Helicopter Training Log
11/20/02 - Getting back up to speed and autorotation. Hadn't flown in two months, so things were pretty rusty, especially when I forgot how to manage an autorotation; second time around was not bad, though. Had no wind at all, which makes terminal groundspeed in autorotation much higher, like 10-15 knots; not a fun thing if you are doing the real thing. Same with landing to a spot, difficult to actually stop level on a spot
9/17/02 - Additional autorotation. Very windy, like 15-20 knots, lots of wide turns. Making progress in autorotation stability and really noticing how important it is to keep one's eyes on the horizon. This makes entry far easier and I think has been my stability issue on take off, too. You wouldn't think it makes a difference, but it sure seems to. Really got the entry pretty good, with stable air speed and constant attitude, which vastly minimizes the amount of collective work necessary, especially once turns are added. Really need to fly more often, but will soon progress to some turns and then on to solos.
7/31/02 - Autorotations, again. The instructor feels I'm doing quite well, ahead of most students, though it doesn't always feel that way ! Getting the entry down, though we still tend to roll mostly left due to torque roll-off on lowering the collective. Getting a better handle on the attitude to maintain airspeed, but RPM management is still a challenge; need to get more used to faster recovery on low RPM horn; hard to watch the tach when getting close to the ground, especially when you want to be almost on the low horn just as you flare. Flaring and recovery is still a real challenge; did a couple decent ones, but handling all the sudden power without right drift and with proper pedal is still a problem. Also followed through on a low 180 auto from the pattern; seems simple, but lots and lots of things going on; lots of collective/cyclic/attitude/bank action happening. Need to master all of this before soloing.
6/20/02 - More autorotation, flaring, power recovery. A very windy day, 22-26 knots when we left SQL (I did not do the pickup or departure, as the instructor found it difficult). Had not flown in three weeks, felt rusty, though instructor said I didn't lose much, especially compared to most people who have not flown in weeks. We went to Palo Alto for approach and autorotation work, where it was only 10-15 knots; landed at the spot first, played with pickups and setdowns, where I still need work, though it's probably pretty darn easy if there is no wind. Did several autorotations from 500-1,000 feet; went reasonably well, even did some flaring at the bottom and the recovery; entry is no problem, nor is really going down, though still need work on watching airspeed/attitude while keeping RPM where it belongs (not so bad, but can't rely on horn for low RPM warning). Things happen damn fast at the bottom though, where you are falling at 2,000 feet per minute and going 75 MPH forward, all until you are about 20 feet off the ground, where you flare to zero airspeed and decent rate, roll on the throttle, and add full power to hover.
5/30/02 - Autorotation. It's been five weeks since my last flight and I've forgotten some routine things, but this went pretty well. It was reasonably windy, 10 knots or so, but more or less down the runway. Collective kept sinking on this machine (84T), which is new and annoying when trying to climb to autorotation height or 900-1,000 feet. Did mostly a bunch of autorotations and started working on the flares, but I surely don't have a good feel for them. Entry is easier, have to remember to pull back to accelerate induced air flow reversal and just to properly manage the throttle and collective. Maintaining RPM isn't difficult, though I tried to pull the Collective up in response to low RPM horn, instead of down; have to get instincts right on that. Need better references for attitude and speed (ignoring airspeed indicator, a good thing) while dropping at 2,000 fpm. Have to get better at looking at horizon while watching RPM and landing spot; a lot going on in a real auto, with attitude, RPM, wind, finding spot, turning, and not overrunning. Also learned that it's better to do a good auto into a bad location than a bad auto into a good location; meaning do a good job of stopping near the ground even if it's a parking lot or a building roof; better than landing downwind or too fast into a nice field.
Had to hang out on the ground for a minute while a new MD Notar helicopter came in - a beautiful 6-8 place, $4-5 million helicopter with no tail rotor, twin turbine, loaded instrument packages, etc. A lot of stock options got spent on that machine.
4/25/02 - Autorotation. My first taste of this adventure, where you cut the engine and glide like a rock to the ground. Usually the second most difficult skill to master, after hovering. It also tends to scare people, sort of like stalls and spins in airplanes. I found it relatively uneventful, falling at 2000 feet per minute, an interesting sensation. You have to really watch the RPM and airspeed/attitude, they are your life, and that takes concentration. We did a few of these over a golf course and then did a couple to the airport; instructor said that I did very well, much better than most, I guess, on my first try. Going to be interesting to do my own flares and recoveries, as the ground comes up mighty quick and you only get one chance. I can see how a real emergency will get very interesting; you have to drop the collective right away (you have 1.2 seconds) and do the autorotation insertion, then you look for a place to land, figure out the various turns required, the wind direction, maybe call someone on the radio, then down to the ground; total time, 30-60 seconds. Once I master autorotations and a few other minor items, I should be able to solo.
4/16/02 - Haven't flown in two weeks ! New instructor, too, as my old one is no longer with the school. So, this was partly an orientation flight with my new instructor; I think I did pretty good; we flew to Hayward in fairly high winds; 15-20 knots. Did a bunch of pickups and set downs over there, in high and turbulent winds. He thought I did pretty good, especially given the difficult winds. The trip to/from Hayward certainly felt a lot better than the last trip, but then I had been there before this time.
4/4/02 - Flight to Hayward, Pickups & Setdowns, Quickstops - Hmm, a so-so day. First trip over the water to Hayward; lots of things to pay attention to on a cross country trip, need to really work on that; going a familiar route really makes a huge workload difference. Need to watch power, especially on 8038A who's collective likes to settle; over-boosted several times today; a bad thing. Overall trip to/from Haywood wasn't too bad, but need to multi-task better. Was windy and had trouble with pedals all day, especially on take-offs and quick stops; my big feet do not appear deft enough, tend to under and then over correct. Quick stops are not horrible, but need more finesse on cyclic and pedals. Pickups are not bad, set downs are getting worse; can't get used to forward movement on setdown; really need to exaggerate it, I think, or else end up backwards; also swing too much close to ground, need to look further out or something, really needs practice; plus, fence at home base scares me and plays mind tricks so I can't control as well, even into the wind, like today. Doing autorotations next; not really looking forward to it, as it requires very good speed and rpm control while multi-tasking and falling 2000 feet per minute; we'll see. Didn't really feel all that excited about soloing today.
4/2/02 - Finding Woodside VOR, Diversions with Charts, Quick-Stops - A good day. First task was to find a tower on the ridge near the Woodside VOR, which went fairly well, as I found it. Didn't pick a great departure altitude (1000'), as that's too close to fixed-wing traffic, so need to depart lower, like 6-700 feet and climb up; didn't have sufficient power/time to get as high as I'd like, though (we were at max weight). Then diverted to PAO and then back to SQL for pattern work. Instructor said my 3-4 landings were the best she'd seen; looked shallow to me, though; from now on we'll be working on autorotations, so I have to practice landings on my own. Quickstops were okay, need to practice more to get timing correct, not pull back too much.
3/21/02 - Trip to Palo Alto, Pickups and Setdowns - A very windy day, with guts to and over 15 knots. Made the trip to Palo Alto again, which was interesting in the shifting wind. Didn't really do all that well in managing all the things to watch; still not very familiar with the Palo Alto patterns; made a wide turn into runway glidepath, for which the tower complained. Did lots of pickups and setdowns, which went fairly well; need more practice, both to hold position before setdown and to pick straight up without over adjusting. Did two approaches to San Carlos, which went okay, but still need lots of landing practice to get it right. Takeoffs are getting much better, though the obstacle course takeoffs from the Palo Alto heli-spot are very interesting, flying around light poles, down roads and over planes at 50 feet to get out of the airport. My instructor, Amanda, is happy about landing a gig ferrying a new R-44 from the LA factory to the Dominican Republic next week, so we might not fly; she gets enough time to start teaching in the R-44, which I'd love to fly (can carry four people and has much higher rotor inertia, a major safety plus).
3/19/02 - Settling with Power (Vortex Ring State), Trip to Palo Alto Airport (PAO) - A good day, with little wind, though my set down hovering was poor; mostly due to having my back to the fence and worrying about it, plus a 90 deg cross wind. Did settling with power training today, when lift is lost due to low airspeed and high decent rates; recovery is easy by adding forward airspeed. Then went to Palo Alto for the first time; an interesting experience, as the tower is not as good as in San Carlos (we are spoiled); bad separations, allow fixed wing in our pattern, close quarters, etc. But, they have a helipad, which is interesting; you fly down a road to get to it and take off around a corner over airplanes; have to avoid hitting the light poles, of course, but a fun take off track (forward, turn left, slide right, off over the taxiway).
3/14/02 - Turns, Takeoffs & Landings - Mostly working on technique, especially on my bad turns. Windy again, 15 knots on runway. Worked over Crystal Springs to maintain speed using horizon during turns, plus new grip position on cyclic to allow more fore-aft movement. Had some trouble on climb-out turns and on final stages of landing, plus hovering backward in wind, but not horrid.
3/12/02 - Takeoffs & Landings, Max Power Takeoffs. Windy today, like 15 kt headwind; I don't think I did overly well (a bit depressing, as some days you seem to go backwards), but I made progress on takeoffs and in the turns (which I think suck). On takeoff I need to have my arm off my leg to hold heading stability as I push forward, probably true in turns, too. Noticed how effective pedals are in turns, too, in keeping airspeed up when we aren't slipping. Need more turn work. Max power takeoffs were interesting, not that difficult, but you are never in good circumstances when you need them; have to remember to do magneto check before takeoff on those. Flying in all this wind should make things easier when there is no wind, of course. Landings are getting better, especially at the end, but still tough to maintain glide slope and my speed continues to be too high early in the process; glad wind was more or less down the runway today, as a 15 knot crosswind is no fun.
3/9/02 - Takeoffs & Landings. Haven't flown in over a week due to weather and mechanical problems. Still flew today with a worn alternator belt, so we stayed in the pattern. Very windy, but I did okay. Amazing to see how much better my hovering is in the wind, as I had no control just a few weeks ago. Wind was very gusty and shifted; we changed runways twice; once landing, doing a 180 turn and taking off. Got into negative-G land once, as bad as my instructor has seen it; fortunately my instincts to pull straight back are pretty quick, though she still took the controls; it's really messy as you are losing speed and then pull back even more to load the rotor. My speed control in general was not very good, especially in turns; it's like I'm getting worse and really need to focus on it. Still not handling the final landings very well; last 30 seconds are messy and I don't judge the speed well; a good approach seems too low to me and I have a tendency to pull in power early (which is good and conservative, but causes problems). Still need to work on speed control right at the end, but I guess it's getting better. Overall, not a bad day, but just tough conditions with winds to 20 knots in all directions and gusting.
2/28/02 - Hovering, pickup/set downs, takeoffs & landings. Did pretty darn well today (even got a gold star from my instructor). Hovering has become far easier, even with a bit of wind, so we tried pickups and setdowns, both of which went fairly well, especially for the first time trying it. Need to really watch sideways movement on pickup, as that can generate a dynamic rollover. Still getting right translation and general instability on set down right near the ground, but in general it went quite well. Did a few takeoffs and landings, which went fairly well, still need to work on final speed/decent, as I always run long and still don't stop in the right place. Overall the best I've ever done on all fronts, though.
2/21/02 - Lots of hovering and takeoffs & landings. Work in the wind has paid off as I can almost hover in a spot and today we started moving while hovering, first forward, but then sideways. Very important to keep nose straight with pedals, occasionally I reverse my pedal corrections, a bad habit. Got okay at moving sideways, though, in no wind. Still losing control or having trouble achieving stability sometimes; can usually correct, but it shouldn't happen. Still not good at hovering altitude control and drift too much. Landings got much better now that there is no wind, better glideslope and velocity control, still need to work on the timing of power around loss of ETL and not over boosting. Also translating a lot on pulling in power over landing spot; need more left cyclic. Need more work also with terminal velocity and lift control, not losing ETL too high or dropping to fast at zero speed. Really did my own takeoffs for the first time (getting to where I can get us all the way down and off again by myself, not very well, though), still need work on acceleration, getting 45 knots vs. climbing, keeping nose straight is a challenge. Still need to work on maintaining speed in turns, losing ten knots in tight crosswind and base turns, causes altitude problems along with falling below speed needed for autorotation. All in all, though, lots of improvement and general ability to get up, down, and stay in one place; not very good at any of them, but at least I can almost do them.
2/18/02 - Lots of hovering and a takeoff & landing. More wind, but I guess I did much better on hovering, doing lots of hovering turns. Did very well when only handling cyclic, but moving the pedals seems to really screw up my cyclic inputs, usually by adding input when I don't want it. Getting better at correcting, but lots of drifting in the wind. Worked on using much less collective while hovering; letting things rise & settle; difficult, as we'd get ETL when turning into the wind.
2/15/02 - Hovering and takeoffs & landings. Was very windy, making hovering and landing quite difficult. Lots of losses of control, first real hovering with all three controls.
2/12/02 - More hovering and takeoffs & landings. Ran very low on fuel on this (or perhaps another, can't remember) trip, down to a few gallons. Need to really watch that; now checking fuel as part of every routine, especially downwind checks (Trim, Carb Heat, Lights, Gauges, Fuel). Our challenge is that we can only carry 16 gallons of fuel with our weight, so that's 1.5 hours or so, plus reserve. We use more, though, with hover and pattern work, so we have to watch it all the time, a good habit.
2/8/02 - No flying today, as an autorotation over-speed occurred in the lesson before mine, so the rotors had to be removed for inspection. Spent time going over helicopter systems, got quizzed on aerodynamic issues.
2/1/02 - Been a month since I started this little project !! Did lots of takeoffs & landings today; about a half-dozen. Think I did pretty well, considering that I've only been flying for four hours ! Still need to work on landing sequences; especially holding the runway and speed management (like slowing down). Takeoffs easier than I expected, need to not pull up quite so much at 45 knots, otherwise I climb too much, too early. Worked the radios for the first time, today, too; went pretty well.
1/25/02 - Ascending/Descending Turns, Landings & Takeoffs - I think I did reasonably well today, though attitude and speed control is still a challenge. We were short on time and didn't have time to practice hovering or box hover maneuvers. Landings are damn difficult, especially keeping lined up with the runway; my first time trying, so I can't expect much, but it's a challenge to manage descent, line up, yawing with wind, reducing speed and keeping the "picture" of where you want to head. Was always going right (as it wants to do) and too fast. At least things happen fairly slowly on landing, but takeoffs are another matter, as things happen quickly. I only tried this after we had 65 knots and were climbing to 300' for our turn.
1/22/02 - Straight & Level, Alternator Failure - We didn't fly very much, as the alternator failed about 25 minutes into our flight over Crystal Springs; had to return to the airport and did some ground stuff on precession and take off issues. Did okay on straight & level, did a nice turn over the Stanford Linear Accelerator, holding 2000 feet and my general airspeed; forgot to bleed off power, though and ended up 300 feet after turn completion. We then saw traffic, turned on landing lights, and lost alternator. Didn't get to do any take-offs or landings, beyond setting up the landing "picture" which is way high for me, being tall. I do keep realizing how fast things happen on takeoff, as you go through several distinct stages while managing lift and watching outside; the end of the runway and associated neighborhoods move fast at 60 knots and 50 feet of altitude.
1/19/02 - Half Moon Bay, Pattern, Take/Off, Hovering, PickUp/SetDown - I didn't fly as well today. Departed on left crosswind departure to Half Moon Bay, about 10 minutes away; my first time crossing the mountains. A very beautiful area, but also uncontrolled, including the HAF airport; so keep your eyes open and do periodic radio broadcasts about what you are doing. Try to fly under the planes (they are 1500+, we stay around 900). Plenty of emergency landing sites and very pretty. Had more trouble than before holding speed; need to keep it up; still worried about right rolls and low-G. We forgot to check the fuel quality on pre-flight; I'll change my dipping procedure to leave the test bottle out so I can't forget; also need to start up faster, as I was boiling in the cockpit before we took off. Talked through take-offs, landings, pickup/setdown and but I did not actually do them; I get to work on that next time. Also hovered a bit, did okay, but not great; I can hold still, but not recover when it gets away; need to work on oscillating the cyclic to do that. Gotta watch the Carb Heat; always add when descending, especially below 18" MP and when any moisture is present. Have to build a pattern entry procedure that includes Carb Heat and Trim off; 600 feet at 60 kts. Approach on final at 300ft and about 60kts. Take off through ETS to 40 knots, them climb slowly to 60kts, then climb faster to 300ft; do not turn until 300ft, especially as we have power lines to the left at 100ft.
1/15/02 - Hovering & Straight & Level - My actual first training flight, actually got to try hovering five feet off the ground; this usually takes hours of practice to learn to do this; I got the hang of the very basics in a few minutes and was the best student my instructor had ever seen at this so early - no one can ever hold the helicopter stable without a lot of tries; I managed to do it for up to 10-15 seconds several times. It's very, very delicate and takes a lot of concentration; this was also only on one of the three main controls, but by far the most difficult one. I have a keen sense of motion, stability, and touch, making this easier for me, I guess. It's quite difficult to learn to hold the stick (cyclic) loosely and not to grip it like your life depends on it (which it does). I also did good on hovering spins (tricky in the wind, which changes how much it will spin around depending on your relationship to the wind; made much easier by being a sailor, as you always have a wind sense as you rotate).
Also did reasonably well on general flight at 1500-2000 feet over a very pretty lake - it's much easier to hold altitude than I thought; the controls really aren't that sensitive in real flight, making life easier. Fairly difficult holding airspeed, though, which depends on forward angle of attack; this needs lots of work, especially on turns and at higher speeds where buffeting occurs. Managing all three controls simultaneously was not as difficult as I expected once in the air (because the lift collective/engine power control is very stable); coordinating all three is very challenging near the ground (There are several difficult exercises you can do, such as flying hovering boxes, spinning nose and tail in a circle, etc., with wind.) I need to work on getting my turns faster and tighter, I think; still wary of too much bank, pedal input required, etc.
Also a bit worried about both Carb Heat and low-G pushovers. Carb heat is more of an issue than I thought and I'll have to work hard to keep an eye on it; need to talk about the tradeoffs of heat vs. power, plus leaving some on 100% of the time, etc. Need to review auto Carb Heat feature mentioned on R22 website. Also need to watch low-G pushovers more than I thought; was shown that it can happen easily when pulling back on the cyclic at a fixed power/collective setting - this will cause a climb as airspeed drops; the natural reaction is to push forward on the cyclic to gain airspeed, however the helicopter is still rising and G-forces could be low; the trick is to be gentle on the forward cyclic and just generally to keep your speed up, certainly above the ETL point and probably above 40-60 knots..
Flying helicopters is very much like flying on floats (as my dad can attest to); it's all about airspeed, attitude, and worrying about everything. Being at the wrong speed and height is very bad; so you have to watch your height/velocity curve carefully.
1/14/02 - Got Books - All the books I ordered finally arrived; read all of them in a day, learning a great deal in the process. Now to apply that knowledge. I am also surprised to learn that helicopters really can't take off or even land vertically with any degree of safety; you really need to be moving forward in almost all cases. Usually you lift off to hover, then move forward to gain airspeed, then begin climbing; best climb speed is about 60 knots.
1/11/02 - Pre-flight Inspection - Spent two hours going over the pre-flight inspection checklist. Since you life depends on nearly every part to work perfectly, you check everything very carefully; that's nearly every nut, bolt, rivet and tube on the aircraft. You rotate everything, check all surfaces, move all control linkages, check temperatures, fluids, etc. Very easy to get lazy on this, so constant vigilance is required for safe flight.
1/4/02 - Discovery Flight - To determine if I want lessons. Spent one hour in the air, got to fly straight and level, do some turns. Hard to tell how sensitive controls are in flight, as attitude changes with turbulence, control input, etc. Decided to begin training.