… “on your second try” would be a more accurate title for this post.

I’ve been at this now for about 7 months.  I walked into the classroom with no real practical experience in aviation.  I knew which end of the helicopter was up but little else.

The ground school I attended was great, lots of important topics were covered and lots of help from the instructors and other students was available.  Sadly I did not take anyone up on their offers, well, that’s not completely true.  Grant and I went through weight and balance, airspace, weather, and a few other odds and ends.  We met outside of class 5 or 6 times to make up the classes I missed. He was generous with his time but my day job kept me from really getting as involved as I should have.  I was working about 60-70 hours a week and traveling nonstop. I’m not sure how many commercial flights I’ve been on this year but it’s well over 60.

I did try to study after the ground school was over but it was tough to carve out some time between the fam and work. It was easy to ignore and I was happy to ignore it.  Every concept was so difficult.  I still struggle with airspace…

This isn’t all bad news though, here is what helped me pass with a decent score which I’ll go more into in another post.

Trying to get through the FAR AIM alone is impossible so keep that as reference only. There is a decent iPhone app that helps you with search and the $9.99 is worth it. But if you’re trying to use it for your ground, it’s fine for a few things but it’s more help when you’re working on your oral.

The ASA test prep is COMPLETELY worth it. The questions are nearly identical to what you’ll see on the tests. The FAA supplement is EXACTLY what they give you in the test so it’s best to familiarize yourself with that.  I thought it was going to be “similar” but nope, it’s exactly the same, try to learn what most pages are asking you, drill on those sectionals over and over and over.  Same with the VOR questions, that’s what did me in.  I wish I had paid more attention to it and familiarized myself with each and every page.  There are a few things in there that we never covered in class like a cross wind component but it’s easy enough to get through with a couple youtube videos.

I also purchased a plotter, wiz wheel, and a CX-2 calculator.  The calculator is important, you should obviously need to be able to plot a course, figure out wind, fuel burn… all of that by hand but a calculator makes it a bit easier.  Some of the questions they ask have answers that are just a couple degrees off so if you have your whiz wheel set a little off, you could be wrong.

The ASA iPhone / iPad app was a pretty big help too.  The dauntless iPhone / iPad app was less helpful.


You’re not supposed to talk about specific questions that are on the test so I won’t do that but the ones that got me on this first go round were VOR questions, I missed most of them.  It seemed like the test was only made of VOR questions… I also missed some about carb heat, I later asked some pilots, instructors and other folks and, well, some got it right and some got it wrong.


Here’s why I failed the first time.

I didn’t study enough.  I decided that VOR was beyond me and ignored it.  I focused on learning how to navigate off the plotter, weight and balance, and the other million topics but thought I’d still pass without VOR.  NOPE.  $150 bucks down the drain.  I failed by 1 question.  Great.  Now I have to tell my wife, instructor, and you all that I’m dumb.

I’m obviously writing this after my 2nd retake… which, you can probably guess how it went but still, a terrible feeling leaving that place with a big FAIL in red. Ugh.


Last thought, when preparing for your PPL, flying is 30% of the time you’ll spend working on your ticket, maybe less.  If you spend 50 hours in the air, you should spend 150 hours learning all the basics, not memorizing them.  It’s beyond important to know how to control the aircraft but it’s also important to understand pressure density, weight and balance, navigation and general aeronautical knowledge.  Don’t expect for them to give you a license because you can nail your spot on autos.


I have 41 hours and this flight wasn’t that interesting so I’ll write about studying for the test a little bit too.  I’ve registered to take the test in 1 week.  Yikes.

On to the flight.  I ran through the preflight, Grant in, I made 15 or so approaches.  I landed.  Wash.  Rinse. Repeat.  Takeaways?  Not too many on this one.  I need to get through 10 hours of solo time and this is the last of it.  I will miss being up in the helicopter alone but I’m looking forward to learning new things.  Those new things are awesome… settling with power and confined landings.

OK.  The written.  You sign something when you register to take the test that specifically states you will not talk about the test and what’s on the test so I WILL NOT do that.  I’ll talk about how I approached studying for the test which was to buy a few apps, the Far AIM and the 2016 ASA TEST PREP.  I also bought the AIRMAN KNOWLEDGE TESTING SUPPLEMENT FOR SPORT PILOT, RECREATIONAL PILOT, AND PRIVATE PILOT  FAA-CT-8080-2F.

The apps I bought were the Dauntless GroundSchool and the ASA PrepWare Private Pilot.

I bought an EB6 and a CX2 calculator.

I learned how to chart with the EB6 and do my fuel calcs with both the EB6 and the CX2.  I also learned how to do my weight and balance by hand and in the calc.

I started really buckling down about a month ago.  I took the practice tests, made flash cards and watched videos on YouTube.

When you start studying everything is new, completely confusing and horrible.  YouTube only helps so much.  Talking to other pilots or student pilots is EXTREMELY helpful.  The trouble is that I am traveling nonstop so… I rarely have the option to hang out at the school.  My iPad and books are about the only interactions I get with anything related to aviation so do yourself a favor and stick around the school as much as you can… if you can’t do that find other (student) pilots to talk to.  As much time as I spend in airports it’s hard not to go up to the commercial pilots and start asking them questions…

The Dauntless app is ok but you see the same questions over and over again, you begin to memorize the answers by repetition which is NOT what I wanted.  I wanted to actually learn the formulas and why clouds form at this altitude in these conditions.  I did not want to regurgitate.  I think I’m giving up on the Dauntless app and moving on to the 2016 ASA TEST PREP book.  It has all the same questions as the Dauntless app but it has more of an explanation that lead into the questions.  I’m also watching more and more videos on YouTube.

Specifically this video:

I have no idea how many times I’ve listened to Cindy talk about airspace.  I hope I run into her one day… I’m going to buy her a beer.

I’m getting 70% – 80% on my practice tests.  I still don’t understand parts of VOR and airspace but I’ll meet with Grant this next week and knock out as much as I can.

Anyway, I’m reading, reading, and reading some more.  I study about 2 hours a night and I’ve been doing so for about a month.  I’m working about 60-70 hours a week so I know I’m not retaining everything but at least my flying skills are sharp!  I really to spend more time studying but between the kids, work, the house and flying it’s a lot.  1st world problems.



We spent a pretty big chunk of this class talking about issues that come up when taking off, in-hover, in-flight and when making an approach.  We also spoke about not putting yourself into dangerous positions in the first place but focused on how to get out safely.

You could never cover every single situation you’ll find yourself in but as with anything – practice practice practice and maybe one day when you find yourself in an unsafe or uncomfortable situation you’ll have an understanding of what to do.

So on to it.

We started out talking about typical hovering operations.  Every pilot I’ve spoken to said hovering will click at some point.  They were right, it did click but it’s still something you need to concentrate on when in wind or there is a lot going on.  Suffice it to day you are managing many inputs: pedals for yaw or pivoting, collective for altitude and cyclic for ground track.

If you’re to the point in ground school where you are discussing the flight environment, you’ve likely got some practical experience.  At this point I’ve got ~10 hours of flight.  Hovering clicked for me around 7 or 8 hours in.  You stare out at the horizon and make tiny corrections.  Don’t chase the helicopter – what I mean by that is – the helicopter is slow to react so manage your inputs or else you’ll swing around like a pendulum and the CFIs will make fun of you.  I can keep the helicopter in a 5′ box on a calm day and a 10′ on a windy day.  The CFIs keep it in like a 1″ area.  Skills.  A student pilot can also pivot around objects and keep pedal turns in a confined area around this time.  If you can’t you will be able to soon.

CrosswindAfter hovering we jumped into crosswind considerations.

If you’re lucky you get to train in calm conditions, if you’re not lucky you’ll fly in wind.  There will always be wind.  Sometimes it will be gusty, sometimes constant, sometimes variable.  Grant, my CFI likes to keep it under 16-18kts with me at this point, other more accomplished students in bigger helicopters, fly in windier conditions but for me, right now it makes sense to keep it safe.

So when hovering or flying a pattern at some point you’ll be flying into it the wind, you’ll have a tailwind or a cross wind.  The wind will push you around so you’ll need to make steeper or shallower turns which means your inputs won’t be the same when initiating a turn from a tailwind into a cross wind or a headwind into a cross wind.  It’s not something you can easily grasp in ground school until you’re crabbing in 16kt wind, once you do that that image over there makes complete sense.  We spent some time discussing that but hands on makes it click.

The next topic in class: autorotations. I’m taking a wild guess here but we’ll be practicing autos for the remainder of my flight training.

Here is the definition: an autorotation is a maneuver that scares me… That’s a terrible description, lets use wiki:  Autorotation is a state of flight in which the main rotor system of a helicopter … turns by the action of air moving up through the rotor … rather than the engine power driving the rotor.  In my words, and I’m not sure I’m 100% correct but it makes sense to me, you’re trading altitude to keep the rotor spinning at a certain RPM so at some point you can flare and land..  Kind of like gliding an airplane so make good choices with what little time you have.

Below is a video of Grant in an R22 demonstrating an auto while I try not to freak out in the right seat.  Mind you this is really my first auto and it’s in a 22 which I’m not super comfortable in anyway.  (excuses)


We focused on a few things today.  Straight and level flight, coordinated turns, normal approaches, and finally we discussed the height-velocity diagram.

Straight and level flight requires a few things.  If there is wind it requires a few more… the pitch of the heli, more or less, gives you forward track.  How much power you’re pulling determines if you’re climbing or descending. In the Guimbal there isn’t much of a “sight picture” or much on the front of the windscreen that allows you place something internal to the helicopter on the horizon to keep the thing level. In the R22 or R44 most folks use the magnetic compass… I keep an eye on VSI and the attitude indicator. When it’s windy I keep an eye on the trim bubble then step on the ball to keep the track. For the most part if you’re pulling 80% power you can fly level at around 80 knots. That changes with temp, wind, weight, etc… but for 2 200lb dudes with 15 gallons of fuel, that’s what we’re seeing in the G2. Mileage may vary.

Coordinated turns take some practice. There are a few things that I did right when learning how to fly and there are a million that I did wrong. Coordinated turns were one thing that came easily from hour 3 or 4 of actual flight. What I do is try to keep everything in trim and get ready for adding a little power. If you bank without power you’ll drop some altitude, if you pull aft on the cyclic you’ll drop airspeed. I get ready with the pedals(if I need to stay in trim), pull a tiny bit of power, if I’m at 80% maybe 82%, and roll the cyclic. Pedals keep the trim string / ball where it needs to be and just like that you’re instructor isn’t frustrated and silently judging you and you’ve executed a decent turn. Wind and other outside forces come into play but this one is easy. There is something known as slipping or skidding you’re turns but I haven’t had an issue with it so I’m going to stick with just being good at something for once and ignore those for now.

It’s probably a good thing to talk about spacial disorientation at this point. In short you, the pilot or crew, cannot tell where you’re body is at in space. Basically you’ve been leaning to one side so long or in clouds for so long or generally doing something weird and your body gets used to it. I lived in Montana for a long time and as any good college student did, we snowboarded every other day. Lots of hiking to backcountry spots and lots of riding in whiteout conditions… anyway, descending quickly in clouds or heavy snow storms created the “white room” where you couldn’t figure out which way was up even though you might be dropping a chute or cliff band at 40mph. Sketchy. Check your instruments, trust your instruments.

Approaches… I’m not sure how many approaches I’ve made in my VERY short tenure. Maybe 100. I fully expect that by the time I solo it’ll be 1000 so while I’ve done it in practice I’ll probably explain this very poorly because I just can’t nail this part yet.

In the rotorwing handbook an approach is described as: “A normal approach uses a descent profile of 8°–12° starting at approximately 300 feet AGL.”

What we hear over and over in class and in flight is “a nice walking pace”. What that means is when approaching your spot you walk the helicopter to it at an even pace and even sink rate. To much in any direction and you’re putting yourself in a dangerous position should something like an engine failure occur. Also, from that altitude it looks like you’re approaching at a “walking pace” even though you’re at 40 or 50 knots depending where you are in your approach. I hate to leave it as one of those that you need to do to understand but there is only so much the handbook can teach you before you go out and do it a few hundred times.

Guimbal_G2_HVFinally we talked about the height-velocity diagram.  Every helicopter has it’s own HV diagram.  This one is out of the G2 handbook, it states “With a view to simplicity, the same domain was demonstrated regardless of altitude and temperature.  It means that some margin exists at lower altitudes, temperatures and weights.

During take-off the pilot should pay attention to avoid this zone.  In addition, he should limit the rate of clime to a maximum of 500 feet / min below 100 feet AGL, in order to limit the loss of rotor speed in case of power failure.”

The column to the left is the altitude AGL.  The bottom is the knots or Indicated Air Speed.
What does all that mean?  Basically stay out of the shaded area, don’t pull a bunch of power and grab altitude with no forward airspeed.  If bad things happen your day will go poorly.  Low inertia rotors have a pretty abrupt rotor decay.

I also noticed something in the handbook which I hear a bunch in my when flying with Grant… I always grab a bunch of power when taking off, he’s convinced I can take off with no increase in collective.  For some reason my tiny brain won’t let me get a running takeoff without pulling more power.  I can’t seem to break myself of this habit but there it is in print…


height-velocity diagram

Anyway, that was about it for that class.

This class was a biggie. It was also a bit continuation of the previous class. We covered a fairly large amount of material ranging from airspaces to TFRs to an intro into markings on charts.

First up lets look at some markings on charts. There is an unholy amount of detail to the maps and it seems like it will take a life time to learn but lucky for people like me there are legends which should help.

We started out with Special Use Airspaces of which there are 5:

Prohibited – These are always off limits, generally they are covering things like the white house. You’ll notice a “P” on the chart.

Restricted –  Restricted airspace tends to mean the military is doing something you don’t want to be involved in. Straight from the FAA: Restricted areas denote the existence of unusual, often invisible, hazards to aircraft such as artillery firing, aerial gunnery, or guided missiles. Penetration of restricted areas without authorization from the using or controlling agency may be extremely hazardous to the aircraft and its occupants.”

MOA (Military Operations Areas) – A military operations area (MOA) is “airspace established outside Class A airspace to separate or segregate certain nonhazardous military activities from IFR Traffic and to identify for VFR traffic where these activities are conducted.” (14 CFR §1.1, U.S.A.) Similar structures exist under international flight standards. These are designed for routine training or testing maneuvers. Areas near actual combat or other military emergencies are generally designated as restricted airspace.

Warning Areas – Warning areas are similar in nature to restricted areas; however, the United States government does not have sole  jurisdiction over the airspace. A warning area is airspace of defined dimensions, extending from 12 NM outward from the coast of the United States, containing activity that may be hazardous to nonparticipating aircraft. The purpose of such areas is to warn nonparticipating pilots of the potential danger.

Alert Area – Alert areas are depicted on aeronautical charts with an “A” followed by a number (e.g., A-211) to inform nonparticipating pilots of areas that may contain a high volume of pilot training or an unusual type of aerial activity.

Finally to make it slightly more confusing there are things known as “other airspace areas”.  Generally it’s a term referring to the majority of the remaining airspace. It includes:
* Local airport advisory
* Military training route (MTR)
* Temporary flight restriction (TFR)
* Parachute jump aircraft operations
* Published VFR routes
* Terminal radar service area (TRSA)
* National security area (NSA)

We care about all of those but we really care about TFRs, which are defined as: A flight data center (FDC) Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) is issued to designate a TFR. The NOTAM begins with the phrase “FLIGHT RESTRICTIONS” followed by the location of the temporary restriction, effective time period, area defined in statute miles, and altitudes affected. The NOTAM also contains the FAA coordination facility and telephone number, the reason for the restriction, and any other information deemed appropriate. The pilot should check the NOTAMs as part of flight planning.
Some of the purposes for establishing a TFR are:
* Protect persons and property in the air or on the surface from an existing or imminent hazard.
* Provide a safe environment for the operation of disaster relief aircraft.
* Prevent an unsafe congestion of sightseeing aircraft above an incident or event, which may generate a high degree of public interest.

Make sense?  Yep.  Me too.

Below is a sectional for Washington DC.  Again, there is an unholy amount of restricted and prohibited airspace on that chart.  I can’t imagine planning a flight around that area but know it’s possible because I have flown in to DCA in a KingAir.  The pilot was seasoned but man… what a pain.

Midwest helictoper washington-dc-sectional-chart



guimbal31Lots to cover from this class.  There’s  a couple different rotor systems in that picture to the right so we’ll start with that.

There are basically 3 systems that mean something to us, fully articulated, rigid, and semi-rigid.

Fully articulated rotors has blades that are attached to the hub through hinges that let the blade move independently. These rotor systems usually have three or more blades. The Guimbal has an articulated 3 blade rotor.

Rigid rotor system are simpler than a fully articulated rotors. Loads from flapping and lead/lag forces are accommodated through rotor blades flexing, rather than through hinges. These blades are super tough and I think that’s what the redbull helicopters have.

Semi-rigid rotors have two blades that meet just under a common flapping or teetering hinge at the rotor shaft. If you yank down on one end of the blade the other will rise.  R22s have these types of rotors.

We spent some time on flapping and feathering then moved into dissymmetry of lift. The technical definition is Dissymmetry of lift in rotorcraft aerodynamics refers to an uneven amount of lift on opposite sides of the rotor disc. It is a phenomenon that affects single-rotor helicopters in forward flight.

To go a little deeper … When dissymmetry causes the retreating blade to experience less airflow than required to maintain lift, a condition called retreating blade stall can occur. This causes the helicopter to roll to the retreating side and pitch up (due to gyroscopic precession – there is a great video HERE). This situation, when not immediately recognized can cause a severe loss of aircraft controllability. SO you’re about to have a real bad day. Dissymmetry is countered by “blade flapping”: rotor blades are designed to flap – lift and twist in such a way that the advancing blade flaps up and develops a smaller angle of attack, thus producing less lift than a rigid blade would. There is a great video of a hind rotor doing something close.  I’ll look for it, but the short of it is, the retreating blade flaps down and develops a higher angle of attack grabbing more lift.

…might have gone a little deep on rotor systems but it all needs to be said.  I stayed away from flapping and feathering.  I’ll get into that when I snap some pictures of the rotor on the guimbal.


On to safety of flight.

Basically you scan EVERYTHING with a series of short regularly spaced eye movements. Ten degrees every second or so is a good rule of thumb for daytime flying.

We also learned about who has the right of way.  The less control you have in an aircraft the more right of way you have.  Helicopters have lots of control so we yield to most folks.  There is much more to it but for now we’ll stick with that.

Regarding altitude… well, there are more rules around this then I have time to type.  I’m not sure I understand them all yet because you have so many different airspaces.  Which is a nice segue. KCPS, which is where I’m training is a class D, but an extremely busy class D from what I understand.


Controlled airspaces!

This is awesomely confusing and complex. It’s going to take me reading and re-reading to get this down.

Airspace ChartThis is straight from wiki!!

With some exceptions, Class A airspace is applied to all airspace between 18,000 feet (5,500 m) and Flight Level 600 (approximately 60,000 ft). Above FL600, the airspace reverts to Class E. The transition altitude is also consistently 18,000 feet (5,500 m) everywhere. All operations in US Class A airspace must be conducted under IFR. SVFR flight in Class A airspace is prohibited.

Class B airspace is used to control the flow traffic around major airports. The airspace is charted on a VFR Sectional with a series of blue lines. Within these blue lines, the floor and the ceiling of the Class B airspace is defined. The lateral boundaries of Class B airspace are individually tailored to facilitate arriving and departing traffic operating under IFR. Class B airspace extends from the surface to generally 10,000 feet (3,000 m) MSL. In Denver, Colorado and Salt Lake City, Utah, the ceiling is at 12,000 feet (4,000 m) MSL, while in Phoenix, Arizona, the ceiling is at 9,000 feet (3,000 m) MSL.  It is important to always consult your chart for the most current floor and ceiling information. Aircraft must establish two-way radio communication with ATC and obtain a clearance to enter Class B airspace. All aircraft operating inside or within 30 NM of Class B airspace are required to have a transponder with Mode C. The 30 NM Mode C Veil is denoted on VFR charts by a thin magenta line. VFR traffic must remain clear of clouds and maintain 3 SM of visibility while operating within Class B airspace.

Class C airspace is used around airports with a moderate traffic level.

Class D is used for smaller airports that have a control tower. The U.S. uses a modified version of the ICAO class C and D airspace, where only radio contact with ATC rather than an ATC clearance is required for VFR operations.

Other controlled airspace is designated as Class E, this includes a large part of the lower airspace. Class E airspace exists in many forms. It can serve as a surface-based extension to Class D airspace to accommodate IFR approach/departure procedure areas. Class E airspace can be designated to have a floor of 700′ AGL or 1,200′ AGL, or a customized floor of any other altitude. Class E airspace exists above Class G surface areas from 14,500′ MSL to 18,000 MSL. Federal airways from 1,200 AGL to 18,000 MSL within 4 miles (6 km) of the centerline of the airway is designated Class E airspace. Airspace at any altitude over 60,000′ (the ceiling of Class A airspace) is designated Class E airspace.

The U.S. does not use ICAO Class F.

Class G (uncontrolled) airspace is mostly used for a small layer of airspace near the ground, but there are larger areas of Class G airspace in remote regions.


Next up – Airport and heliport markings and maps!

I went to class on Saturday after a flight on Friday and I have to say things are making a bit more sense.

My flying skills are still garbage but at least the theories of flight and how a helicopter stays in the air is actually clicking.

We spoke about the collective for a while -which for some reason eluded me for more than it should have. Basically the collective changes the pitch angle of the main rotor “collectively”. Wiki explains it pretty well, “To increase or decrease overall lift requires that the controls alter the angle of attack for all blades collectively by equal amounts at the same time, resulting in ascent, descent, acceleration and deceleration.”

angle of attackTo really understand that you need to understand angle of attack, which luckily I do.  More details here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angle_of_attack

Back to collective… on the collective there are some other components, a throttle – which is governed, a friction wheel, and the starter.  I never knew the throttle was governed and can’t imagine trying to fly a helicopter without it.  The throttle is a twist grip, it’s how you prime the engine(piston and carb) and warm it up.  It’s the opposite side from a motorcycle but you don’t seem to touch the throttle once you set it.  The governor does everything for you.  The friction wheel doesn’t do too much other than set the friction at which the collective  / throttle operate.

From the first day of class or first flight you hear about pulling power, its as simple as understanding that you pull up on the collective to go up and push down to go down.  The governor matches the throttle to keep the blades at an RPM it likes and voilà… (mostly) Flight!

I am ham-handed on this one, I yank on the collective whenever I feel a little worried about slamming into the earth.  I don’t know how to fix that yet.

So that’s collective.

Next up cyclic.

Cyclic controls the pitch angle of the blades – cyclically or depending on where they are as they spin around the hub. So every blade has the same incidence or angle at the same point in their rotation or cycle. Make sense? Yeah, it took me a while too. There is also this thing called gyroscopic precession but we’ll get into that unholy mess soon… In short, if you pull the cyclic left, the helicopter will roll left, push forward and the nose dips forward. I’m also ham-handing this one and it causes for the ugliest hovers known to man. There is this guy in my class that has it down already at 4 hours and I’m bummed I’m so far away… he probably played a bunch of video games and great hand/eye coordination.  I stopped playing video games when I had my kids 4 years ago.  I knew I shouldn’t have done that. (I mean stopped playing video games… I love my kids.(And my wife))

So that’s cyclic.  Now would be the perfect time to go into the components of the rotor but I’m going to grab some video of that to show what the hub, swash plate, etc…  looks like.  I’ll try to grab a pre-flight with Grant on Wednesday.

Next up pedals.

Md500Pedals or ant-torque pedals control the tail rotor if your helicopter has one.  Most do, except this badass MD500.  I’m going to have to talk my way into McDonnell Douglas to check one out.  That thing is outstanding in everyway possible.  I wonder if there are any in STL.

Anyway, pedals… they control the YAW of the aircraft, so which way your nose is pointed.  Push on one pedal and you go one way, push on the other and you go that way.  Not much to it other than I am beginning to understand that the Guimbal takes alot of pedal to get it where you need it to go.  I think the R22 and R44 take a little less but, each aircraft has it’s own quirks.  When you take off in the Guimbal you shift the cyclic a little to the right and you and input right pedal.

Pedals are the least complicated part in my opinion.

Trim!  I should mention trim.  We just got into in our last flight but it’s exactly what you think it is. You can make tiny corrections or “trim” out the helicopter to they flying conditions you’re currently in.  Those might be wind, weight distribution, etc..  I know it’s a big deal and I’m taking it for granted but if you need to straighten out the helicopter, a few clicks on the little hat on the cyclic and boom, you’re all cleaned up.

So that was a pretty long post on the controls.

I’ll follow up with what we learned about engine components and instruments.  We spoke about Manifold Air Pressure, Ignition (Mag / Plasma), Carbs, Gas, Magnetic Compass, Magnetic Variation, Pitot Tubes, Precession, VFR requirements and a few other odds and ends.  That will be a pretty long post as well… there is a ton of detail on each one of those items.


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.

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

FullSizeRender 37

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
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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