Went for a lesson in the afternoon. The winds were ENE at around 10kts gusting to 15-ish. Clear skies.
I started the lesson with 12.4 hours. We had pounded out a few steeps last time and started on quickstops. That’s exactly what we did this time. Practice makes perfect.
My quickstops are getting there, not terrible but not awesome either. Chunky and heavy handed is a decent way of describing it, an even better way might be to call them ugly. Controlled but ugly. I’ll take it. Getting the motion down and reacting to any wind / weather is really all there is to it. We must have done 30 QS this last lesson and by the end they were feeling better and better. It’s hard to capture what if feels like to nail one and a simulator won’t do it justice so as for much of the hands on stuff, you just have to feel it and react to the aircraft in the air. I’m still a little late with applying power and I may balloon once or twice but for the most part I feel confident in my ability to not loose control of the helicopter.
On to steeps and this is where I screwed up bad enough to actually put the fear of God in me… but first a public service announcement about learning from your mistakes.
My day job is not easily described, for the purpose of this post we’ll just say we develop software, hardware and build lots of iPhone apps. We generally do a great job but we also constantly screw up because what we do is, more often than not, new technology or related to a patent. We have a lot of postmortems. A lot. There is no shame in honestly screwing up then refactoring the code to get it right. We have to figure out what we did wrong so we can try not to repeat ourselves. If we don’t have these postmortem talks no one ever learns, so be proud of that failure, just don’t let it happen again. Dummy.
So I’m posting a short story of my screw up so we can all learn from it but that pict right there should give you an idea of what I did wrong. It legitimately spooked me.
My steeps were getting better. I could pick my spot and get within 50 feet. Not perfect but this is my second hour doing steeps so… gimme some slack.
I was REALLY concentrating on my base and final altitude and airspeed so I could set myself up a little better for the best approach. Each approach felt better and better so I stopped watching my instruments as closely. Maybe I got a little cocky? I’m not sure why I stopped looking at my instruments but I was really trying to hit those 1000′ markers each time. On the last pass of the day I’m really steep / fast and trying manage the decent to hit my mark so I could come home and bore my wife with a story about nailing the last approach. As I’m far too steep I decide to drop a ton of collective, in the video I think you can make out I drop it to 10% power, 650ft/m decent, 30kts. Yep, not a good move. Grant was right on controls with me so once I put myself in this situation he was able to get me out but man… not solid decision making right there. This all takes less than a second for me to do but the implications are pretty long lasting, especially since we’re about 80′ above the deck. Ugh. I think Grant responds to my actions in about 5 frames of video so literally .15 seconds and without him right there… who knows. The low rotor warning light came on for a hot second but immediately goes out. Damn, good catch dude. I don’t want to think about what was next if he wasn’t paying attention.
I had been hitting those markers for most of the lesson and was trying to force the approach. There were no repercussions to overshooting the landing a little bit so what was I thinking?
I asked Grant about it later and I know that student pilots try to kill him ever single day so maybe this one just rolled off his back but it stuck with me. I write this post with a few more hours and looking back I know exactly what I did wrong and why… so life lesson. Don’t dump collective on approaches and review your mistakes. I ended the day with 13.7 hours and [maybe] slightly smarter.