Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Swiss Pilot Pioneers Life-Saving Helicopter Technique

Claude Vuichard has an idea that he is convinced will save lives and dramatically improve safety for helicopter users: the problem is, he has to convince the world to reject 70 years of received wisdom.

Vuichard retired from the Swiss civil aviation authority in December, after a 35-year career in which he racked up more than 16,000 hours flying helicopters in mountain-rescue and other specialized roles. He developed a technique for recovering an aircraft when it enters vortex ring state conditions that worked even in mountains, where the conventional method will not help.

“The old technique was to reduce the power and leave the vortex by flying forward,” he says. “But you lose altitude quite a lot, and if you’re close to the ground, you have an accident. My technique allows you to go out of the vortex sideways, using the tail rotor for thrust.”

The lateral movement shifts the aircraft out of the downward phase of the vortex, through the upward phase, and away from the disturbed air. The vortex is exited within a second, without any significant loss of altitude.

In 2011, Vuichard flew with Robinson Helicopters’ chief safety instructor, Tim Tucker, who was impressed. The Vuichard Recovery Technique has been added to Robinson’s teaching materials; Tucker has advocated for the method with the U.S, FAA, which is evaluating it, and the Los Angeles Police Department, which has been using it since January.

Persuading every helicopter training course to rewrite its materials – and arguing for the reprogramming of every helicopter simulator, which he says do not accurately model vortex ring state conditions – is keeping Vuichard busy. He has set up a non-profit organization, the Vuichard Recovery Aviation Safety Foundation ( and is at EBACE, trying to win support for his technique, trying to save lives.

(Angus Batey - Aviation Week / EBACE Show News)

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