To transition from smooth, flat surface vertically to a 3-5 foot hover, or to transition from a 3-5 foot hover vertically to a smooth, flat surface.


  • Review dynamic rollover and ground resonance lessons
  • Review pre-take-off procedures
  • Review post-set-down procedures
  • Develop scanning habits for pick-up
  • Develop scanning habits for set-down

Instructional aids and pre-requisites

  • Hovering 3 is a pre-requisite
  • Ground lesson: Dynamic rollover
  • Ground lesson: Translating tendency
  • Ground lesson: Torque/anti-torque/tail-rotor [TBD]
  • Ground lesson: Weight and balance
  • Ground lesson: Ground resonance (recommended)


  • Pre-flight briefing: dynamic rollover, SN-9
    • Always use a 2-step lift off: light on skids, then gently into hover
    • Maintain a 5-foot hover altitude
    • Immediately lower collective if any rearward or lateral movement develops while the aircraft is light on the skids or close to the ground, a rolling moment develops, or a skid becomes stuck
  • Pre-flight briefing:
    • Discuss the effect of CG on cyclic position during pick-up
    • During pre-flight, ensure area clear of debris and check skids (ice in winter, melted tarmac in summer can cause skid to stick to surface)
    • Pre-take-off checks (gages in the green, carb heat as necessary, area clear)
  • Practicing pick-ups
    • Position the aircraft on a smooth, hard, level surface, facing into the wind, with the collective full-down and the cyclic and pedals neutralized.
    • Identify a distant reference point (50-75 feet away), preferably something vertical (flagpole, side of a building)
    • Start with a small left cyclic input and small amount of left pedal
    • Raise the collective slowly until the helicopter becomes light on the skids
    • Pause and neutralize all yaw, and lateral or fore/aft drift
    • Continue raising the collective smoothly and slowly, maintaining positive aircraft control (no yaw, no drift)
    • As the helicopter lifts off, slowly raise the collective to achieve a 5′ foot hover; maintain altitude with the collective, ground position with the cyclic, and heading with the pedals
    • Perform hover check (no warning lights, gages in the green, hover power check, carb heat as necessary, radio call)
  • Practicing set-downs
    • From a stabilized 5′ hover, with the helicopter headed into the wind and over a smooth, hard, level surface, identifiy a disetant reference (50-75′ away, preferably vertical).
    • Slightly lower the collective to establish a slow descent. Maintain a slow, constant rate of descent throughout the set-down.
    • Maintain heading with pedals and ground position with cyclic during the descent; the ideal descent is vertical with no change in heading.
    • As the helicopter approaches the ground, additional down collective will be necessary to overcome the increase in ground effect.
    • Ensure all yaw and drift (especially aft drift) are neutralized as the skids make ground contact.
    • Continue smoothly lowering collective until it is full down.
    • Once the collective is full-down, neutralize the controls.

Common errors

  • Rushing the pick-up
    • Have the student verbalize when he feels the helicopter becoming light on the skids
    • Ensure the student pauses and neutralizes all yaw and drift before continuing the pick-up
    • An abrupt pick-up is a common reaction if  a skid becomes stuck, or if the student gets behind controlling yaw/drift: guard against aggressive collective inputs
  • Overcontrolling
    • Focusing immediately in front of the helicopter can cause overcontrolling; provide the student with a distant reference to focus on.
  • Hesitation just before ground contact during set-down
    • Ground contact should be a surprise
    • Ground effect will slow the rate of descent as the helicopter gets closer to the ground, and more down collective will be required.
  • Not transferring weight of the helicopter to the ground after ground contact made
    • Once the skids make ground contact, smoothly but promptly transfer weight of the aircraft to the skids
    • Avoid loitering in a light on the skids condition when setting down

Completion standards

  • Pick-up
    • Heading ±10°
    • Altitude ±2′
    • Position within a 5′ radius
    • Positive aircraft control throughout the maneuver
  • Set-down
    • Heading ±10°
    • Drift ±4′

Teaching considerations

  • For pick-ups, slow is key. One key perception here is the moment the aircraft becomes light on the skids, and slowing the maneuver down will ensure the student can recognize this.
  • Setting down with a slight amount of forward movement can help some students maintain directional stability
  • Think of being light on the skids as being in a low hover. Especially during set-downs, minimize your time in this configuration, since the risk for dynamic rollover is highest when close to the ground.
  • In the absence of a good vertical reference, a taxiway line can provide a good reference (as long as the aircraft can be faced into the wind and there’s enough taxiway for the student to keep from looking below the nose of the aircraft).
  • Review the weight and balance sheet before flights to have the student guesstimate what control inputs will be necessary during pick-up; this is especially important during the student’s solo flight.
  • As with hovering, control inputs should be gentle and light; watch for the student gripping the cyclic.

Additional practice

  • Initially, a distant reference is helpful for keeping a constant sight picture as the helicopter climbs or descends vertically; later, the student might benefit from using closer references (eg, when setting down on a dolly or platform).
  • Initially the student should focus on the 2-step pick-up process and positive aircraft control throughout the maneuver; once the student has mastered this, introduce adding the MAP gage to the scan. When the student feels the aircraft get light on the skids, check the MAP (and control position) to get a sense of what power requirements and control inputs are needed to make the aircraft light on the skids. The student can then smoothly but quickly increase collective to just below this level, then proceed with the slower process of getting light on the skids and neutralizing movement. Keep in mind that the power requirements and CG will change throughout the course of a lesson though!
  • Additional tips on pick-ups can be seen on this thread from VerticalReference.com.

Additional resources

  • Use a bulleted list here to link out to additional resources (files, diagrams, other pages)

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