Flying diary part 3. Lessons 42 to 60

 

James has also written an article on his experience of the Robinson helicopter safety course which is a manufacturer specific course run by approved agencies outside of America and by Robinson Helicopters themselves at thier headquarters in Torrance, California. It's actually a Commercial Flight Instructor's course but anyone with a licence and at least 3 hours PIC (pilot in command) time in a Robinson Helicopter can attend.

 

Lesson 43, 27th November 2001 Lesson 44, 28th November 2001 Lesson 45, 6th December 2001
Lesson 46, 7th December 2001 Abandoned Lesson, 10th December 2001 Lesson 47, 13th December 2001
Lesson 48, 20th December 2001 Lesson 49, 21st December 2001 Lesson 50, 4th January 2002
Lesson 51, 4th January 2002 Lesson 52, 9th January 2002 Lesson 53, 14th January 2002
Night Flight, 15th January 2002 Lesson 54, 17th January 2002 Night Flight, 17th January 2002
Night Flight, 24th January 2002 Lesson 55, 31st January 2002 Lesson 56, 8th February 2002
Abandoned Lesson, 14th February 2002 Lesson 57, 15th February 2002
Cross Country Qualifier
"Lesson 58", 19th February 2002
Flight Test attempt
"Lesson 59", 28th February 2002
Flight Test
"Lesson 60", 4th March 2002
The Final Push!
Robinson Helicopter Safety Course

 

27th November 2001 Lesson 43 G-CHIS

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The weather today, was very autumnal. Quite blustery, lots of leaves falling off trees, and some rain in the air. When I arrived, my instructor suggested that we could fly, and do some more quick stops. We were in the other helicopter today, and as I called for our clearance to fly to Nottingham, I used the incorrect call sign! Destined to be one of those days, then.

We got to Nottingham, and started the co-ordination exercises as before (in Lesson 31, such a distant memory!). My instructor demonstrated a few. It was very difficult with the wind, today - the ground speed was relatively low, for a high airspeed (and vice-versa for flying downwind), which made things a little odd. We flew up and down the airfield a few times, before the alternator light illuminated! I pointed this out to my instructor, who recycled the switch a few times, to no avail, so we decided to return to Costock.

You get 45 minutes or so, flying without an alternator, as the helicopter just uses the remaining charge from the battery. Plenty of time for us to return to Costock. After the recent navigation experiences, I had decided that I wanted to take the navigation exam today. I passed. 100%!!
Flying time: 0.9 hours Total flying time: 48.0 hours
Of which Solo time: 0.0 hours Total Solo time: 5.9 hours


28th November 2001 Lesson 44 G-TINK

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Much better weather today, and so it was decided that I should do a second navigation exercise. My instructor gave me the route Leicester to Leicester via M1 J19 and Desborough, and I did the flight planning. I was to fly this NavEx solo, without my instructor showing me around first!

So, I dropped him off at Leicester, and embarked on the adventure. The route was a local exercise, taking me no more than 15 miles away from Leicester, and with the visibility today, if I looked carefully, I could see the airfield pretty much all the time! I quickly found Bruntingthorpe disused airfield with a huge runway, and decided that my track was good, and the M1 shortly came into view. I made a turn, and what I thought was a plane caught my eye - plenty of clearance, so I didn't alter my course. Then I realised that I was near a glider launching site that was active - two more gliders around. Nice to see some activity! After that, I had a bit of trouble finding the Desborough disused airfield. I identified Desborough and Market Harborough, so I couldn't have been far wrong - I was however looking in the wrong place, looked down, and there it was!

Then, it was back to Leicester airfield, either the wind changed, or I got my heading wrong - I was trying to follow my track, and ended up a couple of miles to the left of it. Not a huge problem, and as I could see the white buildings identifying Leicester airfield, I decided to more or less, navigate to that point. I joined the circuit, and made a nice landing to pick up my instructor, and returned to Costock. Wow, this is an amazing feeling just recently. All this solo flying, and now getting out and about to see different areas! I had a short discussion with my instructor about the qualifying NavEx for the licence - a couple more solo Nav Exs like today, then I should be ready. Week after next then, weather dependant!?
Flying time: 1.3 hours Total flying time: 49.3 hours
Of which Solo time: 0.7 hours Total Solo time: 6.6 hours


6th December 2001 Lesson 45 G-TINK

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The usual weather report to start with - high pressure over the country meant that today's weather was clear and bright, and quite chilly! Only a couple of knots of variable wind and some early morning mist to contend with. Another NavEx, with a MATZ penetration today - my instructor gave me the route as Nottingham to Nottingham, via Melton Mowbray and Grantham - the MATZ penetration being the South West stub of the Barkston Heath CMATZ. I planned the route, I was to fly it solo again.

Dropped my instructor off at Nottingham, and departed on this new adventure. After calling East Midlands approach for zone transit, I was listening to the radio, and they were the busiest I've ever heard them! I think there was a problem with one of the runways, so some aircraft were holding, and others standing by wanting to enter the zone. I found Melton Mowbray easily enough, and turned to fly past the Waltham transmitter on my heading for Grantham. I was somewhat apprehensive about making the radio calls to Cranwell, as it was a new thing to me, a military control. Consequently, I somewhat fluffed it up, forgetting to give information, and perhaps not responding in the way I should. I found some of the messages a little confusing, probably because I'm not used to hearing them, or listening to the messages they are sending back, so was quite unsure of it all. Anyway, it was only a short penetration of the MATZ, before turning back for Nottingham, a quick warning from Cranwell that the Langar parachuting area was active, confirmed that I was correct in giving it a wide birth.

I easily found Nottingham again, landed and picked up my instructor, before return to Costock, and confidently announcing to East Midlands approach that we were at 6000ft - slip of the tongue, honest! Still, it seemed to cause the controller to have a laugh, which was fortunate! I’m finding the actual navigation straightforward, it’s the radio calls to make that I’m very uncertain of. My instructor suggested that next time the weather is favourable, we should consider trying to get the qualifying NavEx done, and gave me some routes to think about!
Flying time: 1.2 hours Total flying time: 50.5 hours
Of which Solo time: 0.7 hours Total Solo time: 7.3 hours


7th December 2001 Lesson 46 G-TINK

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As forecast, today's weather was quite dull. A high enough cloud base, but misty and hazy, with a bit of wind. The wind gave my instructor the opportunity to go through some more advanced and downwind manoeuvres. I was given a quick briefing about how to fly downwind - doubling the size of the approach (or more) and making it extremely shallow, holding onto the airspeed until the last moment.

We flew up to Nottingham, where the wind appeared to have quietened down a little, but still enough there for us to do some downwind circuits - fortunately, there was no other traffic, but we switched on the landing lights as a precaution. A downwind transition into the circuit - I had done some of these before, but without the launch into the circuit. We quickly turned downwind, or rather, upwind(!) and turned to make our first downwind approach. We had turned much to early, and were too fast, so we quickly decided to go-around, and try from much further out. I suggested Derby might be helpful... This time around, we were much closer to the airfield, but my instructor took control as we were running out of field. A precision transition and quick stop back to the other end, and we tried again. You have to be very subtle and smooth on the controls so as not to waste the power - the tricky thing is that the R22 is so limited on power when it's heavy, there isn't much to play with without any airspeed to help. A couple more downwind circuits, and I seemed to be improving - having got a sight picture to approach, and knowing what it feels like.

Towards the end of the lesson, after some fuel had been burnt off, we tried some downwind towering take-offs. We managed to get about 20 feet using the full 25" of power available - a transition to 35 knots, giving us the best angle of climb, demonstrates how one might fly over some trees in order to depart a site for example. Our departure from Nottingham, we performed a towering take-off into wind - with the added bonus of wind, we managed to get to nearer 30 feet up, before moving forwards. All very interesting. But, my priority for next week is to get some good weather!
Flying time: 1.1 hours Total flying time: 51.6 hours
Of which Solo time: 0.0 hours Total Solo time: 7.3 hours


10th December 2001 Abandoned Lesson

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Today's lesson wasn't really abandoned, but really not ever likely to occur. The East Midlands appears to have been under a blanket of fog for the best part of 24 hours, now and looks set to continue for a while. However, this wasn't going to deter me from my Human Performance and Limitations exam.

I got one wrong, that I wasn't really surprised about, so 95% is quite a good pass, I think!
Flying time: 0.0 hours Total flying time: 51.6 hours
Of which Solo time: 0.0 hours Total Solo time: 7.3 hours


13th December 2001 Lesson 47 G-TINK

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Yesterday would have been perfect for flying. Sadly, I had work commitments, and couldn't do anything about it. Today, however, was overcast, but the cloud wasn't too prohibitive! Rather than attempting Nav Exs, the artificial horizon has been fixed in the aircraft (it's been out of action for some months!) and my instructor decided that I should start the 5 hours of instrument flying I have to do.

I was given a briefing, everything seemed straightforward - keep the scan of the instruments going, and ignore anything your body tells you! I started up, and donned my hood/visor thingy to concentrate my eyes on the instruments, and deprive me of any peripheral vision clues. My instructor took off, and we headed south. He handed over the controls to me, at which point, I totally lost track of our location, as I was concentrating of flying straight and level, and following any speed and direction changes my instructor gave me. It's very hard work, and it really took some time to get used to the idea of having to rely solely on instruments; consequently, it took a long while to get the hang of flying straight and level, stably. During today's flight, I became utterly disorientated on our location, probably because I was transfixed on the instruments, to the exclusion of all else!

However, I think I was doing pretty well towards the end of the lesson. It really is hard work, mentally, as you've having to watch for the slightest of moves in any of the instrumentation, and smoothly and subtly correct it. I was glad to get back, as I was getting on for tired after just an hour. 3.9 hours left to do...
Flying time: 1.1 hours Total flying time: 52.7 hours
Of which Solo time: 0.0 hours Total Solo time: 7.3 hours
and Instrument time: 1.1 hours Total Instrument time: 1.1 hours


20th December 2001 Lesson 48 G-TINK

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High pressure and a light northerly wind equals clear skies and navigation weather! The plan was to fly around the navigation exercise once with an instructor on board, then to perform the solo qualifying NavEx later the same day. However, there were no aircraft available this afternoon, so it was only the first leg that could be completed today. I planned the route - there didn't seem much point in going to Nottingham to start, so we decided to fly Costock to Costock via Turweston and Sywell (Northampton) (my qualifying route will be Nottingham to Nottingham).

We set off, soon picked up the plotted track and set the southerly(ish) heading for Turweston. About halfway on the leg, my instructor set the Daventry VOR to help us track to Turweston. Tracking towards the VOR meant that we would also probably see it and sure enough, it appeared on time! I was quite excited as we neared Turweston, as the published approach meant that as a helicopter, we needed to approach from the south east - that meant a flight past Silverstone race circuit! We landed in the "Cabbage Patch", shutdown and wandered over to the tower to pay the landing fees. Unfortunately, my instructor had to be back at Costock for 1230, so we were slightly pressed for time. No hanging around then, back to the helicopter and we departed for Sywell.

Another flight past Silverstone (just think, next time I'll be on my own!), and we picked up the direct track to Sywell. I called Sywell Information for any joining instructions and we were told to approach from the south east again, which meant deviating from the track to more or less fly the outskirts of Northampton. I approached and landed fairly uneventfully, but could have been slightly more shallow! As we were hover taxiing, I noticed several Agusta 109s on the other side of the airfield, obviously that's where Sloane helicopters are based! Once again, the dues all paid we swiftly departed for the north and our return to Costock. Once again, I found the actual positional navigation fairly straight forward (including spotting a mistake made by my instructor!), but the radio is slightly more confusing. It's just interpreting what is being said to me, if it deviates from what I'm expecting, and responding accordingly. I'm sure that's just something that will come through experience. So once again, it's now a waiting game for the weather, and finding a suitable few hours to complete the navigation, without pressure of time.
Flying time: 2.1 hours Total flying time: 54.8 hours
Of which Solo time: 0.0 hours Total Solo time: 7.3 hours
and Instrument time: 0.0 hours Total Instrument time: 1.1 hours


21st December 2001 Lesson 49 G-TINK

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As forecast, today's weather wasn't particularly brilliant, a warm front was passing over the country. Strong gusty winds, so I called EMH before setting out and had a short discussion with my instructor to see if it was worth getting any flying done. He suggested we could look at limited power operations. So once I arrived, I was given a full briefing on the various power margins and the capability of the helicopter accordingly.

We got underway and up to Nottingham, where we did downwind and into wind checks on the power margin available. Then my instructor limited me to a certain power setting, and told me to carry out a run on landing. He followed me through on the controls as we did it, and it seemed very very smooth. Then, I carried out a running take-off, and went around the circuit again. This time he didn't touch the controls for the landing, it was very smooth again! A running take-off and around the circuit, but we were to do a vertical approach to the bunker. I set up the approach, and allowed my instructor to take control of the new manoeuvre to demonstrate to me. Seemed simple enough, just make sure the rate of descent isn't huge enough to enter vortex ring without the airspeed! Around again and my turn. Not a bad effort, tricky to keep the helicopter straight in the wind, especially when it's gusting and dropping off. Anyway, I seemed to do alright, but perhaps a bit quick descending, so a couple more attempts. Also, taking off from the bunker, we performed vertical take-offs too, with the wind being so strong, we were in translational lift with zero groundspeed. Pulling the full 24.5" of power, meant that we just carried on climbing and climbing and climbing! A couple of attempts at a zero/zero landing, basically flying the helicopter to the ground without hovering. Quite unnatural and I wasn't very good first time around, but it's quite a simple procedure anyway.

Time up and we returned to Costock by lifting out of Nottingham with a vertical lift. We got to 1000ft and decided that any higher, we would be in the clouds, so nose down and pick up the speed! I really enjoyed today's lesson, it demonstrated exactly what the helicopter can do when the conditions are right - the wind makes all the difference, and the vertical climbs and descents, I found particularly exhilarating! Merry Christmas everyone!
Flying time: 1.1 hours Total flying time: 55.9 hours
Of which Solo time: 0.0 hours Total Solo time: 7.3 hours
and Instrument time: 0.0 hours Total Instrument time: 1.1 hours


4th January 2002 Lesson 50 G-TINK

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Happy New Year to all! I had booked enough time today to complete my qualifying NavEx, however the weather wasn't to be. A lovely bright and cold day, but with lots of haze and a temperature inversion to boot! The haze was reducing the horizontal visibility to 8km or less, so my instructor decided that it was probably too risky today. Instead, we opted for more instrument flying. I suggested that as I had the whole day booked, I would be quite happy to have another lesson later on. I checked over the aircraft and tried to start up. However, the engine tacho had failed and with the engine running, was off the scale! We shut down and asked the engineers to take a look. An opportunity for lunch. I returned about an hour later and hung around for another half hour or so while it was fixed. Just as well the NavEx wasn't on today!

Eventually airborne with the hood on, my instructor handed over control to me. It was climbs and descents I would be doing today. Almost back to basics! My instructor just called out the heights to climb or descend to and I responded accordingly. All fairly simple, and I seemed much more accurate today. Then he put in the added complication of climbing and descending turns! I thought I did okay at them all. Nothing really too challenging, but it does drain the mental concentration.

Back to Costock for a break - I set up the approach on instruments, and my instructor took us into land. At this point, I realised how much my neck hurt - staring at the instruments for an hour, without really being able to move your head much meant that my was rather stiff!
Flying time: 1.0 hours Total flying time: 56.9 hours
Of which Solo time: 0.0 hours Total Solo time: 7.3 hours
and Instrument time: 1.0 hours Total Instrument time: 2.1 hours


4th January 2002 Lesson 51 G-TINK

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We had a coffee and decided on what to do next. I was given a briefing on unusual attitude recovery and limited panel (DI failure). My instructor then refuelled the aircraft, and a quick check later, we were airborne again, without a DI!

First was some 360 degree turns on the compass, showing the under-reading when turning to/through North and over-reading when turning to/through south. Also, we were performing rate one turns on the clock - i.e. 2 minutes for 360 degrees, 1 minute for 180 degrees, and 30 seconds for a 90 degree turn. Then it was onto unusual attitudes. I was expecting this to be particularly hard work, trying to ignore senses and immediately asses what needs to happen to the aircraft to recover. In actual fact, it was quite fun! My insutructor took control, I released all the controls and looked down while he manoeuvred the aircraft in order to confuse me. Then on the command of "recover", I looked up and took back the controls. First thing is to make wings level on the AH. Then put the aircraft in balance followed by setting the pitch/attitude to be level. Then adjust the power accordingly. The first one seemed easy enough, not too harsh, but I forgot the balance. Then my instructor tried harder to confuse my senses - very much like being on a rollercoaster! At one point, I could have sworn we'd dropped about 1000ft, although when I went for recovery, we were at a similar level to when I looked down! I seemed to manage the recoveries pretty well - I actually was quite enjoying it.

Time was up for today. A comfortable 1.9 hours of instrument flight taking the total to 3 hours, means there's just 2 hours of that left to do. I've got a couple of exams to get out of the way too, so I think I'll concentrate as much as I can on those over the next few days. Fingers crossed for next Wednesday and the weather!
Flying time: 0.9 hours Total flying time: 57.8 hours
Of which Solo time: 0.0 hours Total Solo time: 7.3 hours
and Instrument time: 0.9 hours Total Instrument time: 3.0 hours


9th January 2002 Lesson 52 G-TINK

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Okay, so who didn't cross their fingers? Weather today was not suitable for NavEx. Much the same conditions as last time, only worse visibility. So it was more instrument training today.

There's not going to be much I can write about it, as really today was just about consolidation and building the instrument time. However, perhaps not my best efforts at instrument flight today - I wasn't very accurate with the numbers, particularly when turning. My fault is that I was allowing the nose to climb therefore lose speed when turning on the compass. We flew around to the south of Costock (presumably Leicester and Loughborough area, but I allowed my instructor to keep track of our location!). After what seemed like ages, today, time was up and we returned to Costock. Another step closed to the light at the end of the tunnel. Come on weather, clear up!

I decided to attempt the flight planning and performance exam today. Unfortunately, my instructor had another student immediately after me, so didn't get a chance to mark it. I will find the result out on Friday!
Flying time: 1.0 hours Total flying time: 58.8 hours
Of which Solo time: 0.0 hours Total Solo time: 7.3 hours
and Instrument time: 1.0 hours Total Instrument time: 4.0 hours


14th January 2002 Lesson 53 G-TINK

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The weather was considerably worse on Friday, so much so, that there wasn't any flying to be done. Today, however, was flyable and as my instructor had no bookings for the day, I decided to take advantage. No NavEx though, but some autorotation practice in preparation for my flight test.

It was nice to be in control of the aircraft again, on the radio, taking off, etc. We lifted out to Nottingham to practice autos to the airfield. Nottingham's radio is currently broken, so we were transmitting blind calls. Several Autorotations took place - after the first couple, my instructor commented that they were pretty good, and better than he'd remembered from before! Then, he threw more and more things into the equation for me to think about - allowing me to roll off the throttle, for example.

As seems the case when I'm flying around in circuits, the time zooms past and we flew back to Costock. Once down, I enquired on my exam result - 95%! One wrong. I asked my instructor which one I had wrong - funnily enough, he answered with the same answer as me! (About helicopter service ceilings...)
Flying time: 1.2 hours Total flying time: 60.0 hours
Of which Solo time: 0.0 hours Total Solo time: 7.3 hours
and Instrument time: 0.0 hours Total Instrument time: 4.0 hours


15th January 2002 Night flight G-SBUT

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No flying planned today, but towards the end of the afternoon, I received a phone call from my instructor, inviting me to go flying with him as he built his night hours. I jumped at the chance!

I arrived at about 1630, it was still slightly light, so I sat down for a coffee - my instructor said that we wouldn't be lifting off until nearer 1700 - 30 minutes after sunset. We were soon underway and flew south and around the western side of Leicester city, to Leicester airfield. I was on the left of the helicopter - the opposite side to the normal seating arrangements as this was my instructors hours rather than mine. It felt very very strange being there! My instructor allowed me to have a go at the controls - it was like having to very quickly relearn how to fly! All my subconscious visual cues were in totally the wrong place - a bit like driving a left hand drive car in a foreign country! After some circuits around Leicester airfield, on the lit runway and using the APAPI approach lights (two white lights - on glide slope, one red light above or below glide slope), we left the circuit to "investigate" some flashing blue lights on what I think was the A47, obviously some sort of RTA. We then flew along the north edge of Leicester and tracked towards Nuneaton before turning back to Costock.

I think it's a real privilege to have been able to take the flight and to see Leicester and other cities, towns and villages from the air at night! There can't be too many people that get the chance! I think from my brief description, I haven't really given the 2.2 hour experience justice here!
Flying time: 0.0 hours Total flying time: 60.0 hours
Of which Solo time: 0.0 hours Total Solo time: 7.3 hours
and Instrument time: 0.0 hours Total Instrument time: 4.0 hours


17th January 2002 Lesson 54 G-TINK

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No NavEx today, again. Silly weather. In fact, there was quite a gusty wind. My instructor asked me if I'd revised enough for my final "written" (multiple choice) exam; I decided that if there was something I could do flying wise, I should do it, so my instructor suggested sloping ground. We flew to Nottingham and behind the tower was some handy slopes!

My instructor showed me what to do, and then invited me to have a go. The idea is to make contact with the skids on the highest part of the slope, then smoothly lower the collective whilst keeping the rotor disc level by moving the cyclic towards the slope. Sounds easy, but it wasn't! It was quite hard work keeping the helicopter still with the wind conditions. After a few attempts, I started to get the coordination going. Then we moved onto left and right skids. Again, similar principle, but you make contact with one skid first, then lower it onto the other. High chance of dynamic rollover, so have to be very gentle on the controls! Lots of practice at various different angles of slope before time was up.

Back to Costock. I was in no rush to return back to the office, so I decided to have a go at the exam, despite not really having done a too much reading for it, recently. Also, I had no practice papers to test myself on, so nothing to lose and experience to gain. No need for a retest though - 80% was my score! Only the practical radiotelephony exam to complete, now.
Flying time: 0.9 hours Total flying time: 60.9 hours
Of which Solo time: 0.0 hours Total Solo time: 7.3 hours
and Instrument time: 0.0 hours Total Instrument time: 4.0 hours


17th January 2002 Night flight G-SBUT

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I really wasn't expecting the call this afternoon for some more night flying! The last experience was fabulous, so again, I took the opportunity to have another go!

Much the same format as last time, to Leicester for some circuits, then we flew down to Rugby and turned above the M1 junction to head back to Costock. Today I was really looking at the traffic, and flying south from Leicester towards Rugby, it was quite surreal! The cars travelling about the countryside without street lighting, just looked so co-ordinated and controlled - like ants on an ant farm!! The M1 was quite stunning too. A whole stream of traffic as far as the eye could see, white and red lights in each direction without any gaps. Obviously, it's like that during a rush hour, but it's quite incredible to see it from 2000ft at night!
Flying time: 0.0 hours Total flying time: 60.9 hours
Of which Solo time: 0.0 hours Total Solo time: 7.3 hours
and Instrument time: 0.0 hours Total Instrument time: 4.0 hours


24th January 2002 Night flight G-SBUT

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No flying possible today, but I was at EMH for some ground tuition on the remaining Radio Telephony "practical" exam I have to complete. However, my instructor said that he might be out again in the evening and sure enough I had the phone call.

We took off, and flew down to Leicester. The wind was very strong and my instructor was having to work hard in the hover to keep the helicopter stable! Just 1.6 hours was needed for my instructor to fulfil his requirements, so after a few circuits around Leicester (they took that long because of the wind!) we headed back for Costock. That's the end of the night flying - what an experience. I think I shall look into obtaining a night qualification for myself, at some point.
Flying time: 0.0 hours Total flying time: 60.9 hours
Of which Solo time: 0.0 hours Total Solo time: 7.3 hours
and Instrument time: 0.0 hours Total Instrument time: 4.0 hours


31st January 2002 Lesson 55 G-TINK

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The weather today started off pretty good. Sadly, I was booked in from 1130 and I knew there was a student booked in prior to me. Why are the Met Office forecasts so damned good? The TAF said wind and rain from 1300, so there wasn't really much opportunity for NavEx. However, we took off at around 1145 for some practice of forced landings. Sure enough, it was windy!

We flew south and worked towards the north of Leicester, my instructor just took me through the first one to refresh my memory from Lesson 30. Today, I felt that I was able to concentrate more on the procedures, rather than working hard at the flying - I guess this is a result of the flying I have been doing and perhaps the skill level I have built(!?!!) Either way, it makes a difference to be able to have a bit of extra thinking time as it's not used up by other things!
Flying time: 0.9 hours Total flying time: 61.8 hours
Of which Solo time: 0.0 hours Total Solo time: 7.3 hours
and Instrument time: 0.0 hours Total Instrument time: 4.0 hours


8th February 2002 Lesson 56 G-TINK

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Okay, that's enough - why can't the weather just be still and clear for three hours? I was unsure about whether it was worth having a lesson today, but I decided to go to Costock, and I'm glad I did. I was fairly quickly told that the NavEx wouldn't be possible due to forecast weather for later in the day, which I already knew. But I was informed that I would go and do some general revision flying with a different instructor - in the form of a mock flight test!

The first challenge of the day was that the helicopter was surrounded by other helicopters! After I started up, I took off and gently taxied away from the other parked craft. Performed the checks, hover taxied to the end of the field, called for clearance and off we went to the North East and Nottingham. I flew over Widmerpool and turned up the A46 towards RAF Newton. On the way, I was asked to perform a steep turn to the right, and then to the left. After that, my instructor started chatting to me about work and (obviously) trying to distract me slightly, before he blurted out "practice forced landing, GO!". Eeek! Lever dumped, right pedal down, flare. Check lever, set auto. Choose field. Mayday calls. Low Rotor RPM horn. Essential actions. And eventually, "Okay, recover!". Phew, that wasn't too bad, even though everything was a blur really. We climbed away and headed for the airspace about Newton to do some vortex ring recovery, followed by some instrument flight, which was all fairly straightforward. Then we headed back towards Nottingham airport and again, another PFL sprung on me. I felt a bit more controlled this time, but still the low rotor RPM horn kicked in - oops! I made the radio call, joined the Nottingham circuit and made a lovely approach to the airfield. Landed on the triangle and my instructor (examiner?) asked me to lift, spot turn 90 degrees and land again. All fairly straightforward. Then we had a couple of quick stops, and some sloping ground work. A couple of circuits, both with engine off landings (first time I've experienced that!)

Then, we headed back to Costock. With a twist. I was to fly without a governor - I was watching the RPM like a hawk most of the way. Fortunately, in the cruise, it was all quite stable. As I transitioned back to the hover at Costock, the horn went on, and my reaction was the dump the lever - then I realised that we were close to the ground, and the reason the RPM was low, was that I needed to open the throttle! I parked up, shut down, and joined my instructor for a debriefing. I asked if I'd "passed", and he said "yes", and that if I flew like that on the actual test, I'd be fine. All above average, apparently. Have to say, that I really enjoyed today's flight!
Flying time: 1.2 hours Total flying time: 63.0 hours
Of which Solo time: 0.0 hours Total Solo time: 7.3 hours
and Instrument time: 0.6 hours Total Instrument time: 4.6 hours


14th February 2002 Abandoned Lesson/Passenger G-TINK/G-OHHI

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Finally, at long long long long last, the weather was good enough for my qualifying NavEx. The forecasts from Monday onwards have been favouring today and tomorrow, and I'd been getting quite excited all week, about getting it done! My instructor phoned at about 0850, and confirmed that it was on, so I got myself to Costock ASAP! Checked over the aircraft, planned the route (well, worked out the effect of the wind) a final briefing from my instructor and I started up, following the checklist as per normal. (By now you must be wondering why I'm going into so much detail!) I gently pulled up the collective, there was a crackly interference on the radio. Simultaneously, my instructor noticed the "governor off" light flickering. An engineer was summoned to check it with the rotors turning and decided that the fault was serious enough for the helicopter to be shut down. I went back to the office; five minutes later the engineer announced that it was a broken wire in the switch and it would take him a good two hours to fix it.

Somebody please fix my luck for tomorrow. Please?

Luck? Well, actually, as luck would have it, at around that time, EMH received a phone call for an urgent commercial flight - flying some car parts from Sheffield Airport to the Honda works, in Swindon. My instructor was to fly it and I was invited along for the ride! In G-OHHI - the LongRanger! Wow, thanks Honda! It certainly was a fantastic day to be in the air, lots of sun, a few fluffy white clouds and some excellent visibility. Plus, some good practice, I thought, for my NavEx, whenever it happens.
Flying time: few seconds! Total flying time: 63.0 hours
Of which Solo time: 0.0 hours Total Solo time: 7.3 hours
and Instrument time: 0.0 hours Total Instrument time: 4.6 hours


15th February 2002 Lesson 57 G-TINK

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Here we go again! But this time, with a difference - it was actually going to happen! I arrived at Costock first thing and was presented with the weather, and invited to call both Turweston and Sywell, which I duely did. Sywell informed me that they had a surface visibility of 6-7km which is perfectly flyable, just not ideal.

I checked over, started up, and paid particular attention to the governor to make sure it was engaged properly! My instructor joined me, and we departed for Nottingham. I dropped him off and took-off for Turweston. Once airborne, I quickly got changed to East Midlands approach so I could transit their zone at 2000ft - they obliged and gave me squawk to play with. I heard G-CHIS taking off from Costock. Every fix I obtained pinpointed me exactly on track. I tuned into Daventry's VOR and tracked that until I could track it no more. Turweston hadn't responded to my initial call, I think the tower was unmanned, as another aircraft appear to have trouble being heard, too! I tried a few moments later and was asked to approach from the south east for the Cabbage Patch - something which I was entirely expecting - so, no surprises so far. After passing the VOR station, I was looking for the areas of forest that I had used before, as a guide to flying to the south east boundary past Silverstone. I very nearly missed them and turned left in order to be in perfect position to avoid all the areas that Turweston ask you not to fly over! I landed, paid up and asked very nicely if they would sign my bit of paper to say I'd been - and I'm pleased to report that two "good's" were entered the airmanship and radio evaluation form!

I went straight back to the helicopter and got underway for Sywell, back out to the south east and following the road past Silverstone. I changed to Sywell Information when I was at Towcester, or thereabouts. On the phone earlier, they had asked me to approach the field from the western boundary - however, on the radio I was told to approach from the south east - this is what I had flown before, so was familiar with it. I approached to the 33 threshold and was informed that I could park behind some aircraft on the eastern side of the tower. Paid up, two more "good's" and a aerodrome stamp. I took the opportunity to get myself a cup of coffee and a small bite to eat before setting back.

After departing from Sywell, I set track over unfamiliar and quite indistinctive areas of countryside. (Whereas en-route to both Turweston and Sywell, I'm quite familiar with the road network - M1, A43, etc. and precise location I find quite easy to fix!) The sun was behind me and it was getting really quite hazy, so I decided to fly a couple of hundred feet lower than the planned 2000ft, to see if it was any better - it was, so I stayed there. I navigated north past Desborough and Market Harborough and picked up the power lines to follow for a while. As I was nearing Leicester, I was looking for Leicester airfield, and I thought I spotted it - however, shortly afterwards, I started to get a bit lost and not 100% sure of my precise location. East Midlands Approach informed me that Langar airfield was active with parachuting and I should remain well clear. Which threw me a bit, as I wasn't intending to fly anywhere near Langar, nor did I think I was close! I continued to fly my heading, whilst being a little anxious about not recognising features. Maintaining a heading does work, despite however much you can't actually see! Eventually, the familiar A46 came into view and a quick look up and down the junctions pinpointed me slightly to the south of Willoughby-on-the-Wolds, with my workplace in sight! Home and dry now! East Midlands despatched me to Nottingham Radio, the runway had changed from earlier. I landed uneventfully, and my instructor walked out to meet me! Fantastic! Finally it's done - two months of waiting, two 'false starts' and that's not even mentioning the endless days of hoping for fine weather and ending up with wind and rain!
Flying time: 2.5 hours Total flying time: 65.5 hours
Of which Solo time: 2.2 hours Total Solo time: 9.5 hours
and Instrument time: 0.0 hours Total Instrument time: 4.6 hours


19th February 2002 Flight Test (Lesson 58) G-TINK

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I was particularly concerned about weather, but Costock was experiencing quite a bright spell when I arrived. My 'EXAMINER'(!) briefed me about what the test would involve. We started with some general discussion and questions about the R22. Then I went and checked over the craft... as I did so the weather deteriorated. We listened to the ATIS, and cloud at 1800 ft with 13kt wind, I decided that would should attempt at least the first half of the test.

We took off, and headed towards Nottingham. I was asked to perform a steep turn to the right, then immediately into a left steep turn, but on instruments only this time. Then my examiner put the helicopter into Vortex ring and invited me to recover. Oops, first mistake! I inadvertently must have pulled on the lever slightly as my examiner firmly checked it back down! And that probably didn't bode well for the next exercise - a PFL. Oh dear, not pretty. I didn't lower the lever as smoothly as I could have and I ended up chasing needles - low RRPM, high RRPM, speed all over the place!

Then, we headed for Nottingham airport, but the weather was really closing in - plenty of rain on the windscreen and it was getting much trickier to see; I was feeling quite uncomfortable with the conditions. My examiner asked if I wanted to turn back to Costock and abandon the test; I thought about it for a few moments and decided that it was better to be safe than sorry and that despite really wanting to continue, there would be other, better days.
Flying time: 0.5 hours Total flying time: 66.0 hours
Of which Solo time: 0.0 hours Total Solo time: 9.5 hours
and Instrument time: 0.0 hours Total Instrument time: 4.6 hours


28th February 2002 Flight Test (Lesson 59) G-TINK

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The weather for yesterday and today has deviated a little from the forecast weather. Yesterday was windy, but the sky relatively clear, and the wind today was even less! I received a phone call in the morning from my examiner, asking if I was free in the afternoon, which I was. So, after lunch, went to Costock. As I had the full briefing last time, I wasn't given it again. I added the wind effect to my planned navigation (Costock to Costock via Sheffield and Newark), went out to the helicopter, started up, and my examiner joined me. As I passed my radio-telephony 'practical' exam last Friday, I was to do the radio. It all started very well, a bit out of balance to start with, but I felt comfortable and smooth. However, that was about all - for some reason, I had taken my eye off the altimeter and had inadvertently broken our clearance - I hurriedly corrected it before anything was said, although it was noticed. After we were out of the East Midlands zone, I climbed to 2000ft and joined my track for Sheffield. My examiner asked me on occasions exactly where I was, and I easily identified Hucknall airfield; which prompted the question about if I should call them on the radio - as they are a weekend only airfield, that's not necessary. Around this time, my examiner asked what I should do if I had an engine fire, which I duly answered with hopefully, a textbook answer.

Just as I was thinking about changing to Sheffield's frequency, my examiner told me that I should divert and track the Gamston VOR. I found a suitable radial, turned course and flew towards it. I called East Midlands to let them know, and they advised me to call Waddington; a frequency I hadn't written down! Then came the next mistake - I forgot to look for Gamston airfield, and my examiner took over the radio to make the calls. After we flew over the VOR station, I was given the instrument hood to wear for the instrument part of the test. I relaxed slightly, as I wasn't worrying about the radio or position, but just concentrating on the instruments and following the instructions (my examiner commented afterwards that my instrument flight was faultless!). A couple of 180 degree turns and a descent and a climb later, I was asked to remove the hood and work out where I was. I pretty much instantly recognised the area as north of Newark, tracking the A1. We flew towards Nottingham, past Syerston, which was very active with gliders and motor gliders. On the way, I was given a practice engine failure - I felt this time, I was much much smoother and controlled with the autorotation, I wasn't needle chasing; however the area which my examiner chose was riddled with power lines, so I had to apply some extra airspeed to clear them.

We arrived at Nottingham and made for an engine off landing on the triangle - I entered the autorotation in what I thought was the right place, given the wind direction and speed. My examiner, however, steered me left of the triangle, which meant that at the flare, we were slightly short of the grass. We carried out another circuit and this time, the engine off landing was much more on target. Then it was a quick stop (probably my best yet!), followed by some sloping ground work, which I felt was satisfactory. Took off again and was asked about performing a power check, which I had forgotten how to do (well, the speed at which it's performed, and what the power margin means)! However, my examiner established that there was sufficient power to approach and land on the concrete bunker. Having only done this a couple of times before, I had to think hard about how to do it. I must have done okay, as I got there, in my opinion, safely! Then we departed for Costock. My examiner landed us, and after touchdown, he asked me to lift into the hover, turn 90 degrees and land, on all four points of the compass. Each time I forgot to check the Ts & Ps.. ooops! My examiner then parked the aircraft and handed back to me to shut down.

Back into the office for the debriefing. I watched as my examiner filled in the logbook and wrote the words "PPL(H) Skills Test - PASSED" Then, I had the poor bits of today's flight discussed. Why is it, whenever you're on test, you fail to perform how you normally do? I had exactly the same experience ten years ago (to within a fortnight, oddly enough) when I somehow managed to pass my driving test!
Flying time: 1.6 hours Total flying time: 67.6 hours
Of which In command time: 1.6 hours Total in command time: 11.1 hours
and Instrument time: 0.0 hours Total Instrument time: 4.6 hours


4th March 2002 "Lesson 60" G-TINK

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One last thing before the licence application is sent off - I am a bit short on some required hours (0.7 solo cross country flight and 0.4 instrument flight). Today was the day to finish them off!

Some instrument flight on the way to Nottingham where I then dropped off my instructor. Only a small navigation that I planned for myself - fly down to Widmerpool, turn over the College to track the A46 towards Bingham, then the A6097 to follow the river back towards Nottingham airfield. Picked up instructor and instrument flight back to Costock.

After we landed, we went through all the necessary paperwork for the application. A couple of signatures and a bit of confusion about the fee. All that remains now, is for EMH to send off all the paperwork to the CAA for my licence; which, I'm told, should be with me in 2 weeks, or so!

Well, that's it! Nearly 69 hours of flying, over the best part of nine months, and here's where I start learning what it's all about! I know that some of my instructors read this web page, and I'd like to extend a rather large "thank you" to them all - Matthew Wood (22.4 hrs), Glenn Blake (11.9 hrs), David Pook (17.4 hrs) and Jan Hallam (4.7 hrs) - along with Nigel Burton (0.5 hrs) for letting me loose on his helicopters and declaring that I'm safe enough for a licence, and Rosalie Scott for taking all my money!
Flying time: 1.2 hours Total flying time: 68.8 hours
Of which In command time: 0.8 hours Total in command time: 11.9 hours
and Instrument time: 0.4 hours Total Instrument time: 5.0 hours


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