Flying The Robinson R44 Helicopter
Good maintenance and methodical preflights are table stakes for helicopter operators. A deeper reading of the accident record including some non-US reports shows many accidents that will seem familiar to airplane pilots. There are plenty more examples of VFR-into-IMC accidents and a depressing number of reckless flying mistakes, both of which are hardly unique to the R One issue that does seem to be more common in R44s is post-crash fires. A number of serious but survivable crashes have become fatal accidents because the helicopter caught fire and killed the occupants.
This increased the fuel capacity but left the tanks susceptible to post-crash leaks and fires. Beginning in , Robinson switched back to bladders on all new aircraft and incentivized owners of older models to replace the old tanks, so at least the number of aircraft in this camp is declining. A minor point perhaps, and no comfort for the families involved, but it shifts the focus to crashworthiness rather than aerodynamics or performance.
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Inevitably, the discussion about R44s turns to that longtime villain: mast bumping. This topic takes on an almost mystical tone with some non-aviation writers, but it is mostly a matter of physics and it is not unique to the R All semi-rigid rotor systems two-bladed are susceptible to catastrophic in-flight breakup if the helicopter experiences low G conditions and the pilot does not recover properly Vertical Magazine published a thoughtful analysis of the issue if you want to read more.
The solution is to avoid low G situations no pushovers with the cyclic and practice proper pilot technique if you find yourself in one. That technique is still evolving, too, with some instructors now emphasizing reducing the collective in addition to the traditional aft cyclic.
Robinson R44 - High Tide Helicopters
The theory is to reduce the tail rotor thrust and main rotor torque, which will reduce the right rolling tendency. Speed also matters. Much like the Cirrus, the R44 has been a revolutionary aircraft for personal aviation. In both aircraft, the accident record shows machines with lots of performance being flown by pilots without lots of experience. An R44 can carry four passengers miles at knots — and then land in a 50 ft x 50 ft spot in the forest.
The organizations were effectively admitting that safety rests with the pilot. While the lawyers argue over fuel tanks and the engineers argue over mast bumping, helicopter pilots and safety advocates should focus on some very practical tasks. For a start, owners must expect and demand good maintenance, and take post-maintenance flights very seriously. Pilots should be rated, rested, and well-trained.
Pilots should fly above feet if at all possible, and plan off-airport landings very carefully. The helicopter can almost certainly make it into that tight spot, and your passengers will love you for it, but can you as the pilot make it? Researching off-airport sites before getting in the right seat — perhaps including driving to the location for inspection on foot — and wide safety margins are essential.
A cultural change about weather minimums is in order too. The FARs grant helicopters broad latitude to fly VFR in truly scuzzy weather, as low as one half mile and clear of clouds.
Many operators take those limitations as recommendations and spend very little time considering the weather before a flight. Unfortunately, the results speak for themselves: even among professional helicopter air ambulance pilots, VFR-into-IMC accidents are common. Because they can do so much, helicopters can lure you into situations without many escape routes.
Helicopters are incredible machines, but they are terribly unforgiving. As the most popular model in the civilian world, the R44 may simply be a notable example of this adage. Coming from an aviation family, John grew up in the back of small airplanes and learned to fly as a teenager. Ever since, he has been hooked on anything with wings and regularly flies a Citabria, a Pilatus PC and a Robinson R44 helicopter.
He is an ATP and also holds ratings for multiengine, seaplanes, gliders, and helicopters.
Interesting- before I read the statistics, I expected many of these accidents to be related to mast bumping or the low inertia rotor system. This by itself would contribute to the accident rate. I did pipeline patrol in a C for a short time and I received almost no training for a job in which I operated below feet.
All-electric R44 Sets Flight Record
The regulations for this type of flying are very lax and the operators take advantage of it. Great analysis to constant misleading information… and YES, Pilots should be rated, rested, and well-trained. Going out with an instructor and practice every so often is in my opinion a must for any helicopter pilot.
Not to mention a low time pilot that flies once in a while. Correction to the part about bladder fuel tanks. What's included? Five hours Robinson R44 flight instruction 10 hours of classroom-based instruction Up to one hour aircraft hire for the skill test Examiner fee for the skill test You should be aware that it may take longer than the minimum hours in order to meet the standard required to pass the skill test, and you may need to arrange some additional flight training hours.
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