Updated: Jan 16, 2020
First day its 6:00 am and there is no sun, wet grass and heavy-set clouds. Man, I was excited, and I had no idea what to expect. I walk up to the second-floor office and Eric was there to greet me. His breakfast of choice, as I learned over the course of training, is a fruit breakfast bar and his coffee. Do not ask him a question before his cup of coffee.
We went over all the paperwork I was requested to bring (credit card, driver’s license and passport). I was then told about the study guides and logbook I needed. I was not ready for that. I had brought a notebook and pen but was thinking it was like public school and everything was provided. Eric reminded me this is a trade school and you should read up on your trade, but that I do need a logbook to record training hours and endorsements. I purchased the training materials and logbook and we proceeded to the classroom.
The first thing we need to discuss is the aircraft you will be training in. If you were ever able to catch the move “Full Metal Jacket”, the first part of the description of the aircraft was very similar:
“This is your aircraft, (Robinson R22 Beta II) there are many like it but this one is mine.”
“My aircraft is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life.”
Little did I know how much that I would need to heed this warning in my later lessons but for now I was getting over the fact I was being taught how to fly.
As a kid, I watched all the military helicopter training and fighter pilot movies (“Top Gun”, “Iron Eagle”, “Firebirds” and “Airwolf”). I also put in quite a few hours playing fighter pilot video games, I figured with this intensive prep work I was going to do better than average. I was told it requires a minimum of 40 hours to get your helicopter private pilot license. I was so cocky I asked Eric what I do if I am ready before then. Eric just looked at me, I was mentally un-prepared for what was to come. Not that Eric had not gone over the material but that I had not listened, assumed I already knew, and that this was going to be a formality. Between being cocky and wondering how I was going to compare to the movie legends I was delusional.
Having covered the required R22 preflight instruction, being given a basic understanding of how the controls in the aircraft worked and the steps to pass control of the aircraft between the student and the instructor we headed out to the aircraft to do a preflight. Eric and I entered the hangar where we met the head mechanic Don. Don and I had a brief discussion about what the hardest part of flight was going to be in a helicopter. He said it was to keep a helicopter hovering. I asked how many lessons it takes and was again cocky enough to challenge the norm and state I could beat the 7-10 lesson average.
Preflight of an aircraft can take 30 minutes or more. “WHAT?!? That is a long time and I must do this every time I fly?” I think by this point Eric was ready to get some sense knocked into me as we completed the very lengthy preflight checklist and rolled the aircraft out to the helipad for takeoff.
Let me just state for the record that the R22 is a small 2 seater helicopter. I am larger than the average individual which is how Eric and I got paired up with in the beginning. Did I mention this is still the summer and a new surprise was the lack of doors we were taking on our first flight. Once again, I was presented with the startup procedures checklist. It’s much shorter than preflight, but you cannot skim this list. You must read both sides of the list to make sure you are doing it correctly.
It was hard to believe what the helicopter sounded like as I started it up for the first time. The engine sounds just like a sturdy farm tractor engine that will run steady the entire time it is on. Key thing to note about helicopters is they make fuel use extremely predictable as the engine maintains the same speed on the blades for the entire flight.
Then, we engaged the clutch. . .