This is an excerpt from a report made to the Aviation Safety Reporting System. The narrative is written by the pilot, rather than FAA or NTSB officials. To maintain anonymity, many details, such as aircraft model or airport, are often scrubbed from the reports.
Departing from ZZZ1 for a short flight to ZZZ for maintenance. Though reported winds didn’t seem very strong, actual conditions were a different story.
After takeoff the Cessna 182 climbed surprisingly fast, achieving pattern altitude prior to the crosswind turn. Departed that pattern from the crosswind climbing to 1,500 feet for the short flight to ZZZ.
Found difficulty leveling the plane for cruise in the choppy air; reduced speed to compensate. The entire journey was shockingly bumpy.
Had I had a passenger, I would’ve returned home. Not having a passenger I saw an opportunity for a crosswind landing.
After checking weather I verified my assumption that ZZZ was landing on Runway X. Had the winds been on XX I would’ve gone home due to the trees on that end.
I checked in with Advisory in accordance to the Special Flight Rules and continued my arrival. The air was quite turbulent over a lake causing numerous corrections to maintain level flight.
Typical procedure at ZZZ for Runway X is to come in long, base to final, never entering an actual pattern, though today the flight school based there was quite active and I heard three planes in the pattern.
I heard a go-around called, my assumption was because of wind and student pilots. I heard multiple position calls on the radio. Due to the traffic and conditions I thought it prudent to make a radio call, knowing all these planes most likely had CFIs onboard.
I stated that I knew typical procedure was base to final but did they want to me to cut over and enter a pattern. The response I received was to go ahead with my approach. Following the railroad tracks would be the norm, performing a long arcing base to short final. With the winds like they were I went a bit wide, skirting the border of the Special Flight Rules space so I could achieve a cleaner straight final approach.
As a low-hour pilot I was very critical on my approach procedure setup and I remember mumbling my mantra “settle for nothing.” Achieving a stabilized approach was very difficult. I was moments away from a go-around, still too high, when I achieved balance. My descent was stabilized and I was focused on target, on the number.
I made a radio call, “Aircraft X on final Runway X.”
Crosswind correction, throttle, a little more speed for the wind. The numbers, crosswind correction, the numbers, correcting…I remember entering my flare and thinking “what is that?”
Crosswind correction, touchdown. It’s a helicopter!
Crosswind correction, brakes, more brakes.
I remember when I realized the helicopter wasn’t moving. Just hovering about four or five feet off the runway about midfield.
“What is that sound,” I thought?
It’s the sound of the brakes locked up. The plane slid a bit left and right. Should I go into the grass?
To make a dramatic story a bit shorter, I safely brought the plane to a stop on the runway short of the helicopter which, of course, had no idea I was behind him.
No damage to man or machine, though I probably gave the helo pilot a scare with my urgent radio call, “Helicopter climb, helicopter climb, helicopter climb” — which he did after I was stopped.
I exited the runway, completed my business and flew home.
While in the building a CFI and his student reported they hit their heads on the ceiling of their plane due to turbulence. The turbulence and wind were very sporty.
The real question is how did I not see a helicopter on the runway?
That’s a simple answer. I was too focused on the approach and did not see or cognitively acknowledge its presence on the runway.
I’m sure workload was a significant factor.
I know that I did not know a helicopter was in or near the pattern. I have no recollection visibly or audibly that there was a helicopter to consider.
After speaking with a couple CFIs I’m told this is not uncommon. A new skill I need to urgently add to my bag.
In hindsight I know a helicopter yields to a fixed wing, but at that moment the runway was his, though I didn’t know he was there.
In all of my limited experience I have never known a helo to be hovering over a runway. I’ve always seen them over a taxiway or grass. I’ve observed them flying down a runway, but never just hovering there while four planes are in the pattern.
Does one do a low level go-around over the top of a hovering helicopter? Surely that’s not a thing.
I will be perusing extensive training on the matter in an effort to understand more about helo procedures and what I should expect to see from them.
I can tell you nothing in my private pilot training prepared me for this event. I believe there is a lot to be learned from this event and I intend to learn it and share it with others.
Primary Problem: Human Factors