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First scary experience; has it shaken me, or my chopper?


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I am a private pilot in Italy and own an R22 beta I,I here, we fly them as "ultralights" and have no real radio contact with ACT. I must consider myself to be very new to flying, my experience is just 100 hours in the R22 with a test of two other helicopters. However I am an extremely calm and focused person, but the other day I got seriously rattled.


It was a sunny day and I had a few hours to spare so I decided to fly out to the seaside for a look around. It is a 20 - 25 minute flight and I had 7-8kt winds at my departure, with some mountains raising to 3000ft between home base and the beach.

On the way out over the mountains I noticed I had a 15-20 knot tailwind, which didn't bother me any, and I have flown in much worse conditions.

After taking in some coastline I decided head back. As I started back toward the mountains I found that conditions had changed and the wind had worsened, noting a 25-35 knot difference between my KIAS and the ground speed indicated on the GPS, and that the helicopter was struggling to make ground against it.

So I started looking for a different route across the mountains, but each time I reached a critical point, where things got too rough and the machine wasn't giving me the confidence I needed to continue. This went on for around 40 minutes.

At one point while fighting my way up a valley the whole helicopter began to vibrate in a way I have not experienced before and really thought I may have a real problem on my hands, so I turned back, honestly scared and landed at one of the many hobby airstrips in Tuscany. Once I got the wind behind me it was better, and once I got away from the foothills it was also ok, but I was shaken, and everything felt off.

The following day I went back, flying out in a gyrocopter with a friend and flew the helicopter home, but it still seemed to feel a little off.

Today was also a little gusty, from 5-10kts, but nothing to worry about, so I decided to take another flight to see how things are.

Well, the machine still doesn't feel quite right, nor do I feel like I have the same amount of confidence and fine control as before.


Is this something that happens to some pilots in their early days when try get a scare? I can't think of any way the airframe could have actually suffered any damage from the flight, I was well within weight, flying alone with approximately half fuel capacity and nothing else on board, with an outside air temp around 10C and just some strong winds that weren't even extraordinarily rough or gusty. But it certainly did have a moment of strange vibration. My machine has alway run very very well, it's the best R22 out of the 20 odd different machines I have flown, but now it seems unpredictable, and (with a full tank of fuel today) it required more power than usual to hover, or felt heavier than usual.


I have asked my instructed to come by and check it out, he knows the machine well and will be able to tell me if its in my head or if there is a screw loose somewhere else...


So what do we think could have happened?



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If there is any doubt about the mechanical soundness of your machine I would not fly it again until it has been inspected by a trained and experienced mechanic. No one knows how that aircraft flies better than you as it's owner. If something unusual happened and is happening still, it very well may be a mechanical issue that could potentially kill you if you ignore it.

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Boss calls on the phone and tells us to boogie woogie on out of there and get back to main base. Pretty busy afternoon, ground handler was busy, cashier is supposed to keep eye on the weather radar. At first we were like what the ? the boss man talking about ? its clear blue and 42 here.


friction down the controls, go take a look at the weather... uh oh major front coming in from the SW - hurry up and close shop. we were trucking on back, took a turn around this big mountain and WHAM ! low G in a Robbie, seat cushion half way up the rearend, recover from the roll correctly - apply death grip to controls, ground crew guy pulls up radar on the smart phone, we are on outer edges of this storm front - i look down and hmmm.... ground speed 50.... hmmmm indicating 90... hmmmm.... slow down to turbulence penetration speed.... about 10 minutes or so later we pull into the main hangar ( it was only like 2 miles from big mountain )


phew... took me a few days to get over that one. aircraft didn't feel right for a while after that anytime I hit some mountain waves.

Edited by Rogue
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I am a private pilot in Italy and own an R22 beta I,I here, we fly them as "ultralights" and have no real radio contact with ACT.


At one point while fighting my way up a valley the whole helicopter began to vibrate in a way I have not experienced before and really thought I may have a real problem on my hands, so I turned back, honestly scared and landed at one of the many hobby airstrips in Tuscany.



Low time pilot plus a low-end helicopter, that is scary. You did the right thing to turn back. You shouldn’t expect much from an R22 with respect to such conditions. It’s a light, cheap, low operating cost training helicopter. You were about to become another accident statistic of those that have tried to get more out of that aircraft than it was designed for. You made an excellent decision, make another and get out of the R22, if you can, and into at least an R44, bottom-line.

Edited by iChris
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A bit of "excitement" does make one very sensitive. Every time it happens I notice how things sound, feel, and it does make me apprehensive, 45 years since I soloed and counting, I'm not a new guy...


Any time you don't like how a flight is going, landing and waiting until things are better is a good choice. If you're uncertain about an aircraft's condition, get a second opinion, and the more technical qualifications the second opinion carries, the better it is. If the aircraft is satisfactory, then you get in, use your training, read the gauges and feel for real indications of issues, and decide.


Experience (which you're getting now) shouldn't make you more accepting of a bad situation, it should give you more options to resolve it and get whatever it is you're doing done.


Good job. Keep being careful.

Edited by Wally
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One of the best things about Robinson Helicopters is their guys that answer questions about maintenance. Pat Cox runs the show there and one of the guys we always talk with is Daniel. They have been there for us a bunch. They know the ships and actually answer the phone when you call or get right back with you. They are a great great resource for Robbies, just call the main number and tell the person that answers the phone that you have a mx question.


That being said, you should have a trained mech look at the ship before you fly it again. My first thought was a stuck valve or the clutch bearing, but it could also be a failing mag (or nothing at all). Do you have the Lycomings recommended 388c performed on the engine? If you are flying a piston helicopter with a lycoming you should do that every 300 hours as they have a tendency to have stuck valves and if it sticks bad enough it could give you some expensive issues, not to mention power loss. When a valve sticks in flight there is a sound/vibration that is hard to explain, it's almost a resonance at sixty-ish cycles kinda like getting shocked by 110vts but subtle. There is a sudden loss of power and a bit of yaw and the vibration could stop or continue. The clutch bearing is similar in many ways but with a very slight deeper rumbling/vibration.


I agree with Chris, if you are flying in mountainous terrain, even at lower altitudes, you should avoid weather and winds in that ship. Check and double check the weather, learn to read the clouds and forecast charts and do not get your self in a position like that. I realize that the weather can change quickly, if it might or you are not sure... do not go.. a 44 would be a much better platform for that type of flying but you are still going to have to pay very close attention to the winds and weather.


fly safe,



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Thanks for the input, I have been going over these last few flights in my head a lot and there are a few things that I think as just in my mind.

I will get the machine checked out, and it will be getting new blades and transmissions at the next 100 hour maintenance, so it will get a thorough going over.

However, I hope, and to a point expect, that the vibration I encountered maybe have been due to me lowering the collective down past 11" without actually chopping the throttle, which has always caused the airframe to hum. If this is normal or not I do not know and will call RHC today and see if they can tell me more. I suppose I was getting worried something might suddenly go wrong and stared setting up for an autorotation, because I certainly to recall making an effort to establish a 60-65kt airspeed.

The following day the flight went well, but I was just concerned with keeping things steady and getting home. And the following day we had wind gusty light to medium winds, and when I noted that I needed more power than usual to hover, and that the machine felt heavy, well, it was heavy, I had a full load of fuel and I wasn’t exactly facing the wind. Again, this is speculation, and all needs to be verified, but the fear factor and inexperience probably lead my mind to exacerbate the situations.

Externally everything is fine, and there is nothing to indicate that anything is amiss, so I will come back with more after I get my instructor to fly it, as he is also a test pilot for experimental aircraft.

Thanks again,


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You did the correct thing, could decision have been been made sooner? did you get weather report before seting out.

Mountain training could be a help, wind in valey's & high DA can produce nasty suprises for low hour pilots & not so low , "been there".


If you have not read RS artical please read, it is a sobering read.


"Why Martin and Simon Died"

Article about a R22 crash in the European Alps, by Richard Sanford



Read complete article as a pdf →

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