I had scheduled 2 flights this week.  Wednesday and Friday.  The Wednesday flight was canceled, the Guimbal was in for it’s 25 hours oil change.  It was actually a blessing because I could work out the bugs of capturing footage and audio. Here’s a quick sample:

On to the flight.  We did the pre-flight which basically consists of checking as much of the aircraft as you can without really dismantling it.  You check skids, external body components, engine components, tail components and finally rotor components.  Then you give it one last walk around to make sure you didn’t leave a gas cap off or the dipstick out.

After that was out of the way, we jumped in and ran through the checklist.  It went a bit faster this time and I understood more of what we were checking and why.

Grant got us to a hover, requested permission to go make some turns and off we went.  There was an amazing amount of radio chatter, lots of students around.  So much so that it was tough for Grant and I to speak, not to mention my David Clarks were acting up.  I think I might run them back to the store and grab a new pair this weekend.  Speaking of chatter, there was an ATC guy on the comms that sounded like truly enjoyed his job and was having some back and forths with the other instructors and students.  I’m still a little worried about calling my flight plans out to those guys, it’s tough enough with everything going on but having to actually tell someone what I’m going to do is… well, it sounds impossible.

We worked on a few things today.  Lots of hovering and more approaches.  Hovering is lost on me.  I constantly yank on the collective when I see the ground coming up to bite me.  I’ll get to 4 feet above the runway and a little gust of wind will hit us or I’ll be managing the cyclic and we’ll loose 1 foot of altitude and I’ll pull up.  After we get out of ground effect everything is a bit squirrelier.  My reaction comes from riding bikes I think, when you are in trouble with a dirtbike you gun the throttle and raise the front wheel.  When I sense we’re going to slam into the runway I pull power.  I’m also still chasing the machine and waaaay overcompensating.  White knuckling the controls too, I realize I’m doing it but I can’t keep myself from repeating that mistake.  If I hold the controls with a lighter grip it helps tremendously.  Also, Grant mentioned I should look out on the horizon a bit more.  That was probably the best advice I got all day.  Once he said that it changed the game a bit.  Not so much that I didn’t look like a complete ass out there but enough that I kept things in check a bit more.  One more tip – and this might not make sense but as you’re coming in on your final hover you pull power at the same rate that ground is approaching.

Some of the takeoffs felt right, or as right as they could, when you’re just trying to make it off ground.
Most of the approaches felt good, approaches seemed to get easier as the lesson went on.  I’m over or undershooting everything but only by 20 feet and what’s 20 feet between friends.

Finally and this was just starting to gel as we were finishing up… when I’d relax and just lead the helicopter down on an approach it seemed to all fall into place.  I wasn’t checking instruments which is probably a no-no but if I was in the moment and concentrating on where I needed to go and what I needed to do, everything just worked.  Strange.

Guimbal and a fuel truck

 

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

Last week was tough at the office.  STL > DTW > STL > PHL > ALB > LGA > STL

I was just about the last flight out of LGA on Friday night before they shut everything down.  Lucky…

While sitting on planes and in airports I spent the week I tabbing out the FAR AIM and studying using the dauntless iOS app (~$40).  The app certainly won’t win any design awards and it’s hard to look at but it gets the job done.

I was averaging about 50% on the practice tests in the beginning of the week and I’m up to about 70% now.  There are 21 “chapters” with anywhere from 4 to 60 questions in each chapter. Some of the questions will remain a complete mystery until we can go over them in class and some are common sense.

In no particular order the chapters are:

  • Federal Aviation Regulations
  • Pilot Certification and Limitations
  • NTSB Part 830
  • Maintenance Requirements
  • Airspace
  • Maps and Charts
  • Ground Facilities
  • Aerodynamics
  • Flight Planning
  • Engine and Related Systems
  • Instrumentation and Avionics
  • Operations
  • Clearances and Procedures
  • Maneuvers
  • Weather
  • Weather – Thunderstorms & Turbulence
  • Weather Services – Charts
  • Physiology and Psychology

Anyway, back to what we covered in class…

We spoke about principles of flight and dug into specific rotary flight theories.

The topics of focus were around the 4 forces of flight: thrust, drag, weight and lift. Nothing earth shattering there but good to understand.  We also talked a little bit about angle of attack and angle of incidence.  From there we got into heavy stuff.  This site is describes most of it perfectly.

Finally we got into some of the basic instruments.

  • Vertical Speed Indicator
  • AirspeedTachometer
  • Manifold pressure

We also covered knots vs MPH.  Example here.

That was it for ground school.  This upcoming week I think I’ll actually be in the guimbal.

The guimbal is finally here and assembled. It was blessed by the FAA last week and after a little CFII training it’ll be good to go. Here is a couple hour timelapse if it getting put together and some specs on it.

Main performance
Equipped empty weight 420 kg (925 lb)
Maximum Gross Weight 700 kg (1542 lb)
Maximum level speed @ 100% (s.l. ISA) 100 kt (185 km/h)
Cruise speed @ 85% 90 kt (166 km/h)
Vne (s.l.) 130 kt (240 km/h)
IGE hovering ceiling (@ 700 kg) 5000 ft
Hovering ceiling (2×77 kg + fuel 2 hrs) 7500 ft
Range @ 85 % (15 min reserve) 380 NM (700 km)
Maximum endurance @ 50 kt (no reserve) 5 hr 40
Noise level @ 100% (certified) 75.7 dB SEL

Main rotor
Type Articulated, soft-in-plane
Number of blades 3
Diameter 7.2 m (23.6 ft)
Chord 180 mm (7.1 in)
Speed 530 RPM

Tail rotor
Type Fenestron®
Number or blades 7
Diameter 0.6 m (23.6 in)
Chord 42 mm (1.6 in)
Speed 5148 RPM

Transmission
Primary transmission Belt with a reduction ratio of 0.855/1
Main gearbox Bevel spiral gear with a reduction ratio of 11/47
Tail Gearbox Bevel spiral gear wit a multiplication ratio of 25/11

Powerplant
Engine model Textron Lycoming O360-J2A with STC EASA E.S.01001
Type Horizontally-opposed, four-cylinder, air-cooled
Atmospheric, carburetted
Double-ignition with one magneto and one electronic ignition
Displacement 361 cu.in (5.9 litres)
Max continuous power 145 shp @ 2585 – 2700 tr/min (108 kW)
Nominal speed 2650 RPM
Cooling Direct-drive squirrel-cage blower

Ignition
Magneto Bendix
Electronic ignition LSE Plasma II – HG
Condenser discharge
Variable spark advance

Fuel system
Max capacity 170 litres (45 US Gal)
Unusable quantity 1.5 litre (0.4 US Gal)
Approved fuel type Avgas 100 LL

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Today was pretty awesome as days go.  I saw the Guimbal all dressed up and had my first day of ground school.

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Grant was the instructor, he took us through the process and how we’re going to move forward.  It’s fairly structured but we can go off on tangents if we need to.  Grant let us know that if we miss a class we can make it up with him personally.  Rad.  I was worried about that.

I’m in the class with two other guys.  Jeremiah is starting from scratch like I am and Jason is working on his commercial.  Both seem like good dudes and are vets, Jeremiah was in the Marines and Jason was in the Air force.  We talked a bit about how the GI bill pays for some of the school and something called the Yellow Ribbon grant pays for other parts.  It seemed incredibly confusing but Chris, the owner of Midwest, seems to know his way around the process and got them taken care of.  Grant and Jason were super helpful and pointed Jeremiah and I in the right direction as far as apps and books.

I bought the FAR AIM 2016 and I’m grabbing Ground School Test Prep 2016 iPad app from http://www.dauntless-soft.com/ – man, that’s another rough looking site…

After the introductions and explaining why we were interested in getting our license we got into it.  We talked about the different licenses and the hours associated with each rating.  We also talked about the tests we needed to complete.  I still don’t know my end goal but obviously the commercial is the money maker.  If I were a younger dude that’s what I’d be going after.  Jason seems to have a gig lined up after he completes the course.  The pay sounds outstanding.

We covered a bunch of topics:

Aeronautical Decision Making (ADM) which is a systematic approach to the mental process used by pilots to consistently determine the best course of action in response to a given set of circumstances.

D.E.C.I.D.E Model
Detect – the fact that a change has occurred
Estimate – the need to react to or counter the change
Choose – a desirable outcome for the flight or situation
Identify – actions to control the change successfully
Do – take the necessary actions
Evaluate – the effects of the action to react to or counter the initial change

Human Factors
HypoxiaHypemic
Stagnant
Histotoxic
Hyperventilation
Middle Ear / Sinus issues
Altitude Induced Decompression Sickness

Then we talked about the SFAR 73, which I shouldn’t ignore just because I’m training in the Guimbal.  Basically the R22 and R44 are what many folks train in.  It has some quirks so you need to be aware of:

Energy management
Mast bumping
Low rotor RPM
Low G hazards
Rotor RPM decay

Mast bumping and Low G pushovers seem like very very very terrible things.

I will grab hours in the R22 & R44 so knowing and understanding this SFAR is important.

We also spoke a little about:

61.113 – Private Pilot Limitations. The take away is that you can’t get paid to fly folks around.
61.15 & 61.16 – Booze & DUIs.  The take away is don’t be stupid.
61.23 – Medical. I found out where to take my medical.  It should be about 80 bucks.
61.51 – Logbook entires.
61.60 – Moving and keeping the FAA updated of your whereabouts.
91.119 – Minimum Safe Altitudes and how helicopters get to do cooler stuff.
91.126 – How all aviation acts around airports.

Finally we spoke about NTSB FAR part 830 – which I never want to have to do.

So that was the first day.  Tons of info but I feel great about moving forward.  Seems like Grant is there to make sure I succeed… that’s reassuring I’m not wasting my time and money.

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Ground school starts tomorrow. I have zero idea of what we’re going to be doing the first day but I’m excited to find out how this all comes together. It’s been years in the making and I’m stoked. I’m interested to see who the other students are and how my instructor will teach the course. I’m 39, I haven’t been on the other side of the desk for a while… every so often I get asked to talk to college students about the entrepreneurial spirit or to teach a course but haven’t been in a lecture for some time.  I’ve met and flown with the instructor before, we had similar backgrounds so I think we’ll get along.

Work is ramping up and I’m already looking at missing a class next week. Damn. That’s not good. I need to manage my schedule better. What if it’s the class where we learn which is collective and which is cyclic.  I’ll change my ticket so I can get back super late on Friday.  Luckily, there is a Thursday & a Saturday class with the same exact material being covered. Good guy Midwest.

My pops is bugging me to get my medical. I found a gov site that should point out one the 5000 folks that can administer the test but the site is broken. What’s up with ugly or non functioning aviation sites. Here’s the link to it if you want to not figure out where to go get your medical.

Finally, the guimbal is being put together. Jim is the dude that is in charge of assembling it.  He seems like the exact guy you’d want to be managing that project. I get the distinct feeling he takes pride in his work and would be doing this even if he hit the powerball, which is at $1.5BB now. I really think I’ve got a chance and the drawing is in a few minutes… If this blog never is updated again it’s because I won, hired my own pilot and went snowboarding in British Columbia for the rest of the season.

Anyway here is a picture of the guimbal. It’s not technically hovering like the title states, it’s just hanging from some chain but it still looks pretty cool.  The skids went on today, I think the boom and blades go on tomorrow.
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Damn. I have new life goals. Having strategically placed hangers around the US and Canada filled with helicopters, dirtbikes and a Unimog is one of those goals. I need to work really really hard or hit that powerball on Wednesday.

Seeing the Guimbal arrive in a crate was pretty damn cool. I feel lucky to see it fresh out of the box. Jessie and Chris seemed super pumped today as well. All the instructors, students and the guys that keep these things flying were all gathered around checking it out… good vibes.

The fellas at Midwest are doing 100 hour on the EC 120. That should be buttoned up on Wednesday which means the Guimbal is next in line for some attention, I’ll do a time-lapse of them putting it together and post it here. After the Guimbal is back together the FAA takes a peek at it and with any luck it’ll be time for me to get going. I cannot wait. I’m traveling all of next week… STL > DETROIT > PHILLY > NY > VT > NY > STL …I’m not bummed because we’re starting a new project with an outdoor retailer company that is pretty awesome. The project will include us hanging from a rock wall in Moab, Utah and kayaking down the Colorado – so it could be worse but I’m itching to get in the air.

I’m hoping we can squeeze something in over the weekend. Finding time to do this is clearly going to be an issue but my family is supportive and the company is on a good track this year. It will be interesting to look back and see how I juggled it all.

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Last week I stopped by Midwest to talk about next steps.

The G2 is in the states somewhere. It’s being delivered to the hanger on Tuesday.  Slight chance I have to run to Philly but if not I’ll be there watching them unpack the helicopter I’ll be training in.  AMAZING!  I’ll post a timelapse of them putting it together.

The FAA is going to give it a once over then I guess it all gets real.While I was at Midwest I jumped into their sim.  I thought a little before and after video would be cool but I can’t bring myself to post it.  It’s terrible.  I’ve been reading and researching and reading some more.  I’ve also been watching tons of video but what books and youtube can’t do is really give you any idea of the physical sensations, which I believe plays a HUGE part???   Anyway, I can’t post that video.  It’s terrible.  Instead I’ll post this one of a quick trip up hwy 40 in STL and landing at Midwest.

I don’t want to fail on this, especially in plain view of the web, family and friends.

Guimbal Cabri G2Documenting this experience real time is putting a little pressure on me.  What if I say or do something stupid? What if I damage this BRAND NEW probably very expensive hunk of technology and aluminum and carbon fiber?  What if I can never remember what “L” is in ATC talk.  Is it Lima??

Man, I really need to find as much time as possible to crack the books.  Thankfully I don’t have to travel too much for work for the next 60-90 days.  (Oh yeah, I forgot to mention I’m going to try to do this in 60-90 days weather permitting.)  I do need to head to New York in a week but I’m going to take the train down from Albany to the city so I’ll have 4 uninterrupted hours on the train with just the books.  I’m excited for that.   I’m not the best student, I learn by doing not by reading and right now I’m terrified of bad radio calls.

I need to find learning tools.

Here are the books Chris, my instructor, suggested. I know some of these are free from the FAA. Awesome. Thanks FAA.

Helicopter Flying Handbook

Pilots Encyclopedia of Aeronautical Knowledge

2016 FAR/AIM

Aviation Weather

Aviation Weather Services

ASA Private Helicopter Pilot Written Test Prep

 

DavidClarkH10-60HOn to the headsets. Like I said my Pop was a pilot and handed me an old set of david clarks when I told him what I was doing. Everything was cracking, crumbling and they smelled like hamsters. I’ll hang on to them for posterity’s sake.  I checked out the Bose A20s and a few others but decided the old man has made it through 40+ years of flying and his suggestion would probably be fine for me.  I grabbed the David Clark H10-60H, damn that is one rough website…  After some research the price fit the budget and the reviews were great..

By the way that helicopter is a Guimbal Cabri G2, yikes two ugly sites in a row!  Anyway, that’s what I’m training in. I have a hunch I’ll want to train on a R22 and R44 as well.  But we’ll get to that.

So what else do I need?  Sounds like everyone likes foreflight, looks very very well done and as a guy that has released over 80 iOS apps, that company did it right.  Well done.

Still looking for learning tools on the iPad but I’m sure I’ll come across that as I start taking the classes.

That’s it for the day…

here is a video from a few weeks back.

 

 

For as long as I can remember some form of aviation has been in my life.

IMG_3638In my early years my Dad bounced us around the states in a Beechcraft Bonanza. Actually, he flew a bunch of aircraft – fixed wing, helicopters, jets, balloons… There’s a good chance I’m doing this because of all that time around those little planes and hot air balloons.  Looking back we didn’t camp or throw a football around, we went flying.  How cool would it be to take him up for his 70th.

Anyway fast forward to early 20s I was living down in Belize I got to sit right seat in more than a few Cessna Caravans, it was cool to island hop all over Central America.  Hurricane Iris was on her way and I was on the last flight off the island, flying ultra low to stay out of the chop and I knew one day I’d be in the left seat.  When I moved back to the states, a private charter flight in a King Air here or there and I started to seriously think about grabbing my fixed wing.

Too expensive, too time consuming and I’m running a company… my day job requires my full attention.  Also, I have a wife and 2 kiddos that keep me busy.  How am I going to convince her?  She wants a new kitchen and the backyard needs to be cleaned up.  If I do this will I have to give up camping trips on the dirt bike?  I told myself – I’ll get to it at some point but for now I’ll just buy these books and read a bit at night.

I knew I’d do something with aviation eventually, maybe for my 40th and when the company settles down. I’ll make this happen one day…

Well, that day is finally here!  I should back up just a bit more though.

How did it come to be that I’m getting trained by Midwest and why did I choose them?

I have, for lack of a better term, an advertising and innovation company.  We build complicated software, mobile applications, websites and in some cases physical components that talk to the apps we build.  Our clients are awesome and I’m lucky to count Midwest as one of them.  -We built this website.

Anyway, I needed to shoot some video for a client, Anheuser Busch, their original brewery is right downtown and we needed a couple quick shots for this app. Awesome, time to charter a helicopter!  So, after talking to a few folks in the area everyone directed me to Midwest.  The description was always the same – “safe and professional”.  Super close to the brewery too.  Perfect!  I called and booked some time and the following day we went out to grab the video.  Whoa.  That was rad. Am I the type of dude that can possibly fly one of these?  Helicopters are expensive… I’ve always had RCs and recently, pro quality flying cameras otherwise known as drones. Sadly in my youth I spent a bunch of time playing with flight sims, building and flying models.  Nerdiness abounded. My wife barely tolerates me dragging out the drone to take family photos.

An actual helicopter though, that’s a lot different then playing dodge the clouds with your pop on the way down to Florida or nerding out with a DJI inspire.  Hmmmm.  I should research this.  Don’t I have to get my fixed wing first?  Nope.  Isn’t helicopter training expensive?  It is right?  Surely fixed wing is cheaper?

I’ll charter a 172, I have to go to Springfield, Mo. for a client -might as well see if I still like sitting right seat after being in the R44.  As soon as I got back I decided fixed wing wasn’t for me right now.  Maybe later but not right now.  I called Midwest for another shoot and that was it.  When I landed from that flight I let Jessie know I was ready to figure out a way.  Crap.  My wife is going to punch me.

So with any luck this will be a pretty complete account of what it’s like for someone starting from scratch.