems in cases where full power isn’t available, and the pilot doesn’t know it until it’s too late. For those times, a running landing can be a useful technique.

  1. Pick a good surface. Although you could theoretically land in grass or other surfaces, stick to a runway or taxiway for this maneuver. It lessens the chance of a skid digging in.
  2. Fly a shallow approach. To minimize the transition between approach and landing, set up for a shallow approach. Something around 3 or 3.5 percent glideslope works well. If the airport has an approach path indicator, slightly above normal airplane glideslope is a good target. Stabilize at around 60 knots.
  3. Simulate by limiting power. Simulate insufficient engine power by limiting power to around 19 inches in a Robinson R22.
  4. Think air taxi. A good rule of thumb is to cross the runway threshold at something approximating an air taxi, such as 40 feet and 40 knots. Since you probably already know this sight picture, it will be easier to recreate it.
  5. Slow with cyclic, descend with collective. Slowly reduce airspeed with cyclic and control the descent rate with collective, hopefully touching down somewhere just below effective translational lift.
  6. Land flat. Airplane pilots, beware. Avoid the tendency to land nose-high, and plan to land as flat as possible, keeping the nose straight with the anti-torque pedals.
  7. Lower power. After touching down, slowly lower the collective. As the helicopter slows the skids will start to grab the concrete and “chatter” a bit. Don’t be alarmed. Just keep looking ahead and keep the nose straight.

Ian J. Twombly

Ian J. Twombly

Ian J. Twombly is senior content producer for AOPA Media.

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