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Darren Goes To Flight School


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100% on the PSTAR :D


That, and a wicked-cool flight in the afternoon. More circuit practice, with every one of 'em ending in a full-down auto :punk: .


I'm starting to get the hang of upper-air entry to the autos, and I even got to do some s-turns here and there. I still want (and need) lots more practice with when/how much to flare, and when to level/wait/pull collective. Cool thing is, I will get to do lots more practice. These are a hoot!


I should expand on that - autos are a hoot so long as one has a nice flat runway (and clearance), a fully functional engine should things not go just right, and an experienced instructor sitting in the left seat.


There was a 10-15kt wind today, so we didn't skitter that far down the runway during the full-downs, and as we were almost in translational lift in the hover, takeoffs were pretty straightforward (when I managed to keep 'em over the white lines in the middle :wacko:).


Richard showed me a couple 360º autos (holy steep bank angles Batman!), and even a zero-airspeed followed by a reverse flight autorotation. What a bizarre sensation that is! The zero-airspeed auto feels like you're just hanging there in mid-air, and then he pulls the cyclic back, the nose comes up, and we see a whole lot of sky as we drift backwards. Funky! :afro: Then it's forward-cyclic, watch the airspeed come up, and soon enough I hear "you have control".




Congratulations on the 100% Darren. And the great flights. I'm so envious. I look forward to the day when I can sit here and write about my own flights. Until then, it's great to watch the helicopters fly over the city every day, and to to also read your posts.



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Another busy week done.


Tuesday was a no-fly day, as some wicked weather rolled into Springbank in the afternoon. The TAF had forecast a change of direction and an increase of wind, but it came on much more violently than anyone expected. We could see the front coming, but how furiously it hit caught us all by surprise. We all dashed outside to tie down the rotors on the machines parked outdoors, and a few of us ran across the taxiway to help some guys turn their parked airplanes into the wind. The peak gust hit 53 knots at the airport! There was a red twin Otter out doing touch and go landings, and we got to see them land right in the thick of the weather - nice steep approach and barely any groundspeed. Wild.


The winds kept up 15G25 most of the afternoon, and another little storm was forecast, so we did all-day groundschool. As it happened, we had just started meteorology that day :)


Wednesday was also pretty windy (15G25), but we headed out to Bragg Creek area for forced approaches. It was a pretty intense lesson for me what with the gusts and the learning curve, but I'm feeling a lot better about my upper air autorotation entries (though they're not perfect). I got schooled about fixating on my spot - once or twice I steered us towards the *only* scraggly little tree in the clearing (much to the consternation of Richard). We'd do the "engine failure" and I would pick my spot, but then I'd fixate on it even after it was obvious I needed to make a change. I leaned that I needed to KEEP FLYING THE HELICOPTER - that is, if it looked like my original spot was no good, then find another one (quickly!) and fly to it. At least one of my flares was called "a bit timid". The flight back was OK (not enough footwork), but my hover taxiing went all to heck when I turned crosswind. After the lesson, Richard told me I needed to be 'aggressive' - not in an I'm-a-jerk way, but in taking command of the machine. I feared overcontrolling the machine, but UNDERcontrolling it is just as bad or worse. I took some notes and did some chair-flying at home for that one. Thursday was the same thing (but no wind), and things were a bit better. I'm getting more assertive on the controls, and I'm feeling more and more in control of the machine, but I still move too much now and again - mostly when I'm not looking at the horizon/flying the attitude.


Friday was a two-flight day - all circuits. I was a bit tense starting out on Friday morning, and of course, it showed, but by the middle of the flight I had sorted out my head. This was a really good drill in multi-tasking, and I found it pretty hard work - I'd just get in the rhythm of the circuit, and then I'd run into a lot of other radio chatter when I tried to make my downwind call, and I'd get all messed up and forget to fly in trim or something. The wind was picking up as well, but I was dealing with that better than I had in previous days. At the end of the flight, Richard told me I was "too intense", and that really hit the mark. I'm SO intent on doing everything right that I get really angry with myself when I don't - that frustration snowballs into tension, and *boom* - it spirals from there.


Out we went in the afternoon (and 15G25 winds again...), but I felt much better about, well, everything (other than a couple messy clearing pedal-turns in the windy conditions...). I just flew. I'm starting to scan the gauges naturally, I'm improving at anticipating altitude changes, and I'm begining to develop my radio ear - all while still flying. During this flight, Richard basically said "you know what to do", then kept quiet to let me do it. Once in a while, he'd remind me to 'drive it in' to my spot on my approaches, but he did that non-verbally (fist towards the window).


I had a little personal victory when I managed to keep it together for the long crosswind taxi back - I was dancing on the pedals like Michael Flatley in Riverdance, and if I needed any more right cyclic I was going to have to open the door :P . But I did it!. Not textbook smooth, but I kept it mostly straight and over the taxi way. I may not like wind, but I fear it no more!


Lessons leaned from the circuit flights: Now I know how to do it - so it will be expected of me. Work on consistency!


Time to relax for the three-day weekend.


Happy Turkey Weekend!



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  • 3 weeks later...

Oops! Sorry, y'all...


Just a quick update for now....


So, I'm STILL waiting for my medical certificate, but the good news is that it arrived at my old address in Invermere on Friday, left Invermere (via Xpresspost) on Monday, so I should see it tomorrow.


Ground school ended yesterday, but we'll still have lots more reviews and classroom practice (especially on weather days). In the meantime, we've done some more circuits, autos, stuck pedals, lots and lots of forced approaches, hover work (turns around the nose and tail) and in the past couple days, steep turns. Mixed in with the steep turns was some low-level flying (over the foothills at Bragg Creek), and today was an "official" lesson in low level flying, along with more steep turns and a few demos of ring vortex state (creeeepy...). The icing on the cake today was steep turns WHILE flying low-level.


Let me preface that a bit...


I've been battling with a couple of demons. One - tension. I get *so* intent on flying the best I possibly can that I overthink, fixate on things, and micro-manage. Then I get all wooden and robotic and it all goes to heck. Chasing gauges, or forgetting gauges while focussing on the horizon, or getting so bent on maintaining trim that I don't see my nose rising. When I'm relaxed, it all flows naturally and things go OK. The other issue I had is switching from the "student being instructed" to the "pilot in command". When Richard gives me instruction, I would start to become passive, relying on his instruction rather than taking command and flying the machine. It wasn't a conscious thing, but rather a case of "well, if he's telling me to pull collective and adjust my attitude, then I better do what he says". Trouble is, I'd be so focused on following his instruction that I'd forget to fly everything else properly!


Anyways, I knew these were issues, so I made a list of my strong and weak points, then asked Richard if he'd like to sit down for 15 minutes and just chat. I wasn't expecting answers or a "magic bullet", rather I just wanted to take a few minutes and get the clutter out of my head. We had a great talk - more than 15 minutes - he offered lots of good advice, shared anecdotes from his own training days, helped me put things in perspective and I came away feeling a LOT better about things.


And guess what? It worked! My flying over the past couple days has improved a bunch, all 'cause I can relax and fly. And have fun! It's amazing how much EASIER things are and how much faster I learn when I'm relaxed and enjoying myself.


Back to the low level steep turns. After a couple of demos of low level forced approach procedure, we found a big meadow, and Richard really DRILLED me on the steep turns at low level. It went like:


"Ready? Turn hard right NOW don't dive watch trim level out turn hard left NOW DO IT don't climb more collective level out turn right NOW keep going keep going now hard left NOW watch strings good job turn right HARD...."


...and so on for a couple minutes.


The whole point of that excercise was to get me to TAKE COMMAND; act/just fly rather than overthink, and boy oh boy, it worked great. And fun! After about the seventh or eight turn, I bust out in the giggles (and so did Richard).


Tomorrow is sloped landings, and I may dash home at lunch to see if my medical arrived in the morning mail. At any rate, my next posting should be about my first (overdue!) solo!


Stay tuned....


- Darren

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Sloped landings this morning. The "slopes" weren't huge (they just seemed that way to me :D), but it was a good lesson in the techniques involved in landing and picking up on sidehills.


I dashed home at noon to check my mailbox, and lo and behold there was my medical! As the weather was really nice, I fired up my motorbike and rode back to Springbank. In no time Richard had finished up all the paperwork, and off we went out to the Bow Valley training area (which is some farmland north of the airport by the Bow River). I did a circuit with Richard, we landed, then Richard gave me some advice and tips about how the centre of gravity would feel without him in the machine.


"OK, go do a circuit and come back and land. Have fun!"


And off he went to wander around between the cowpies.


Other than the different attitude while hovering and the lower manifold pressure to hover, it was pretty much, well, flying. No nerves (I was very relaxed, in fact), no "OHMIGOSH I'M FLYING!!" moment, rather my inner monologue was more like "OK, watch carb heat, keep the strings straight, approaching 4000', so clear left-centre-right and turn, level out at 4200. Downwind check, carb heat full hot....." and so on. I landed, Richard wandered over (big grins on both of us) , opened the door, shook my hand, said "Congratulations! Good job!" Go do two more circuits, and then we'll go back".


So, I did. Second circuit was a little sloppy (chasing attitude and speed a bit), but the third was like I was on rails - I was ahead of the machine and everything went very well.


The flight was a quick one - about 45 minutes, but I'll always remember it. I'll also never forget the epic soaking I got from the rest of the crew back at Bighorn. :punk:



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