Helicopter Slope Operations

Prior to conducting any slope operations, be thoroughly familiar with the characteristics of dynamic rollover and mast bumping, which are discussed in Helicopter Emergencies. The approach to a slope is similar to the approach to any other landing area. During slope operations, make allowances for wind, barriers, and forced landing sites in case of engine failure. Since the slope may constitute an obstruction to wind passage, anticipate turbulence and downdrafts.

Slope Landing

A pilot usually lands a helicopter across the slope rather than with the slope. Landing with the helicopter facing down the slope or downhill is not recommended because of the possibility of striking the tail rotor on the surface.


Refer to Figure 1. At the termination of the approach, if necessary, move the helicopter slowly toward the slope, being careful not to turn the tail upslope. Position the helicopter across the slope at a stabilized hover headed into the wind over the intended landing spot (frame 1). Downward pressure on the collective starts the helicopter descending. As the upslope skid touches the ground, hesitate momentarily in a level attitude, then apply slight lateral cyclic in the direction of the slope (frame 2). This holds the skid against the slope while the pilot continues lowering the downslope skid with the collective.

Helicopter Advanced Flight Maneuvers
Figure 1. Slope landing.

As the collective is lowered, continue to move the cyclic toward the slope to maintain a fixed position (frame 3) The slope must be shallow enough to hold the helicopter against it with the cyclic during the entire landing. A slope of 5° is considered maximum for normal operation of most helicopters. Consult the RFM or POH for the specific limitations of the helicopter being flown.

Be aware of any abnormal vibration or mast bumping that signals maximum cyclic deflection. If this occurs, abandon the landing because the slope is too steep. In most helicopters with a counterclockwise rotor system, landings can be made on steeper slopes when holding the cyclic to the right. When landing on slopes using left cyclic, some cyclic input must be used to overcome the translating tendency. If wind is not a factor, consider the drifting tendency when determining landing direction.

After the downslope skid is on the surface, reduce the collective to full down, and neutralize the cyclic and pedals (frame 4). Normal operating rpm should be maintained until the full weight of the helicopter is on the landing gear.

This ensures adequate rpm for immediate takeoff in case the helicopter starts sliding down the slope. Use antitorque pedals as necessary throughout the landing for heading control. Before reducing the rpm, move the cyclic control as necessary to check that the helicopter is firmly on the ground.

Common Errors

1. Failing to consider wind effects during the approach and landing.
2. Failing to maintain proper rpm throughout the entire maneuver.
3. Failure to maintain heading resulting in a turning or pivoting motion.
4. Turning the tail of the helicopter into the slope.
5. Lowering the downslope skid or wheel too rapidly.
6. Applying excessive cyclic control into the slope, causing mast bumping.

Slope Takeoff

A slope takeoff is basically the reverse of a slope landing. [Figure 2] Conditions that may be associated with the slope, such as turbulence and obstacles, must be considered during the takeoff. Planning should include suitable forced landing areas.

Helicopter Advanced Flight Maneuvers
Figure 2. Slope takeoff


Begin the takeoff by increasing rpm to the normal range with the collective full down. Then, move the cyclic toward the slope (frame 1). Holding the cyclic toward the direction of the slope causes the downslope skid to rise as the pilot slowly raises the collective (frame 2). As the skid comes up, move the cyclic as necessary to maintain a level attitude in relation to the horizon. If properly coordinated, the helicopter should attain a level attitude as the cyclic reaches the neutral position. At the same time, use antitorque pedal pressure to maintain heading and throttle to maintain rpm. With the helicopter level and the cyclic centered, pause momentarily to verify everything is correct, and then gradually raise the collective to complete the liftoff (frame 3). After reaching a hover, avoid hitting the ground with the tail rotor by not turning the helicopter tail upslope and gaining enough altitude to ensure the tail rotor is clear. If an upslope wind exists, execute a crosswind takeoff and then make a turn into the wind after clearing the ground with the tail rotor.

Common Errors

1. Failing to adjust cyclic control to keep the helicopter from sliding down slope.
2. Failing to maintain proper rpm.
3. Holding excessive cyclic into the slope as the down slope skid is raised.
4. Failure to maintain heading, resulting in a turning or pivoting motion.
5. Turning the tail of the helicopter into the slope during takeoff.