A New Simulation Shows What Happens When Helicopter Engines Die. Near a Mountain Top?

Sink or swim.
Loukia Papadopoulos

Last month, we brought you a video from Destin Sandlin from the SmarterEveryDay YouTube channel taking a flight around Widgeon Lake in British Columbia with helicopter pilot Bradley Friesen to see if a helicopter could land safely if its engine fails. The YouTuber was aiming to prove Neil deGrasse Tyson wrong when he said: "An airplane whose engine fails is a glider. A helicopter whose engine fails is a brick." 

Now, we have another video with a helicopter's engine being shut down, this time at the top of a mountain. "This is a demonstration of what would happen if the engine quit while you were on approach to a mountain. This is only a simulation and was done under careful supervision but it demonstrates exactly what would happen," Says Pilot Yellow in the video description.

This means the pilots will have to use autorotation to land the plane. Autorotation is a state of flight that kicks in when a helicopter's main engine fails, it allows pilots to still safely land the aircraft.

A common emergency procedure, autorotation is taught to all helicopter pilots as part of their initial training. During autorotation, a helicopter will see air move up into the rotor system from below while the main rotor will continue turning even if the engine is not running.

The video starts out with one of the pilots saying they are favoring the right-hand side of the mountain to have a bailout in case anything goes wrong. Both pilots seem relaxed and confident and agree that their ride so far is "looking very nice."

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All of a sudden you hear a beep and the pilot seems to panic a little. "Oooh, Engine failure," he declares as the helicopter shakes. This is enough to scare anybody but the pilot does remain calm throughout the ordeal.

"I have got it under control. You are flying with me," he says as a response to the other pilot declaring that this situation is "crazy." Still cool as a cucumber, he then declares that the pilots will come down and land on the Stave River.

He proceeds to explain how is he glide-stretching at 80 knots (148 km/h) and trying to take the helicopter as far as possible. In order, to land safely on one of the beaches below the pilot indicates he needs to slow down to 50 knots. How does this story end? Does the pilot manage to land safely despite the engine failure? You have to watch to find out.

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