AIM 10-1-1

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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 categories:

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 (RFM).

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 augmentation.

f. The RFM also identifies other specific limitations associated with IFR flight. Typically, these limitations include, but are not limited to:

1. Minimum equipment required for IFR flight (in some cases, for both single pilot and two pilot operations).

2. Vmini (minimum speed - IFR).

NOTE- The manufacturer may also recommend a minimum IFR airspeed during instrument approach.

3. Vnei (never exceed speed - IFR).

4. Maximum approach angle.

5. Weight and center of gravity limits.

6. Aircraft configuration limitations (such as aircraft door positions and external loads).

7. Aircraft system limitations (generators, inverters, etc.).

8. System testing requirements (many avionics and AFCS/AP/FD systems incorporate a self-test feature).

9. Pilot action requirements (such as the pilot must have his/her hands and feet on the controls during certain operations, such as during instrument approach below certain altitudes).

g. It is very important that pilots be familiar with the IFR requirements for their particular helicopter. Within the same make, model and series of helicopter, variations in the installed avionics may change the required equipment or the level of augmentation for a particular operation.

h. During flight operations, pilots must be aware of the mode of operation of the augmentation systems, and the control logic and functions employed. For example, during an ILS approach using a particular system in the three-cue mode (lateral, vertical and collective cues), the flight director collective cue responds to glideslope deviation, while the horizontal bar of the “cross-pointer” responds to airspeed deviations. The same system, while flying an ILS in the two-cue mode, provides for the horizontal bar to respond to glideslope deviations. This concern is particularly significant when operating using two pilots. Pilots should have an established set of procedures and responsibilities for the control of flight director/autopilot modes for the various phases of flight. Not only does a full understanding of the system modes provide for a higher degree of accuracy in control of the helicopter, it is the basis for crew identification of a faulty system.

i. Relief from the prohibition to takeoff with any inoperative instruments or equipment may be provided through a Minimum Equipment List (see 14 CFR Section 91.213 and 14 CFR Section 135.179, Inoperative Instruments and Equipment). In many cases, a helicopter configured for single pilot IFR may depart IFR with certain equipment inoperative, provided a crew of two pilots is used. Pilots are cautioned to ensure the pilot-in-command and second-in-command meet the requirements of 14 CFR Section 61.58, Pilot-in-Command Proficiency Check: Operation of Aircraft Requiring More Than One Pilot Flight Crewmember, and 14 CFR Section 61.55, Second-in-Command Qualifications, or 14 CFR Part 135, Operating Requirements: Commuter and On-Demand Operations, Subpart E, Flight Crewmember Requirements, and Subpart G, Crewmember Testing Requirements, as appropriate.

j. Experience has shown that modern AFCS/AP/FD equipment installed in IFR helicopters can, in some cases, be very complex. This complexity requires the pilot(s) to obtain and maintain a high level of knowledge of system operation, limitations, failure indications and reversionary modes. In some cases, this may only be reliably accomplished through formal training.

Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) — Chapter 10
10-1-1 - 10-1-2 - 10-1-3 - 10-1-4 - 10-2-1 - 10-2-2 - 10-2-3 - 10-2-4