The buttons below will take you to many true stories of my experiences flying helicopters, both certified and experimental.

Click on the buttons below to read the stories under each heading.

In the Beginning

When Stu Fields gave me a call a few days ago explaining his plans for a helicopter oriented newsletter that will include information about a number of small helicopters, he got my attention. Since there is not a publication of this sort being produced I feel that there will be a lot of interest in it and I for one am looking forward to receiving it. Stu asked me to write an article for the premiere publication and I hope that there will be more editions in the future. It is expensive and time consuming to publish a newsletter of this type so lets all spread the word so that there will be enough subscriptions to make this project a viable one.

First, let me introduce myself. My name is Orv Neisingh and I love helicopters of all kinds. I have always been involved in instructing in one venue or another because I thoroughly enjoy helping others learn new skills. My teaching career began when I became a Drill Instructor for the US Army in 1971. After that I became a high school biology and chemistry teacher which I thoroughly enjoyed. I am now a commercial helicopter pilot and certified flight instructor for helicopters.

We have our own training facility here in Missouri and I also travel all over the country to teach folks to fly their own helicopters which include all models of Rotorways, Hillers, Enstroms, Robinsons, Hughes, Bells, Brantlys, and Schweizers to date.

I have been involved in small helicopters for a number of years. It all started with those adds in the back of Popular Science for the Rotorway Scorpion helicopters many years back. Each time I would see that add I would imagine myself lifting off from my back yard in my very own personal helicopter. As time passed and my financial situation matured I began to think seriously about the Rotorway Exec kits that were available.

I finally made the big decision and purchased a partially built Exec that needed a lot of work. After stripping it down to the frame, removing all of the paint, and then repainting and building it according to the manuals that came with it, I had what I considered a very nice helicopter. The next step was to learn to fly it.

The photo below was taken after my wife Sheila and I landed at Orland California after a 100 mile flight from our home. We were attending a meeting of the Sierra Rotorcraft Club that weekend. At that time we did not have the option for dual ignition on the Rotorway Exec 152 so if one system quit, the engine quit.

An initial call to the factory and I was scheduled to attend phase one (hover) flight training at their factory flight training school. Now being an experienced fixed wing pilot and on my third airplane by that time, I was sure that I was going to amaze the Rotorway staff with how rapidly I would catch on to and master flying their training helicopter.

After my first 45 minute session with my instructor, I was devastated. I could not make that little helicopter do anything except go totally out of control. All the instructor seemed to be doing was keeping us from crashing as I abused that little Exec by slinging it this way and that across the tarmac. After that first flight I told my wife, “I don’t think that I can do this, it just seems impossible to control”. Welcome to Humility 101! I quickly learned that flying a helicopter was the most challenging and difficult skill that I had ever attempted to master.

Well, the week at the factory flight training school progressed and by the time Friday had rolled around all 4 students had amassed a whole 6 hours of flight instruction each in the factory trainer. At the school with me for phase one flight training were Walter and Dave Domanske, who each owned an Exec and who now produce the Kiss kit for the Jet Exec. I was endorsed for solo hover with six hours in helicopters in my log book, was I ever jazzed!

We returned home and out came my pride an joy, I was going to finally fly my own helicopter! The factory at that time recommended that us new “test pilots” take several precautions when lifting our new helicopters into the air for the first time. Now remember that my helicopter had never before been flown, and now a student pilot with only six hours of instruction became a test pilot on that never before flown machine. This was a recipe for disaster and all too often that is what came out of the oven.

The factory folks told us to tether the helicopter to the ground by tying ropes to the upper part of the frame near the swashplate and then going down to anchor points on the ground at a 45% angle on each side of the helicopter. I did this and left the required 6" of slack in the ropes to allow the helicopter to become airborne, but not too high. At only six hours total helicopter flight time I was ill prepared for hovering my new helicopter but I was too inexperienced to know it. I strapped into the pilot seat and went through my pre-start check list- all was in order. The engine started just like is was supposed to and after the proper warm up I brought the rotors up to speed. Funny, I didn't remember the factory helicopters shaking as much as mine did, perhaps it was just my nervousness that caused me to feel the vibrations more intently. At that point in my flying career I had never heard of dynamically balancing the rotor system.

Well, no time like the present, I told myself as I slowly began to lift the collective lever. Oh, one more point that the factory had either neglected to tell me or I just forgot, the helicopter picks up totally differently with only one person on board and of course, solo flight means one person. As I added collective and the helicopter became light on the skids it began to slide to the left due to translating tendency(the lateral anti-torque force applied to the tail boom by the tail rotor thrust). It did not have to slide very far before it used up the slack in the right tether rope and with the next pick up attempt the helicopter skids again slid to the left but the mast stayed put. This put the helicopter at strange angle with the rotor tipped to the right, and the left skid off the ground.

It seemed that the way to undue this was to try to pick up again and this time apply left cyclic. Oops!! Now the helicopter was at a very dangerous list to the right with the left skid even higher off the ground. What to do? I conceded defeat and shut the engine off, crawled out and looked at the mess I had made. There sat my little helicopter at an angle to the ground with the right tether rope so tight that I could play a note on it. It was obvious to me that this was not working out well and that I needed some expert guidance. I was able to lower the helicopter skid to the ground by working with the ropes and wood blocks. Once it was firmly on the landing pad, I put the wheels on and put it away. What to do next?

By this time I had joined a local Rotorway helicopter club in California and had met a number of really great folks who shared the same passion for helicopters that I had. One of those members was Bill who was regularly flying his Exec around his home on Lake Berryessa in Northern Ca. I called Bill and told him of the troubles I was having getting the helicopter into a hover. He suggested that I go flying with him and he could give me some pointers. It was about an hour drive up to Bill’s home and soon we launched off his hillside helipad out over the tops of the trees that were down the slope and off we flew.

Bill wanted to give me a tour of his local area before we got down to the serious training so he directed his helicopter out over the lake and descended to about 20 feet over the water. Since he wanted me to be able to see everything he kept the airspeed to around 25 miles per hour as we flew across the lake and around several boats pulling water skiers. This was late in the summer and the lake level was quite low. Bill wanted me to see the remnants of the town that was buried when the lake was filled. As we made our way over to the shore in the area of the town he slowed the helicopter down so that I could get a good look.

I noticed that the main rotor rpm was dropping as he pulled his helicopter into a hover 20 feet over the water and mentioned it to him. He told me that he had to land ASAP as he was out of both power and lift so he planted it on the bank of the lake with the nose pointing up hill and the tail rotor only feet away from the water. I was a bit concerned that the helicopter would slide down the hill as it was steep enough that walking on it was a bit of a challenge, but the helicopter just sat there with it’s blades turning and with us looking up hill at the sky above.

Bill decided to shut the helicopter down and assess the situation from the outside. Once the rotors had stopped we got out and took a good look at things. There was no apparent damage to the Exec from the impromptu landing so Bill looked to me and asked “ how do you suppose I should get us out of here?” After a few seconds of thinking about it, I told Bill that I thought the best solution was to get his rotor RPM up high and then just pull collective and take off. Remember that at this point I had only the 6 hours at the factory, a solo hover endorsement that meant that I was legally endorsed to test hover my helicopter, and did not know at all what I was talking about. Bill thought that my suggestion had merit so we got back in, secured our seat belts (tightly), and started the engine.

Bill brought the rotor RPM up to speed but when he lifted the collective the slightest amount, the helicopter would begin to slide backwards toward the water. We decided that he needed to be more aggressive so he ran the rotor rpm up to the red line, he pulled hard on the collective and we popped up into the air and rearward clearing the water and the uphill bank. Bill then dropped the nose of the helicopter as it made a left turn and gained airspeed above ETL ( I had no idea of what ETL was at the time and I doubt if Bill did either). When we arrived back a Bill’s landing pad I asked him how long he had been flying. He told me that it had been over a year since he taught himself to fly. I then found out that up to that point Bill had not received any formal helicopter training past the few introductory lessons he took in an R22.

That settled it, I was not all that excited about having Bill give me instruction in my helicopter nor was I willing to get back into his with him. They say that ignorance is bliss, but with helicopters, it can get you killed. I had assumed that Bill was a trained and rated pilot because he seemed to be flying a lot. I did not know enough about flying a helicopter at the time to recognize the number of dangerous mistakes Bill made during our flight but now I shudder to think that I flew over that deep cold lake with someone who had no idea of the danger we were in due to his lack of training.

I decided right then and there that the best solution was to get someone to come to me and give me hover training in my own helicopter. I needed someone with enough experience in my type of helicopter that he could really bring me up to speed with the skills that I needed to become a safe pilot. I found an instructor with Rotorway experience and scheduled him to travel to my home to provide me with the flight training that I needed. After several days of additional training I was a hovering dynamo in my own eyes. He helped me get the rotor system smooth and learn to safely pick up, hover, and set the helicopter back onto the ground.

I learned several important lessons from these events. The first is to never blindly trust that someone is a safe pilot just because you see him/her fly. The life you loose could be your own. Secondly get the best training available so that you will be a safe pilot and will not put yourself, your family, or your helicopter at risk.

I hope Stu and Kathy have great success in this endeavor. If they decide to publish this production on a regular basis, I will share many more experiences that I have had as a student pilot, private pilot, and helicopter CFI.

Fly safe and keep the greasy side down . (Note: Stu and Kathy's magazine is EXPERIMENTAL HELO and can be viewed at It covers all experimental helicopter and related events.

Orv Neisingh R/H CFI,
Sho-Me Helicopters, LLC
8844 Co. Rd. 9790
West Plains, MO 65775
Cell 417-464-9999
Home 417-255-2203