Flight 26 – SOLO XC! – Part 38

It’s about 80, winds are light and variable, I have 34-ish hours and today I get to fly to another airport. ALONE. I’ve been looking forward to this since I soloed. I’ve been stuck in the pattern for a few weeks. Don’t get me wrong the pattern is better than nothing… between flying the worst most annoyingly crowded pattern on the hottest day in the most uncomfortable helicopter and not flying at all, I choose the pattern. And actually I shouldn’t bag on the pattern, it teaches you how to interact with the tower, other newbs and if you get worried or screw something up the airport is, conveniently, right below you.

Grant and I flew to KFES just the other day, the weather is almost identical so it should be fairly uneventful. After doing the flight plan I got some fuel and ran through the pre-flight and startup checklist. For the first time I lost my place on the checklist(not really but first time in a while) and forgot to do something. Another student pilot came up and asked me a question, I answered and went back to what I was doing, wait, what was I doing? After turning on the fuel pump, flipping the switches for the magneto and plasma I cleared my tail rotor and pushed the starter button. It tried to start but nothing. I pushed it again, nothing. Huh. This is a brand new helicopter. Niner-Mike-Hotel has like 30 hours on it. What gives. Grant must have been lurking behind me somewhere in the shadows because he was right there asking me what I broke. I said he was the last one to fly it so it is likely his fault. He saw the issue in about a 1/2 a second… Checklists are important. Lesson learned. When you get interrupted, go back up to the top of the list or you’ll look like a dummy in-front of your instructor.

I fired up, we went to the other ramp and I made a really bad call to the tower. So bad that I cut it out of the video. Ugh. If only there were some way to learn how to talk to the tower without having to actually talk to the tower. Email me if you have any suggestions. Anyway, I got up and out without an issue. I followed my flight plan, what little there was and made my calls at 10, 7, 5, 3 and 1 mile out. I know, overkill. There wasn’t anyone around except a little ultralight up there with me so the run to FES was really pretty low key. It went by so fast. I made my approach, and was back on my way north in about 20 minutes.

There wasn’t anything remarkable about the flight other than I was doing it alone and it was probably the best feeling in the world to fly a helicopter 25 miles away from home. I wish it could have lasted longer, infact I slowed it down to around 60 knots in some parts just to enjoy the view a bit more. Amazing. This doesn’t get old. How much trouble would I get in for liberating this helicopter and taking it to Mexico? Alot. Jail forever.

The approach back to KCPS was pretty uneventful too. I got right in to the runway I wanted and landed without much grace. I still need work on setting down. I don’t exactly know where my skids are.

So, what are the key take-aways from this flight?

Well, that Ultralight surprised me, even though he was pretty far away – he was flying directly opposite my heading. We were probably 1000ft or more away from each other and had a small separation in altitude. Everything was well within the standards… I heard his call and he heard mine. I announced myself on the radio a few more times than I had to knowing that it was a pretty nice day and someone would be up there with me…

The other take away is the checklist. Not sure how I managed to forget to turn the fuel on but it’s all a learning experience at this point. Repetition, repetition, repetition. It’s easy to get distracted and forget something.

I have some more solo time in the pattern in this stage, then it’s on to my long solo. After my long solo and I have 10 hours of PIC I get to learn a few more things that I’m looking forward to. Slope landings, confined landings, putting yourself into settling with power and a few other odds and ends.

So that’s it. Another hour in the books brings me to 35. I’m studying hard for the written and should be taking that soon…