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Confined Area Landing Checks


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I'd like to start a discussion about different reconnaissance techniques / checks that are used to teach a beginner student how to safely land at a confined landing site.

 

In the US, the most common technique seems to be

 

- establish circle at ~500ft

- go through a list of items like

Power

Altitude

Wind

Wires

Turbulence

Obstacles

Forced landing areas

Entry

Exit

Landing Surface

 

or similiar. I've never been a big fan of this (see below), but it's what I was taught and what I used to have to teach.

 

Here, we have another checklist that I like a bit better (still not perfect imo though):

~500ft circle around LZ, then check:

Size

Shape

Surface

Slope

Sun

Wind

Wires

Abort plan

Termination Point (Target for landing)

Entry

Exit

 

 

My problem with any "checklist" I've heard so far is that it is not really what I do when outside the training environment, neither does anyone I know. For example, the surface/slope conditions can often not be seen from a 500ft circle, and may only be visible when much lower, yet they appear right at the top of the SWAT checklist. The PAWTOFEEL list on the other hand is missing a few really important things, like the escape/abort plan, and the need to pick a actual target for the termination.

 

I've tried to observe what I actually do when landing a helicopter somewhere in the bush, during a commercial operation without a student.

The process is obviously different every time, depending on the difficulty of the landing, but generally it seems to go more like this:

 

Actual Checks:

1) high reconnaisance / circle:

- find landing site and estimate size

- wind

- wires

- possible approach and takeoff paths, preferably on opposite sides if windy

 

2) low overflight / closer look (can be an overshoot approach, the actual approach, or another lower circle if necessary)

- look for small obstacles on landing area

- surface conditions

- establish termination point for hover/landing (where exactly is the helicopter going to sit, where is the tailrotor going to be)

- escape plan in case of abort

- wires, again

 

3) actual approach

- approach under power*, monitor power reserve and wind/airspeed

- abort if LZ looks different than expected

 

 

I don't have a fancy codeword like "PAWTOFEEL" for this process. It's hard to even put it in a specific order, because often the situation is clear at first glance, or one might notice something right at the beginning that is way down on this list...

 

For the purpose of training though, some sort of a defined process or checklist is definitely necessary. I'm trying to come up with a acronym for my list.. in the meantime, what are your opinions on this? Are there any other "checklists" out there that people use for teaching?

 

 

 

*the power checks that are commonly taught are another issue, maybe for another topic...

Edited by lelebebbel
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Your real world approach seems about exactly what I do but I think at the point where you have done hundreds of them you're not really thinking in terms of acronyms.

 

In training I was taught WOTFEEL for high recon.

 

Wind

Obstacles

Forced landing areas

Entry

Exit

Landing zone

 

Then power check on approach and low recon on short final. Nothing wrong with a low approach for low recon.

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I don't really remember what I was taught. It was whatever the Army used way back when dirt was new. I don't use anything now, I just look at the area and check for obstacles, wires, etc, along with the best approach and departure paths available considering the wind. I know this is not the same as teaching a new student to do it, but even if I were an active CFI I'm not sure I would use a long checklist or acronym. Those are distractions, IMO, when you need to be concentrating on landing safely. If you need all that, your judgment may be somewhat questionable. Even as a new student, I think I knew most of the dangers without even consciously thinking about them, and my technique hasn't changed much. Experience certainly makes it easier, and close calls reinforce checks for certain dangers, but I'm not sure having students parrot a checklist is effective training. Have some faith in the students' judgment, and use mistakes as teaching points. You don't want to get into situations you can't get out of, but most people learn far more from mistakes than from successes, and certainly more than from reading checklists.

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One of the best things I learned a few years ago at HeliExpo mountain course was how you conducted the high and low recon was effected by the location of the landing area. A landing area on side of a cliff may require at figure 8 pattern or an orbit along side the area rather than over it. Something that instructors don't discuss during private and commercial training.

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I don't really remember what I was taught. It was whatever the Army used way back when dirt was new. I don't use anything now, I just look at the area and check for obstacles, wires, etc, along with the best approach and departure paths available considering the wind. I know this is not the same as teaching a new student to do it, but even if I were an active CFI I'm not sure I would use a long checklist or acronym. Those are distractions, IMO, when you need to be concentrating on landing safely. If you need all that, your judgment may be somewhat questionable. Even as a new student, I think I knew most of the dangers without even consciously thinking about them, and my technique hasn't changed much. Experience certainly makes it easier, and close calls reinforce checks for certain dangers, but I'm not sure having students parrot a checklist is effective training. Have some faith in the students' judgment, and use mistakes as teaching points. You don't want to get into situations you can't get out of, but most people learn far more from mistakes than from successes, and certainly more than from reading checklists.

 

Gomer, it was probably LONGLASS V

 

Landing formation

Obstacles

Number of aircraft

Ground slope

Loads

Approach/departure direction

Size

Surface

 

Vulnerability

 

Pretty much the same as others have mentioned (minus the tactical & multi-ship stuff). I am surprised that nobody mentioned slopes though. I am always surprised at how an area that looks level during recon can turn out to have quite a slope to it once you get a few feet above touchdown.

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but I'm not sure having students parrot a checklist is effective training. Have some faith in the students' judgment, and use mistakes as teaching points. You don't want to get into situations you can't get out of, but most people learn far more from mistakes than from successes, and certainly more than from reading checklists.

I absolutely agree with this, and I have taught the "have a look, use your imagination and common sense, and fly me in there safely" approach previously.

 

There are only 2 problems:

 

1) Most students, especially those with a more practical background, seem to do fine if you tell them to just use their judgement.

Others however seem to get flustered, especially in test situations. They end up forgetting important things, or end up circling for 10 minutes, staring at the ground. The "checklist" is something for them to fall back on if they lose track of what they are supposed to do.

This could probably avoided with a bit more practice, unfortunately there is another problem:

 

2) the regulator forces me to use a set procedure, a checklist. If I send a student on a test with an official, and the student isn't able to parrot a checklist for this, they are not happy.

So I have to have something in place. I'd like to make it as usefull as possible.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I was taught the WOTFEEL acronym and thats still what I use just to make sure I don't forget anything.

 

Basically do an orbit, you should already know where the wind is coming from. Take a look at obstacles, get an entry/exit path, think about where you'd go for a power failure/go around, take a quick second look at what you'll be flying over on your pattern/approach path. Reevaluate how things look on the way down, go/no go decision, land.

 

Usually doesn't take any more than 1-2 orbits, low approach to go around if it looks close, otherwise take it on in.

 

It may not be perfect, but it does the job.

Edited by Azhigher
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Usually doesn't take any more than 1-2 orbits, low approach to go around if it looks close, otherwise take it on in.

 

It may not be perfect, but it does the job.

 

When I was doing my training for the commercial, I was fortunate enough to have access to several utility pilots. So when my instructor would tell me stuff that really didn't make sense I would ask them about what really happens in the real world. When my instructor was telling me I had to make it in the first time every time, these guys were telling me that in the real world that pressure really isn't there. That the boss would much rather have you take an extra minute or two to get into the LZ than save a couple of minutes and turn that multi million dollar machine into a pile of certifiable spare parts. Jim's words were if it doesn't look right, feel right, sound right, your butt is starting to pucker or a little voice is saying 'Hey Stupid', its time to go around and look at it again.

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When my instructor was telling me I had to make it in the first time every time, these guys were telling me that in the real world that pressure really isn't there.

 

I got the same pressure during my commercial. Take the Candadian Helicopters Mountain Flying ground school...they may do 4 or more passes by an LZ before even attempting it.

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I got the same pressure during my commercial. Take the Candadian Helicopters Mountain Flying ground school...they may do 4 or more passes by an LZ before even attempting it.

 

I did the course at HeliExpo a few years ago. Even though they were cramming a 5 day GS into a day, it still had a lot of good information.

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Here, we have another checklist that I like a bit better (still not perfect imo though):

~500ft circle around LZ, then check:

Size

Shape

Surface

Slope

Sun

Wind

Wires

 

Just two points I would like to make. During my training, no one ever talked about the Sun before, and it caught me by surprise one day. Doing a very steep departure out of a confined area of trees I was suddenly blinded by the low setting west sun.(even with dark sunglasses on). I knew I had a large tree about 50 feet in front of me, and I was climbing up and over it when it all went orange. I pulled back what little forward speed I had right to the edge of ETL and was pretty much already at max power as I saw the top of the tree slip under me.

 

It was pretty stupid since I knew what time it was and what direction I had to depart. It just wasn't on my mental checklist then....it sure is now.

 

CFI's should never teach a "have to make it in the first time" mentality. I remember shooting into a confined small plateau just below a ridge with a CFI. The wind turbulence coming off the ridgeline was a bit rough, and I went around. 3 times I changed my approach and tried to get into that spot in an R44 and three times I failed. The wind was only about 15 knots but that spot was a washing machine so I finally found another a few hundred yards away and landed with no issue. Only the guy on the controls knows his limits and his ships limit, we should never pressure a pilot let alone a student to go past his/her limit.

 

When in doubt, just go around. After all....it is a helicopter.

Edited by Goldy
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This has worked for me for over twenty two years in helicopter driving. I learned it from an old CH-47 driver: smile.gif

 

"SSBAT!"

 

Size

Suitability

Barriers

Approach Path

Take-Off Path

 

RP

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Here is what Transport Canada's Helicopter Flight Training Manual says on the subject:

http://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/civilaviation/publications/tp9982-exercise25-4907.htm

 

You can download this very useful free training manual at:

http://www.tc.gc.ca/publications/EN/TP9982/PDF/HR/TP9982E.pdf

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  • 3 weeks later...

I got the same pressure during my commercial. Take the Candadian Helicopters Mountain Flying ground school...they may do 4 or more passes by an LZ before even attempting it.

 

Kodoz -

 

I am taking the mountain course with Canadian Helicopters in June in my 500. How did you like it..? I was up there a few months ago doing the factory initial with Mel in the EC120...had a great time!

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Here is what Transport Canada's Helicopter Flight Training Manual says on the subject:

http://www.tc.gc.ca/...cise25-4907.htm

 

You can download this very useful free training manual at:

http://www.tc.gc.ca/.../HR/TP9982E.pdf

 

Garry -

 

Looking forward to June and a little warmer weather!!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Another acronym-- PSWAT Analysis

 

 

Pilot - do YOU feel comfortable here? Did you have a good night of sleep? Eat your Wheaties this morning? IMSAFE?

Power - Perform rule of thumb hover requirement calculations. What was hover power at home base? How much elevation gained? For every 1000 feet gained subtract an inch off the top (available MP, unless you've got a turbo) and add 1/2 to the bottom (increased requirements). Perform a power check during your reconnaissance orbits to ensure the engine can produce the full power you expect. Reduce speed to just above ETL for simulated IGE power. Attempt an OGE hover if you might need it.

Pax - Dropping off, picking up?

 

Suitability - encompasses the S's below. Is this the best place to land for the mission? Or maybe is there a better LZ a few hundred feet away that still gets the job done?

Size

Shape

Slope

Surface - Uneven? Will you have ground effect? Tall grass? Fire hazard? Etc..

Sun - Avoid setting up an approach to an LZ that will necessitate final or departure direct into the sun, especially when the sun is low in the sky at sunrise or sunset.

 

Wind - Choose an approach that gives you a headwind component but does not compromise other safety factors. A DIRECT HEADWIND is not a requirement. Perform a wind terrain analysis and plan your approach to make use of smooth updrafting wind and avoiding turbulent downdrafting wind.

Way In - Chose an approach that is only as steep as necessary, gives you a headwind component, and offers reasonable go-around and abort options.

Way Out - Is there one? There are plenty of places we can get into that we cant get out of!

Wildlife/Livestock - don't harass the wildlife.

Wires Wires Wires - Never stop looking and fly the poles.

 

Abort Point - Your abort point also serves as your commitment point--you're going in no matter what. At what point is a go-around no longer an option?

 

Termination Point - Have a very definite termination point in mind. Don't figure it out once your in the confined area. Generally, it will be the final one third portion of the available space. This will allow for a shallower approach angle which = lesser power demands. Don't forget to use the available space on the way out.

 

On the approach-- scanning gauges continuously.

 

RPM, top of green.

Airspeed, does the airspeed indicator match the "feel" of the ground rush beneath you? Was your wind direction assessment correct?

Rate of decent, reasonable and in positive control. Check the collective up, down. Who's controlling the decent--you or the winds?

Manifold pressure in use, normal? do you have a reasonable power margin? Are you being pushed up or down?

 

[edit] To the OP: to address your concerns about a rigid checklist being ineffective, this doesn't have to be done in order or all at once. It's a learning device and a reference tool in flight -- "am I forgetting anything?" It's a mnemonic device that helps a student to develop a sense of awareness of important factors. You don't need to tick off each item one by one but be continuously aware of all the factors as the situation changes.

Edited by 280fxColorado
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  • 6 months later...

Your real world approach seems about exactly what I do but I think at the point where you have done hundreds of them you're not really thinking in terms of acronyms.

 

In training I was taught WOTFEEL for high recon.

 

Wind

Obstacles

Forced landing areas

Entry

Exit

Landing zone

 

Then power check on approach and low recon on short final. Nothing wrong with a low approach for low recon.

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