Exercise 27: Low level flying



In this lesson, the student will learn how to safely fly low level if operational requirements or conditions so demand.




  1. Brief the student on the dangers of low level flying. Its important that the student understands that its advisable to always fly at least 500ft above the highest obstacle.
  2. Discuss possible operational flights, or conditions that would necessitate low-level operations (Weather diversion due to low cloud base etc.)
  3. Brief the dangers involved in low level operations:
  4. Wire strikes:
    • Point out that wire strikes are a frequent cause of helicopter accidents
    • Explain the importance of constantly scanning for wires
    • Explain the technique for crossing lines at pylons, posts or towers to ensure clearance over the highest point.
    • Explain how wires hang over valleys, and how best to locate them
    • Encourage the use of passengers or crew as a resource to locate, spot and alert you of any wires
  5. Persons and livestock:
    • Discourage low flying over people and livestock with the intent of creating a nuisance or disruption
    • Be aware of livestock sensitive areas, Ostrich farms, chicken farms, horse stables among others, are particular sensitive areas
  6. Trees and built up areas:
    • Operations often dictate low flying over trees or built up areas which possesses an obvious danger in the event of an engine failure or similar emergency
    • If given a choice, always select to overly the clearest option available
  7. Rising ground:
    • Promote flying towards rising ground at acute angles (less than 90°)
    • This makes turning away in the event of an emergency or meeting down drafting air easier
  8. Water:
    • Operating over smooth water surfaces presents a particular hazard when presenting a reflection indistinguishable from the natural horizon
    • When overflying water in poor visibility conditions, maintain visual contact with a fixed reference
  9. High Winds:
    • High wind conditions result in drifting in the turns which can be hazardous if flying in a valley where space is restricted
    • When flying at high AUW and at High Density altitudes, there is a danger of losing airspeed whilst trying to maintain a groundspeed when turning from an into wind, to downwind position
  10. Radio performance
    • Highlight the deterioration of radio performance at low level, as it is out of “Line of sight range”
    • Promote a good lookout for other aircraft at all times
  11. Recap the low level autorotation technique covered in advanced autorotations
  12. Demonstrate advanced techniques:
    • Minimum radius turns can be achieved by reducing speed during the turning maneuver (box canyon turn)
    • For climbs, cyclic is more effective at speeds above best ROC speed whilst collective is more effective below best ROC speed




At the completion of this exercise, the student will be familiar with low-level operations and the associated risks involved. They will be able to apply learned techniques to avoid the risks and ensure good airmanship and safety is upheld at all times. They will also be better prepared to handle any inflight emergencies that could happen whilst flying low level, and how their corresponding corrective actions would differ from that of a higher-level emergency.




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