Helicopter Shallow Approach and Running/Roll-On Landing

Use a shallow approach and running landing when a high density altitude, a high gross weight condition, or some combination thereof, is such that a normal or steep approach cannot be made because of insufficient power to hover. [Figure 1] To compensate for this lack of power, a shallow approach and running landing makes use of translational lift until surface contact is made. If flying a wheeled helicopter, a roll-on landing can be used to minimize the effect of downwash. The glide angle for a shallow approach is approximately 3° to 5°. This angle is similar to the angle used on an ILS approach. Since the helicopter is sliding or rolling to a stop during this maneuver, the landing area should be smooth and the landing gear must be aligned with the direction of travel to prevent dynamic rollover and must be long enough to accomplish this task. After landing, ensure that the pitch of the rotor blades is not to far aft as the main rotor blades could contact the tailboom.

Helicopter Advanced Flight Maneuvers
Figure 1. Shallow approach and running landing


A shallow approach is initiated in the same manner as the normal approach except that a shallower angle of descent is maintained. The power reduction to initiate the desired angle of descent is less than that for a normal approach since the angle of descent is less (position 1).

As the collective is lowered, maintain heading with proper antitorque pedal pressure and rpm with the throttle. Maintain approach airspeed until the apparent rate of closure appears to be increasing. Then, begin to slow the helicopter with aft cyclic (position 2).

As in normal and steep approaches, the primary control for the angle and rate of descent is the collective, while the cyclic primarily controls the groundspeed. However, there must be a coordination of all the controls for the maneuver to be accomplished successfully. The helicopter should arrive at the point of touchdown at or slightly above effective translational lift. Since translational lift diminishes rapidly at slow airspeeds, the deceleration must be coordinated smoothly, at the same time keeping enough lift to prevent the helicopter from settling abruptly.

Just prior to touchdown, place the helicopter in a level attitude with the cyclic, and maintain heading with the antitorque pedals. Use the cyclic to direction of travel and ground track identical (position 3). Allow the helicopter to descend gently to the surface in a straight-and- level attitude, cushioning the landing with the collective. After surface contact, move the cyclic slightly forward to ensure clearance between the tail boom and the rotor disk. Use the cyclic to maintain the surface track (position 4). A pilot normally holds the collective stationary until the helicopter stops; however, to get more braking action, lower the collective slightly.

Keep in mind that, due to the increased ground friction when the collective is lowered or if the landing is being executed to a rough or irregular surface, the helicopter may come to an abrupt stop and the nose might pitch forward. Exercise caution not to correct this pitching movement with aft cyclic, which could result in the rotor making contact with the tail boom. An abrupt stop may also cause excessive transmission movement resulting in the transmission contacting its mount. During the landing, maintain normal rpm with the throttle and directional control with the antitorque pedals.

For wheeled helicopters, use the same technique except after landing, lower the collective, neutralize the controls, and apply the brakes, as necessary, to slow the helicopter. Do not use aft cyclic when bringing the helicopter to a stop.

Common Errors

1. Assuming excessive nose-high attitude to slow the helicopter near the surface.
2. Utilizing insufficient collective and throttle to cushion a landing.
3. Failure to maintain heading resulting in a turning or pivoting motion.
4. Failure to add proper antitorque pedal as collective is added to cushion landing, resulting in a touchdown while the helicopter is moving sideward.
5. Failure to maintain a speed that takes advantage of effective translational lift.
6. Touching down at an excessive groundspeed for the existing conditions. (Some helicopters have maximum touchdown groundspeeds.)
7. Failure to touch down in the appropriate attitude necessary for a safe landing. Appropriate attitude is based on the type of helicopter and the landing gear installed.
8. Failure to maintain proper rpm during and after touchdown.
9. Maintaining poor alignment with direction of travel during touchdown.