background image




Helicopter IFR Operations

Chapter 10. Helicopter Operations

Section 1. Helicopter IFR Operations

10−1−1. Helicopter Flight Control Systems

a. The certification requirements for helicopters to

operate under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) are

contained in 14 CFR Part 27, Airworthiness

Standards: Normal Category Rotorcraft, and 14 CFR

Part 29, Airworthiness Standards: Transport

Category Rotorcraft. To meet these requirements,

helicopter manufacturers usually utilize a set of

stabilization and/or Automatic Flight Control

Systems (AFCSs).

b. Typically, these systems fall into the following


1. Aerodynamic surfaces, which impart some

stability or control capability not found in the basic

VFR configuration.

2. Trim systems, which provide a cyclic

centering effect. These systems typically involve a

magnetic brake/spring device, and may also be

controlled by a four−way switch on the cyclic. This

is a system that supports “hands on” flying of the

helicopter by the pilot.

3. Stability Augmentation Systems (SASs),

which provide short−term rate damping control

inputs to increase helicopter stability. Like trim

systems, SAS supports “hands on” flying.

4. Attitude Retention Systems (ATTs), which

return the helicopter to a selected attitude after a

disturbance. Changes in desired attitude can be

accomplished usually through a four−way “beep”

switch, or by actuating a “force trim” switch on the

cyclic, setting the attitude manually, and releasing.

Attitude retention may be a SAS function, or may be

the basic “hands off” autopilot function.

5. Autopilot Systems (APs), which provide for

“hands off” flight along specified lateral and vertical

paths, including heading, altitude, vertical speed,

navigation tracking, and approach. These systems

typically have a control panel for mode selection, and

system for indication of mode status. Autopilots may

or may not be installed with an associated Flight

Director System (FD). Autopilots typically control

the helicopter about the roll and pitch axes (cyclic

control) but may also include yaw axis (pedal control)

and collective control servos.

6. FDs, which provide visual guidance to the

pilot to fly specific selected lateral and vertical modes

of operation. The visual guidance is typically

provided as either a “dual cue” (commonly known as

a “cross−pointer”) or “single cue” (commonly known

as a “vee−bar”) presentation superimposed over the

attitude indicator. Some FDs also include a collective

cue. The pilot manipulates the helicopter’s controls to

satisfy these commands, yielding the desired flight

path, or may couple the flight director to the autopilot

to perform automatic flight along the desired flight

path. Typically, flight director mode control and

indication is shared with the autopilot.

c. In order to be certificated for IFR operation, a

specific helicopter may require the use of one or more

of these systems, in any combination.

d. In many cases, helicopters are certificated for

IFR operations with either one or two pilots. Certain

equipment is required to be installed and functional

for two pilot operations, and typically, additional

equipment is required for single pilot operation.

These requirements are usually described in the

limitations section of the Rotorcraft Flight Manual


e. In addition, the RFM also typically defines

systems and functions that are required to be in

operation or engaged for IFR flight in either the single

or two pilot configuration. Often, particularly in two

pilot operation, this level of augmentation is less than

the full capability of the installed systems. Likewise,

single pilot operation may require a higher level of