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Watch This Pilot Land a Helicopter With the Engine Off!

We’ve had quite a few articles about helicopters on the site over the years, and I know at least a couple of them, I’ve written about a phenomenon called “autorotation”. Autorotation is the reason a helicopter that loses it’s engine doesn’t just become a brick, despite what renown astrophysicis Dr. Neil Degrasse Tyson tweeted recently. I’ve mentioned autorotation and briefly described the physics and forces involved, but have never really dove into explaining how or why it works, mainly because it’s one of those things that I understand just well enough to grasp the concept, but nowhere near well enough to explain it to somebody else.

Destin over at one of my favorite YouTube channels, Smarter Every Day, decided to literally put his own life in the hands of physics and a good pilot in the name of science and helping demonstrate that autorotation does, in fact, work exactly as described. But first, he and one of the pilots featured in this video – Bradley Friesen – visited a glacier in British Columbia for a quick lunch in a location that we have to assume has never served as a picnic setting for anybody before due to it’s remoteness.

After lunch, they head back toward civilization and pick up another pilot named Gerry Friesen – no relation to Bradley – who has over 16,000 hours at the controls of a helicopter to actually demonstrate exactly how well an experienced pilot can control a chopper that is, for all intents and purposes, falling. Gerry takes Destin and Bradley up for a training flight, kills the engine, and goes to work guiding the chopper back to earth using nothing but the spinning blades themselves, which are now being powered by the wind and not the engine, to land the helicopter beautifully a few moments later.

Ever the good sport, Dr. Tyson issued a video response to Destin’s challenge of his tweet, and that’s included in the video as well. Thanks as always to Destin for helping us understand the world around us and become Smarter Every Day.


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