Helicopter Performance Charts – Autorotational Performance

In developing performance charts, aircraft manufacturers make certain assumptions about the condition of the helicopter and the ability of the pilot. It is assumed that the helicopter is in good operating condition and the engine is developing its rated power. The pilot is assumed to be following normal operating procedures and to have average flying abilities. Average means a pilot capable of doing each of the required tasks correctly and at the appropriate times.

Using these assumptions, the manufacturer develops performance data for the helicopter based on actual flight tests. However, they do not test the helicopter under each and every condition shown on a performance chart. Instead, they evaluate specific data and mathematically derive the remaining data.

Autorotational Performance

Most autorotational performance charts state that autorotational descent performance is a function of airspeed and is essentially unaffected by density altitude and gross weight. Keep in mind that, at some point, the potential energy expended during the autorotation is converted into kinetic energy for the flare and touchdown phase of the maneuver. It is at that point that increased density altitudes and heavier gross weights have a great impact on the successful completion of the autorotation. The rotor disk must be able to overcome the downward momentum of the helicopter and provide enough lift to cushion the landing. With increased density altitudes and gross weights, the lift potential is reduced and a higher collective pitch angle (angle of incidence) is required.