Poor Landing Spot

During helicopter flight training, a flight instructor will often roll off the engine throttle to simulate engine failure. Your job as the student pilot, is to correctly enter autorotation, which is the helicopter equivalent of landing without engine power. In general, the flight instructor will choose a safe area with lots of open fields so the choice of landing spots should not cause harm to persons or property.

On this one occasion, we were cruising roughly 500 feet above the ground at 75 knots or so. I was in control maintaining straight and level flight. The instructor suddenly rolled off throttle as he had done many times before. Immediately, there was a strong left yaw, loss of altitude, and the low RPM warning horn started blaring. I did the right thing, lowered collective, added right pedal, stabilized RPM, and established a modest descent. I had the habit of choosing the optimum rotor RPM for maximum glide, probably due to an irrational fear of getting something wrong. Anyway, the glide was long -- too long. My instructor expected that we would descend near the end of an empty field, but we ended up a little further.

At about 40 feet altitude, I entered a normal flare to slow our airspeed and descent rate. At the end of the field was a housing development. We ended up in the driveway of a rather unhappy homeowner. One person came out of the house to find a noisy, windy helicopter hovering over their property. We hovered there for a few seconds and another person came out of the house, probably wondering what all the ruckus was about. What would you do if a helicopter quietly showed up of out of nowhere and hovered over your driveway? We stared at them, they stared at us. Neither exactly sure what to do at this point.

My instructor quickly realized that this might not turn out good, considering the homeowners might have enough sense to take note of our tail number and call the authorities. He turned to me and said, "I think we better go". I made a quick pedal turn and headed out back towards the field. I got a detailed lecture about planning autorotations on the way back.