September 2019 News

Home News September 2019 News

September has always offered hope to us Melburnians. The promise of longer days and better flying conditions adds to the warm fuzzy feeling we get when the flowers begin to bloom.

Catalina Wine Mixer - for those with a passion for buying or renting helicopters.

What better way to jump into Spring than attending a Step Brothers themed wine mixer? Cult movie fandom never dies, especially when Will Ferrel and John C.Reilly are at the helm. The Catalina Wine Mixer from Step Brothers is real and happening this Saturday the 14th. We’ve been invited to join in by Welcome to Thornbury, and as such will be there with bells on and an information stand. Don’t leave us to perform alone and come down for an afternoon of celebrating all that is helicoptering and Will Ferrell’s version of ‘Por Ti Volare’ which we thoroughly hope will be played on repeat throughout the event.


Students corner

Jeremy, Solo

In August, Jeremy took the helm and completed his first solo flight (feat below right), congratulations Jeremy. Thanks to Glenn for the photo, even when it’s bright your selfie game is strong.

James, CPL

Jimmy (feat above) also completed his Commercial Licence in August. Thank you for your story Jim (see below), it’s definitely one to warm the heart. We were all too happy to be a part of the journey.

Ashley, CPL

Ashley (left) completed his Commercial Flight test in August, becoming one of Australia’s newest commercial pilots. Exceptional work.


James White on completing his Commercial Pilot Licence.

I would like to thank Melbourne Heli’s Instructors past and present.  

In 2014 I made the decision to start my journey to become a Commercial Pilot. I thought it would only take me a year or two, if that. I went in to it with little knowledge except that I wanted to fly.

Throughout the years I saw many students come and go. I took some big breaks from study as life has a way of getting in the way, but after four years and many setbacks I was in the position to push through. Then all of a sudden it was done, I don’t know where the last year went. I had sat five exams and flown for 80 hours as well as working full time. It was hard work but it payed off.

I now look back and feel like I rushed so much, even when I had spread my training out over a long period of time. A friend asked me what would I do differently, I said I would enjoy the journey and take time to stop and breathe and think how awesome it is that I am working towards my dream. 

Now the next big step will come I will embrace it. “With Patience and perseverance anything is possible”.

Safety Corner: Autorotation - Peace of mind via debunking the myth that helicopters “just fall out of the sky” if the engine fails.

I’ve heard the well known and faintly amusing notion that helicopters drop like stones when the engine fails a few times now. Typically from friends of mine who’ve recently found out that flying helicopters is what I do for a living, or my poor Mother who never stops worrying. Whist engine failures are no laughing matter and should be treated with the seriousness their reputation implies, each time I hear it a little smile appears on my face to meet the concern in their eyes. What comes next is my assurance that engine failures are rare, but when they do happen we can set the helicopter up to glide (almost peacefully I might add) all the way to the ground; it’s called Autorotation. With practice and the wizardry of aircraft engineering, a pilot will use the upward flowing air as the helicopter travels down to continue turning the rotor blades instead of using the engine. If performed correctly and with a clear landing area, the helicopter will land softly and those inside will walk away. We could write a whole book on autorotations and indeed it’s been done, though today I’m just aiming to lay out the basics of the manoeuvre itself.

A description of how an autorotation is performed may be best broken down into a few stages: the initial diagnosis and descent, the flare, and the cushion.

Initial diagnosis: A pilot won’t have long to initiate autorotation, so we have a few warning signs to let us know we need to enter it; namely a loud bell and warning light indicating our rotor RPM is too low. Other indications could be our oil pressure light, an odd shaking, or noise coming from the helicopter. When we enter autorotation our first act is to lower the collective all the way down. In doing so we disconnect the engine from the main rotor, eliminating the drag on the blades from the failed engine and recovering our rotor RPM. This allows the upward flowing of air through the descent to freely turn the blades, providing us with lift.

The Descent: Our focus here is mainly on our rotor RPM, airspeed, and balance. Keeping the helicopter at its recommended airspeed and in the safe rotor RPM limits provides the requisite lift to keep us in a ‘glide’ format. If you’re learning or simply interested, a detailed description of the aerodynamic forces at play here can be studied in ‘The Little Book of Autorotations’ by Shawn Coyle.

In the descent we also choose our landing area. As we’re a little time pressed it is wise to always have an idea in the back of our minds as to where we could land. Ideal places are of course open areas; empty football fields, golf courses, car parks if we’re in the city; a free road would do well in a pinch. The great thing about helicopters is we don’t need too much space to land.

The Flare and Cushion: Towards the end of the autorotation at about 50 feet above ground we move into what is called ‘the flare’, a manoeuvre designed to slow our forward speed significantly. To achieve this we need to be facing into wind, as this will provide enough pressure and lift to slow us down. It reminds me of an ice skater coming to a quick stop; they’ll angle their blades in front of them, pushing against the ice to halt their momentum. We hold the flare until we come to an almost complete stop, at which point we’re low enough to the ground to level the helicopter off for touchdown. In the last few moments we cushion the landing by raising our collective, increasing the lift enough to touchdown softly. In some helicopters the inertia in the blades is high enough that the helicopter can be lifted up off the ground again, turned in a circle and landed once more; all this without the engine on. We owe much to the engineers.

As aforementioned these are the basics, there is much more to be told and delved into when it comes to autorotation. My hope is to give readers and future flyers some peace of mind. If you weren’t already aware of the capabilities of pilots and helicopters when an engine failure occurs, you can breathe a little easier. We practice these and other emergency procedures routinely. As my Instructor told me in my training ‘when the engine quits, it’s just one less thing to worry about’.