Sunday, November 15, 2009

Helicopter Skill Building

Caleb took this photo after we landed 4154C in Garland. Yes, I'm a little sweaty across the brow. A slight wind challenged my hover into the landing spot and especially the set down. I have to admit, this little machine (a Robinson R44) is quite a ride. We spent the afternoon doing some special maneuvers that were new to me.

We first practiced steep approaches into Mesquite Regional Airport. This is basically a normal approach, but instead of the usual 300 ft above grown level turn to final, you might be 600 ft. You just have to make sure you keep coming down at the same time you bleed off your airspeed. Once we landed, we made several high performance take offs -- ascend to desired altitude mostly vertical then slowly gain airspeed to 40k before you pull in more power. Not too difficult.

The final part of the day was practicing recovery from vertical ring state. Simply put, you have to be careful if you descend a helicopter into its own downwash: going down fast without moving much forward. To practice we go over an open field (I guess in case we have to land!), ascend to 2000 ft AGL, slow down to zero into a hover, then begin a rapid descent. Once we are over 600 feet per minute, even if you add power, you still go down! To recover, you just lower power and go forward on the cyclic to fly out of it. Not too bad at that altitude, but I wouldn't want to have to really recover from it on an approach. Prevention is the better part of valor.

Anyway, Caleb is a great instructor and the folks at Sky Helicopters couldn't be a better place for an old dog to learn new tricks.

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