Three at Once to Train & Cross country Michigan


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 lift-off.

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 training.

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 Ozarks.

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 rotation training.

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 shut-down.

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 City, Michigan,

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 trip.

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

Orv Neisingh
Rotorcraft Helicopter Certified Flight Instructor