It feels sooo good to get back to flying helicopters
after nearly 6 months off helping to nurse my wife back to health
following her recent heart transplant. Our first trip out took
us to John Spurling’s fly-in in Westport, OK.
We spent the afternoon and following morning
there and had a great time visiting with many helicopter-oriented
friends. Around noon the following day we pulled out in the motor
home and headed for, Texas, about 100 miles east of Dallas. This
area of Eastern Texas is quite beautiful with a number of lakes
and trees. My students were a father and his two adult sons who
had just completed their new 162F.
We were directed onto the grounds of an incredibly
beautiful estate that sits right on the shore of Lake Tyler. We
set up the motor home at one of several RV hook-up locations and
settled in for the night.
The following morning Steve and I began the airworthiness
inspection that I always perform prior to flying any home built
helicopter. This one was very well built with the help of Darrold
Crawford, one of the professional builders that assists in the
construction of new Rotorway kits.
See More photos under Graduates
I was unable to find anything that needed fixing,
and that is unusual. Within several hours of entering the hanger,
we were firing up the engine and initiating our first training
This trip was unique in that I was simultaneously
instructing 3 students in the same helicopter, none of them had
ever had any training in rotorcraft of any type. The training
went well but we shortly realized that the water pump seal was
developing a leak that made the helicopter unsafe to fly. A call
to the Rotorway factory and a brand new pump was sent out overnight
so that by noon the next day we were able to resume our flight
The training progressed as planned and on our
tenth day, Sunday, Steve, Bret, and Brian all soloed their helicopter.
After our celebration feast Sheila and I packed
up the motor home and headed off towards home in the Missouri
We were home for one day while we repacked and
then headed off for South Dakota. Sheila stayed there with her
family and I headed off to Michigan to provide several days of
Advanced flight training for my student Joe Blair in Saginaw.
This would be my third trip to Joe's home, the first was to provide
hover training, the second trip was phase II altitude and auto
See More Joe Blair photo under Cool Rotorway Stuff
The airworthiness inspection revealed several
airworthiness items that we took care of that first day. Everyone
should be sure to do a proper pre-flight inspection before you
fly your helicopter. Joe had been flying this 162f for a number
of hours and just prior to my arrival he experienced his first
auto. While flying at his local airport, the engine quit as the
entire electrical system shut down.
It turned out that the wire bundle that went
up near the inertia switches in front of the main rotor had been
rubbing on the sharp edge of the switch bracket causing a dead
short. This blew fuses and tripped breakers while simultaneously
shutting down the electrical to the fuel pumps; hence, engine
The items that we discovered on my first inspection
of Joe's ship were items that a proper and thorough preflight
inspection will find. On the anti-torque pedal linkage viewed
from the front inspection panel, we found two of the rod end jamb-nuts
had backed off and were no longer locking the steel rod-end threads
against the softer aluminum shank that they thread into. There
were some other wires that needed securing and that took only
a few minutes.
The horizontal stabilizers were loose and had
fore-aft movement that required that the nuts on the spar through-bolts
be tightened properly. We also found that the anti-torque pitch
control cable that runs through the tail boom was quite loose
and was in danger of interfering with the tail rotor power belts.
Once those items were addressed and fixed, we
found that the engine adjusting bolt jamb-nut had backed completely
off. All of the jamb nuts on your helicopter have the function
of locking the steel threads of the bolt or rod end into the threads
of the item that the rod end or bolt is threaded into. Without
the jamb nut snugly in place, the threads can work against each
other causing wear and eventual failure which could be catastrophic
should the failure occur in flight.
The last item that we found was with the two
steel tangs that ride up and down on the main rotor shaft and
inside of the doughnut shaped ring that is on the main shaft just
above the main thrust bearing . When the collective was in the
full up position the tangs came all the way up to the very top
of the doughnut ring with none of the tang left inside. If this
should come out during flight, most likely while initiating an
autorotation recovery, the main rotors could lock in full-up pitch
on the main rotor blades with less than desirable results.(See
the Control button under hints and tips).
The last item that we found was that the male
end on the wire that fits into the fuel pump had come out of the
socket. It is not visible due to the rubber cap that covers the
wire and the fuel pump fitting.
Once we had the airworthiness items fixed we
commenced with Joe's initial flight training.
Now I was at Joe's for the third time and this
time we would be doing his cross-country training as well as other
advanced maneuvers training. See the Cool Rotorway Stuff area
for a photo dialog of this flight.
I had never been to this part of the country
in the fall and found that it was quite beautiful, though very
chilly. Fortunately Joe
had just finished the doors and we put them to good use.
After several days of take-offs, departures,
approaches, and flight maneuvers, we planned a 280 mile cross
country trip from Saginaw up to Joe’s main residence in Traverse
We had put enough hours on the helicopter that
it was now due for the 50 hour maintenance so we got out the manuals
and performed all of the items on the check list. It took several
hours and we now had a helicopter ready for a serious cross-country
The morning was crisp and clear when we departed
Saginaw/Brown airport. As we skirted to the East of the city of
Saginaw to our right was Saginaw Bay, a part of Lake Huron. The
view was breath-taking with the vivid splash of yellows, oranges,
and reds that painted the fall landscape below us. I had heard
of the must-see fall colors of Michigan but had never expected
to see entire forests engulfed in them.
We made our mid trip refueling stop in Houghton
Lake, Michigan and found out that there is a Rotorway helicopter
based there. Taking off we headed north to avoid the restricted
areas around Camp Grayling and followed interstate 75 until it
intersected with highway 72 heading West. We like to keep emergency
landing areas within reach as much as is possible so by staying
near roads in heavily forested areas, we kept our options open.
As we arrived at Traverse City on the shores
of Lake Michigan we were directed to air taxi behind a parked
airliner and on to Harbor Air, the local FBO where we were met
by Joe's wife Dee. It was a short drive to their absolutely gorgeous
Victorian home where Dee broiled Salmon with all of the trimmings
for our lunch.
With the helicopter and crew adequately fueled
we launched to the North and flew along the sandy beach of Lake
Michigan. It was another gorgeous flight back to Houghton Lake
where we refueled. As we entered the FBO we were met with the
distinct odor of smoked salmon. The FBO manager had just pulled
two large trays of smoked salmon out of his smoker and of course
we enjoyed some free samples.
On the last leg of the trip we flew directly
out to the shore of Lake Huron and then followed the shoreline
just offshore, what a view. As the sun was getting low on the
horizon, we did an autorotation back to the runway of Browne airport
and put the helicopter to bed for the winter.
I am often asked how I can fly in a helicopter that someone else
built. The answer is: as long as the maintenance is performed
as directed in the manuals, and a proper pre-flight is performed
to insure that the helicopter is airworthy and safe to fly, I
can have confidence that the helicopter will perform as it was
designed to do.
Check your helicopter out thoroughly, fly safe,
and enjoy those great flying machines
Rotorcraft Helicopter Certified Flight Instructor