Capt. Neil’s Flying Days: Zero to Hero – Going Solo for the First Time
I remember my first flight in a helicopter like it was yesterday. The Robinson R22 was the training school’s primary machine and they operated 4 of them at that time. I was introduced to my instructor and given a comprehensive briefing about how all the controls worked and of course how to remain safe during the flight lesson.
As a young (18 year old) Lad – it was an hour full of adrenaline which has stayed with me right through the following years. It wasn’t long before I was starting my own training towards my PPL (H) – I am not from a wealthy family and so had to fund all of my flying myself. I sought employment at my flight school and began working as a “hangar lad” cleaning and fuelling the helicopters (among many other duties) in order to fund this dream.
I would chat to the instructors (probably annoying them) during their breaks so I could learn as much about the way the machines worked and how to fly them as I could so that my hard earned money might stretch a few hours further, the first handful of hours in the machine was both inspiring and frustrating and at times I was left wondering if I would ever get the hang of flying the R22. It seemed no matter how much I concentrated there was always something else the Instructor was pointing out that I had missed.
It was hard work to learn and retain the information I needed – such as emergency procedures; of course vital knowledge should you need it. Every time I felt I was struggling we would get in the helicopter and the previous manoeuvre/exercise I had been learning seemed more straight forward, Perhaps it was all starting to make some sense at last.
I had about 20 hours in my log book and had been flying round the circuit pattern with my Instructor – Practising all the exercises I had done so far. When he asked me to land (something I had done dozens of times before), he opened his door and announced he was bored and getting out! I was to go and fly around the circuit on my first solo!
To this day I remember laughing out loud whilst I flew the R22 helicopter round the airfield circuit on my first solo, looking at the empty seat next to me. On returning to the hangar and shutting down, my co-workers (who clearly had all known this might happen) were there to congratulate me. Now I knew I was going to enjoy learning to fly and had made the right decision.
If you are having any problems, doubts or worries about any part of your training course the first thing to do is discuss it with your instructor or Head of Training. They have been where you are and will understand what you are feeling. At Flying Pig & Elstree Helicopters we are also lucky enough to have a Student Liaison and Manager who is dedicated to make your flying journey as smooth as possible. Other resources you may want to tap into are perhaps a fellow student or pilot at your flying school. Our bi-weekly Ground School is a great opportunity to discuss your training. The important thing is to talk to someone about it: “A problem shared is a problem halved.”