Learning to Fly Helicopters (6) ‘General Flight Test, and dreams’

Posted on October 17, 2015

It is our dreams that sustain us, and carry us forwards

Learning to Fly Helicopters

Ch.6 General Flight Test and Beyond

The Great Day had dawned.

The written exams were all passed. The required flight hours and training had been accomplished. There remained only the GFT. The General Flight Test. That I would be flying with the Chief Instructor and owner of the school, Floyd. If I passed, I would be a licensed Private Helicopter Pilot, and a dream would have come true. I was excited. I was mostly worried about those autorotations. The auto-tribulations. But I reasoned that Floyd had a huge amount of experience, and that he was not going to frighten me too much. I was sure he would give me plenty of warning. I liked it all… steady. Under control.

When the actual hour was upon me, I was fairly calm. Floyd, from his side, was very pleasant, smiling, and seemed to be trying to put me at ease. I started her up, and soon we were doing ground maneuvers. That was okay. I liked them. Backwards, sideways. Turns to the left, turns to the right. Quick stops. You pretend you’re taking off, you accelerate, and go faster and faster. Then, simulating an emergency, or maybe a wire appearing, you firmly lower collective, flare, and STOP. I did okay. I liked those. Floyd seemed happy.

“Fly me a circuit, Francis!”

Sure, I can do that, I thought. I was beginning to feel confident. I lined up obediently, accelerated, and started to climb out. We were passing through two hundred feet, when, all of a sudden…


The throttle was slammed HARD SHUT. A classic -vicious- “throttle chop”, simulating a complete and total instant engine failure. The nose yawed viciously left…
ENTER AUTOROTATION! DO THE DRILL…! Where are we going?? Straight for some trees! That won’t do. Hard autorotational turn LEFT! Go for that field! FLARE! Pull in the power!…
I had pulled it off, but I was shaking. My own vegetarian soft talking Instructor had never given me such a vicious, low level, total failure. We would always do a verbal one-two-three count beforehand, to make sure we were both on the same page. What I had just experienced, was a new one. I was shaken. I had done okay, but it had drained me a bit.
I looked at Floyd. He, for his part, was grinning like a maniac. HE thought it was funny.

The tone was set for the rest of the GFT. Autorotations, left, right, and center. Including a nice little party piece. Heading straight out over a swamp.
“Francis, do you see that lake over there in the distance?”
“Errr… yes, I do.”
“Do you see the Gas Station beside it…?”
“Errr… ” I peered hard into the distance, eyes straining. “Errr… No, I can’t say that I do, Floyd.”
WHAMMO! Throttle slammed hard shut AGAIN!
A triumphant I-got-you voice over the intercom: “That’s funny, neither can I!”
(thinks: Now where am I going for? There is SWAMP everywhere! Okay, do a one-eighty autorotational turn BACK to where we came from). All this, decided in split seconds.

GFT’s with Floyd, it seemed, were good for your autos, bad for your NERVES. We went through the entire syllabus. He was thorough, and I felt well wrung out by the time we were finished. When I climbed out, I realized for the first time that I was soaked in perspiration.
But the deed was done. He told me I had passed. Unbelievable. I had passed as a licensed Private Pilot Helicopters!
There was quite a crowd assembled now, and there were a lot of smiles, some clapping and a few cheers. I was so happy, my guard, foolishly, was down.
“Are you hot, Francis?” Somebody asked solicitously. A beer magically appeared. Relieved, I stretched a hand forth to accept the gift… then… some memory stirred.
I froze…

TOO LATE! A blast of cold water, as the hose was turned on.


* * * * *

Two days later, I was on the long, transatlantic flight back home, clutching precious bits of paperwork. My brain was in a whirl.
I liked helicopters… the thought was on my mind to carry on. Go and get my Commercial License. But it was expensive. Money was going to be a problem. I sighed…

How nice it would have been to maybe get a Flight instructor’s rating on Helicopters. It would be really interesting to teach the Art. I had enjoyed teaching Fixed Wing Flying, and Taildragger conversions, aerobatics and biplanes. To instruct helicopter flying would be yet another fascinating skill to add to the rest. It was a nice thought, but also heavily problematical. Cash. Lack of. How the seemingly unattainable tantalizes the imagination.

I ordered myself a celebratory drink from the bar. Then I sat back and dreamed. And dreamed. I shut my eyes, and imagined an exciting future. Soon I was fast sleep. Little did I know what adventures lay ahead.

The triumphs, the heartaches, the heart-in-mouth moments.

Soft sunrises, on quiet airfields. And vicious storms all around, coloring the onboard flight display solid red. Water spouts and down drafts, system failures and human conundrums.

Satisfaction, joy, and disappointment. Bewilderment, even. It was all still to come.

But for now, I slept. One task, one small step, well accomplished.

Scribbling Moggy

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Last edited by Francis Meyrick on November 16, 2015, 4:53 pm

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