The objective of the first flight lesson is to determine the student’s motivation and goals and introduce the student to:
- Training procedures
- The helicopter
- Local flying area and prominent landmarks
- The relationship between control inputs and aircraft attitude
The introduction to training procedures offers the certificated flight instructor (CFI) an opportunity to better ascertain the student’s experience and background, which influence training. At this time, the CFI explains the general safety procedures, lay out of the school, the course syllabus and how it is used. This includes how, when, and where instruction will take place. The CFI also discusses the role of preflight and postflight briefings in the training program, as well as how he or she monitors the student’s progress. Additionally, the introduction to training should be used to determine the student’s motivation for flight training and learn what their goals are. By understanding what the student would like to gain through flight training, the CFI will be better prepared to tailor their training plan to the needs of the student.
Introduction to the Helicopter
Walking the student through a preflight provides an excellent opportunity to introduce or review the main components of the helicopter. [Figure 2-1] Refer the student to the Helicopter Flying Handbook for in-depth information on the rotor systems, landing gear, and flight controls. During the discussion, the CFI should demonstrate how to enter and exit the helicopter properly while the rotors are turning. This is also a good time to explain or review:
- General helicopter hazards, such as main and tail rotor blades. A simple demonstration of how low main rotor blades can droop is possible by manually pulling down on the tip of a static blade. In aircraft equipped with retractable droop stops, the CFI must explain that actual droop can be greater once the stops retract with greater rotor revolutions per minute (rpm). Ensure that all demonstrations comply with restrictions found in the appropriate rotorcraft flight manual.
- Emergency egress.
- Foreign object damage (FOD) hazards associated with items, such as hats, jackets, and loose paperwork.
- Seat belt use at all times during flight.
- Proper wear and use of the headset.
- Proper sitting posture and position of the hands and feet.
- Positive exchange of controls procedures and acknowledgments.
- The see-and-avoid concept.
- The clock method of reporting aircraft and other hazards to flight to the other crewmember.
- The need for clothing suitable for the location and weather. It is always good practice to have sufficient clothing for walking back to the starting point. Helicopters can readily take a pilot far beyond populated areas. The pilot should always have enough resources to survive or to wait for a repair crew to arrive, in case of emergency. (Please refer to Chapter 12, Helicopter Emergencies.)
- Suitable eye protection, such as good sunglasses to protect the eyes from harmful rays that produce cataracts in later years. Helicopters admit much more sunlight than almost any other aircraft, due to the bigger bubble or cockpit plexiglas area and chin window areas. Additionally, many helicopters fly with the doors off in warmer climates, thereby exposing the student’s eyes to much more radiation.
- Seat and pedal adjustment in the helicopter to achieve full control travel.
- Headset and commonly used noise-canceling microphone function, so that the headset and microphone can be properly fitted and adjusted. The student should know how to adjust the volume of the headset and be able to understand the instructor and radios through the headset. If a voice-activated intercom is installed, the student should be taught what the squelch control function does and how to adjust it when necessary. Headsets not utilized should be disconnected and stowed away to prevent unwanted noise and reduce the risk of FOD. Also, loose items such as seatbelts, bags, jackets, hats, and flight publications should be stowed.
- Controls and buttons located on the cyclic and collective. Most of this preflight instruction should be done in as quiet a location as possible before engine start. After engine start, student perceptions will probably be overloaded quickly with new experiences and sensations from their first helicopter flight. Effective instruction would have the ground instructor bringing the class out to the helicopter after every lesson to have them locate, examine, and describe the function of each part described in that lesson. The students should be able to explain the relationship between a component of the helicopter and the aerodynamics requiring that component.
The importance of good prebriefings can never be overstated. In almost every case, if the student does not learn from the briefing what is expected and the contents of the flight lesson for that day before going to the helicopter, then that student will not learn after getting into and starting the helicopter. Instructors forget that the new student pilot is constantly barraged by new information. Newly experiencing the sights, sounds, vibrations, and other sensory inputs of helicopter flight, the beginning student has great difficulty understanding and remembering what the instructor says. If the instructor merely reinforces what the student learned in the classroom, the student is more likely to recall the instructions and procedures for the maneuvers amid the new experiences.
Likewise, during the prebriefing, the student should be introduced to the flying area. The time required for a review of the chart to be used depends on the experience level of the student and when charts and maps were taught during the training. The instructor should also remember that the student may not remember as well if the student is always on the flight controls. The instructor may need to relieve the student of the flight controls for a few moments near each boundary marker or checkpoint for the student to have time to fully absorb the view and relate the sight to the chart or map being used.
If the student has airplane experience, the instructor should be aware of negative transfer of airplane skills to helicopter flying. The first flight should set the stage for the remainder of the flight course. A shorter flight is always better than a long flight. If the student becomes warm or hot, the likelihood of airsickness is greater. Some students have an aversion to heights, which can be overcome by determination and gradual exposure.
The instructor has the duty always to give the student just enough—just enough encouragement, or just enough challenge for that stage of training, or just enough critique— for the student to learn but not to discourage. The instructor should always have enough understanding of the student’s progress to discuss the student’s problems and explain how or why the error is occurring and what corrective or different action to take to have a better outcome. Especially on the ground, the instructor should always strive for the student to comprehend, not just remember and perform by rote memorization.