Flying through

Monday, 27 September 2010

Eurocopter Innovations X-3

This is the new Eurocopter X3 - high-speed, hybrid long range helicopter. It has two turboshaft engines and a 5 blade main rotor, with two propellers installed on short-span fixed wings.
They have done a test flight and it has reached 180 knots. They are aiming for 220 knots.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Alan Mann Open Day

Alan Mann had an open-day this week to let the world know they are still there (there have been lots of Pprune rumours) and bursting with new ideas.
They still have the Bell 47, they have now also got a Schweizer 300 for training and they have R44s, a Bell 407, a JetRanger, Agusta 109, plus a Twin Squirrel and a simulator for IR training.
Alan Mann is now merged with Fast Helicopters (Thruxton and Shoreham,) Sterling Helicopters at Norfolk and Skydrift, a jet company also in Norfolk. They are now opening at weekends as well as during the week, and lobbying the airfield to try and get a R22.
And they still have the Bell 47, (did I say that already?) for which Alan Mann has always been so famous.
They say their doors are always open for anyone to drop in, so go and visit their base in Fairoaks.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

EFIS on the Cessna 172

Today I did my fixed wing instructor renewal. Normally I fly the Tiger Moth, so it was a bit of a shock to fly the Cessna 172 with EFIS. However, it was great - someone designed that very well and it is extremely user friendly. I only fly 50 or 60 hours a year on aeroplanes (compared to some 300 - 400 on helicopters) so any aeroplane is a novelty to me, but I found the whole EFIS system easy to understand and use, and in fact, with the enormous artifical horizon in front of you, it was actually easier to do instrument flying...
I am thinking that the new Sikorsky X-2, with its recent speed of 250 knots in cruise flight, will now also use EFIS or some varient of it, and it will be no problem to change to using it instead of analogue instruments. I really look forward to the day when that will be available for us (journalists/pilots) to fly. OK 250 knots is nothing in an aeroplane but in a helicopter there is something exciting about the extremes - from a fast speed to nothing and all in the air.

Friday, 10 September 2010

You learn a lot from students

As an instructor you never know how much a student understands or remembers what you say. But sometimes they show you in quite dramatic fashion. Yesterday a student of mine was starting the 300 ready to go off solo. He is a high time student, has already completed his Qualifying Cross Country and is someone who understands engines and technical matters. However, when he started the engine he inadvertently left the throttle slightly open, the engine started and then began to surge as the rpm soared and was reduced by the starting governor. After a few surges the helicopter gave a huge back-fire and the engine cut out. The poor student was totally bemused, but this would not have happened if he had started the engine with the throttle closed, or closed it when the governor started to cut in. He won't make that mistake again.
Interestingly, another instructor was standing nearby and he suggested a new starting technique after this kind of problem. He said, don't prime, mixture fully in and start it as though it was a carburettor engine, instead of fuel injected. It worked.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Flying the Bell 429 with Henry Wilson

I flew the Bell 429 just after Farnborough. What a brilliant powerful machine that is. It feels like a JetRanger but it is a twin, has FADEC and, of course, has bags more power - flying it you feel like you can do anything.
Bell took a long time to bring out the 429 because they were asking pilots, mechanics, engineers and owners exactly what they wanted in a new helicopter. The result was this composite body helicopter with four blades, very unusual in a Bell, and a four blade scissor tail-rotor, which makes it a lot quieter than most helicopters of its size, while not reducing the manoeuvrability. There are a lot of special features too, for example the fuel system which allows all four tanks to flow into both engine, so even if you lose one engine you won't find yourself running out of fuel on the other engine! For the full test flight have a look at my article in Helicopter Life magazine.
And if you get a chance to fly it - grab it, you definitely will not regret it.