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Engine Fire in flight

This is one of the more serious emergencies a pilot has to deal with. Usually the solution is to get on the ground. Autorotation is normally the fastest way to get down.

Ventilating the cabin

If fumes are present in the cabin, it can usually be ventillated by opening windows or doors or both. If a cabin heater is in use, it would normally be turned off to eliminate the chance of bringing in smoke from the engine compartment.

Turning off the electrics

A possibility is that the electrical system is providing the ignition source for the engine fire. If this is suspected, the pilot might elect to turn off the battery and generator.


An autorotation has two useful characteristics here: it's a fast way to descend, and it prepares for the chance that the engine is going to quit due to the fire. If the engine is still running on short final, I would seriously consider a power recovery to a hover, and then a quick landing and evacuation. The power recovery reduces the chance of messing up on the landing, and ending up rolling over in a burning aircraft. That would really spoil your day. Obviously, if the engine quits, you are going to have to do a touchdown autorotation. In this case, the pilot can go ahead and shut off the fuel in order to reduce the chance of fuel spillage on touchdown.

So far I have not read a manufacturers aircraft handbook which advocates shutting off the fuel if the engine is still running, but I suppose that if I was at extreme altitude, such that it would take quite a while to land, I might consider turning off the fuel in an attempt to put out the fire. This is a pretty drastic solution, however.


Passengers should be briefed, normally I'd recommend that doors be unlatched, and people should quickly exit the aircraft after touchdown. The pilot should be careful to stress to the passengers that the rotors will be turning, and that people should duck under the main rotor, and avoid walking back toward the tail rotor. I would stay at the controls until the passengers were out from under the rotor disk, to prevent the chance of the rotor disk tipping down and hitting someone. If another crewmember is present, I'd have them escort people away from the helicopter because people are probably panicky, and are likely to run toward a tail rotor even if they have been briefed not to.
Paul Cantrell
paul at copters.com (replace " at " with "@" to email me - this avoids SPAMMERS I hope)

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