Running landings

October 24, 2012 by Tim McAdams

A running landing is used when there might not be enough available power to hover. This maneuver is typically used at high gross weight, high density altitude and for some emergency procedures involving the tail rotor. A twin engine helicopter might use this type of landing when making a single engine landing. As such, pilots normally practice this type of landing.

Performing the maneuver is fairly straight forward. The pilot would typically use a shallower approach; align the helicopter with the touchdown area and touchdown at or above effective translational lift. Depending on the reason, the touchdown airspeed is normally between 20 and 40 knots, however, it should be at the lowest airspeed for the situation to minimize ground run. As the helicopter slides to a stop the pilot should use the cyclic control to maintain ground track, the pedals for heading (important not to allow the helicopter to slide sideways), and the collective control to apply braking force.

When practicing this maneuver, extreme caution should be taken to insure a level and unobstructed landing surface. The follow NTSB account illustrates just what can go wrong even when care is taken.

On May 24, 2011, at 1503 eastern daylight time, a Schweizer 269C, N7505Y, sustained substantial damage during a practice run-on landing at Asheville Regional Airport (AVL), Asheville, North Carolina. The certificated flight instructor (CFI) and private pilot receiving instruction were not injured.

According to the pilot receiving instruction, who was also the owner of the helicopter, the purpose of the flight was to conduct a flight review. Approximately 50 minutes into the flight, the CFI asked the pilot to demonstrate a run-on landing to runway 16. The pilot conducted the approach for landing at about 40 knots and touched down left of the runway centerline on both skids. As he lowered the collective, the helicopter’s right skid contacted a runway centerline light, shearing off the right skid and its support arms.

The pilot raised the collective, picked the helicopter up to a hover and turned towards the taxiway. Shortly after, the engine and rotor RPM began to drop, the pilot opened the throttle and lowered the collective, setting the helicopter on the left skid. The helicopter rolled over and came to rest on its right side, resulting in substantial damage to the main rotor blades.

A post-accident examination by the pilot revealed that during the right skid’s impact with the centerline light the front landing gear crossbeam was pushed aft, crimping the fuel supply line.

The pilot later made these comments:

“From the skid tube marks on the runway, it became evident that the right, central skid shoe (attached to the bottom of the skid) had contacted the recessed centerline runway light straight-on. As such, the shoe jammed firmly against the flat surface of the runway light housing at the lens face of the light (north end of the light housing). Here is my main concern: Had my run-on landing been a true emergency landing without the benefit of power (that was instantly available after impact, though short-lived), the outcome would have been much different. The right under-carriage, now minus all skid landing gear, would have contacted the asphalt surface spinning us clock-wise, the left skid would have dug into the surface, and we would have cart-wheeled down runway 16 with a certain likelihood of serious injury or death. The threat of a helicopter fire would have been very likely.

No one would expect a 1.5 inch wide skid shoe would ever jam into an approximately 2 inch wide light port on this recessed light. But it did, and my helicopter is destroyed as a result.”

  • Bob Twomey

    This particular runway is 150 ft wide, or 1800 inches. The lens face of the “recessed” liigt is 2 inches wide. This is equal to 0.001 of thr runway width! The centerline light is recessed, but the shid shoe is approximatelt 0.25 inches thick. What could the probability have been that this narrow skid shoe would jam into the morth face of the light port?? It’s probably a good thing that the ground run was greater than ETL. Had the aircraft been sliding slower or at ETL, the skid may not have sheared off the helicopter, leading to an end-over-end rollover at full power. A pilot & a CFI could have easilly been killed.

  • Alan Barnes

    “and the collective control to apply braking force.” it’s important to note that *very* little adjustment of the collective should be made after touchdown. A very slight decrease but no more. Also, don’t apply aft cyclic to slow the helicopter.

    Chapter 10-7 of the new FAA Helicopter Flying Handbook, FAA-8083-21A, says this

    “After surface contact, move the cyclic slightly forward to ensure clearance between the tail boom and the rotor disk. Use the cyclic to maintain the surface track (position 4). A pilot normally holds the collective stationary until the helicopter stops; however, to get more braking action, lower the collective slightly.”

    (You did know we FINALLY have a new manual, right? :)

  • Bill

    When I was training for running landings on a Bell 206 Jet Ranger, we only did running landings on the grass. We never attempted them on the runway due to wear and tear. Either way, there is always a potential for the skids to snag.
    In my training, the first thing you always do when there is suspected damage is immediately set the helo down and verify damage. From the report, it doesn’t say if the pilot was able to exit the active runway to the taxiway prior to engine starvation. I would not even of attempted to leave the runway environment with suspected damage. Call tower, roll the fire trucks. That is what they expect. Even if you clog the only available runway for hours, it’s the prudent course of action.