- For the airplane pilot transitioning to helicopters, remind the student that a helicopter is very different from an airplane and much negative transfer is possible if they do not continually remind themselves of which aircraft that they are flying at the time. Helicopters are designed and built to be controllable. Airplanes are designed and built to be stable. Helicopter flight controls are considerably more sensitive than those in an airplane, which can be difficult for a former airplane pilot to adjust to. CFI’s must also explain the aerodynamic effects that must be controlled by the helicopter pilot due to the main rotors’ blade tip speed. [Figure 2-3] The Helicopter Flying Handbook is a good reference for detailed explanations on the calculations of the main rotors’ blade tip speeds and the magnitude of the aerodynamic effects that must be controlled by the helicopter pilot.
- Avoid sudden or violent maneuvers that might make a newcomer to flying nervous. Emphasize how little movement is required on the cyclic and collective controls. This is critical for prior airplane pilots and can be demonstrated by calculating and explaining the blade tip speed to emphasize the magnitude of the aerodynamic effects controlled by a helicopter pilot. Introduce the pedal requirement immediately with short quick inputs rather than slow and long inputs. Demonstrate and point out to the student which part of the body should be used and are necessary in order to achieve the proper input.
- Monitor the student pilot’s hand grip pressure on the flight controls, foot position on the pedals, body posture, and eyes regularly for clues of nervousness, lack of progress, improper reaction to the situation, and situational unawareness.
- Always practice positive transfer of control procedures and acknowledgments. This is particularly important in the early stages of training to instill good habits and safety when either the student or the CFI is on the controls for a long period of time.
- Helicopters are not acrobatic in the general sense. Therefore, positive “G” loads are the normal condition. All good helicopter pilots are smooth flyers because they know smooth flight is good for the machine and passengers/cargo.
- Sudden or violent maneuvering is usually the precursor for main rotor or tail rotor strikes. The helicopter pilot should always be planning the flight path to avoid close, tight situations requiring rapid maneuvering.
The helicopter instructor should be relating the ongoing training to student plans for after they earn their certificates. This encourages learning and help students relate the training to a positive personal goal.
The goals of the first flight should be for the student to recognize flight attitude of the helicopter relative to the horizon and to relate the control inputs necessary to achieve changes in the aircraft’s attitude. On the first flight, acquaint the student with the basic flight instruments, such as the rotor tachometer, engine tachometer, compass, airspeed indicator, altimeter, and power gauge (manifold pressure or torque). Additionally, show the student how the helicopter responds to pedal inputs at a hover versus in forward flight, and how the power changes depending on tail rotor power demands.
The first helicopter flight should be rewarding, and not overwhelming or boring. If possible, one day should be the detailed preflight and prebriefing and the next the regular preflight and actual first flight.
Another item to include on the first flight is the engine cooling time, including the reasons the student sees airplanes come to a full stop and kill the engines immediately, while the helicopter pilot must sit for some minutes before the engine can be shut down. Explain that a helicopter requires relatively more power to hover taxi than an airplane requires to ground taxi. Helicopters require more of their available power to hover so the powerplant is relatively hotter and requires a longer cool-down period. Generally, airplane engines begin to cool during descent to landing and require little or no time to cool down after landing.