Helicopter Engine Start And Rotor Engagement

During the engine start, rotor engagement, and systems ground check, use the manufacturer’s checklists. If a problem arises, have it checked before continuing. Prior to performing these tasks, however, make sure the area around and above the helicopter is clear of personnel and equipment. Position the rotor blades so that they are not aligned with the fuselage. This may prevent the engine from being started with the blades still fastened. For a two bladed rotor system, position the blades so that they are perpendicular to the fuselage and easily seen from the cockpit. Helicopters are safe and efficient flying machines as long as they are operated within the parameters established by the manufacturer.

Rotor Safety Considerations

The exposed nature of the main and tail rotors deserves special caution. Exercise extreme care when taxiing near hangars or obstructions since the distance between the rotor blade tips and obstructions is very difficult to judge. [Figure 1] In addition, the tail rotor of some helicopters cannot be seen from the cabin. Therefore, when hovering backward or turning in those helicopters, allow plenty of room for tail rotor clearance. It is a good practice to glance over your shoulder to maintain this clearance.

Helicopter Ground Procedures and Flight Preparations
Figure 1. Exercise extreme caution when hovering near buildings or other aircraft

Another rotor safety consideration is the thrust a helicopter generates. The main rotor system is capable of blowing sand, dust, snow, ice, and water at high velocities for a significant distance causing injury to nearby people and damage to buildings, automobiles, and other aircraft. Loose snow, sand, or soil can severely reduce visibility and obscure outside visual references. There is also the possibility of sand and snow being ingested into the engine intake, which can overwhelm filters and cutoff air to the engine or allow unfiltered air into the engine, leading to premature failure. Any airborne debris near the helicopter can be ingested into the engine air intake or struck by the main and tail rotor blades.

Aircraft Servicing

The helicopter rotor blades are usually stopped, and both the aircraft and the refueling unit properly grounded prior to any refueling operation. The pilot should ensure that the proper grade of fuel and the proper additives, when required, are being dispensed.

Refueling of a turbine aircraft while the blades are turning, known as “hot refueling,” may be practical for certain types of operation. However, this can be hazardous if not properly conducted. Pilots should remain at the flight controls; and refueling personnel should be knowledgeable about the proper refueling procedures and properly briefed for specific helicopter makes and models.

The pilot may need to train the refueling personnel on proper hot refueling procedures for that specific helicopter. The pilot should explain communication signs or calls, normal servicing procedures, and emergency procedures as a minimum. At all times during the refueling process, the pilot should remain vigilant and ready to immediately shut down the engine(s) and egress the aircraft. Several accidents have occurred due to hot refueling performed by improperly trained personnel.

Refueling units should be positioned to ensure adequate rotor blade clearance. Persons not involved with the refueling operation should keep clear of the area. Smoking must be prohibited in and around the aircraft during all refueling operations.

If operations dictate that the pilot must leave the helicopter during refueling operations, the throttle should be rolled back to flight idle and flight control friction firmly applied to prevent uncommanded control movements. The pilot should be thoroughly trained on setting the controls and egressing/ ingressing the helicopter.