Wings of the Tern Blog

April 11, 2010

The Great Equalizer

Filed under: Current Posting — wingsofthetern @ 4:42 pm

On page 46 of my book (Hitch Hiking Chapter) I talk about hovering a helicopter for the first time as being the great equalizer.  “On the first attempt to hover, a new student pilot and a 20,000 hour Airline Captain would be reduced to the same level of ineptitude.”

This statement came from a home video that I was once shown of an actual attempt by a 20,000 hour Airline Captain to fly a helicopter without the aid of a flight instructor.  The gentleman in question, apparently felt that after flying for so many years, that he could fly anything.  He purchased a Hughes 500 helicopter and attempted to take it up by himself.  I guess he wanted to record this fact, so he had a friend video the flight.

For a second or two after raising up to a hover, the helicopter looked to be under control.  Then the gyrations began.  First the nose went one way, then the other.  Some up and down motions began and pretty soon, even the level attitude control was lost.  In about 45 seconds of flight, the helicopter was on the deck and on its side, all busted up.  It was fortunate, that this guy choose a Hughes 500, because that aircraft had a great record of protecting its pilot in crashes.  It was a costly lesson on humility for this particular pilot.

In Army flight school, they told us that it was their experience, that it would (on the average) take an airplane pilot an hour longer to learned to fly a helicopter over someone that had no flight experience at all.  That was because it would take that first hour for an airplane pilot to learn that he had to start all over again.

My Army flight instructor thought that I was an exception to this rule, but I never let him know that years before I had experienced that first eye opening attempt to hover and thus was already prepared to start learning the new coordination skills of flying a helicopter.

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