Practice Autorotation With a Power Recovery - Autorotation (Part 4) - Helicopter Emergencies and Hazards

A power recovery is used to terminate practice autorotations at a point prior to actual touchdown. After the power recovery, a landing can be made or a go-around initiated.


At approximately 3–15 feet landing gear height AGL, depending upon the helicopter being used, begin to level the helicopter with forward cyclic control. Avoid excessive nosehigh, tail-low attitude below 10 feet. Just prior to achieving level attitude, with the nose still slightly up, coordinate upward collective pitch control with an increase in the throttle to join the needles at operating rpm. The throttle and collective pitch must be coordinated properly.

If the throttle is increased too fast or too much, an engine overspeed can occur; if throttle is increased too slowly or too little in proportion to the increase in collective pitch, a loss of rotor rpm results. Use sufficient collective pitch to stop the descent, but keep in mind that the collective pitch application must be gradual to allow for engine response. Coordinate proper antitorque pedal pressure to maintain heading. When a landing is to be made following the power recovery, bring the helicopter to a hover at hovering altitude and then descend to a landing.

When practicing autorotations with power recovery in nearly all helicopters, the throttle or power levers should be at the flight setting at the beginning of the flare. As the rotor system begins to dissipate its energy, the engine is up to speed as the needles join when the rotor decreases into the normal flight rpm.

Helicopters that do not have the throttle control located on the collective require some additional prudence. The autorotation should be initiated with the power levers left in the “flight,” or normal, position. If a full touchdown is to be practiced, it is common technique to move the power levers to the idle position once the landing area can safely be reached. In most helicopters, the pilot is fully committed at that point to make a power-off landing. However, it may be possible to make a power recovery prior to passing through 100 feet AGL if the powerplant can recover within that time period and the instructor is very proficient. The pilot should comply with the RFM instructions in all cases.

When practicing autorotations to a power recovery, the differences between reciprocating engines and turbines may be profound. The reciprocating powerplant generally responds very quickly to power changes, especially power increases. Some turbines have delay times depending on the type of fuel control or governing system installed. Any reciprocating engine needing turbocharged boost to develop rated horse power may have significant delays to demands for increased power, such as in the power recovery. Power recovery in those helicopters with slower engine response times must have the engines begin to develop enough power to rejoin the needles by approximately 100 feet AGL.

If a go-around is to be made, the cyclic control should be moved forward to resume forward flight. In transition from a practice autorotation to a go-around, exercise caution to avoid an altitude-airspeed combination that would place the helicopter in an unsafe area of its height-velocity diagram.

This is one of the most difficult maneuvers to perform due to the concentration needed when transitioning from powered flight to autorotation and then back again to powered flight. For helicopters equipped with the power control on the collective, engine power must be brought from flight power to idle power and then back to a flight power setting. A delay during any of these transitions can seriously affect rotor rpm placing the helicopter in a situation that cannot be recovered.

The cyclic must be adjusted to maintain the required airspeed without power, and then used for the deceleration flare, followed by the transition to level hovering flight. Additionally, the cyclic must be adjusted to remove the compensation for translating tendency. The tail rotor is no longer needed to produce antitorque thrust until almost maximum power is applied to the rotor system for hovering flight, when the tail rotor must again compensate for the main rotor torque, which also demands compensation for the tail rotor thrust and translating tendency.

All of the above must be accomplished during the 23 seconds of the autorotation and the tedious control inputs must be made in the last 5 seconds of the maneuver.

Common Errors

1. Initiating recovery too late, which requires a rapid application of controls and results in overcontrolling.
2. Failure to obtain and maintain a level attitude near the surface.
3. Failure to coordinate throttle and collective pitch properly, which results in either an engine overspeed or a loss of rotor rpm.
4. Failure to coordinate proper antitorque pedal with the increase in power.
5. Late engine power engagement causing excessive temperatures or torques, or rpm droop.
6. Failure to go around if not within limits and specified criteria for safe autorotation.