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Darren Goes To Flight School


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After months of anticipation, planning, anxiety and dreaming, I finally started training on Monday at Bighorn Helicopters.

 

Week one has left me pooped, but *w00t!*, what a blast! :up:

 

This will be one of the most challenging, most rewarding and most FUN things I've ever done. I'm expecting a LOT of hard work ahead of me, but it's hard to call it work when it's so interesting and fun.

 

Monday was all classroom - met the instructors and all of the other students, got weighed and then assigned to the instructor that made for the best match weight/balance wise.

 

Tuesday morning was classroom stuff (airframes and engines), and in the afternoon we all got to go for our first flight. I was excited, but also nervous as heck. What's being in control like? I did a half-hour familiarization flight back in February, but that seemed so quick at the time, and so long ago now. I really be able to do this? What if it turns out that I'm a complete flop at this?

 

As it turned out, I was the very last flight of the day (almost six PM by now). We headed off towards Bragg Creek, and after a brief demo of the controls by Richard, he handed them off to me - with predictable results. Up-down-bank-up-WHOA!-oh-jeez. Overcontrolling all over the place :oops: After some coaching - some of it "firm" coaching - I sort of managed to keep it straight. By the end of the lesson, I pulled off a couple shallow turns and was able to maintain mostly straight and level flight for the return journey to CYBW. I was tense, and after the flight I felt drained, but the feedback I got was that it was a good first flight and I had a "nice touch". Maybe I can do this!

 

Wednesday - Helicopter fundamentals and aerodynamics in the morning, flying over by Bragg Creek in the afternoon. REALLY hot day - I was dying while sitting in the sun doing startup and runup checks. For some reason I was really tense, nervous and stiff on the controls today. It showed. My headset got frequently, uh, loud ;) and I was overthinking everything. There was the odd good moment, and one *click* moment where I managed to actually coordinate all three controls during a transition from cruise to descent, but I finished the flight feeling kinda discouraged. During the debrief, Richard told me to talk. Verbalize what I see, what I want to do, and what I am doing. And Always. Look. Ahead. I was looking down, and while practising scanning side to side, I was moving the cyclic where I looked. Loud headset syndrome ensued :D

 

Thursday - Flight instruments. Glad I got some books back in February, as this helped me with today's ground school. Marc's ground school instruction is really helping put together what I read over the summer. Funny, lots of folks dread the ground stuff, but I love it.

Flight time. After Wednesday's flight, I was a bit worried, but after a lot of chair-flying at home, and many hours of internal monologue, I decided that I wasn't going to think, I was just going to fly the **** thing. A bit nervous to start, but I managed to ease up my cyclic death grip, look at the horizon, and breathe. Wow! Things worked for me today. I'm starting to figure out the horizon reference, even with the Rockies in the way :D. I really had fun today - we went looking for a bear that Richard saw earlier, and when we spotted him, he took control for a minute or two and I got to see what the R22 could do in the hands of an experienced pilot. Controls back to me, some more turns and a couple climbs and descents, then back to CYBW. An added bonus was the high overcast kept the solar radiation (and the thermals) down. Really smooth flying. A good day!

 

Richard's (obviously!) been doing the takeoffs and landings, but for the hover-taxiing, he's handed (er, feeted...) the pedals to me (ever seen an R22 do its impression of a happy dog? - wag wag wag wag). Today, he passed me the collective too, and it was like an excited Jack Russell - wag wag boing wag boing boing wag :D

 

Friday - Originally supposed to be flying all day, but a couple instructors were pulled away for other flying duties, so we each only got one flight instead of two.

 

In the morning I did some studying and lots of running around outside on the "ramp". Afternoon flight time - a bit bumpier than yesterday, a bit tenser on the controls. Turns, figure-eights, cimbs and descents, and at least one descending turn. Not a bad day, but I think I could've done better (funny, most other students said the same thing today). It was windy (out of the east, oddly enough), and on the way in, Richard was cleared for a crosswind landing onto the taxi-way 'cause there was "too much other stuff going on" on the active runway. Pretty cool coming in all crabbed into the wind. He gave me the pedals, and with lots of coaching (for sidewind, then tailwind taxiing), I managed to do OK - this time the dog was only mildly amused with little tail wags.

 

Mornings are classroom, afternoons are flying (so far). While we're waiting to fly in the afternoon, we can use our time however we want - study, nap, go home, whatever. I find studying tough in a classroom full of other people (each chatting about their lesson), so whenever I hear a helicopter land, I grab the gas key and go drag the hose out (and there are always helicopters landing :punk: This has been great, as I've learned HEAPS - not only advice from other instructors, but also from some experienced students who are there to finish up type ratings and whatnot. Invaluable little tips and tricks of "ground" work - fueling, moving helicopters around, washing bugs off the windscreen - all skills that will come in handy when I start work in the industry someday. Besides, it's fun! I can study at Bighorn, I can study at home, but there's no helicopters at home!!

 

So now, I'm going to have a big glass of scotch, then spend the weekend studying (and napping). Next week is CARS stuff, upper air autos, and *gulp* hover practise.

 

I'd love to hear about your first week of training!

 

Cheers,

 

Darren

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