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Straight-and-Level Flight (Part Two)

in Helicopter Attitude Instrument Flying

Bank Control


The bank attitude of a helicopter is the angular relation of its lateral axis to the natural horizon. To maintain a straight course in visual flight, keep the lateral axis of the helicopter level with the natural horizon. Assuming the helicopter is in coordinated flight, any deviation from a laterally level attitude produces a turn. [Figure 6-4]

Figure 6-4. The flight instruments used for bank control are the attitude, heading, and turn indicators.

Figure 6-4. The flight instruments used for bank control are the attitude, heading, and turn indicators. [click image to enlarge]

Attitude Indicator

The attitude indicator gives a direct indication of the bank attitude of the helicopter. For instrument flight, the miniature aircraft and the horizon bar of the attitude indicator are substituted for the actual helicopter and the natural horizon. Any change in bank attitude of the helicopter is indicated instantly by the miniature aircraft. For proper interpretation of this instrument, imagine being in the miniature aircraft. If the helicopter is properly trimmed and the rotor tilts, a turn begins. The turn can be stopped by leveling the miniature aircraft with the horizon bar. The ball in the turn-and-slip indicator should always be kept centered through proper pedal trim.

The angle of bank is indicated by the pointer on the banking scale at the top of the instrument. [Figure 6-5] Small bank angles, which may not be seen by observing the miniature aircraft, can easily be determined by referring to the banking scale pointer.

Figure 6-5. The banking scale at the top of the attitude indicator indicates varying degrees of bank. In this example, the helicopter is banked approximately 15° to the right.

Figure 6-5. The banking scale at the top of the attitude indicator indicates varying degrees of bank. In this example, the helicopter is banked approximately 15° to the right. [click image to enlarge]

Pitch-and-bank attitudes can be determined simultaneously on the attitude indicator. Even though the miniature aircraft is not level with the horizon bar, pitch attitude can be established by observing the relative position of the miniature aircraft and the horizon bar.

The attitude indicator may show small misrepresentations of bank attitude during maneuvers that involve turns. This precession error can be detected immediately by closely cross-checking the other bank instruments during these maneuvers. Precession is normally noticed when rolling out of a turn. If, upon completion of a turn, the miniature aircraft is level and the helicopter is still turning, make a small change of bank attitude to center the turn needle and stop the movement of the heading indicator.


Heading Indicator

In coordinated flight, the heading indicator gives an indirect indication of a helicopter’s bank attitude. When a helicopter is banked, it turns. When the lateral axis of a helicopter is level, it flies straight. Therefore, in coordinated flight when the heading indicator shows a constant heading, the helicopter is level laterally. A deviation from the desired heading indicates a bank in the direction the helicopter is turning. A small angle of bank is indicated by a slow change of heading; a large angle of bank is indicated by a rapid change of heading. If a turn is noticed, apply opposite cyclic until the heading indicator indicates the desired heading, simultaneously ensuring the ball is centered. When making the correction to the desired heading, do not use a bank angle greater than that required to achieve a standard rate turn. In addition, if the number of degrees of change is small, limit the bank angle to the number of degrees to be turned. Bank angles greater than these require more skill and precision in attaining the desired results. During straight-and-level flight, the heading indicator is the primary reference for bank control.

Turn Indicator

During coordinated flight, the needle of the turn-and-slip indicator gives an indirect indication of the bank attitude of the helicopter. When the needle is displaced from the vertical position, the helicopter is turning in the direction of the displacement. Thus, if the needle is displaced to the left, the helicopter is turning left. Bringing the needle back to the vertical position with the cyclic produces straight flight. A close observation of the needle is necessary to accurately interpret small deviations from the desired position.

Cross-check the ball of the turn-and-slip indicator to determine if the helicopter is in coordinated flight. [Figure 6-6] If the rotor is laterally level and pedal pressure properly compensates for torque, the ball remains in the center. To center the ball, level the helicopter laterally by reference to the other bank instruments, then center the ball with pedal trim. Torque correction pressures vary as power changes are made. Always check the ball after such changes.

Figure 6-6. Coordinated flight is indicated by centering of the ball.

Figure 6-6. Coordinated flight is indicated by centering of the ball. [click image to enlarge]

Common Errors During Straight-and-Level Flight

  1. Failure to maintain altitude
  2. Failure to maintain heading
  3. Overcontrolling pitch and bank during corrections
  4. Failure to maintain proper pedal trim
  5. Failure to cross-check all available instruments

Power Control During Straight-and-Level Flight

Establishing specific power settings is accomplished through collective pitch adjustments and throttle control, where necessary. For reciprocating-powered helicopters, power indication is observed on the manifold pressure gauge. For turbine-powered helicopters, power is observed on the torque gauge. (Although most Instrument Flight Rules (IFR)- certified helicopters are turbine powered, depictions within this chapter use a reciprocating-powered helicopter as this is where training is most likely conducted.)

At any given airspeed, a specific power setting determines whether the helicopter is in level flight, in a climb, or in a descent. For example, cruising airspeed maintained with cruising power results in level flight. If a pilot increases the power setting and holds the airspeed constant, the helicopter climbs. Conversely, if the pilot decreases power and holds the airspeed constant, the helicopter descends.

If the altitude is held constant, power determines the airspeed. For example, at a constant altitude, cruising power results in cruising airspeed. Any deviation from the cruising power setting results in a change of airspeed. When power is added to increase airspeed, the nose of the helicopter pitches up and yaws to the right in a helicopter with a counterclockwise main rotor blade rotation. [Figure 6-7] When power is reduced to decrease airspeed, the nose pitches down and yaws to the left. [Figure 6-8] The yawing effect is most pronounced in single-rotor helicopters, and is absent in helicopters with counter-rotating rotors. To counteract the yawing tendency of the helicopter, apply pedal trim during power changes.

Figure 6-7. Flight instrument indications in straight-and-level flight with power increasing.

Figure 6-7. Flight instrument indications in straight-and-level flight with power increasing. [click image to enlarge]

Figure 6-8. Flight instrument indications in straight-and-level flight with power decreasing.

Figure 6-8. Flight instrument indications in straight-and-level flight with power decreasing. [click image to enlarge]

To maintain a constant altitude and airspeed in level flight, coordinate pitch attitude and power control. The relationship between altitude and airspeed determines the need for a change in power and/or pitch attitude. If the altitude is constant and the airspeed is high or low, change the power to obtain the desired airspeed. During the change in power, make an accurate interpretation of the altimeter, then counteract any deviation from the desired altitude by an appropriate change of pitch attitude. If the altitude is low and the airspeed is high, or vice versa, a change in pitch attitude alone may return the helicopter to the proper altitude and airspeed. If both airspeed and altitude are low, or if both are high, changes in both power and pitch attitude are necessary.


To make power control easy when changing airspeed, it is necessary to know the approximate power settings for the various airspeeds at which the helicopter is flown. When the airspeed is to be changed by any appreciable amount, adjust the power so that it is over or under that setting necessary to maintain the new airspeed. As the power approaches the desired setting, include the manifold pressure in the crosscheck to determine when the proper adjustment has been accomplished. As the airspeed is changing, adjust the pitch attitude to maintain a constant altitude. A constant heading should be maintained throughout the change. As the desired airspeed is approached, adjust power to the new cruising power setting and further adjust pitch attitude to maintain altitude. The instrument indications for straight-and-level flight at normal cruise and during the transition from normal cruise to slow cruise are illustrated in Figures 6-9 and 6-10. After the airspeed stabilizes at slow cruise, the attitude indicator shows an approximate level pitch attitude.

Figure 6-9. Flight instrument indications in straight-and-level flight at normal cruise speed.

Figure 6-9. Flight instrument indications in straight-and-level flight at normal cruise speed. [click image to enlarge]

Figure 6-10. Flight instrument indications in straight-and-level flight with airspeed decreasing.

Figure 6-10. Flight instrument indications in straight-and-level flight with airspeed decreasing.

The altimeter is the primary pitch instrument during level flight, whether flying at a constant airspeed or during a change in airspeed. Altitude should not change during airspeed transitions, and the heading indicator remains the primary bank instrument. Whenever the airspeed is changed by an appreciable amount, the manifold pressure gauge is momentarily the primary instrument for power control. When the airspeed approaches the desired reading, the airspeed indicator again becomes the primary instrument for power control.

To produce straight-and-level flight, the cross-check of the pitch-and-bank instruments should be combined with the power control instruments. With a constant power setting, a normal cross-check should be satisfactory. When changing power, the speed of the cross-check must be increased to cover the pitch-and-bank instruments adequately. This is necessary to counteract any deviations immediately.

Common Errors During Airspeed Changes

  1. Improper use of power
  2. Overcontrolling pitch attitude
  3. Failure to maintain heading
  4. Failure to maintain altitude
  5. Improper pedal trim

 

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