Mike has had the misfortune of flying in the helicopter with me several times. I’m not yet a CFI in the helicopter, so I could never let him try his hands at the controls. Luckily, my CFI Sean, was willing to let Mike try his hands at the controls. I have never sat in the back seat of the R-44 so it was fun all around.
Naturally, Mike had to get a SFAR 73 brief and endorsement before being allowed to put his hands on the controls. For those that aren’t familiar with Robinson helicopters they are subject to Special Federal Aviation Regulation 73. In a nutshell, SFAR 73 places additional requirements in terms of currency and training on pilots above and beyond those of other aircraft before they can operate a Robinson R-22 or -44. If you’re interested in the specifics a good synopsis can be found here. Helicopters aren’t necessarily less safe – but they are definitely less forgiving.
Mike got to do the startup procedure.
Sean took us out of the airport and then Mike got his hands on the controls for the first time. The helicopter is not that different from an airplane in straight and level flight. It doesn’t have any stability, and you can’t trade airspeed for altitude in quite the same way – but otherwise holding heading, altitude, and airspeed are very similar skill sets.
After Mike got to do some work at altitude including turns and climbs etc, we went back to the airport for some hover work. Mike said to Sean as we were entering the pattern “Peter had me believing this was hard!” I chuckled silently to myself as I knew the fun was about to start. Sean gave Mike the controls of the helicopter one at a time. The typical drill is to start with the anti-torque pedals (like the rudder pedals) while the CFI controls the collective and the cyclic. Then Mike did just the collective. Then he does just the cyclic. Then eventually all three together. Sean was pretty fearless in giving the Mike controls quickly. The sensation from the back seat was – well – like a carnival ride. The windscreen would show nothing but sky one moment, followed by nothing but grass the next moment. After awhile working on the hover – Mike started to get the hang of it. Hovering for the first time is a humbling experience, and Mike picked it up quickly. He was definitely sweating!
After the over work was complete we headed toward Baltimore for some sightseeing and to make our way over to Sugar Buns cafe at Easton Airport (KESN). If you’ve not been – its a well above average airport cafe and I highly recommend it. I’ve not had a bad meal there, and the eastern shore is always a pleasant flight.
It was a beautifully clear day to see the Baltimore skyline and the inner harbor.
When we eventually returned to Frederick, Mike took Sean for his first RV ride. Sean had a blast!