I have another blog in the works, and I think it's going to get a lot of attention. It's about the benefits an autopilot brings to VFR-only airplane pilots, and I expect to receive more than the normal amount of emails in response because, put simply, autopilots can be an even bigger benefit to VFR helicopter pilots.
It's a safe assumption that the folks at the Helicopter Association International (HAI) would agree as well. Statistics show that way too many Part 27 light helicopter accidents - and a shocking number of EMS accidents – are rooted in situations where VFR helicopter pilots encounter IMC conditions. Night time only makes a bad situation worse.
Even flying the simplest helicopter is akin to patting your head and rubbing your stomach while standing on one foot. It’s hard – really hard. Then add in reduced visibility and you’ve got real troubles. Especially when you realize that most light, Part 27 helicopters are flown single-pilot and that pilot only has basic VFR instrumentation to refer too.
Situations like this are where an autopilot becomes a critical part of the cockpit. The truly unfortunate fact is that there is a cost-effective solution available today from Genesys Aerosystems. It’s our Helicopter Autopilot and Stability Augmentation System or HeliSAS.
How HeliSAS Helps VFR Helicopter Pilots
Weighing around 15-pounds soaking wet, HeliSAS offers pilots flying light single- and twin-engine helicopters all the advantages of a digital, full-authority stability augmentation system at the fraction of the cost of other autopilots.
Once engaged, HeliSAS acts as a full-time co-pilot whose “hands and feet” never leave the controls. Should a pilot lose his or her visual references for any reason, all they need to is to let go – yes let go – of the helicopter’s cyclic and HeliSAS will automatically maintain or recover-to a near level attitude. HeliSAS will provide the situational stability to enable the pilot to regain his or her bearings before taking back control of the aircraft.
With the addition of the two-axis autopilot option, HeliSAS provides a fully array of workload-reducing capabilities including altitude hold, NAV hold – it can even track an entire GPS-based flight path – heading hold and vertical mode, which can track an ILS approach.
The real beauty of the system is that should a VFR pilot encounter IMC they can easily command a 180-degree turn by simply using the HeliSAS heading control and inputs from the HSI or EFIS.
Genesys’ HeliSAS is not the only autopilot solution available to light helicopter owner/operators, but it is the lightest, easiest-to-install and most affordable SAS currently available – okay enough of the commercial.
The bottom line is, if you operate a helicopter and are not an experienced instrument helicopter pilot, then the first thing on your “must have” list is to have an autopilot – any autopilot – installed before you take your next flight at night.
Until next time,