Technique and Common Errors of Helicopter Hovering

Hovering is a maneuver in which the helicopter is maintained in nearly motionless flight over a reference point at a constant altitude and on a constant heading.


To maintain a hover over a point, use sideview and peripheral vision to look for small changes in the helicopter’s attitude and altitude. When these changes are noted, make the necessary control inputs before the helicopter starts to move from the point. To detect small variations in altitude or position, the main area of visual attention needs to be some distance from the aircraft, using various points on the helicopter or the tip-path plane as a reference. Looking too closely or looking down leads to overcontrolling. Obviously, in order to remain over a certain point, know where the point is, but do not focus all attention there.

As with a takeoff, the pilot controls altitude with the collective and maintains a constant rpm with the throttle. The cyclic is used to maintain the helicopter’s position; the pedals, to control heading. To maintain the helicopter in a stabilized hover, make small, smooth, coordinated corrections. As the desired effect occurs, remove the correction in order to stop the helicopter’s movement. For example, if the helicopter begins to move rearward, apply a small amount of forward cyclic pressure. However, neutralize this pressure just before the helicopter comes to a stop, or it will begin to move forward. After experience is gained, a pilot develops a certain “feel” for the helicopter. Small deviations can be felt and seen, so you can make the corrections before the helicopter actually moves. A certain relaxed looseness develops, and controlling the helicopter becomes second nature, rather than a mechanical response.

Common Errors

  1. Tenseness and slow reactions to movements of the helicopter.
  2. Failure to allow for lag in cyclic and collective pitch, which leads to overcontrolling. It is very common for a student to get ahead of the helicopter. Due to inertia, it requires some small time period for the helicopter to respond.
  3. Confusing attitude changes for altitude changes, which results in improper use of the controls.
  4. Hovering too high, creating a hazardous flight condition. The height velocity chart should be referenced to determine the maximum skid height to hover and safely recover the helicopter should a malfunction occur.
  5. Hovering too low, resulting in occasional touchdown.
  6. Becoming overly confident over prepared surfaces when taking off to a hover. Be aware that dynamic rollover accidents usually occur over a level surface.

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