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Darren Goes To Flight School

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First, a nap. Then, maybe a big martini.


In the longer term.... five hours an an R44, maybe a bit of mountain stuff and a bit of night flying - that, and finish up my solo hours. The job hunt starts soon, too!






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Today was the first day since Saturday that the weather let us fly. As of yet, I'm the only student who has done the flight test, but most everyone else are approaching enough hours to take the test - with the weather days, everyone's getting pretty antsy in their pantsy to get it done! In hindsight, I was very lucky to get the little weather window on Saturday.


Today, I got to fly an R44! During the weather days, I hit the R44 POH pretty hard, and I wrote the R44 type exam yesterday. Today, Ashleigh and I went out to the Bow Valley training area, where she had me doing all kinds of stuff - circuits, pedal turns, turns around the nose, "bunny hops" (no-hover takeoffs and landings), sideways and rearwards flight, slopes, and we finished it up with some confined area work. Although it's not a huge transition from an R22, things are still different - the pedals are a bit stiffer, the hydraulic cyclic and collective are quite sensitive, and this sucker flies fast! Very smooooooth feeling controls, and just a solid feeling helicopter overall (in my 1.4 hours of R44 wisdom :rolleyes::P )


Next up was some night flying. I spent the afternoon planning out a nav (Springbank to Olds/Didsbury to Sundre to Springbank), and in the evening Ashleigh and I set out to fly it. We weren't alone; we followed Richard and another pilot (Bill) who is working on his night rating.


The fresh snow on the ground and the full moon made it pretty nice flying, and it's fairly easy to find one's way around this part of Alberta what with all of the bright towns everywhere. The wind picked up as we landed at Olds/Didsbury, and I had a minor helmet fire moment getting us landed in the wind and dark. The ARCAL remote lighting was already on from Richard and Bill's landing, and it conveniently went off just as I finally sorted out my squirrelly hover. No worries, seven clicks of the mic and they were back on


I put out my helmet fire, got myself back to half-decent flying, and away we wnt to Sundre. We ran into some turbulence on this leg, but it mellowed right out as we landed at Sundre. As Ashleigh and I approached the aerodrome, Richard radioed us and informed us that they were departing Sundre and would be coming back towards us. Half a minute later we saw them zip past our left side, then they circled back and caught up to us on our right....


Formation flying!! :punk:


As we were inbound to land at Sundre, Richard and Bill peeled off right and we landed on the snow-covered runway. We took off again, and before long Richard and Bill were back beside us on our right again - once again flying in formation. It wasn't Snowbirds-close, but near enough I could see the light of one of their LED headlamps. Lots o' fun making our position calls as "LMB and ARB both at 5000' over the town of..." :D

As Ashleigh and I kept the straight and level, we'd watch Bill and Richard break away, then rocket up, then reappear off our other side (all with radio calls, of course). Even the tower got in on the fun once they picked us up on radar.

It's hard to describe how COOL this was - after flying a new and different machine in the morning, I got to go out flying at night (for the first time!), in formation, with a nearly-full moon!

When I'm a senile old guy sitting in my adult diapers and playing in the dirt, this night will be one of the last lucid memories to leave my mind. B):D:lol:




Too much fun!!



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Things just keep getting better!


On Thursday the weather was quite nice, so Richard and I went to Mt. Assiniboine. A little bit breezy up high, and the winds did pick up a bit in the montains as the day progressed, but boy, what a spectacular flight!!


I hope to fly in the mountains someday, so this was a great introduction to mountain winds, up- and downflow, boundary layers, and whatnot. it *is* a little intimidating flying a little R22 above 10,000 feet when the winds are blowing every which way! Richard brought his camera with him and took a bunch of photos, but all I have are the prints, so I'll need to scan 'em before I can post 'em.


At Mt. Assiniboine, Richard took the controls to see if we could surf the upflow to the top of the mountain. We got *very* close, but not quite to the top - I think we got to 11,400' or so.


It was also a good lesson in terms of flying a machine on the edge of the limits - we had to be very mindful of retreating blade stall as well as carefully managing our power/collective with respect to rotor rpm. As the throttle was wide open up here, pulling collective pretty much meant RRPM droop, so Richard showed me how to use the upflow on the windward side of the ridges and mountantops to gain altitude.


We headed back to Moose Mountain, but the winds were over 30 knots, so once I got close to the pad Richard took over and set us down. He hopped out and took some photos while I "posed" in the heli. The winds were enough to register on the airspeed indicator, and even though the collective was down, the R22 was shaking like we were in translational lift. When Richard lifted us off, the manifold pressure for the two of us - at 8000 feet with almost half tanks of fuel - was only about 14 inches. We're normally around 20" at the same weight with no wind, and that's down at Springbank.


As we headed east, the winds mellowed right out. In the afternoon, I flew a solo nav to Olds/Didsbury, Sundre and back as I have a few solo hours left to fly - and some of it navigation time. It was a beautiful afternoon (but busy - everyone was getting their last bit of flying in before the weather went bad), and I really enjoyed the flight. I'm my own worst critic, but I am noticing that flying is getting a bit easier and more intuitive - I spend less time having to think about very move, and things like attitude and yaw control, radio calls, checklists, etc. all flow along much better than they did a few weeks back. Don't get me wrong; I'm still a 90-hour wonder :D but things have improved quite a bit over the past few hours of flying.


Back to Springbank to wait for dark. Once night fell, Richard and I headed out for some night emergency training. We did the whole gamut - autos, stuck pedals at the hover and in flight, engine failure at the hover, governor-off flight, engine failure at takeoff (me: "collective down, fly it in, start to flare, oh-crap-FENCE!" Richard (non-chalant): "Yep, that can happen - try to aim for the wires instead of the posts"). The night autos were pretty wild, but fun once I got my head in tune with the dark. After a while, it was like regular emergency training - it just happened to be dark out - and I had a really good light-bulb moment with stuck left pedals in flight. Whereas before I could fight a stuck left on to the ground, on Thursday night the switch finally came on and now they're much easier - dare I say even fun! I guess it better be dark out if I ever have a real one :lol:


This is getting verbose (as usual... :D) so I'll break it up into two posts.






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Yesterday morning I filled up trusty C-FARB and headed out to the Bragg Creek area with the instructions to say out there until fuel or weather sent me back home.


This was my funnest solo flight EVER! Another student was working in our preferred confine spot, so I moved a bit south to practise steep turns and just coordinated flying in general. This time my approach was different - rather than setting myself up to just practice certain excercises, I instead chose a bunch of ground features to use as markers for a kind of "racetrack/obstacle course". Set up at a safe altitude and 60-70 knots, then I proceeded to fly my little racecourse. LOTS of left/right steep turns, all the while maintaining the proper speed and altitude, and even keeping the strings straight. Once again, I'm finding that these things are starting to fall into place without me consciously thinking about it.


Every now and then, I'd switch it up and pretend to be an operational parks/wildlife flight - I'd go looking for moose. When I found some (they're everywhere), I'd practise my tight orbits over them (at a high enough altitude not to bother them, of course. For the record, they could care less about a little orange helicopter).


Once Derek had headed back to Springbank, I incorporated a couple different confines into my little routine. I tried to think of it as "operational" rather than just flying excercises, and this had the double whammy of being a very effective mindset as well as really, really fun.

I daresay that my flying improved a LOT with this flight. Hope I can keep that up!


The weather was forecast to turn bad in the late morning, so before I headed out, Marc gave me some simple - but very good - advice. To wit:


If the weather starts to look bad, and you're kind of thinking "Should I do one more confine or go home?", then the answer is GO HOME. If you're asking that question, the answer is get out of there. Go with your gut.


I was paying pretty close attention to the weather; I noted that the ceiling was getting lower - never a good sign. In fact, I *did* catch myself pondering "Should I do one more confine..." which immediately gave me my answer. GO HOME!


So I did. At first, I thought I was being waaaay too conservative as the weather looked like it was an hour or two from hitting, but minutes (literally!) later, the visibility was down to only a few miles. The snowflakes started just as I turned final for Rwy 07. Good timing (lucky?) and I'm astounded at how fast the weather came in. Glad I went with my gut (and Marc's advice). B)


Another highlight of the day was another student passing his flight test (congrats, Matt!), and one more passing her transport written exam (congrats Karen!). :up:


Another great week! :punk:




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