Helicopter


Helicopter Intro for my mum

Its been on my list for awhile to land the helo at the farm and give my mom a ride. My original plan was to do a tour of all the places we lived growing up – there were 7 farms from the time I was born until I left for college at 18. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to do them all, I did however hit two of the biggest ones.

So I grabbed the R22 from Frederick and landed on the front lawn. I grabbed a quick selfie, and Cristina grabbed a few photos of me getting my mom strapped in.

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And then we were off!. I flew east from Littlestown PA, crossing south of Hanover PA. The first location on the tour was the farm we lived at while I was in high school. This was the closest to suburbia I ever lived, but it was also one of the best places we lived because I went to South Western High School. South West is one of the best public schools in the region, and its the school I claim as my alma mater. Of the 5 school districts I attended growing up, I only have only kept in touch with friends from two of these schools. Many of my closest friends today were made while living in Hanover PA.

The arrow shows our house, while the circle outlines the farm. The barns are still standing, although much of the area around has since been developed. The farm was formerly part of the Lana Lobell Standard-Bred farm – a huge farm in the Hanover area that had gone defunct some years earlier.

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Next we flew over Codorus State Park (cleanest water in the State of PA) and Lake Marburg. Between my knob year and sophomore year at The Citadel, I came home and had a job renting boats at the marina here. One of the best jobs I ever had!

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Then we flew over our farm in Brodbecks PA. This was the first farm my mother purchased. It was rough when she moved in, and she made it quite nice. I’m sad to say it has not been well maintained in the 27 years since she sold it. The only thing I can tell that has been improved is perhaps new roofs on some of the structures. Everything else looks like its gone completely uncared for. Sad – it was quite a cool little farm. I lived here from the age of 3 to 10 years old. This is the only other school district I count among my current, and lifelong friends. Susquehannock High School – Southern York County (neighbors the best school district – South Western) is another great school.

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My buddy Dusty Wolfgang lives just around the corner from the farm – in fact the entrance to the farm is at the bend of the road between the Snyder and Wolfgang Estates. I’ve known Dusty since I was 3 years old – so thats 34 years now. My good buddy Zack Snyder’s parents moved to a home also located on this road. Their house, a log cabin I believe, is hard to photograph from a moving helicopter. (Note – my mother took all these photos!)

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The last place we flew over before heading back was the house of Skip Hoover – Chad Hoover’s father. The rail road tracks / creek on the left of the photo are the dividing line between South Western School district where I went to high school, and Southern (Susquehannock) School district where I went to elementary school. Chad and I became really good friends in high school, and I wound up introducing him to some of my friends from elementary. Skip’s house is a quick bike ride from where I lived on the farm in Brodbecks. In fact, Dusty Wolfgang’s parents live on the other side of the tracks just a bit further down this road. Chad and I are still close friends – and he’s lent a hand here and there to this plane project. In fact – he’s done more for this project than anyone I know – from multiple assists in the building of the garage to the installation of the radiant heating system. Chad’s been a stand up guy. Dusty and I used to bike between each other’s houses – literally passing right in front of Chad’s house – not knowing years later we’d all get to know one another from my school district changes!

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Between Dusty’s house, the old farm, and Chad’s place – there were a lot of good times growing up. We used to ride dirt bikes all over these fields – none of the farmers in the area cared much, and we had a blast.

And then we returned by the same route we came. Here is my mother’s current farm from the air. I started work on the RV on the garage on this property.

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The horses barely took note of the R22 coming in. A few looked up, a few took off at a canter, but nothing crazy. You can never tell with horses when, or what, will spook them.

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This was one of the best trips I’ve done in the helo. Getting my mum up for a ride, and the trip down memory lane was quite exceptional.

 


Instrument Helicopter – Add on

I started my helicopter instrument training in December. As I already have my Instrument Airplane rating, the requirements were pretty minimal. I needed 15 hours of dual time, and certain amount of cross country time, and a few specific cross countries. However, between my work schedule and rough winter weather, progress was slow. It took December through March to get my 15 hours. It then took another two months and EIGHT cancelations for weather before I was able to finally knock out the checkride.

I don’t have any real pictures of instrument training, nor am I going to recount the experience in detail. I will briefly note my observations of the differences flying a helicopter vs an airplane by instruments.

First off, the aircraft you are likely to train in – Robinson R-22s and R-44 etc can’t fly instruments even when they have all the avionics to do so. Helicopters have some unique requirements to fly instrument. Helicopter manufacturers will use a combination of trim systems, stability augmentations systems (SAS), auto pilots, flight directors and or aerodynamic surfaces. Put simply, the aircraft you’re going to rent or train on, even with all the attitude indicators and GPS WAAS approach capabilities will not be certified for IFR operations. As a helicopter pilot, you’re unlikely to be in an aircraft capable of IFR flight until you get to major turbine aircraft with multi-pilot crews, advanced flight directors, and perhaps multiple engines.

All this is to say, that the Private Pilot Instrument Helicopter rating has to be one of the most useless ratings there is. If you can afford a helicopter capable of IFR flight – you can afford a pilot! Regardless, I got the rating, because, well basically because its a rating, and I’d like to collect them all, like POGs, or Pokemons (is that a thing?).

So how about the actual flying? I’ve heard a few airplane pilots say “Oh, instrument in a helicopter must be so much easier.” Followed by one of the following statements, “You can just slow to a hover on the approach” “If you’re off the ILS you can just go straight left or right” “It so much slower everything must be easier!” Wrong. And wrong some more. Hand flying the helicopter under the visor is more difficult than your standard GA aircraft. The relationship between the cyclic and collective, and performance – while similar – is not precisely the same. Further, the R-22 is FAR less stable than anything you will fly in a typical GA flight school. So, hand flying is harder. Cockpit management is both harder, and easier. In an airplane, its easy to trim the plane and take your hands off the controls to flip switches and dial frequencies. Most general aviation aircraft are so stable if you have it trimmed well, you can take your hands off the controls for a very long time indeed. I’ve demonstrated this stability to students. Trim the airplane. Take your hands off. A little rudder input can help to maintain heading, and as your nose dips, speed increases you start to climb – the reciprocal happens. They just want to fly straight and level. Well, in a helicopter, particularly a Robinson R-22, trust me, you are never taking your hands off the cyclic. To do so would be, well suicidal. You can take your left hand off the collective periodically, but this should be avoided at high power settings and for any extended period of time. There isn’t an autopilot, and the high instability combined with hands always on the controls makes managing frequencies, switches, GPS etc very difficult. Luckily, for the practical exam, you have an out of sorts. Since helicopters that are certified for actual IFR flight all include some combination of autopilots, flight directors and multi-pilot crews, you are allowed to simulate autopilot by having the examiner act as an autopilot while you do some button-logy. In this sense, the helicopter instrument rating becomes easier. While the airplane can be flown hands off for a period of time, you are expected to manage the cockpit as a solo pilot. The expectation is not the same in helicopters.

Flying approaches, and holds, and the like really are the same as an airplane. If you’re off the ILS you don’t just stop and go left or right. You have forward airspeed and you fly a correction just like an airplane.

Anyways, thats a quick down and dirty on the differences from a newbie helo pilot’s point of view. Did I enjoy the instrument training? Honestly, not really. While there was a novelty in doing it in a helicopter early on – for the most part it was more of the same. The most enjoyable parts of flying a helicopter, its amazing visibility, its ultimate STOL and off airport capabilities are all pretty much lost under the visor. Further, as I have no real intention of ever being a professional helicopter pilot (beyond perhaps a CFI as a hobby / part time gig) it does not serve much use. I’m glad I got the rating though, as I’m sure I’m an incrementally better pilot than I was as a result.

Next up, commercial add-on, and CFI-H add-on. Then I’m done. Except maybe a seaplane rating. I’d really like to get one of those at some point!


Recent Helicopter Flights

I have now introduced eight people to flying in the helicopter! My buddy Mike was first just after I got my certificate. A short while later I flew my buddy Wes. My mother in-law Olga went for a flight, as did my Dad and his wife Nancy. More recently, I took my buddy Chad flying, and his boss Joe, and last but certainly not least – I took my bride for a flight!

Here is Maja just before her second takeoff from my Dad’s house! That day I was fortunate enough to pick her up at my house, and then land at my Dad’s for a quick visit. Then we flew back to Frederick. Maja is a little nervous flying – and helicopters with their unobstructed view can be even more intimidating. I decided to leave her door on!

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Recently I also started my transition training for the larger Robinson R-44. The 44 is a four seat aircraft with the six cylinder lycoming. In addition to having a much higher useful load there is plenty of extra power.

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My buddy Mike joined me for one of the training flights in the R-44. We flew down the Potomac near Hudson’s Ferry, West Virginia. It was a great flight.

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I’ve done a bad job of documenting my helicopter training and flying on this blog – but I guess my only excuse is that I’ve been too busy having fun and working hard.

Here is a quick video compiled from several recent flights in the helicopter – including my wife’s flight and my flight with my good friend Chad and his boss Joe.