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Old 2nd Aug 2018, 23:00
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Join Date: Feb 2015
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio
Posts: 268
Talking Getting Back on the Horse

Previously posted on this forum in February of this year, I repost since I relive this moment infrequently in the obtunding silence of the middle of starless nights. This was the first and only actual autorotation in which I participated and I hope and pray the last!

- Ed

I was a relatively low-time PPL-SEL (maybe 200 hours) in 1979 when a friend who was flying Evergreen 206 LR's to a test oil rig off the coast of Georgia said he would teach me to fly "frantic palm trees". I had accumulated four hours and could hover clumsily but handle other flight regimes satisfactorily when he called one Sunday morning to ask if I'd like to bring my wife and 9-year-old son on a sight-seeing tour. Hell yes, I would!

We flew for an hour doing some low-level (10') high-speed passes over the marshes, rivers, and ocean, and some fairly high G aerobatic work. We were on long final, three minutes from KSSI (McKinnon St. Simons). We had received permission to land and were descending through 2,000'. My "friend", a 6,000-hour 'Nam pilot who was flying right seat, came over the intercom and said "Watch this!" He reached for and cycled the Emergency Fuel Cutoff switch. The annunciator panel went from green to orange to red! He had starved the engine of fuel and we were too low to get a restart! This was going to be a genuine autorotation. I turned to my family in the rear seat and yelled "Brace! Brace! Brace!"

We hit the beach, the skids dug in, the helicopter tipped forward, the main rotor clipped the tail boom off in a neat decapitation which spun us a full 360 degrees. My wife grabbed our son in her arms and exited to the left; the end of still-spinning main rotor puffed up her hair as it cleared her by an inch! I fumbled with my 5-point restraint for what seemed like hours, then ran like the devil.

The starboard fuel bladder had ruptured and was spilling jet-A near the exhaust. The T.O.T. was ~ 700 degrees, the VSI pegged at 2,500 down, and the ASI at 40 knots. We were lucky to be alive...

Some serious adult beverage consumption coupled with general prayers of thanksgiving to anyone listening followed that afternoon, but bright and early the next morning I went alone for an hour's introspective solo in my 152. Had I not, I am not certain that I would have ever flown again.

I have abseiled and was an ardent skydiver until my then-wife put her foot down and forced me to choose between her and my T-28. I have hung by one foot and one hand 50' above the stage while changing gels and bulbs in theatrical lighting. But get me on a 6' step ladder and it's time for vertigo and acrophobia! Go figure...

- Ed
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