First Flight – ouch – part 9

My hands hurt.

I also have a new found respect for the dudes that I’ve been up with these last few months. Damn.  Flying a helicopter is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

I decided it was time to get the show on the road and called Grant to see if we could get up for an hour. He was just back from vacation and was into it. I got there a little early to rig some camera gear and figure out if we could mic the ATC / comms. The camera setup was easy but getting the helicopter mic’d was not. -All of the important flight school components will be recorded and put up on a youtube channel.

Sadly this one will be without audio so I’ll time jump the boring parts.

So, on to the actual flight. We sat in the cockpit and ran through some protocol. Don’t touch this, yes, you can touch that and this is how to interact with ATC… We also spoke about how he’ll hand off controls. Then we ran through the G2 preflight.Guimbal checklist
No real big surprises but it does take a while to get the Guimbal ready to go.  During that time we run through Throttle, Collective, Pedals and Cyclic.  We talk a little about weather and comms. Weather was:

METAR: KCPS 262053Z 29014G21KT 10SM OVC028 02/M05 A3026 RMK AO2 SLP249 T00171050 53003


About 10 minutes after we start the engine Grant requests to take off.  We taxi and we’re out.  After we get a few minutes out of the airport he hands control over.  Damn.  This is actually happening.  He tells me to watch my trim, watch my airspeed, watch my heading, check altitude and keep an eye on basically everything that my eyeballs can see.  Damn again.  There is a ton going on.  Chatter on the radio, it’s gusty, there are birds around us, other pilots and the ceiling is low.  I’m doing everything I can to manage all the inputs and my nose really itches but I can’t take my hands off the controls… I’m also death gripping the the cyclic and collective.  I’m tense and sweating.  I’m behind the aircraft, reacting to it and noticing pilot induced oscillations.  That sucks.

husaberg in coloradoRiding bikes on sketchy trails I always notice arm pump, it’s when you’re super tense, you’re always flexing and you’re controlling the bike poorly.  In this case the bike is a super expensive helicopter and my wife will kill me if I cause us to fall out of the sky.

I’m actively trying to chill out and release the death grip but it’s not happening.  Grant is gesturing with one of his hands which means I’m flying this thing?  Is that ok?  It’s making me nervous but I’m guessing it’s intentional.  He also keeps on telling me to “step on the ball” what does that mean?  Oh duh.  The trim.  Finally that clicks. When I see the trim over to the left or right I use pedal to correct.  We make a couple 360 degree turns, we talk more about power management.

Grant requested that we join the pattern and now it’s time to do what I think I’ll actually be doing for the next 10 or 12 weeks – which is flying patterns and hovering.

We join the pattern and he leads us through the first run in.

I watch the airspeed, watch the VSI, heading, trim, power, and oh hey, look a red tail hawk.

We come in, he hovers, dips the nose and we get to about 45 knots, climb to about 700 feet and make a left turn.

Grant says the controls are mine and I’m not entirely sure if he’s serious.  All of a sudden I’m back in control.  I bank too hard use the wrong pedal and I think I’m at 100% power.  I need to quit yanking up on the collective.  I make another left turn and we’re aimed at the runway.  Grant is telling me I’m doing a good job but I’m wondering if the guimbal has airbags because there is no way I’m not slamming us into that runway which is FAST approaching.  DAMN.  He talks me down through and I can’t keep from wondering if all the weird shimmies and oscillations are me or the wind?  Did I just do that?  Why are we now pointed 45 degrees away from the airport.  I should push one of the pedals.  Oops.  Wrong one.

We make a pass, Grant brings us to a hover and we do some pedal work.  I spin us 360 with the pedals and he keeps control of the collective and cyclic.  While working the pedals I notice how much he’s doing and how purposeful the movements are.  It’s windy and he seems to be in complete control. I will never be able to do this. Maybe I should quit now, says no one ever when they are flying something this awesome…

We do 3 or 4 more passes and I am getting EVER SO slightly better.  I can at least turn.  Hovering, however, is a no go.  Not even close.  Every time I’m given control we end up 90 degrees from where we should be and about 30 feet higher. This is going badly.  Grant assures me it’s not but he’s a crappy liar.

Grant puts the guimbal down, we do the post flight and I pry my hands off the controls. In fact as I write this a few hours later my hands still hurt.

We talk about timing for the next round and I hand him my logbook to fill out.  Damn.  1.5 hours in the books.  That feels awesome.Guimbal Cabri G2 instruments

Grant logbook