Report: Helicopter Safety Seminar with Claude Vuichard


Visualisation of the vortex.
Image source: www.aerialstage.com and www.valair.ch
At ASMS we believe that you should never stop learning. I’ve just spent an excellent day at a Helicopter Safety Seminar with Claude Vuichard, organised by The Helicopter Line in Queenstown. The seminar covered a wide range of relevant topics including specific design faults with common helicopter models, human factors issues including decision making under stress, negative transfers (often a combination of human factors and design), CRM, wire strike avoidance, slope landings, auto-rotations, and the “Vuichard Recovery Technique” for vortex ring state recovery.

The Vuichard Recovery Technique is slightly controversial, primarily because of a lack of understanding of the flight physics involved. The traditional technique for recovery from vortex ring state involves pushing the cyclic forward and diving into the ground. Height loss with the traditional technique may be in the order of 500ft – perfectly acceptable when practiced at 1,000ft AGL as part of flight training, but not so good when close to the ground. The Vuichard Recovery Technique involves increasing the collective, applying the power pedal, and pushing the cyclic in the opposite direction to the power pedal. Height loss with the Vuichard Recovery Technique is just 20-50ft. Details of the Vuichard Recovery Technique are available on the Vuichard Recovery Aviation Safety Foundation website.

It is understood that the FAA Is revising their handbook to include the Vuichard Recovery Technique, and the forthcoming revised edition of the late Walter Wagtendonk’s Principles of Helicopter Flight has a completely revised chapter on vortex ring state which explains the physics and the technique.

Other tips that particularly resonated were
  • A negative transfers checklist when introducing a new type or variant to identify every switch or control that looks similar or is in a similar position but has a different function on the new craft.
  • Always assume wires are present and brief accordingly, both for approach and departure.
  • Talk to yourself in the third person to slow down the decision making process and ensure you have considered the pertinent information. This will result in more effective decisions.
  • Slope landings should be nose-in, with the cyclic eased back so that the rotor disk is parallel to the slope rather than horizontal.

A very good seminar and highly recommended to anyone who has the chance to attend, whether in New Zealand or elsewhere in the world.
      - Andrew

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