R44 Emergency Autorotation for Real.

okikuma

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A good friend of mine sent me this video of Robinson R44 performing an emergency autorotation. Great outcome even though the Robbie was bent.


Several comments:

At the start of the video, the altimeter displays approximately 1,200 ft. MSL, the field elevation. The cell phone is mounted whereas the video viewer cannot see the cluster of warning lights at the top of the instrument panel, and blocks the top portion of the airspeed indicator. All the engine instruments are in the green. The main fuel tank is full and the auxiliary fuel tank is half full (think about the fuel load and the weight of three men and equipment - most likely very near gross weight).

The pilot flies a normal takeoff profile and accelerates to 60 Kts and climbs up to and level's off at 1,300 ft MSL (100 ft AGL) and maintains 60 Kts. The next photo is right when the engine quits.

The pilot immediately dumps the collective, brings back the cyclic to set up for autorotation with the desire to land straight ahead. One can hear he's adjusting the collective to maintain optimum rotor RPM by the on and off buzzing from the Low Rotor RPM alarm.

During the decent, he notices a set of wires ahead and decided to turn 90 degrees to the left to avoid a wire strike. The turn bleeds off forward airspeed. The pilots notices this and made a mistake by lowering the nose. During autorotation, one does not want to lower the nose because that will "unload" the rotor and cause rotor RPM to decay. In the video we hear the Low Rotor RPM alarm now buzzing constantly because of this action.

The aircraft is too low to regain lost rotor RPM even though he's aggressively flaring trying to "load" the rotor. The aircraft is now within the avoid operational zone of the Height Velocity Curve.

During the flare, he hits the tail cone/tail rotor and it separates from the aircraft. The resulting high decent spreads the landing skids.

The last photo is back on the ground, the altimeter displays 1,200 ft MSL

Never-the-less, all in the aircraft were uninjured and it was a very successful emergency.

A good day!

I've never flown a 22 or 44 Robbie (too heavy). I'm impressed over the 500 ft/min rate of decent.

I'm used to much greater rates of decent in other helos I've flown within.


Wayne


 

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WaspAir

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Do I hear hogs cheering/laughing in the background noise?
 

Martin W.

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.

Look closely and you will see the mag switch key is already in the OFF position when he does his panel shutdown .

In other words he flew his short flight with mags "OFF" .

..... must have a poor ground or electrical glitch for it to even start or run in that position .... by default mags are always ON .... and it is by grounding L R or BOTH that turns them off

Starter button is on the cyclic or collective , normally the pilot will rotate the switch to PRIME on startup .... however this was 3rd flight of the day (warm engine) and (my guess) he pushed the button .... engine started without him realizing mags were switched off.

He realized it when he flipped the key tag to the side to switch mags to OFF and saw they already were OFF ..... thus the sheepish grin (video)

Pilots & mechanics often make sure switch wiring to magnetos is bulletproof .... but forget that the ground to frame is what does the work.

This type of electrical glitch is rare , but not unheard-of .... another contributing factor is that many helicopters are shut down by shutting off the fuel mixture , not by switching mags to OFF .... thus the switch never gets "tested" during routine operations .... fixed wings with a prop that acts like a flywheel can momentarily be switched OFF to test , but a helicopter cannot .
 

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okikuma

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When I first watched the video, my first impression was the aircraft was being flown on the LEFT MAG only. It didn't seem possible, so I looked at a photo of a R44 instrument panel to compare. What I finally surmised is the printing for OFF, and R most likely has been rubbed off, and therefore the mag switch key was set properly in the BOTH position.

Wayne
 

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Martin W.

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The picture of the key position in my above post is from a typical R44 panel.
The switch is in the OFF position.

Below is a picture from the actual R44 that is the topic of this thread.
It is captured from the first part of the video and at the moment of takeoff.
The switch is in the OFF position.
 

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Martin W.

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When I first watched the video, my first impression was the aircraft was being flown on the LEFT MAG only. It didn't seem possible, so I looked at a photo of a R44 instrument panel to compare. What I finally surmised is the printing for OFF, and R most likely has been rubbed off, and therefore the mag switch key was set properly in the BOTH position.

Wayne
.

Hi Wayne .... looks like we were posting at the same time and I did not see your post.

YES ... there are several different configurations of the R44 switch positions through the years ... looks to me like you found one of the variants .

I am still certain the switch was OFF in this case. I did a lot of digging to make sure .... the switch assemblies all have a key-way type slot so the unit and face plate cannot rotate out of position.

I wish I could see a ground wiring diagram for the R44 magneto switch .... if it does not go right to the engine that could explain it.

A fuselage-ground for a magneto could be problematic .... the engine is mounted on rubber so if a ground strap from engine-to-fuselage is absent the ground path would travel through linkages or other by means .... the magneto is high voltage and the current will try its best to go everywhere ...... but if interrupted that Lycoming will quit very quickly. (my guess only)

I have traced poor grounds to painted panels where the paint acts like an insulator
 

Barney Bahle

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thus the switch never gets "tested" during routine operations .... fixed wings with a prop that acts like a flywheel can momentarily be switched OFF to test , but a helicopter cannot .
I agree with most of your assessment but I do question this last statement. In the POH of my 162F is a printed start up procedure. I don't have it right here in front of me but that procedure includes Turn off Ignition 1, watch for rpm drop, turn on Ignition 1. Turn off ignition 2, watch for rpm drop, turn on ignition 2. As I recall the Mini 500 I had was the same and while I never had a Mosquito, I believe I have heard them do an ignition check also.

Admittedly, I have never been in a Robinson or looked at their POH but I can't imagine there is no ignition check in there somewhere.

Regardless, it was clearly pilot error and he knew it as soon as he reached up to turn the mags off.
 

WaspAir

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.

The picture of the key position in my above post is from a typical R44 panel.
The switch is in the OFF position.

Below is a picture from the actual R44 that is the topic of this thread.
It is captured from the first part of the video and at the moment of takeoff.
The switch is in the OFF position.
My perception from the video is different.

It looks to me like the key is in the BOTH position throughout the flight, but the much larger key fob, hanging from the key, is resting against the mixture knob and is coincidentally aligned with the direction of the OFF position on the mag switch. The key itself is quite small, and spine of the metal key can be seen as a black line a couple mm wide and perhaps two cm long, aligned from lower left to upper right across the switch. That's the "both" direction for the Robinsons I am most familiar with.

At 1:58 you will see the pilot flip the fob out of the way of the mixture control (it is connected to the actual key by a little loop of metal wire), revealing the printing on the fob, then pull the mixture out, then turn off the clutch engage switch (under the red hinged shield), and finally then turn the key itself to off with his thumb from 2:00 to 2:01. He flips the red battery master switch after that.

The key appears to me to have rotated counterclockwise when he's all done, which it could not do if it were already in the OFF position, but this is not easy to see.

P.S. I have looked at this several more times now, and it seems to depend upon which switch installation this aircraft has. The ones I have flown have colored my perception, of course..
 
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WaspAir

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I agree with most of your assessment but I do question this last statement. In the POH of my 162F is a printed start up procedure. I don't have it right here in front of me but that procedure includes Turn off Ignition 1, watch for rpm drop, turn on Ignition 1. Turn off ignition 2, watch for rpm drop, turn on ignition 2. As I recall the Mini 500 I had was the same and while I never had a Mosquito, I believe I have heard them do an ignition check also.

Admittedly, I have never been in a Robinson or looked at their POH but I can't imagine there is no ignition check in there somewhere.

Regardless, it was clearly pilot error and he knew it as soon as he reached up to turn the mags off.
Yes, mag checks are routinely done in preflight warmup in Robinsons (L/R/BOTH), but not to the OFF position, because the engine will stop. My old R22 manual, in the Starting Engine checklist, says "Mag drop @ 100% . . . . . . . . 7% in 2 sec". This checks whether both ignition systems function, but not whether the engine will run with the mags set to OFF. For an airplane, a "hot" mag is dangerous because someone moving the prop could unintentionally start the engine and chop himself up. For the Robinson, you can spin the blades all day and it won't turn the engine over (the rotor moves just as it would in autorotation) so there is no similar danger from not checking "OFF".
 
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Tyger

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Paul Salmon thinks he was running with the mags on Right only.
 

okikuma

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Hello Martin,

After reading your reasoning about the mag switch and seeing the photo you provided, I think your explanation is the most accurate.

As I have mentioned previously, I've never flown a 22 or 44 Robbie (too heavy). Until you have mentioned, I was completely unaware of the different positions of the mag switch for the 44. Obviously based on the type of manufacture of the switch used.

Living here in Southern California, About 30 years ago, I went on a tour at the Robinson Factory in Torrance, CA.

This is why I enjoy participating within this forum. Through discussion, I learn something new to broaden my knowledge base.

Wayne
 

Martin W.

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Best point of reference is the Phillips head screw on the panel

The key is oriented exactly toward it

Which is the OFF position
 

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Martin W.

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I wish Mr Salmon would take a picture of his R44 switch in the OFF position versus the R position.

One position cannot be mistaken for the other

thanks
 

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Zzorse

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Video from another passenger,


Image of this very helicopter,

r44-II.jpg

Courtesy Kathryn's Report
 

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Resasi

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Instructive video and subsequent posts.

Regardless of the reason for the engine failure, the pilot continues to fly the plane, sees a potential problem ahead, sorts the problem with his turn, and lands.

It is so refreshing to see what could have potentially been a fatal accident, turn out as well as it did with everyone walking away completely unhurt.

Yes mistakes were made, but with an outcome that could have been so much worse, I for one will give that pilot a serious attaboy, for making the best of what could killed them all.
 

okikuma

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I agree. This event is a teachable moment for all of us. We can recognize the mistakes made, without being accusatory We learn not to replicate the same while giving thanks that the outcome for these three gentlemen was positive.

As I mentioned previously, This was a good day.
 

DaveJaksha

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Somewhat disconcerting is that the left seater is sitting on his chest restraint.
Dave
 

okikuma

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Somewhat disconcerting is that the left seater is sitting on his chest restraint.

That's because in the USA it's more important to make a decision on how we "feel" than on what is right. This individual obviously "felt" restricted wearing the shoulder harness. Add to the fact that during this one incident, this individual didn't appear to suffer any injury while not wearing the shoulder harness will contribute to the one sided argument, "See, I don't need a shoulder harness."

Wayne
 

Martin W.

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Not sure what they used in the R44 but I have seen heli-hunters sit sideways in the seat , feet on skids , rifle in hand , and only one strap attached to the rear of their belt . Some military door-gunners use similar.

Gives them freedom of movement but no real protection unless they lose their footing they dangle from the helicopter instead of falling to the ground.

Tourist helicopter over New York Harbor used a similar system so passengers could sit sideways and take selfies of their feet sticking out the door with city skyline as backdrop .... engine failure ... pilot popped floats .... one did not inflate properly and machine inverted in water .... passengers had life jackets and had been briefed on emergency egress ..... but upside down under water and they could not reach back to undo the clasp on their back .... 5 fatals , only the pilot survived , he was wearing a normal harness and bailed out quickly..

ETA: ... front passenger had turned outward and his tether strap caught the throttle lever and shut the fuel off .... thus the power loss ... an example how a "safety device" killed people two different ways on the same flight
 
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