The 60:1 Rule

No I’m not talking about the number of students who go through helicopter flight school for every instructor that gets hired. Actually, there are several problems on the Commercial Helicopter Pilot Knowledge Test that require you to understand this rule. In short, the 60:1 rule refers to the relationship between distance from a VOR or ADF station and the ground distance of 1 radial. At 60 NM from a station, if you cross 1 radial you will have covered 1 NM of ground. There are some things you need to do, like maintaining a constant heading, knowing your true airspeed, and timing how long it takes for you to cross the radials, but that’s the premise of this problem.

When I went through my commercial ticket, this was a stumbling block for me, and it took me a while to figure it out. I’m not mathematically inclined–1 of the 3 C’s I got in college was in calculus II, and the only thing I remember from that class was that the instructor wore the exact same sweater to class every single day. Yep, true story. Anyway, a friend recently asked me to endorse him for his CPL(H) knowledge test. Before I offered him an endorsement, I asked him to do several knowledge tests and he also hit a wall with these questions. Smart guy too–went to grad school, has his A&P, Inspector Authorization, and rebuilds helicopters for fun. Fact is, the 60:1 rule questions aren’t hard–they are very easy. Why is it that they cause trouble?

Like anything else, you and I can only teach what we’ve been taught, and the 60:1 rule isn’t taught well in any of the helicopter textbooks or the Jeppesen Commercial/Instrument Handbook (which I think is a waste of 0.3 flight hours’ cash). Since you only need it to pass the Commercial and CFI written exams, why not just memorize the answers and move on?

Yeah, you could do that. But I’m guessing that the instructors and students who read this blog are setting a higher standard for themselves. I was disappointed when my instructors glossed over questions or didn’t know things that I knew. Like you, my mission is to raise the bar a little so the next generation of students is a little better trained than I was. So here’s my lesson plan for teaching the 60:1 rule, along with a short animated graphic to help out those of you who like to see concepts illustrated. The animation takes about 30 seconds to run, and I’ll admit that it’s not going to dazzle anybody, but it does more to explain the application of the 60:1 rule than the spiffy graphics in the Jeppesen book does. Now you can impress your students, other instructors, and your friends with your command of this archaic piece of trivia!