Stuck Pedals

Seems like every 8-12 months, somebody posts a question on one or another of the forums asking about stuck pedal procedures. What ensues depends on who’s reading the forums at the time. On a good day there are a couple of high-time pilots hanging around that will take the time tell us initiates how they have actually handled a stuck pedal or tail rotor failure. On a bad day, there’s somebody in there that’s confused about what exactly a stuck pedal is, and the thread becomes a mess of replies. Sorting out the good from the bad is a tedious process, and ultimately doesn’t matter since the thread disappears from the forum after a short time.

I tried taking the best of the advice from the most recent VR stuck pedal thread and developing 3 ground lessons. The first one is for a complete loss of the tail rotor. The procedure is pretty straightforward, and it’s in the R22/R44 POH. Interestingly, in a RHC newsletter a few months ago, they had the story of a pilot who didn’t follow the procedure and still made a successful landing after he lost his tail rotor; that article is attached to the lesson. Anyway, I wanted that lesson up just so there’s no confusion that the other 2 lessons are about a different problem.

A stuck pedal is a situation where the tail rotor is still producing thrust, but you cannot control it. Saying you have a stuck “right” pedal is confusing, since it’s irrelevant which pedal is stuck. What matters is which way the nose ends up yawing.

Last word on this is a photo in the book, Fatal Traps for Helicopter Pilots. The photo was through the chin bubble of an EC-120, and you can see the pilot’s mobile phone wedged nicely up against the control arm for the right pedal. There are a few interesting points about this case…the first being that the pilot and controllers had a considerable discussion about what to do in this situation. That right there may suggest a lack of training, but more importantly it indicates that the pilot kept his cool throughout the emergency. Ultimately, he chose doing a running landing (best choice?) to a concrete runway (instead of a grassy area!), and landed without injury or damage to the aircraft. I like to have a pen handy when I’m pre-flighting so I can record my Hobbs time, weather, last-minute changes to HIGE/HOGE, and clearance instructions. It’s this picture that always flashes through my mind when I’m doing my final cockpit check before jumping in the helicopter.

Here are links to the Stuck Pedal (Left) and Stuck Pedal (Right) ground lessons. I don’t want to be a test pilot, so I’m looking forward to seeing how these evolve from what I’m starting with (which is admittedly incomplete) into tips and tricks from guys who’ve practiced these in factory courses or dealt with them in real life.

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