Vortex Ring State (formerly Settling with Power)


To understand flight conditions that can cause vortex ring state, and to recognize the signs of vortex ring state and initiate the appropriate recovery.


  • Demonstrate vortex ring state and recovery.
  • Allow student to develop vortex ring state to recognize signs.
  • Allow student to initiate recovery from vortex ring state condition.

Instructional aids and pre-requisites


  • Pre-flight briefing: Discuss conditions where aircraft is most susceptible to VRS
    • Steep approach with a high rate of descent
    • Attempting to maintain an out-of-ground effect hover with insufficient performance
    • Approaches with a tailwind
  • Pre-flight briefing: Discuss the requirements for VRS
    • >300 fpm descent, >20% power, and <10 KIAS (below ETL)
  • Pre-flight briefing: Discuss signs of VRS and proper recovery
    • Vibration,  reduced control effectiveness, and high rate of descent
    • Reduce collective, add forward cyclic to regain ETL
    • Student should expect a significant, nose-down attitude during recovery and a high sink rate
  • Climb to ≥1500 AGL, clear the area, and head into the wind
  • Reduce power to 5˝ below power required for hover (or just slow to below ETL while maintaining altitude)
  • Maintain altitude and reduce airspeed with aft cyclic until airspeed <20 kias
  • Continue decelerating and allow sink rate to increase to ≥300 fpm
  • Vibration and decreased control effectiveness indicate the onset of VRS
  • Demonstrate that a slight increase in collective at this point will increase vibration and sink rate
  • Initiate recovery with forward cyclic to hold a 60 knot attitude
  • Simultaneously reduce collective
  • When airspeed is ≥ETL, recovery is complete and a climb can be established with an increase in collective
  • Repeat the demonstration without the demonstration where collective is raised (ie, just entry and recovery)

Common errors

  • Confusing vibration from ETL with VRS
    • When the trim strings drop, you are below ETL
  • Excessive nose-down attitude on recovery
  • Increasing power before recovery is complete
    • Again, trim strings will come alive again, indicating airspeed is above ETL

Completion standards

  • State conditions that can lead to VRS
  • Recognize signs of VRS
  • Initiate proper recovery

Teaching considerations

  • Developing VRS may require a negative ground speed
  • VRS is fully developed when descent reaches 700 fpm in the R22 (not that you should attempt to reach this RoD)
  • If necessary, autorotation is an instant fix for VRS
  • Watching the trim strings is a good indicator for ensuring helicopter is above or below ETL
  • Practice this maneuver with excess altitude and personal minimums for when the recovery should be initiated
  • Clear below and behind before initiating the maneuver

Additional practice

  • None specified

Additional resources

  • The 3-2-1 rule is very conservative; SN22 in the R22 POH recommends >30 KIAS until rate of descent is <300 fpm, and a chart in Principles of Helicopter Flight suggests that settling isn’t a risk until ROD >500 fpm, airspeed is <10 KIAS, and a steep angle of approach is being used (>50 degrees).
  • Also note that there is a bit of a debate about whether what we’re experiencing in the teaching environment is incipient VRS or actual VRS. This is a very technical debate that I can’t summarize for you, but you can search PPRUNE for topics on settling with power to see it.
  • The FAA curriculum includes a VRS demonstration where recovery is initiated “at the first sign of VRS.” Both the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority and Transport Canada stress in their training guides that they are demonstrating incipient VRS in their curriculum, and do not recommend demonstrating actual VRS.

7 thoughts on “Vortex Ring State (formerly Settling with Power)”

  1. This is far too erroneous. It is conflicting in places and the entry height is suicidal.
    If you don’t understand the topic, please don’t spread your solutions on it to everyone else???

    1. For some reason your comment got sent to the spam folder and I didn’t see it until I started doing some maintenance today. All feedback is welcome, but I’d appreciate it if you elaborate on this some–the whole point of this site is to communicate training techniques. I’m reviewing this lesson plan to ensure that it is consistent with the sources that I usually go to (the R22 Maneuver Guide, and the Transport Canada, Australian CASA helicopter training guides). I think part of the problem is (based on the PPRUNE discussion) that I, like many other students, was taught incipient VRS, where we recover “at the first signs” of VRS. If this is the case, many students leave their training thinking they know VRS when in fact they’re experiencing something well short of it. Is this a problem? Only if we think we’re learning VRS, and not realizing that we’re really learning avoidance. Thoughts?

  2. I think the lesson is fine. 1500 AGL is a great altitude to practice settling with power. You could be higher, but you don’t want to be any lower, especially if you let VRS develop and explain whats happening for a bit before you recover. I see nothing that warrants the first post..

    The 60 knot attitude comment could confuse some people. Your talking about achieving that nose low attitude, which is correct….some people may get hung up on the 60 knots part (your not recommending achieving 60 knots, just a 60 knot attitude)..

    Great idea for a site.. Ill definitely contribute..


  3. Hi Chris,

    Your lesson plan is fine for incipent VR entry and recovery. I like your format. I recommend you clarify the recovery attitude — e.g., 10-15 degrees nose-down until approaching Vy. Any more than that is counter productive and may startle the student.

    If your intent is to demonstrate Vortex Ring State then you should have at least 3000 feet under you. I’ve reached rates of descent greater than 4,000 feet per minute. It may take a good 1000 feet to established full VRS.

    1. Having a target pitch attitude is great…this is something that nobody’s ever clarified for me. Also, good point about demonstrating recognition of and recovery from incipient VRS rather than demonstration of fully-developed VRS. All of my flight training experience has been with the former rather than the latter, and I don’t think this is a point that’s clearly communicated to students. Thanks for your comment!

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