23 October 2009

23 October 2009, Back In Mesa

That's the father of the Robinson Helicopter line... Frank Robinson. He literally built the first R22 in his living room, choosing and maybe modifying every nut, bolt, washer, and flange on the machine. If you compare an R22 today to that first machine, although there have been lots of changes, it's been an "evolution" rather than "revolution" as the helicopter has matured. Most would have difficulty telling the difference between the newest and oldest R22. Frank got it right, straight outta the box.

Folks who know the Robinson line will notice the strange oval hole in the flat back-plate of the machine in the picture above. That's the exhaust for the RR300 turbine in the new R66. The RR300 is an upgrade of the tried-and-true Allison 250, so it will be a reliable power source from the start. It will burn less fuel while providing more horses than the JetRanger powerplant, and since the R44 is already faster than the JetRanger, I suspect the numbers across the ground for the R66 will be very attractive to those looking for a replacement for that bird. Stay tuned.

The school was 3-1/2 days long. Monday and Tuesday were spent in the classroom reviewing history, weather, accidents, systems and limitations, emergency procedures, and performance. We had a great tour of the factory on Monday.

Wednesday morning was devoted to maintenance issues...
What breaks. How it breaks. Why it breaks. How to maintain and use the machine in the safest, most efficient manner.
Wednesday afternoon we fly. You get to climb into the bird you chose when you signed up for the school, either the R22 or R44, and go out with an instructor that most likely is a factory test pilot flying these birds every day. I've been flying Robinsons since 1983 and consider myself proficient in both machines, but these guys make my skills look like chopped liver...
They "put the helicopter on" like you or I put on an old pair of slippers. Got questions about a maneuver? This is the place to be. Ask, and you'll get your question answered, most likely with a practical demonstration.

Our flight lasted an hour and since I was renewing my flight instructor certificate I got to demonstrate "settling with power", hover,
straight-in, and 180 degree autorotations, and a demonstration of an auto starting from an out-of-ground-effect hover. During the flight we talked about zero-G pushovers and why they're to be avoided.

Friday morning, back in the classroom, was spent in review. There was some confusion about starting and shutdown procedures, so the company's chief mechanic was called in to discuss those issues. All questions satisfactorily answered, we took the end of course exam, graded those tests, and got our certificates of completion. (Mine indicates this course is an FAA approved "Flight Instructor Renewal Course" and is the document I'll need to take to my local FAA office next week to get a new CFI certificate headed my way.)

I cannot remember... is this my ninth, or tenth time attending this course? I was asked several times by other students... "Why are you here?" The answer is simple...
I want to stay on top of changes to this machine. If someone has come up with a better way of doing something, I want to know about it. If there are changes happening in the industry, this is one of the first places you'll learn about it. My 3+ days spent here were well worth the effort.

Today? There is a museum over at Falcon Field here in Mesa that I've been threatening to go have a look at since Big Bubba moved here.
I think I'll get that ticket punched, and if I see anything of real interest I'll try to get pictures to show ya later.

So stay tuned.


Anonymous said...

Excellent summary of the Robinson safety course...thanks GB. The auto from out of ground hover sounds hair raising...especially in a low intertia machine. I would love to hear more about that if you are so inclined. Love the helicopter related posts!!


Greybeard said...

Thanks Mark.
Stick around for a while, and as the economy tanks we'll be discussing ways to survive.
You may learn to love more than just the helicopter stuff here!

The out-of-ground-effect engine failure simulation-
Come to a hover at 1000' AGL . Simulate an engine failure by lowering collective and rolling off the throttle.
My instructor Matt wanted me to descend vertically to approximately 500' AGL before initiating recovery, (thereby simulating recovery from the high point on the "Deadman's curve"... the height-velocity diagram). We know rotor RPM wants to decay pretty rapidly upon entry, so you have to be pretty quick about getting the collective down but once entered, the rotor RPM stabilized quickly and was no more difficult to control than on a standard auto as we descended with no forward airspeed. I knew dumping the nose over at 500' AGL would also result in decay of the rotor RPM, (sort of a reverse quickstop), so I anticipated that and reduced the collective as I lowered the nose. We recovered about 300' AGL. All of this was done over the harbor at Long Beach, within reach of one of the beaches there, so just looking around at the surroundings was distracting for this poor Midwesterner!

It's a neat course... I'm assuming you've been?
All should go...
Even the most experienced of helo pilots will learn a BUNCH, and flying the Robbie would be an eye-opener!

Anonymous said...

I haven't been but I have heard from several sources that the course is invaluable and, as you say eye-opening. I think that most pilots would need to change their shorts even thinking about a zero speed auto in an R22...a valuable lesson I'm sure,but in reality they no not likey occur at 1000' AGL. Thank you for the great explanation. I'm staying tuned.


Greybeard said...

You're right in your suggestion that autos... ANY autos in the R22 are a challenge, Mark. Thank God the engines are near-bulletproof so that autos at any speed or altitude are pretty unlikely.
But I think the zero-airspeed@ 1,000 feet auto might surprise you, and there IS a reason for practicing them...
Much or our commercial flying is done with an aerial photographer. Light and wind permitting, we frequently slow the aircraft at altitude to give the cameraman more time to get the right shot. Knowing it's possible to safely autorotate under those conditions is confidence inspiring.

Anonymous said...

Good point in terms of low speed photo flights. There is a video kicking around somewhere taken from a 44 on a photo flight in Australia. I don't rememeber the details but I think she was hovering with a tail wind and lost control. Not an engine failure but shows the dangers of such flights nontheless. Again, if I'm not mistaken, I think that Robinson has a safety bullletin pointing out the dangers of photo flights.