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Darren Goes To Flight School


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You will be working on navs soon.....Pay attention to dry lakes on the north navs!


Funny you should mention that, Cuban - after briefing on navs during yesterday's weather day, I did my first nav today (CYBW to Olds/Didsbooger, to Sundre, back to CYBW. And yes, Richard busted me on that **** dry lake!! I forget what it's called....


"Find me [such-and-such] lake".


"Uh, OK. Let's see.... Izzat it over there?"


"No, Look at your map. What side of the highway is it on?"


"Oh, I see. Well, there's that little thing over there..."


"Look at your map. It's a big lake".




"An ALBERTA lake. Think 'dry'...".


And the light bulb finally goes on. Actually, the nav went pretty well for my first one. Granted, I had lots of coaching and Richard took the controls for the first two legs so I could get the hang of reading the map and spotting landmarks and such. I flew from Sundre on back to Springbank, and once I lined up a reference with my track on the map and how it compared to all the roads, it took us pretty much home. LOTS to think about, though - times, distances, radio calls, keeping track of the other traffic, and there's that flying business, too. Good fun, but tomorrow Richard told me that I'm doing all the work myself while he comes along for the ride. Should be interesting :blink: to say the least...


First practice exam went OK - I blew it on air law, but my overall mark was 72%. As I'm just over 40 hours, the Transport Canada exam isn't all that far away (aaagh!!). I've been getting mixed results on my Culhane practice test book (radio nav is evil!!), so I'm pretty hard into the books these days, as is the rest of the class. Lots more studying to do...







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Nose to the grindstone! :)




If I grind any more off, I'll be down to the bedrock.


Did the same nav again yesterday, except this time everything was up to me. It went quite well actually, so it looks like my next flight will be a solo nav.


Another practice exam coming up Monday, and if it goes well, I have a feeling that I'll be writing the transport exam as soon as I hit 50 hours of flight time. With navigation now in the works, I'll hit 50 hours easily by the end of next week. Things are moving fast!





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---> sound of my head exploding from too much studying. :wacko::D



95% on the last practice exam and 50.4 hours as of Friday afternoon means I'm booked in to write my TC exam on Tuesday morning. I've been given the "luxury" of a three-day weekend over which to study and rest up.


Actually, studying's going OK - it's no longer a struggle to understand and remember most stuff; rather now it's just a matter of polishing and refining things and shoring up the odd weak spot. But that said, I *am* spending a lot of time in the books - I want to be certain that I can pass the test. I don't want to let myself or my instructors down, and it'll be soooo nice to have the exam behind me - then I can concentrate on flying.


Pretty busy week last week - one wind day kept us down, and another windy day saw us doing some heavy autorotation sessions. The auto day wasn't my finest moment - I fell into the mind-game trap once again. To elaborate: Most of the day was bad weather - high gusty winds, showery cold-front weather - so the machines sat inside all morning. I had done a practice exam during the morning (did well, but left me drained!), and I assumed that the afternoon would continue to be a no-fly situation due to the weather. Basically, i had myself convinced that we wouldn't fly.


Richard poked his head into the classroom and said "We'll fly at two if the weather behaves. Sound good?"


"Uh...OK. Sure!" :blink:


So out we went into the wind. I think it was gusting 28 at times, so three Bighorn machines went out and chased each other around the circuit doing autos. We had the airport to ourselves, but as one heli would be taking off, another would be downwind and the third would be autorotating down to rwy 25. There was no time to waste, and I really got drilled!

Assuming I wasn't going to fly had me in the wrong frame of mind, and I found myself a bit apprehensive (for the first time in weeks!!), I was a bit behind the machine, and I couldn't seem to relax until late in the lesson. Once I did get it together, I actually appreciated the quick pace, as it forced me to be on the ball. And it *was* kinda fun. The three instructors seemed to have a blast, anyways...


Let's see... practice exam #2 on Monday, Weather day on Wednesday, practice exam #3 and autos on Thursday, and the rest of the week was navigation, navigation, navigation. Tuesday was my first solo nav (north to Olds-Didsbury, then west to Sundre, then on back to Springbank). This went quite well, so Richard gave me three points to plot out on a south nav, and left me to plan and map out the trip. He also told me that although he'd be with me, I'd be pretty much on my own.


I planned it out, plotted everything on the map, erased everything when i found a mistake, then repeated that process about three times before I got it right :P . Once I was finally ready, we departed.


South to a point southwest of Longview, then east to High River, then back north towards Springbank. Considering this was my first trip south, things went fairly well. I have a fairly easy time of matching features on the ground with their respective spot on the map (and vice-versa), and I have a pretty decent feel of where we're at over the ground - it's good to be a 'visual' thinker!


With my first solo nav in the morning, and planning and flying the south nav in the afternoon, I was absolutely exhausted - but elated - at the end of the day.


On Friday, I went and did it on my own (beautiful morning - wish I had a third arm to operate a camera!). In the afternoon Richard offered me the option of going to do some confines with him, or doing the nav solo again. I suggested doing the nav again, but the "other way" ; Priddis Corner - HighRiver - unamed foothill - Springbank. I rearranged my map and headed off to fly it the other way 'round.


I got to practice some PDM - there was traffic on and over the High River airport at the same time I wanted to over-fly it, so I planned a little "diversion" around High River, announced my intentions, and picked a new track west. Once i got close to the foothills the wind kicked up and batted me around a bit, so I altered my track to the east to get away from the turbulence, then picked up my original plotted track once things smoothed out a bit.


Once I got near Springbank and onto the tower frequency, it became apparent that it was rush hour in the skies. The radio was chattering non-stop (could barely get in a word edgewise), and I could hear one of the other Bighorn students on a converging track with me. Looking back, I probably could've called the tower a couple minutes sooner, but at least I had a pretty good picture of where the other aircraft were in the sky. As it became obvious that I was going to get too close to the airport before I had a chance to raise the tower (I'd already made one call that went unanswered due to other radio traffic...), I took it upon myself to just orbit for a bit over a point south of the control zone. And sure enough, after a few minutes:


"Uh, helicopter calling tower, hold your position and stand by."


Yep, already there!


"Robinson helicopter Foxtrot-Alpha-Romeo-Bravo orbiting south of Highway 8, standing by."


So I did some lazy figure-8's until the tower had a chance to clear me inbound. I don't think I've ever heard it so busy! I guess everybody was out on a nice Friday afternoon after the previous two bad weather days. Good practise at situational awareness and decision-making (at least for this 50-hour wonder...:D)


Friday was our solo party. Pizza, snacks, "refreshments", really funny photos of our solo soakings, a certificate commemorating our first solo flights, and a really really nice hat. Thanks, Bighorn!


So, that was last week. I'm pooped, and very grateful for the three-day weekend; I need it!


But, I'd better make the best of it. Back to the books!


- Darren






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It's finally set in that my written exam is done, and boy, what a good feeling! Two more classmates have sat the exam, and they've both passed as well.


But, I'm not so foolish to think that I'm on Easy Street! At the rate I'm building hours, the flight test isn't that far away...


I've done several hours of navigation (and three solo nav trips), so it was time to throw a wrench into well-laid nav plans with a lesson on diversions. We set out from Springbank yesterday morning into gloomy, murky conditions. We followed a familiar north nav route until a few minutes along when Richard pointed out Lost Lake on the map and had me take him there. Estimate distance and track on the map, figure out groundspeed and estimate ETA, then navigate there. I still had plenty of ground references in the form of roads, power lines etc, so I managed to get us pretty close to the lake and almost spot on the time I'd estimated.


"OK, now take us to this gas plant over *here*" (points to spot on map). Estimate distance, heading, time, etc. However, no good ground references here; we're in the foothills proper, and there are no roads, no cutlines, not even a fence. It was all relying on the heading, and with the terrain getting higher and the clouds getting lower, I found this tricky. When things get a bit hairy for me, I get a little tense, and when that happens, I tend to lock up and fixate on things; in this case it was maintaining my heading. In short time, I put us in the bottom edge of the clouds. To be honest, it wasn't *that* short of time; I had more than enough time to avoid the cloud... had I not been chasing the compass and heading indicator. Yeesh. Lesson learned (the hard way).


The cruddy weather was actually an excellent lesson. Richard kept reiterating that this was very much REAL, and sure enough, on our way to the gas plant the clouds pinched us out and I did a 180º diversion to avoid the weather.


We picked a new location to fly to (Ghost Lake dam), I made my estimates, and off we went (and got there OK).


Then we changed things upa bit and went to do some confines. It had been a while for me, and I was way rusty. I spent too much time trying to remember our classroom briefing, and not enough time just flying.


"Just fly. Do whatever you need to do to make it work". Or something to that effect.


That helped. Once I stopped over-thinking and started flying, things fell together much nicer. As we'd been out for a while, we then headed back to Springbank.


In the afternoon, we headed back into the gloom for some more confines out in the Bragg Creek area. The morning lesson had taken hold, and these went a fair bit better. There was no real wind out there, so we could approach different confines from all angles. Did a couple overshoots and aborted takeoffs, as well as a couple vertical takeoffs (no small feat for an R22 Beta with two people and lots of fuel on board!).


Another little lesson learned: I managed to *nail* one approach right on - great attitude control, nice line, groundspeed and rate of descent just right... until about five feet off the ground. Then all at once, I felt the throttle twist in my hand, the engine RPM droop and *MEEEEEEEEE* - low rotor RPM horn. I kept it straight and cushioned the landing, then got to wondering just what the heck I did wrong...


"You ran out of power and overpitched. Why do you think you ran out of power?"


Aw, dammit! "'Cause I left the carb heat full hot" (note - we didn't *really* run out of power, Richard eased back the throttle to illustrate a point).

And then... I DID IT AGAIN!!! Also on a very, very nice approach to a fairly tight confine (but no simulated overpitch this time). Thankfully, this is not a recurring bad habit of mine, but it's dumb that I did it twice in one lesson (and both times were my nicest approaches!). :oops:


Several forced approaches later, we head back to Springbank. Big day; 3.7 hours in all!


Today dawned eerily calm on the ground despite the screaming winds only a few thousand feet up. No nav trips for anyone today...


Instead, we did a briefing on instrument flight, then we all saddled up and headed out - just about the time the wind picked up. Bit of a wiggly hover-taxi, then a southbound departure for Bragg Creek.


Then - Foggles on! All I can see is the instrument panel, and maybe my feet. This is trippy!


But trippiness aside, I cottoned on to it fairly well. No vertigo, and I have no "trust issues", so I can put my faith in the instruments pretty well. One thing that was tough to get used to was how small and gentle one's movements must be in order to fly the instruments - after some of our regular flying, a rate 1 turn feels like we're barely turning at all. That, and some of my corrections were more 'imagined' than real. I could see that I needed to correct, and I could swear that my hands moved and I was positive I could feel the helicopter turn - but nope! - my mind playing tricks. Apparently not an uncommon feeling. We also did a couple unusual attitudes; Richard would take control, have me close my eyes, he'd get us pointed all askew then have me open my eyes and recover. Wild!


I also found it fairly draining - just another new way of concentrating really hard.


In the afternoon we went back out into the gusty winds for more instrument stuff. I started out a little wonky (overcorrecting left-right-left-right), but I sorted this out after a bit. We did some ascending and descending turns, some regular turns, and then Richard had me fly with my eyes closed. :blink:


The point of this was to illustrate how easy it is to get into an unusual attitude. I did one stretch of "blind" flying, then did an unusual attitude recovery (airspeed near zero!).


Then again, for what seemed like eternity. Very odd feeling, but strangely serene and relaxing at the same time. I did my best to fly by feel, but as soon as my eyes closed, I could swear we were banking left. I also was convinced I could detect the sound of a helicopter's airspeed slowing down as it nosed up, so of course, I made the necessary "corrections". :lol:


"OK, open your eyes."


Get my "wings" level, adjust the pitch, then adjust the airspeed and trim. Not too bad, right? Wrong! 28 seconds of blind flying, and I had done almost a complete 360 to the right and lost some altitude in the trip. Excellent example of how one can become fooled by their own brain. :blink:


Pick up heading and climb past 6000'... past 7000'.... "climb to 8000 feet and level out there. "OK, take off the foggles".


Holy kee-ripes! We're in the mountains!! :blur: B)


Richard took control for a minute, gave me a brief demo of some mountain flying, and then landed us on Moose Mountain. He lifted us up, showed me a couple other things, pointed us east(ish), and gave me the controls. I flew for a bit, then he had me put the Foggles back on and we did some more turns and whatnot. These went well, so he primed me on what one would need to do if their engine failed while flying in IMC (heading indicator, airspeed, RRPM, trim.... and pray you come out of the cloud before you get to the ground).


So you can guess what happened next :prop:


Went OK, actually - down collective, right pedal, watch airspeed, heading indicator and RRPM, and so on. Richard takes control, I remove Foggles, back on the controls, power recovery, flare... and then off home to Springbank... where I totally messed up my approach trying to fly instruments while in VFR flight :P:rolleyes:


Other than that, it was another great flight. Tomorrow (weather permitting) will be some solo confines :up:, then I'm off to Invermere for a three-day weekend.



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