A steep approach is used primarily when there are obstacles in the approach path that are too high to allow a normal approach. A steep approach permits entry into most confined areas and is sometimes used to avoid areas of turbulence around a pinnacle. An approach angle of approximately 13° to 15° is considered a steep approach. [Figure 10-4] Caution must be exercised to avoid the parameters for settling with power (20–100 percent of available power applied, airspeed of less than 10 knots, and a rate of descent greater than 300 fpm).

Figure 10-4. Steep approach to a hover.

Figure 10-4. Steep approach to a hover.


On final approach, maintain track with the intended touchdown point and into the wind as much as possible at the recommended approach airspeed (position 1). When intercepting an approach angle of 13° to 15°, begin the approach by lowering the collective sufficiently to start the helicopter descending down the approach path and decelerating (position 2). Use the proper antitorque pedal for trim. Since this angle is steeper than a normal approach angle, reduce the collective more than that required for a normal approach. Continue to decelerate with slight aft cyclic and smoothly lower the collective to maintain the approach angle.

The intended touchdown point may not always be visible throughout the approach, especially when landing to a hover. Pilots must learn to cue in to other references that are parallel to the intended landing area that will help them maintain ground track and position.

Constant management of approach angle and airspeed is essential to any approach. Aft cyclic is required to decelerate sooner than a normal approach, and the rate of closure becomes apparent at a higher altitude. Maintain the approach angle and rate of descent with the collective, rate of closure with the cyclic, and trim with antitorque pedals.

The helicopter should be kept in trim just prior to loss of effective translational lift (approximately 25 knots). Below 100′ AGL, the antitorque pedals should be adjusted to align the helicopter with the intended touchdown point. Visualize the location of the tail rotor behind the helicopter and fly the landing gear to 3 feet above the intended landing point. In small confined areas, the pilot must precisely position the helicopter over the intended landing area. Therefore, the approach must stop at that point.

Loss of effective translational lift occurs higher in a steep approach (position 3), requiring an increase in the collective to prevent settling, and more forward cyclic to achieve the proper rate of closure. Once the intended landing area is reached, terminate the approach to a hover with zero groundspeed (position 4). If the approach has been executed properly, the helicopter will come to a halt at a hover altitude of 3 feet over the intended landing point with very little additional power required to hold the hover.

The pilot must aware that any wind effect is lost once the aircraft has descended below the barriers surrounding a confined area, causing the aircraft to settle more quickly. Additional power may be needed on a strong wind condition as the helicopter descends below the barriers.

Common Errors

  • Failing to maintain proper rpm during the entire approach.
  • Using collective improperly in maintaining the selected angle of descent.
  • Failing to make antitorque pedal corrections to compensate for collective pitch changes during the approach.
  • Slowing airspeed excessively in order to remain on the proper angle of descent.
  • Failing to determine when effective translational lift is being lost.
  • Failing to arrive at hovering altitude and attitude, and zero groundspeed almost simultaneously.
  • Utilizing low rpm in transition to the hover at the end of the approach.
  • Using too much aft cyclic close to the surface, which may result in the tail rotor striking the surface.
  • Failure to align landing gear with direction of travel no later than beginning of loss of translational lift.
51l0aN891BL._SX396_BO1,204,203,200_Are you ready to start your journey learning to fly helicopters? Learning to Fly Helicopters, Second Edition, provides details on the technical and practical aspects of rotarywing flight. Written in a conversational style, the book demystifies the art and science of helicopter flying.

Rapid Deceleration or Quick Stop

This maneuver is used to decelerate from forward flight to a hover. It is often used to abort takeoffs, to stop if something blocks the helicopter flightpath, or simply to terminate an air taxi maneuver, as mentioned in the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM). A quick stop is usually practiced on a runway, taxiway, or over a large grassy area away […]

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Running/Rolling Takeoff

A running takeoff in helicopter with fixed landing gear, such as skids, skis or floats, or a rolling takeoff in a wheeled helicopter is sometimes used when conditions of load and/or density altitude prevent a sustained hover at normal hovering altitude. For wheeled helicopters, a rolling takeoff is sometimes used to minimize the downwash created during a takeoff from a hover. Avoid […]

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Maximum Performance Takeoff

A maximum performance takeoff is used to climb at a steep angle to clear barriers in the flightpath. It can be used when taking off from small areas surrounded by high obstacles. Allow for a vertical takeoff, although not preferred, if obstruction clearance could be in doubt. Before attempting a maximum performance takeoff, know thoroughly the capabilities and limitations of the […]

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Helicopter Reconnaissance Procedures

When planning to land or take off at an unfamiliar site, gather as much information as possible about the area. Reconnaissance techniques are ways of gathering this information. High Reconnaissance  The purpose of conducting a high reconnaissance is to determine direction and speed of the wind, a touchdown point, suitability of the landing area, approach and departure axes, and obstacles for both […]

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Helicopter Approaches

An approach is the transition from traffic pattern altitude to either a hover or to the surface. The approach should terminate at the hover altitude with the rate of descent and groundspeed reaching zero at the same time. Approaches are categorized according to the angle of descent as normal, steep, or shallow. Use the type of approach best suited to […]

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Traffic Patterns

A traffic pattern promotes safety by establishing a common track to help pilots determine their landing order and provide common reference. A traffic pattern is also useful to control the flow of traffic, particularly at airports without operating control towers. It affords a measure of safety, separation, protection, and administrative control over arriving, departing, and circling aircraft. Due to specialized operating characteristics, airplanes and […]

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Ground Reference Maneuvers – Turns Around a Point

This training maneuver requires flying constant radius turns around a preselected point on the ground using a bank angle of approximately 30°–45°, while maintaining both a constant altitude and the same distance from the point throughout the maneuver. [Figure 9-17] The objective, as in other ground reference maneuvers, is to develop the ability to subconsciously control the helicopter while dividing attention between […]

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Ground Reference Maneuvers – S-Turns

Another training maneuver to use is the S-turn, which helps correct for wind drift in turns. This maneuver requires turns to the left and right. Technique The pilot can choose to use a road, a fence, or a railroad for a reference line. Regardless of what is used, it should be straight for a considerable distance and should extend as […]

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Ground Reference Maneuvers – Rectangular Course

Ground reference maneuvers may be used as training exercises to help develop a division of attention between the flightpath and ground references, and while controlling the helicopter and watching for other aircraft in the vicinity. Other examples of ground reference maneuvers are flights for photographic or observation purposes, such as pipe line or power line checks. Prior to each maneuver, a […]

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Normal Descent

A normal descent is a maneuver in which the helicopter loses altitude at a controlled rate in a controlled attitude. Technique To establish a normal descent from straight-and-level flight at cruising airspeed, lower the collective to obtain proper power, adjust the throttle to maintain rpm, and increase right antitorque pedal pressure to maintain heading in a counterclockwise rotor system, or left […]

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