Fuller samples helicopter flying

February 23, 2009

AOPA President & CEO Craig FullerWrapping up his West Coast industry tour, AOPA President Craig Fuller visited the booming Heli-Expo in Anaheim, Calif. The annual convention for the Helicopter Association International seems an oasis of good news among the economic turmoil in so many other parts of aviation. The bustling show was on track to rival last year’s record-breaking attendance of 17,300.

Fuller’s discussions with exhibitors and AOPA members alike reported robust traffic and cautious optimism for the helicopter market, partly a result of the diversity of operations performed by rotorcraft. If one segment contracts, often another expands, softening economic cycles.

AOPA President & CEO Craig FullerFuller, an admitted helicopter enthusiast, “flew” a helicopter in a Flyit simulator. The small simulator provides amazing visual and response fidelity. During his session, Fuller took off, continued straight-and-level, and eventually returned to the airport for a landing; the “helicopter” was deemed usable again.

Robinson Helicopter founder Frank Robinson warned Fuller that fixed-wing pilots make the worst helicopter students because so many control inputs necessary in a helicopter, especially in an emergency, are contrary to those necessary for a fixed-wing pilot. “This could be dangerous,” Fuller declared, “to my wallet. I enjoyed it so much, I may have to now start helicopter lessons.”

Among those Fuller met at the show was Tim McAdams, a longtime helicopter pilot who started flying Robinson R22s before graduating up through the ranks of the largest turbine helicopters and business jets. A 10,000-hour pilot with more than 7,400 of those in helicopters, McAdams is an experienced helicopter instructor and aviation writer. He recently started a new helicopter blog, Hover Power, on AOPA Online. The blog will be updated weekly, and McAdams will be providing weekly news updates from the helicopter industry.