“Patting your head and rubbing your stomach whilst hopping on one foot with your eyes closed” – Handling the Hover!
I once had hovering described to me as being able to simultaneously pat my head and rub my stomach whilst hopping on one foot with my eyes closed! I found the initial lessons learning to hover were exhausting due to the concentration involved. I would find myself going home after the lesson and wanting to go straight to sleep!
Learning to hover can be extremely frustrating at times, especially when the instructor would take over and basically do nothing with the controls to make the helicopter do exactly what he wanted it to do! Having said that though, the feeling you get when it finally ‘clicks’ and you are hovering by yourself is one I’ll never forget.
When learning to hover, you’re not just handed over complete control of the helicopter and expected to know what to do. The controls will be introduced one at a time until eventually, you can manage all of them. My instructor first gave me control of the tail rotor pedals in the hover, which control the yaw of the helicopter, or where the nose of the helicopter faces. I found this to be quite easy as long as the helicopter was facing into the wind, and it didn’t take long for him to then introduce the collective as well. The collective controls the power of the helicopter and determines the height of the helicopter above the ground. This was a little more challenging as constant minor adjustments need to be made to ensure the helicopter remains at a constant height above the ground. Lastly, it was time for me to take control of the cyclic as well. The cyclic controls the disc and therefore the attitude of the helicopter. Attitude controls movement of the helicopter horizontally over the ground.
I found that whilst learning to hover, I would tense up so much while concentrating that my knuckles would turn white and no matter how much I tried to tell myself to relax, I would always revert back to the white knuckles. My instructor decided he was going to do something about this, so he stuck his pen in between my fingers and made me hold the cyclic like this so that if I started to squeeze too tightly, it would hurt. It may have been an unconventional method, but it did the trick and forced me to relax.
I can’t stress enough the importance of looking out in the distance whilst learning to hover, as opposed to staring directly in front of you, or at the controls. By doing this, you will be able to notice small attitude changes and correct them before they become an issue.