Flying abandoned helicopter

If someone completely untrained in helicopter flight—apart from knowing what a joy stick was —jumped into an abandoned but functional helicopter and got it started up, what would be the most likely next scenario? Lotta noise, no motion? Some forward motion, no lift? Or???

Read an excellent book named Chicken Hawk by Robert Mason. I’ve read it a number of times. It’s about his service in Viet Nam and his helicopter training.

It is quite detailed in some aspects. IF I got a helicopter started, I MAY be able to get it off the ground a foot or two. Long and short of is is that I would keep innocents away.

If I had absolutely no choice - try to fly or die, well I’d give it a shot. And that would only after I got things a little figured out.

I read the book years ago, liked it a lot, and liked his two sci-fi novels as well.

If they knew enough to get it off the ground, they will almost certainly kill themselves and anyone nearby within the next few seconds.

Could they get it off the ground, with anything more than a “even a blind squirrel finds an occasional acorn” probability?

We’re assuming they’ve got the engine running. If they can identify the throttle and the collective pitch control, getting off the ground isn’t very hard. Flying in a stable fashion is a bit trickier.

I understand, for instance, that the more vertical lift you try to create means you have to counter act the torque to the machine with the tail rotor or your just gonna spin around. Every adjustment requires a counter adjustment. Once you get to horizontal speed (and that’s a big if) that’s not quite as important. Or you need less action to counter act the torque.

I’m sure Johnny LA will come school us all on this. And I’m also sure that it’s not easy for anyone to jump into a Heli and take off, even if you have experience in fixed wing.

Well, that’s the thing, innit? Anybody that has an idea of plane flying, using the center stick, isn’t going to understand the collective. I’ve seen movie actors forget to put a hand on the collective while (acting like they are) flying, If it is a piston-powered heli, they won’t understand how to use the throttle - it’s not like a plane, “give it some gas and go!” - but in a turbine-powered one, they would kill themselves in many other ways before understanding the throttle became important.

An untrained person would crash before they got ten feet, if they even got off the ground.

eta: I knew a guy, engineer but not a pilot, that went along for a check ride. The pilot let him handle the controls. He tried to hover - just went back and forth in pilot induced oscillation, forever chasing the aircraft and getting nowhere. Finally the pilot yelled “just take your hands off the controls!” and the craft stabilized right out (it was a great hovering machine (MD900).

Yeah (totally not a pilot, but did play a lot of Apache on my PC in the 90s :slight_smile: ) it seems getting off the ground would be straight forward. There is a big powerful rotor pointing directly upwards, unless there is some kind of fail safe its going the be easy to send a lot of power to that. At which point your troubles really start (you are in a big spinning unstable death machine), but you will be in the air.

Destin Sandlin addresses the question. tldr; it’s really hard.

Something like this would happen:

See? He got off the ground!

“…Hogg get away from that thing…”

I was thinking of this video when this topic appeared. It’s a classic clip…a bit of background here:

So no, a random person probably would not be able to safely fly a helicopter without proper training.

Thanks for posting that, I was going to ask what the back story was.

But it a pretty much answers the OP. They would get off the ground, and then bad things would happen.

I figured “bad things would happen,” but was curious as to how bad how soon. Thanks, folks.

I would think getting it off the ground would be the least of your problems.

Based on this video, I don’t think anyone who isn’t trained would be able to start the thing. You don’t just hop in, turn the key, and step on the gas.

Based on my experience with a toy helicopter that Mrs Geek got me for Christmas one year, if someone else started the helicopter and I climbed in and tried to take off, I would slowly get it going into the air, would drop the power too much when I took off too fast, and would then slam into the ground hard enough to destroy a real helicopter (only broke the landing skid on the toy). If by some miracle the helicopter would still be usable, my next attempt would get airborne, I would zoom off far more rapidly than intended in roughly the direction I wanted to go, would fly around a bit with very little control, and would then horribly crash and burn when I attempted to land.

He describes everything very clearly. I’m the same as you. I’m quite confident that if you put me in a Huey I would know just enough to be able to fark things up really badly.

One point I’d be interested in though is whether a very modern helicopter has the same sort of computer assisted stability that drones and toy helicopters now have, which makes flying them quite easy. It seems highly improbable that they would not, given that remarkably effective stability can be achieved in a kids toy for a few bucks.

I would be very interested to hear from somebody that knows but my suspicion would be that if - and it’s a big if - you knew how to operate the no doubt complicated systems, there may well be modern helicopters that are quite easy to fly because all of the mental gymnastics necessary to fly one manually can now be done by a computer.

Hahahaahhah. Great link engineer_comp_geek.

@Richard_Pierce posted the video of what I was going to post.

Flying a helicopter isn’t hard, but there’s a steep learning curve. The hardest thing is to learn to hover; it’s also the first thing you have to learn.

I had my fixed-wing license before I learned helicopters. Fixed-wing habits cost me hours of training and delayed my helicopter solo because I was trying to land the heli like an airplane. (Hint: You don’t keep pulling aft to ‘stall the wing’. You level the skids.)