Rotorcraft Rookie: A new beginning

A fixed-wing pilot turns to a fling-wing

November 8, 2013

All smiles after the helicopter intro flight.

They say helicopters don’t fly. They simply beat the air into submission. I hope to find out if there’s any truth to this and the dozens of other popular helicopter idioms. Because truth be told, when it comes to rotorcraft, I’m a dolt.

I recently began my rotorcraft add-on. I expect it to be a learning opportunity, a new way to experience aviation, and most of all, a lot of fun. I’ve always been an airplane guy. The posters in my room were of airplanes, I built model airplanes, and I jumped off my bed as a kid trying to imitate an airplane. How someone would do this imitating a helicopter, I have no idea. But even as I’ve gained experience in other areas in aviation, flying helicopters has always been elusive. People say it’s too expensive and too hard. I’ve known only a handful of helicopter pilots and only one of them has ever offered me a ride. And I think my total helicopter flight time has been about 20 minutes, always in the back seat. Helicopters have always felt like aviation’s secret sector to me.

So recently I walked in to Advanced Helicopter Concepts at the Frederick Municipal Airport in Frederick, Md., and asked for an intro flight. Over the next hour we went over the basics of the preflight and did a quick out-and-back of the local area. Then we came back in to do some rudimentary hovering, and I was forever hooked. It was easily the most fun I’ve had in an aircraft in years.

For a week afterward I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I immediately signed up for lessons. ASA sent me one of their helicopter kits and I was on my way. As I write this I have a grand total of 1.4 hours in a helicopter and I’m obsessing about each new lesson like it’s the first time I’ve been in the air.

Over the next few months we’ll be chronicling my progress. No doubt many fixed-wing pilots think about flying helicopters but know nothing of the process or the knowledge areas that are covered. We’ll be addressing some of the basic concepts and getting into some detail on what happens during the lessons.

Next time: The Robinson R22.