EC 120 Colibri Book

Updated on 5th June, 2016

I have just completed a new book for anyone training on the Eurocopter EC120 Colibri Helicopter. This is a training manual that describes all of the systems in detail. There are numerous diagrams in this 2nd edition black and white book.

The original (full colour) version of this book is also available on Amazon but it is more expensive. The colour does make the diagrams clearer and easier to read.

Details can be found on the Amazon website or on the link below.


BUY HERE Black and White (2nd Edition)

As we are not normally allowed to take the Pilot’s Operating Handbook home with us, this book is invaluable for all trainees and pilots.

Edition 1 was an expensive book. For this reason, edition 2 has been published in black and white and is much more affordable. Much of what is in the POH is in this book but there is a lot more too. Let me know what you think.

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The Finer Points Of Autorotations

Updated on 4th January, 2017


Qualified pilots can all do autorotations. Low time pilots can do them but are a little nervous and tentative. Students enjoy doing the autorotations but wonder what it would really be like if they had to do one for real.

The only people I know who are really good at autorotations are flight instructors. They do them every day so they get lots of practice.

My question is – how can we make the autorotation process easier for students?


You should be comfortable with smoothly entering an autorotation by lowering the collective and using aft cyclic while looking ahead.
Bringing the airspeed back to the autorotation speed for your helicopter type.
Controlling the rotor RPM (especially during turns).

Sequence of Events

When you do an autorotation there is a sequence of events that should happen in order for the autorotation to be successful.

  • Enter the autorotation
  • Establish steady glide at autorotation speed and steady RRPM
  • Determine wind direction
  • Select a suitable landing area
  • Determine which technique you are going to use to reach the landing area
  • Mayday call
  • Flare
  • Land

As we have already assumed that you can enter an autorotation and control your speed and RRPM, we will concentrate on the remaining items.

Determine Wind Direction

We should always be aware of what direction the wind is blowing from – just in case we have to do an emergency landing. This is covered in detail in an earlier post so I will not elaborate further on this subject.

Select a suitable landing area

The best way to select a landing area is to look all around you. Look for the biggest field or landing area close to the helicopter. Do not try to go for distance on this one as it is much, much easier to lose height than it is to gain distance.
Don’t worry if there are cables in the landing area – you can avoid these if you can see them so do not let cables prevent you from using a particular area.
It does not matter if the landing area is on the left or right.

Determine which technique you are going to use to reach the landing area

Now that you have selected a landing area, you can work out what technique you are going to use to reach the area.

  • Normal autorotation
  • Range autorotation
  • Extended range autorotation
  • Zero speed autorotation
  • “S” turns
  • 360 degree turns

Whatever technique you use, try to stay relaxed. You will be descending but you are still flying.

  1. Wind From Ahead
    If the wind is on your nose then all you need to do is determine if you are going to overshoot. If the landing area appears to be moving down the windscreen then you are going to overshoot. Use “S” turns or reduce speed to lose height.
    If it remains in the same position on the windscreen then you are going directly to the landing area.
    If the landing area appears to be moving up the windscreen during the descent then you will land short. Increase speed to gain distance.
  2. Wind From 3 o’Clock or 9 o’Clock
    When the wind is from the side, then you need to decide when to turn into the landing area.
    Treat this as part of a circuit. You need to decide when to turn on final – do not leave it too late otherwise you will not reach the landing area.
    The rest of the procedure is as described in 1 above.
  3. Wind From Behind
    Treat this as the downwind leg of a circuit. Do not wait too long before turning. You need to decide when to turn on base – do not leave it too late otherwise you will not reach the landing area. Turn on base and then decide when to turn on final.
    The rest of the procedure is as described in 1 above.

Mayday call

Do not stress over the mayday call. You will not be remembered for getting a great mayday call out if you subsequently crash – Fly the aircraft. Only if you have time and the conditions are right should you do a mayday call. Mayday calls get easier with practice so make sure you practice them and then you can do them quickly.

E.g. “Mayday Mayday Mayday.
ABC Approach. EI-DEF
Engine failure 4 miles northwest of Athlone
Forced Landing”

If you can get the above information out before you lose too much altitude then you are doing well. You can give extra information if you like but it is important to not get sidetracked or distracted. Practice this while driving to improve multitasking.


The flare is described in detail in a previous post on autorotations.


The autorotative landing is described in detail in a previous post on autorotations.


It really is a case of practice makes perfect. Treat the approach like you would a circuit. Do your turns early rather than late. If you turn late then you increase your chances of landing short. If you turn early you have the option of doing further “S” turns to lose height.

Note the position of the landing area on your windscreen when you practice autorotation so that you have a good idea what your glide angle is for your helicopter type.

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Dangerous Goods

Updated on 9th July, 2015

Dangerous Goods


As pilots we take passengers with us on flights whether for business or for pleasure. But when is the last time you asked them what was in their bags? Do you know what amount of alcohol is permitted on board. Does it have to be kept in the luggage compartment or can it be carried in the cabin? How many hair straighteners can be taken on board? Etc.

These are questions we should be looking at as ultimately, we are the ones responsible for the safety of the flight.

I have compiled a table using information from IATA which may be useful to you as a reference.

Dangerous Goods Definition

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), dangerous goods are articles or substances which are capable of posing a risk to health, safety, property or the environment and which are shown in the list of dangerous foods in the regulation or which are classified according to the regulations.

Dangerous Goods General

Some dangerous goods are too dangerous to be carried by aircraft, others may be carried on cargo aircraft only and some are acceptable on both cargo and passenger aircraft. A number of limitations are placed on dangerous foods which are permitted to be transported by air. These limitations are established by the regulations but your country may impose extra regulations.

Dangerous Goods Forbidden In Aircraft Under Any Circumstances

Any article or substance which is liable to explode, dangerously react, produce a flame or dangerous evolution of heat or dangerous emission of toxic, corrosive or flammable gases or vapours under conditions normally encountered in transport must not be carried in aircraft under any circumstances.


Dangerous Goods Forbidden Unless Exempted

The dangerous goods described in paragraphs (1) to (5) must not be carried in aircraft unless exempted by the particular country you are flying in.

  1. Radioactive material which is:
    • In vented type packages
    • In packages which require external cooling
    • In packages subject to operational controls during transport
    • Explosive
    • A pyrophoric liquid
  2. Unless otherwise provided, articles and substances with a UN number which are identified in the “List of Dangerous Goods” as being forbidden
  3. Infected live animals
  4. Liquids having a vapour inhalation toxicity which requires special packaging
  5. Substances that are offered for transport in a liquid state at temperatures equal to or exceeding 100 degrees Celsius or in a solid state in temperatures equal to or exceeding 240 degrees Celsius
  6. Any other articles or substances as specified by the country you are flying in


Type of dangerous good

The pilot-in-command must be informed of the location…

The approval of the operator is required…

Permitted on ones person…

Permitted as checked in baggage…

Permitted as carry on baggage…

Disabling devices such as mace, pepper spray, etc. containing an irritant or incapacitating substance are prohibited on the person, in checked and carry-on baggage. X X X
Electro shock weapons (e.g. Tasers) containing dangerous goods such as explosives, compressed gases, lithium batteries, etc. are forbidden in carry-on baggage or checked baggage or on the person. X X X
Security-type attaché cases, cash boxes, cash bags , etc. incorporating dangerous goods, such as lithium batteries and/or pyrotechnic material, are totally forbidden. X X X
Ammunition (cartridges for weapons), securely packaged (in Div. 1.4S, UN 0012 or UN 0014 only), in quantities not exceeding 5 kg (11 lb) gross weight per person for that person’s own use, excluding ammunition with explosive or incendiary projectiles. Allowances for more than one passenger must not be combined into one or more packages. X X X
Camping stoves and fuel containers that have contained a flammable liquid fuel, with empty fuel tank and/or fuel container. X X X
Battery-powered wheelchairs or other similar mobility devices with non-spillable batteries which comply with Packing Instruction 872 or Special Provision A67, provided the battery terminals are protected from short circuits, e.g. by being enclosed in a battery container, and the battery is securely attached to the wheelchair or mobility aid. X X X
Battery-powered wheelchairs or other mobility devices with spillable batteries or with lithium batteries. X X
Mercury barometer or thermometer carried by a representative of a government weather bureau or similar official agency. X X
Lithium ion batteries with a Watt-hour rating exceeding 100 Wh but not exceeding 160 Wh for portable electronic devices. No more than two spare batteries may be carried in carry-on baggage only. These batteries must be individually protected to prevent short circuits. Equipment containing such batteries may be in checked or carry-on baggage. X X
Avalanche rescue backpack, one (1) per passenger, equipped with a pyrotechnic trigger mechanism containing less than 200mg net of Division 1.4S and less than 250 mg of compressed gas in Division 2.2. The backpack must be packed in such a manner that it cannot be accidentally activated. The airbags within the backpacks must be fitted with pressure relief valves. X X
Chemical Agent Monitoring Equipment when carried by staff members of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons on official travel. X X
Heat producing articles such as underwater torches (diving lamps) and soldering irons. X X
Carbon dioxide, solid (dry ice), in quantities not exceeding 2.5 kg (5lb) per passenger when used to pack perishables not subject to these Regulations in checked or carry-on baggage, provided the baggage (package) permits the release of carbon dioxide gas. Each item of checked baggage must be marked “dry ice” or “carbon dioxide, solid” and with the net weight of dry ice or an indication that there is 2.5kg or less dry ice. X X
Insulated packagings containing refrigerated liquid nitrogen (dry shipper), fully absorbed in a porous material and intended for transport, at low temperature, of non-dangerous products are not subject to these Regulations provided the design of the insulated packaging would not allow the build-up of pressure within the container and would not permit the release of any refrigerated liquid nitrogen irrespective of the orientation of the insulated packaging. X X
Non-flammable gas cylinder fitted into a life jacket containing carbon dioxide or other suitable gas in Division 2.2, up to two (2) small cylinders per passenger, and up to two (2) spare cartridges. X
Oxygen or air gaseous cylinders required for medical use. The cylinder must not exceed 5 kg gross weight.
Note: Liquid oxygen systems are forbidden for transport.
Portable medical electronic devices (Automated External Defibrillators (AED), Nebulizer, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), etc.) containing lithium metal or lithium ion cells or batteries may be carried. X
Aerosols in Division, with no subsidiary risk, for sporting or home use. X X X X
Non-radioactive medicinal or toilet articles (including aerosols) such as hair sprays, perfumes, colognes and medicines containing alcohol.
The total net quantity of all above mentioned articles must not exceed 2 kg (4.4 lb) or 2 L (2 qt), and the net quantity of each single article must not exceed 0.5 kg (1 lb) or 0.5 L (1 pt). Release valves on aerosols must be protected by a cap or other suitable means to prevent inadvertent release of the contents.
Alcoholic beverages, when in retail packagings, containing more than 24% but not more than 70% alcohol by volume, in receptacles not exceeding 5L, with a total net quantity per person of 5L. X X
Energy efficient light bulbs when in retail packaging intended for personal or home use. X X
Non-flammable, non-toxic gas cylinders worn for the operation of mechanical limbs. Also, spare cylinders of a similar size if required to ensure an adequate supply for the duration of the journey. X X
Portable electronic devices containing lithium metal or lithium ion cells or batteries, such as watches, calculating machines, cameras, cellular phones, lap-top computers, camcorders, etc., when carried by passengers or crew for personal use. X X
Spare lithium or lithium ion cells or batteries, for such consumer electronic devices may be carried in carry-on baggage only. These batteries must be individually protected to prevent short circuits. X X X
Hair curlers containing hydrocarbon gas, up to one (1) per passenger or crew-member, provided that the safety cover is securely fitted over the heating element. These hair curlers must not be used on board the aircraft at any time. Gas refills for such curlers are not permitted in checked or carry-on baggage. X X X
Medical or clinical thermometer, which contains mercury, one (1) per passenger for personal use, when in its protective case. X X
Fuel cell systems, and spare fuel cartridges powering portable electronic devices (for example cameras, cellular phones, laptop computers, and camcorders). X X X
Radioisotopic cardiac pacemakers or other devices, including those powered by lithium batteries, implanted into a person, or radiopharmaceuticals contained within the body of a person as the result of medical treatment. X X X X
Safety matches (one small packet) or a cigarette lighter that does not contain unabsorbed liquid fuel, other than liquefied gas, intended for use by an individual when carried on the person. Lighter fuel and lighter refills are not permitted on one’s person nor in checked or carry-on baggage.
Note: “Strike anywhere” matches, “Blue flame” or “Cigar” lighters are forbidden.


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Helicopter Preflight

Updated on 10th July, 2015

Preparing For Flight

We all go out to our helicopter and complete our daily preflight inspection before flying. But what exactly does the preflight consist of? Is it just a matter of checking the mechanics of the helicopter? Of course this is a very important check but there are many more things to check and consider.

  • Licence expiry date
  • Medical expiry date
  • LPC renewal date
  • Aircraft documentation
  • Location of helicopter
  • Fuel
  • Mass and balance
  • Meteorological reports
  • Fitness for flight
  • Passenger brief
  • Dangerous goods
  • Airport layout and procedures
  • Planning, ATC and route
  • Performance
  • Equipment
  • Prior permission to land at destination

Some of the above items may seem obvious to you but I bet that you do not check all of them. I may even have missed a few. But let’s look at these in a little more detail.

Licence expiry date

Were you aware that your JAR licence has an expiry date? Take it out and have a look at it. It is not obvious but normally, on the second or third page, there will be an expiry date. Put this date in your calendar and set an alarm to remind you to renew it – no one else is going to do this for you. There will be no letters to remind you.

Your licence is only valid for five years. This is separate from your type rating.

Obviously you must not fly if it has expired.

Medical expiry date

Check the expiry date of your medical certificate. Do you have to wear corrective lenses? Do you have a second pair as stated on your medical certificate?

Again, program the expiry date into your calender with an alarm to remind you to renew it before it expires.

LPC renewal date

Check the date when your LPC is due for renewal for the type of aircraft you are flying. Use the calender again.

Aircraft documentation

Make sure the aircraft is airworthy. Check the following documents:

  • Certificate of Registration (CoR) (no expiry date).
  • Certificate of Airworthiness (CoA). This is being replaced by an Airworthiness Review Certificate
  • Certificate of Release to Service (CRS). Check that the helicopter has not exceeded the hours and dates for required maintenance.
  • Airworthiness Review Certificate (ARC). This is an ongoing, continuous airworthiness program certificate. Check the expiry date.
  • Noise Certificate (no expiry date)
  • Aircraft Station License (for radio equipment) (no expiry date).
  • Third party liability insurance (check the expiry date).
  • Mass and balance schedule
  • Rules of interception. This is required by law in Ireland or when crossing an international FIR.
  • Technical log for the aircraft. Make sure it is up to date and check to see if any defects have been reported.
  • Pilot’s Operating Handbook (Flight Manual).

Location of helicopter

The location of the helicopter is relevant before taking off.

  • Is it pointed into wind?
  • Is there a risk of someone walking into the tail rotor? If so, reposition before starting.
  • Check the proximity of buildings. Is there a risk of recirculation? Is anything projecting over the helicopter that may be a hazard after takeoff?
  • Check for debris on the ground that may move from the down-wash and possibly circulate into the rotor disc.
  • Check the proximity of other aircraft. Is your down wash going to cause damage?
  • Are the skids frozen to the ground or stuck in mud?


Dip the fuel tanks if possible. Make sure you know exactly how much fuel you have on board. Do not rely on the figure entered into the technical log by the previous pilot.

Do the fuel drains and check for contaminants.

Mass and balance

Perform the mass and balance calculations for your helicopter. Remember – if you are over the AUW or outside the centre of gravity limits, the aircraft is not insured and you may have handling difficulties.

Meteorological reports

It is a legal requirement in Ireland that the pilot checks the weather is suitable for the flight. This means that the weather at the departure, en-route and destination is suitable for the flight. It is much easier to cancel the flight on the ground than it is to cancel it after you have taken off.

Fitness for flight

Are you fit to fly? Consider the following:

  • Are you taking medication?
  • When is the last time you were drinking alcohol?
  • Were you diving in the previous 24 hours?
  • Has there been a death in the family?
  • Have you recently had a row with a family member or friend?
  • Are you suffering from an injury?
  • Do you have a head cold?

You get the idea. If any of the above apply to you, consider doing something other than flying.

Passenger brief

Prepare a passenger brief. It is easy to think that safety items are obvious to everyone. Assume that they know nothing. Consider the following briefing points:

  • Touching controls
  • Seat belt operation
  • Door operation
  • Sunglasses and baseball cap
  • Headphones and microphone. Intercom system. Pilot isolate switch.
  • Cameras
  • Motion sickness
  • Tail rotor
  • Egress after emergency landing
  • Luggage space available

Dangerous goods

Are you familiar with dangerous goods? No? Then have a think about it. How many bottles of vodka can you carry before it becomes dangerous? Cigarette lighters? Hair straighteners. Batteries etc. All of these can be a hazard in the aircraft. I will write about this in detail in another article. However if you are in doubt, talk to someone and get advice.

Airport layout and procedures

Ensure you are familiar with the airports layout. Have a photocopy of the layout on your knee board for reference. Know the noise abatement procedures and circuit heights. Learn the Visual Reporting Points (VRP’s).

ATC and route

Have a list of the radio frequencies that you are going to need (for the whole route) in your knee board. Ensure that you have the correct frequencies tuned into the radio before you start up. If you are told to change frequency, do not wait 5 minutes to do so. Change to the frequency when told to do so otherwise you will forget and stress levels will increase.


Check the following:

  • Vne for the altitude and weight required – doors off operation.
  • Maximum Continuous Power (MCP)
  • 5 Minute takeoff rating
  • HIGE and HOGE performance for the weight and density altitude (if available)


Are you familiar with all of the equipment on the helicopter? Do you know how to use the:

  • Intercom system
  • Emergency locator transmitter
  • GPS
  • Floatation equipment

Do you have:

  • Charts for the area you are going to be flying in. 1:500,000, 1:250,000, 1:50,000
  • Knee board
  • Planning log – nav route, frequencies, fuel plan etc.
  • Sunglasses
  • Aircraft documentation
  • Telephone
  • Spare engine oil
  • Batteries for your GPS or headset
  • Emergency numbers – base, ATC etc.

Prior permission to land at destination

Do not land on someones property without permission. Prior permission is required and although verbal permission is sufficient, it is a simple matter to get this in writing. An email will suffice. Written permission is (in my opinion) essential when landing on private property.


Prior planning will make your flight much more stress free and therefore much more enjoyable. Your helicopter preflight is a vital part of your planning.

Accidents in aviation nearly always happen due to a chain of events. Each event on its own may seem negligible but may lead to more and more severe consequences. Take time to plan properly and you will be able to break the chain or even prevent the chain forming.

Flying is fun and when planned properly – it is also safe. Let’s help keep it that way.

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