My first solo Helicopter flight

Liverpool International Airport
Robinson R22 Helicopter G-TINK

The 1st June 2007 was a day that I'll never forget... It was lesson number 27 for me and I had approximately 35 hours of Robinson R22 instruction time under my belt, the weather was good and the lesson had progressed well flying circuits at Liverpool John Lennon airport. (EGGP)

"Ready to do one yourself then?" I hesitated for a moment and then the penny dropped, this was to be the day of my first flight in a helicopter, ON MY OWN!

The first part of my lesson was a recap of a number of procedures ultimately aimed at ensuring I was ready for my solo, a few take off and landings, an autorotation (to a recovery) on the runway, discussion about emergency procedures and a recap on the routine checks to be carried out on the circuit, downwind checks are more commonly known as FREDAT checks, (these checks may vary slightly depending on local procedures and flight school policy). Friction off; Radio call; Engine temperatures and pressures; Direction indicator set; Altimeter set; Transponder set... I had flown the whole of the lesson without any intervention from my instructor.

The next time I landed I taxied back to the parking area and dropped Gary off, he warned me that the cyclic would settle in a forward and left position as i took off, (due to the adjustment in balance with one less person on board) ... "remember your radio calls, and enjoy it!" were the last things he said before calmly walking away.

My take off was smooth and controlled, immediately noting the altered position of the cyclic, the tower seemed to have me hovering at the holding point forever. My radio calls were confident and clear, In reality it can only have been a minute or two and then I was off, climbing steeply into my first solo circuit, at an International airport, it was amazing!

Robinson R22 Helicopter approaching Liverpool

A right turn out over the Mersey, climbing to 1000 feet, right again about a mile out and I was on my second leg! The feeling is one of euphoria, mixed with a tinge of amazement and slight fear when you glance left and realise that your passenger seat is empty! I did all my checks, kept a good lookout, gave it a big WOOOOOOHOOOOOO! at some point and returned to the runway about 15 minutes later. Carb heat full on for decent, the approach to hover was smooth, and notably lighter with only one person on board. I distinctly remember air traffic control giving me a "well done" when I returned, realising they knew before I did, that today was to be my day. I taxied back to the parking area and carefully landed, I'd done it!