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Practice FTDAs


nightsta1ker
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This is a topic that has been on my mind for the last few years. I learned to fly helicopters at Western Helicopters in So Cal in 2003, and at that school, at that time (I don't know what their current training procedures are now) we did full touch down autos all the time. I probably did 2 dozen the day before my first solo. My instructor wanted me to be able to get the ship down intact, and by the time he took the leash of me, I could. We even did autos at night! Granted, not as many, but at least I knew what they would look like. I learned that having your landing light on during a night auto is not a great idea. I learned to adjust my sight picture. I could think of a hundred reasons why the training I got at Western was superior to anywhere else I have trained, but the primary reason was because they were not afraid to do FTDAs.

 

Today, most schools will not do FTDAs until you are a commercial pilot going for your CFI. And I have to wonder, are we gypping our students? I suppose there are many factors to consider. Low time, inexperienced instructors. Increased risk of damaging the aircraft. Et cetera.

 

My question to everyone is this: are the benefits worth the risk? There is no doubt in my mind that the difference between being proficient at power recovery autos and full touchdown may be the difference between walking away from a totaled aircraft and walking away from one that is intact. However, as a newly minted instructor, I must admit that the idea of doing FTDAs with students sends a chill down my spine.

 

Then there is the bigger issue that seems to be looming over the industry. A lack of experience and professionalism in the flight training community. Is this recent shift in opinion about doing autos hurting us even more? Are we sending pilots out there unprepared? As instructors are we putting our job security above our students safety?

 

Would you rather bend a crossbar after a botched FTDA? Or hear the news that one of your students totaled an aircraft because the engine went quiet and they did no have the muscle memory to pull off a proper full down auto?

 

I personally can see both sides of the issue and I am on the fence about it. Not taking a stand here. Just want to hear some opinions.

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Sounds like your initial training far exceeded the standard, must have been a great benefit to you. Not saying I agree or disagree but I think the mentality is that doing touch down autos in initial training the risk outweighs the reward. Plus I think for a lot of places to one degree or another they are training autos for the checkride, not necessarily for the rare situation that the engine actually fails.

 

Also, I could be wrong but I'm guessing your instructor at Western was not a 300 hr wonder like most places, when I was at that point I would not have been very confident at teaching FTDA's to brand new students.

 

The Army only does touchdowns but their instructors are more experienced plus they are doing them in 206B3's with plenty of blade inertia. Pulling it off with less experience in an R22 would be pretty tricky.

 

I guess the current mindset of training autorotations with power recovery is directly linked to the fact that in the US flight instructing is an entry level job for the pilots with the lowest experience level.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think the strategy now for both military, and on the civilian side is, with power recoveries, there is enough training to maybe minimize damage, but as far as survivability more than enough statistically to be acceptable. The diminishing return of trying to train for a no damage actual auto was not going to be cost efficient.

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Nightstalker- YES< YES< YES< YES< NO!

 

You went to a school known for its experience in full downs. In fact, I know several pilots that have gone over there just to do some (most for the first time).

 

I wish we set the bar higher and I wish all schools taught to the degree that you were taught. That said, I'm glad as an aircraft owner that most schools wont go "all the way". Some pilots (and CFI's) can't even handle maintaining rotor RPM without overspeeding, let alone getting it on the ground safely.

 

So my bottom line? I wish we did more, but its just not monetarily possible for most schools, nor is it required for the private/comm PTS. Better that there are a few places you can go to and get that extra bit of training by CFI's that do them all the time.

 

Even with insurance, the deductible alone would kill a school.

 

I wish more pilots had an opportunity to do full downs in a sim, if not the real thing scraping along the runway. And I would encourage every pilot out there to find somewhere to go do the real thing. B47's, 206's and R44R2's are real nice (and forgivable) aircraft to start with.

 

I prefer to post my fulldowns on Youtube! (even the not so good ones!)

 

Fly safe,

 

Goldy

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I have seen a trend with schools that teach in the S300, Bob Spencer at Western had me do a lot of full downs, and so did Adam Moore at Airwork. The only time I did full downs in the R22 was for my CFI checkride. So is it just an R22 thing? I know most schools teach in the R22. So has the 22 changed the standard for the industry? I think there is a big difference between being proficient in full downs (like for your CFI checkride) and being simply familiar with them. I am just of the opinion that a helicopter pilot should not be at 200 hours before they do their first full down. I'm not saying they should be done all the time, but perhaps one or two before solo, just so the student knows what it's really going to look like if they have to auto. The sight picture, the flare, and the completion are all very different. Different enough that I feel very strongly that proficiency at power recovery autos would not be sufficient to get the aircraft down undamaged in the event of a real power failure. Yes, they are rare, but I have already experienced a partial power loss and so it is more than just a hypothetical in my mind. Emergency procedures training saves lives. It also occassionally bends aircraft too... Unfortunately. Has anyone gotten Any time in a Fly-it simulator? It uses MS ESP doesnt it? Last I checked, doing full downs realistically in FSX is just about impossible, and ESP is just a commercial variant of that.

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Western Helicopters is an amazing place. I am fortunate enough to be sent there every 6 months for an hour of day FTDs and an hour of night FTDs in their 500D. I really think they need to market their flight school portion a lot more.

When I was working on my ratings, I chose a different school when I did my Private and Commercial. The entire time Western was literally right down the street and I didn't even know it existed. Bob Spencer and and Pete Gilles are legendary.

 

Full downs are to the helicopter industry what a spin is to the fixed wing industry. It amazes me that a CFI only has to EVER perform one spin in their entire career. And its not even part of the checkride. Now, do we see a lot of spin accidents in flight training? No not really. Just like we dont see many real world autos. But I think its just the nature of the beast. Most CFIs are low time pilots looking to move on.

 

In my opinion, if your anywhere near Western (Rialto, CA) , pay for an hour in their 300C and go do FTDAs with Bob or Pete.....or if your loaded, pay for an hour in their 500D! The autos are real world. None of this PTS stuff. Crabbing, slipping, skidding. The idea they teach from is being able to hit your spot and plant it on the X. And your taught to do whatever it takes to get it on that spot. Youll do stuck left and right stuck pedal procedures all the way to touchdown as well.

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Bob was my instructor. I can only hope that some day I am that polished. What an awesome guy. Only interacted with Pete a few times but I always came away with a greater understanding of the aircraft. I wonder if my first solo pic is still on the wall there! They also got me my rating in minimum time. The experience I had with them is definitely what I am striving to pass on to my students. Next time I'm down that way I will definitely be popping in for an hour of full downs, just as a refresher.

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My question to everyone is this: are the benefits worth the risk? There is no doubt in my mind that the difference between being proficient at power recovery autos and full touchdown may be the difference between walking away from a totaled aircraft and walking away from one that is intact. However, as a newly minted instructor, I must admit that the idea of doing FTDAs with students sends a chill down my spine.

 

Then there is the bigger issue that seems to be looming over the industry. A lack of experience and professionalism in the flight training community. Is this recent shift in opinion about doing autos hurting us even more? Are we sending pilots out there unprepared? As instructors are we putting our job security above our students safety?

 

Would you rather bend a crossbar after a botched FTDA? Or hear the news that one of your students totaled an aircraft because the engine went quiet and they did no have the muscle memory to pull off a proper full down auto?

 

I personally can see both sides of the issue and I am on the fence about it. Not taking a stand here. Just want to hear some opinions.

 

In my opinion,

 

If your engine quits and you suck at FTDA’s and you mangle the aircraft and kill or seriously injure people, then the benefit of you not sucking at FTDA’s would be worth the risk of training. Consequently, in an effort to train an attempt to not suck, you slightly ding the aircraft; the owner of the aircraft would vehemently state, benefit of the training is not be worth the risk……

 

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon in today’s American culture to provide a perspective or an opinion with no frame of reference. Unfortunately, this is true for just about every aspect of our society. That is, people who are responsible for making decisions do so with absolutely no frame of reference (read no credibility). Nevertheless, I'll bet if you were to ask a group of pilots who have suffered an in-flight engine failure if they believe there is a need for helicopter pilots to be FTDA proficient, the overwhelming consensus would be “abso-f’n-lutely ”……

 

Where I learned, an instructor needed 750 hrs TT to be signed off to teach full-downs. The philosophy was, a pilot didn’t benefit completely from the maneuver until he or she actually had to teach it. My response to you about teaching FTDA’s is; would you be comfortable getting the machine down if the engine were to quit tomorrow? How about at night over the hood? During the day in a canyon? The reality is, at Western, you had probably the best training a student can have while gaining your certificates. If you can, use that training to your advantage and as you move up, preach the message….

 

In any case, there are plenty of arguments from all sides on this topic. However, once beyond the basic certification flight training environment, FTDA’s become a matter of routine refresher training for any respectable commercial helicopter operator….. That is, Bell, AEC and other professional training vendors’ pound out FTDA’s all-day-every-day with little risk or liability concerns and, performed in million dollar aircraft……

 

Single engine helicopter engine failures are an extremely rare event. Some folks in the industry now believe they are so rare; the reward of practicing FTDA’s doesn’t outweigh the risk. Consequently, FTDA training is now to the point of only being performed for demonstration purposes. Which is fine until your engine quits….. For an operator, it’s becomes a, “you can pay now, or you can pay later” kind-of-thing, or a “roll-the-dice” and “hope” for the best….. I rather be prepared and stack the chips in my favor. Thank goodness, we try to stack the chips in our favor twice annually; both during the day and night (Two out of three of us learned the hard way…).

 

Hate to say it, but, back in the day, FTDA’s were taught by low time CFI's as a matter of routine. It would appear the only thing which has changed between then and now is the level of fear. Fear of risk and liability…. People with this level of fear shouldn’t be in this business….

Edited by Spike
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In my Training ALL autos were to the ground, I do at least one auto every week but to a low hover,

Usually fly with my partner who has high hours it has become a routine to call engine out to see if the other is on the ball,

The vertical auto is the one I like best.

Had a 300 engine quit (went to x cylinders) a few weeks ago at 400 ft dam those rrpm drop like a stone it ain't the same as a practice believe me, in the flair it caught again then ran rough, then cleared,

We did checks could not get it to do again 30 min hovering and ground runs no problem,

Back at WS went through all the checks no problems, not a good feeling.

numerous ground runs hover tests no problems, we think it was condensation in tanks the weather was humid but warm tanks were 1\4 full there was no water in the drain test on both tanks before or after flight,

The thought is the condensation was on the walls of the tank & the vibration shook it down.

Machine has flown 20 + hours since no problem

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I definitely know how scary it can be operating a ship that has been having engine problems, see my post here: http://helicopterforum.verticalreference.com/topic/15247-s300c-engine-roughness-and-loss-of-power/

 

This really brought the issue to the fore-front for me. Yes, power failures are rare, but they DO happen. And honestly, I think they happen enough that it is worth the risk of training. Unfortunately convincing the insurance companies of that is it's own battle.

 

I am pretty confident that I could get the machine down in one piece if the engine quit. My training tool for this is a set of full helicopter controls for my computer, and X-plane 10. I bet some people would laugh about this, but the realism is second to none, and it has kept me "current" between long periods of no-fly. I have had my instructors remark that I remain incredibly sharp between long breaks in lessons. I attribute this to my simulator.

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Where I trained, and where I taught (different schools) we didn't do full down autos until CFI. It would have been nice to do them from private training but I can see both sides of the issue.

 

That being said, as a student when I switched from power recoveries to full down, it was not an issue at all. Nor was it an issue for the students I later taught.

 

Where I work now, however, all autos are full down. Bigger helicopters, so much less risk I guess.

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Aeroscout, I got my controls here: http://rainman.tv/. $1500. Very high quality and Mark is an awesome guy and provides great support.

 

Pohi, what aircraft were you training in?

 

I did some power recovery autos today with a student. First time doing them in a while. Always have to knock the dust off! First one was survivable but ugly. Second one was much better. Then we went and did run-ons. I was explaining to him that a full down is basically just a power recovery followed by a run on. Since I'm not really comfortable doing them with a student yet, even in the 300, I guess that's the best I can do.

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Things change. I never did power recovery autos until starting my current job, and they are more difficult for me than full touchdowns, because I'm still expecting to touch down. I started in the Army in 1970, and we did full touchdowns routinely, from the TH55 to the UH1. I don't recall any power recoveries. When I resigned and went to work in the GOM, we did full touchdowns on every checkride. I did a couple of touchdown autos in the S76 transition, so I would know how to do it if it ever came to that. The powers that be have to consider the cost/benefit ratio, and some think the costs of the occasional metal-bending are lower than the possible complete destruction of the airframe if the pilot isn't proficient at touchdowns. And really, IMO, the touchdown is the main thing in an auto. Anybody can put the pitch down and get into an auto, but touching down without bending anything requires some finesse and practice.

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Aeroscout, I got my controls here: http://rainman.tv/. $1500. Very high quality and Mark is an awesome guy and provides great support.

 

Pohi, what aircraft were you training in?

 

I did some power recovery autos today with a student. First time doing them in a while. Always have to knock the dust off! First one was survivable but ugly. Second one was much better. Then we went and did run-ons. I was explaining to him that a full down is basically just a power recovery followed by a run on. Since I'm not really comfortable doing them with a student yet, even in the 300, I guess that's the best I can do.

 

I trained in Robbies

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An FTDA in a 300 is pretty realistic to an actual (real life) auto in a 500. So Ive been told. Ive done FTDAs in both but never had a real engine failure. However one of the pilots I work with has had 9 engine failures. Two in 300s and 1 or 2 in 500s. The others were in 47 which he said were pretty boring. The thing with a 500 is that you still have 35 HP turning the rotor system. In a 300 you dont have that.

 

9 you say? Hes been flying for almost 50yrs and has about 30,000hrs. Lets just say when he started flying, they were still making improvements to the Bell 47 :) No kidding!

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Pete at Western has survived a few as well, and he considers practice autos in turbine ships "one of the best kept secrets of rotor wing aviation". As long as a turbine is still lit, it is producing exhaust gas that is turning the blades (which is why the N2 stays up close to the rotor during a throttle chop, most non turbine trained pilots don't know about the lack of needle split you get on most turbines) In a piston, it's a different story.

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Pete at Western has survived a few as well, and he considers practice autos in turbine ships "one of the best kept secrets of rotor wing aviation". As long as a turbine is still lit, it is producing exhaust gas that is turning the blades (which is why the N2 stays up close to the rotor during a throttle chop, most non turbine trained pilots don't know about the lack of needle split you get on most turbines) In a piston, it's a different story.

 

If you are saying the closeness of the needles determines the power to the main rotor, I think this would be a misconception. The clutch determines the amount of power transferred, and since it is centrifugal in nature, it is next to nothing until up to it's centrifugal speed. Now the tail rotor is different entirely, at least on the JetRanger line.

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Not exactly what I'm saying. The N2 stays up because the gas flow is keeping it turning and as long as the rotor is being driven by autorotative forces, it will be allowed to stay up there, if you pull pitch and slow the rotors down it will bring the N2 down with it. But! There is still a little bit of power applied, especially at the bottom when you are using up the last of your rpm. This may be transparrent most of the way through the auto, but a lot of pilots that have experienced engine failures noticed they did not have as much cushion at the bottom, probably a contribution to tail strikes in the flare during real power off landings.

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  • 1 year later...

Hm. Some Brown Sugar in this thread.

 

I've flown for 44 years, and I've had one drive-train failure, one engine failure, and one tail rotor and gearbox separation (separation from the aircraft, and, yes, very nose-low experience). I find the "9 engine failure" claim suspicious.

 

As an Army-trained pilot (Marine who went to Army Flight School) from the 60's, and a former Chief Flight Instructor Part 141, I think I have an informed perspective on FTDA's.

 

We did countless FTDA's in the Army. It resulted in banged-up machines and worn-out skid shoes. It also gave us a wonderful foundation that probably saved a lot of lives and machines.

 

That said, FTDA's cost money for insurance (special insurance) and they eat up machines. If Western still does FTDA's they pay extra for insurance, and they probably have an ace-of-the-base instructor who specializes in them (sort of like Larry Doll did with mountain flying for RMH back in the day).

 

My civilian students have never seen a full auto (except for my one drive-train failure) because I could not afford the insurance and extra maintenance. That said, my students do cracker jack autorotative descents and good hovering autos.

 

When I demonstrate full autos for the Feds, or on check rides, my examiners say good things about me. I hit the spot exactly, and I make it look easy. I have a good foundation. Thanks, Army.

 

If you want to ride with me and do an FTDA, provide your own Bell 47 (with weighted blades), Bell 206, or Bell 205, and let's have fun. Otherwise, go to Western. If you can do an FTDA in a 300, you can do an FTDA in anything (I had a 269/300 and took my CFI and CFII check ride in a 300, including FTDA's).

 

I applaud the schools that do FTDA's. Bottom line, though, it costs money that some schools can't afford.

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