Reviewing these old blog posts is a fun reminder of how much my teaching methods have changed over the years.  The traffic pattern is a great example.  In the post below my instructor takes me out to a practice field and sets up a mock traffic pattern using a barn and some traffic cones as a target.

Several hundred hours into my teaching career, I decided that introduction to the traffic pattern was much more productive at a quiet local airport than an off airport field.  I’ve integrated that into my scenario based training syllabus.

Picture of Airport Traffic Pattern

Using a quiet airport forces the pilot in training to adapt to the real traffic pattern.  He/She has to deal with other aircraft, radios, and visual cues that mirror the home airport environment.  It also allows for lots of opportunity for hover practice using the safest method I’ve found.  We’ll talk about my preferred method for hover lessons in an upcoming blog post.

The Target

Today we flew to the off airport practice area. I did much better at holding my airspeed and altitude on the way over. It was my introduction to the traffic pattern and first day reviewing takeoffs and approaches. There’s a barn next to the practice field that we use and some orange cones lined up parallel to the barn. We use this as a our target.

Anyway, using our target (barn and orange cones) to simulate the runway numbers, we have a standard airfield traffic pattern. My instructor introduced me to the pattern and started showing me when to make my turns from the downwind leg in to the base and on to final. Then we would descend into a hover directly in front of the barn (on top of the numbers).

Take Off

I also practiced some takeoffs myself (well, mostly myself). From a hover, I push forward cyclic to gain speed. When the helicopter reaches ~45 knots, I pull back slightly on the cyclic and the helicopter begins to climb and continues to accelerate. Then, it’s forward cyclic up to ~65 knots and another go around in the traffic pattern for a landing in front of the barn. Rinse and repeat.

I had some trouble with my takeoffs. I did fine getting us up to 45 knots and then pulling back slightly on the cyclic. The problem is, I’d push forward too far without pulling up on the collective. Next thing I know, I’m looking down at the ground and airspeed is low. Then, I’d panic and over correct with aft cyclic and pitch the nose up. It was like a day at Magic Mountain. I’ll focus on that during the next lesson.

Hovering is getting MUCH better. I’m making very small corrections. My instructor says that with a couple more lessons I should be hovering and he expects I’ll be able to solo at 20 hours.

Total Hours To Date: 4.3
Total Training Cost To Date: $1,612.50
Total Books, Supplies, and Tuition To Date: $2,109.48

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