So, what’s the best way to pass the Certified Pilot check-ride?
Well, I will start with this premise:
There are NO shortcuts, and nothing will allow you to get through it without many hours of dedicated practice. However, equally important, is the way you practice.
What the heck does that mean, the WAY you practice?
Well, simply put, it means doing the same thing the same way over and over till it becomes second nature. The single biggest mistake people make when learning (and this includes any skill that requires manual dexterity: Piano playing, guitar playing, helicopter flying) is to not have a consistent practice routine. That’s why instructors in these disciplines always give their students specific exercises to master to make them proficient in a specific skill prior to moving on to a new skill.
Now I just passed my CP ride, and it was not without it’s difficulties. My computer died in the middle of it, HC4 and I had troubles getting our communications up and running and distracting messages kept flashing across the top of the screen from the multiplayer environment. I am sure that I would have failed my ride due to these distractions if I had not got my “routine” down to a point I knew it off by heart.
SO, what’s the routine?
1. Set your chopper in the center of the Hover circle at KMSO, DEAD centered, facing towards the runway on a heading of 264 degrees.
2. Set your fuel load at 65%.
3. Set the time to noon local time.
4. Turn off wind.
5. Set your views the way you like them.
6. Save the flight.
Now, every time you start your practice routine, load the saved flight and you will be starting from the exact same location with the same fuel load at the same time of day and with the correct views already set. Why? Because it removes all the variables such as a different fuel load, different shadows from the sun position, different starting position and sets you up for your training maneuvers. This will also be the starting point for your check ride, and so it will be a familiar place.
Setting your fuel load to 65% (my preference, you can use any loading you prefer) is important to finding the correct NUMBERS for our practicing. The heavier a chopper is, the more power it needs to get off the ground and sustain a hover. Also, the heavier a chopper is, the more control inputs it requires to keep it under control. Basic physics tells us: F=MA (Force=Mass x Acceleration). In other words, the heavier the chopper and faster it is accelerating the more Force (for our purposes, Cyclic input) is required to bring it under control. So a heavy chopper reacts slower to cyclic inputs and takes more cyclic movement to control than a light a chopper does.
1. Only practice for 30-45 minutes at a time. Take a break after that, then practice for another 30-45 minutes. After that, go fly and have fun.
2. Always (and I mean always) follow a routine to the point that it becomes second nature.
3. Every single maneuver is a sequence of small steps put together one at a time to make a continuous string of steps into a routine. Like playing a tune on a guitar, every song consists of chords that must be learned individually then put together is a specific order to play a song.
4. Practice maneuvers one at a time till you have one maneuver mastered before moving on to the next one. The test is a cumulative test. That is, it’s based on the ability to successfully complete the previous maneuver before applying your skills to the next maneuver. Each maneuver is a combination of the ones you have already demonstrated.
FLYING BY THE NUMBERS.
This is probably the most important step in developing good practice routines. For every maneuver in the test, there are specific settings for the chopper to achieve the desired results, and learning these early on will be a huge bonus to you later. I printed the Certified Pilot test from HC and, as I practiced, made notes in the margins as to what my collective settings, radio call signs, pattern flying ground markers and associated headings were in the margins next to each exercise. That way, I always had a reference sheet to look at while training to guide me and to allow repetition of these settings.
Lets look at the steps required to achieve a hover and the required “numbers”.
My chopper gets light on the skids at 61-62 % torque (with the above noted 65% fuel load).
This is where I leave it for 3-5 seconds and make sure that it isn’t drifting in any direction and that the cyclic and pedals are centered. If you do not do this, the moment the chopper loses it’s friction on the ground and becomes airborne, it will head off in whatever direction it was drifting in.
I then increase power to 63-65%, which brings it into the hover about 4-5 feet above ground, and I hold it there for a few more seconds to get it balanced and make sure I am not drifting.
Then, I increase power to 66-67 % Torque to put me at 12 feet AGL (AGL=Above Ground Level) which is the height used for the test.
Notice, however, how small the power changes are to get to the desired height of 12 feet AGL?
From light on the skids to 12 feet is only a difference 6 % Torque. SIX PERCENT !!!! Be gentle with the collective.
Your “Numbers” may be slightly different. That’s OK, just find YOUR numbers and use them !
I do this procedure EVERY TIME I LIFT OFF THE CHOPPER, regardless of the maneuver I am going to do, without fail. That way, my routine becomes ingrained to my flying and becomes second nature.
To land the chopper, it’s a reverse of the above, exactly as stated, only backwards.
From a hover at 12 feet AGL and power settings of 66-67 %, decrease collective to 63-65 % and let the chopper settle to about 4-5 feet AGL and steady it up, removing all movement and keeping it stationary. Once you have it steady, SLOWLY decrease power back down to 61-62 % and it will gently settle back into a position of being light on the skids. Make sure all movement is stopped, and then slowly decrease collective all the way to put the chopper firmly on the ground.
Now, do it again.
It will become second nature after a while.
Every maneuver in the CP check ride has it’s own “NUMBERS” to remember, and you need to perform these maneuvers over and over again to ingrain the routine into your head so that your hands and eyes no longer “think” they just do.
Get yourself a routine, learn your numbers, practice till you know this stuff cold, and your CP test will be a breeze.