I was watching the Channel 4 program Mayday The Passenger Who Landed a Plane.What an amazing man. How he kept calm through all that was truly incredible. I would have been saying my goodbyes if I had no flying experience, yet he kept going, good humoured and upbeat. All this despite being in a position of having to land a plane, at an unfamiliar airfield, in failing light with one of his good mates laying dead beside him and having never flown a plane before.
I must say that I thought the instructor could have had a different approach to the problem. I think that if I was tasked with the problem, I would have spent 15-20 minutes teaching the guy to fly. Pull back on the yolk, push forwards, turn left, turn right, throttle up and throttle down, showing what all of the controls did.
That led me to wonder what would happen in the case of a helicopter where the Pilot was unconscious in similar situation. First I thought that it wouldn’t happen as helicopters are inherently unstable, but it is possible that a passenger could find themselves in that position and if I were the only person able to help, what strategy would I adopt? I am not an instructor of helicopters, so please bear that in mind!
My strategy would be to get to the nearest big airport that I could from where to bring him down. I would try to get a landing onto grass to have maximum braking. Once that was established, I would explain that we are not going to hover. An inexperienced passenger would not be able to hover and would be as sure to die as if they would trying to hover a fixed wing. Air speed would be maintained at 60 knots all the time, right onto the ground.
Whilst flying, I would insist flying at 70 knots at least to keep away from a hover and spin situation. I would spend 10 minutes trying to show what the controls did to the flying aircraft but no more, as the more time the passenger is flying, the more likely something disastrous would happen.
OK, now to the talk down. Line up a long way out and get the hang of how the collective lever takes you above and below your ideal line. Use it very sparingly as it is very sensitive, but get the hang of it as best you can. Pull back the cyclic very slightly, once you are approaching 60 knots ease it very, very, very slightly forward so that you maintain 60 knots. If it goes above 60 knots, ease back and if it goes below, ease forwards, millimetres only. Now check that you are aiming to the grass you are hoping to land on. If not, raise or drop the collective lever to bring you back onto line. Now check your speed and adjust again. This would need to be a really, really long approach.
As you are approaching the landing point, you are hoping to touch down as early as possible on the grass, but this is a long term aim. Maintain 60 knots. When you are stable, push slightly on the left or right pedal to straighten up if necessary. Now make slight adjustments on the Collective so that you keep coming down. As you are about to touch on the ground, maintain 60 knots and very slightly lift up on the collective to slow your descent. As the skids hit the ground, ease the collective down very slowly so as not to cause sudden yaw. Keep easing the collective down until the helicopter comes to a standstill or it is right down. Beware, you are still in danger. Hold everything exactly where it is. Take your hand from the collective lever and turn off the ignition key. Put you hand immediately back on the collective and hold it down. Wait until the blades have stopped.
Other thoughts – I wonder if it would be good to pre-empt dropping the lever by inducing a bit of right yaw. Then I thought we should pre-empt the cushioning action with the lever, so that should be left yaw. Decided that if the lever is dropped slowly, the weight on the ground would hold it straight as the torque lost effect.
It is clearly not the normal shut down procedure but is probably the easiest to explain and it will work.
I welcome the thoughts of others, especially helicopter pilots and even more especially instructors.
This is clearly with a anti-clockwise rotating Main Rotor and an ignition system