When I learned to fly helicopters, I of course spent significant time learning about and practicing autorotations.

The CFI at my school, who had around 15,000 hrs (that's right, fifteen thousand!) said a few times that practice, knowledge and currency are vital — but as long as you got the entry right (following which you can fly to the ground) and executed at least a decent attempt at the flare and cushion, you would survive. Is this a correct take on the survivability of an autorotation? Do fatalities arise primarily from errors during the autorotation entry or flare?

While you might not get to use the machine again, and you might spend some time in hospital, you would live to fly another day. I am assuming a reasonable place on dry land is available to finally come to rest and no post-crash fire.

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    $\begingroup$ To me, it's not entirely clear what you're asking. But I'm not a helicopter pilot so forgive me if it's obvious. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 22:02
  • $\begingroup$ Entry is a rapid set of control inputs (lever down, stick back, pedal left (depends on which way the rotor turns) to maintain the attitude and preserve/restore rotor RPM if the donkey goes on strike. In autorotation, you are heading down, and more quickly than usual, but the machine is completely controllable. You can extend the glide, reduce the glide, s-turn, circle and so on hoping to alight on something friendly like a clear field. The bit at the bottom is a lot more complicated but in essence converts the energy of falling into lift to cushion yourself to a smooth touchdown. $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 22:14
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, I know what autorotation is, but your question isn't very clear IMHO. What exactly are you asking? $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 22:19
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    $\begingroup$ @PhilippeLeybaert Ah, sorry, I see what you mean. I have edited the question to hopefully make it more clear. I am interested in other opinions. I guess another way of stating it is "does an auto need to be more or less perfect at the bottom to survive?" $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 22:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Simon - I tried to clarify the question a bit further. If this isn't what you wanted to say please revert my changes! $\endgroup$
    – egid
    Commented Jan 14, 2014 at 5:27

1 Answer 1


If the pilot flubs the flare and landing, the result is frequently survivable. The reason is that even a flubbed autorotation will reduce the vertical speed.

Student and instructor walked away from this one:


  • $\begingroup$ Thanks Skip. Do you happen to know if that was at the bottom of an auto or something (slightly) less dramatic like a dynamic rollover? $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Commented Jan 14, 2014 at 21:05
  • $\begingroup$ I have no direct knowledge, but the news implied that it was the bottom of an auto. Also, the flight school on field does practice autos in that location very frequently, so my assumption is that this recovery was a little too late. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 14, 2014 at 23:08

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