Hovering is “Devine” – Spot-Landing is “Heaven”

One of the major reasons for flying a helicopter is the amazing ability to just land wherever you want. Almost.

And that is what I always saw, back through my childish eyes. Those birds would suddenly appear from the sky and just sit down somewhere on the mountain. And as they came – start to hover and disappear in exactly the same way. All my life, this has been a sight that I‘ve held on to and it is all I could think about – just observing them and dreaming about how cool that must be.

But now, the big difference is to sit inside the helicopter! Of course, it’s even more magic. Appearing in the sky, the amazing view over the landscape and just diving down into a specific spot. Back to the usual view on the ground, then hovering around on the magic carpet, just to get back into the sky shortly afterwards and continue the bird’s eye view.

The exercise, Landing in Confined Areas, started much earlier than the first attempts. It builds up on some other exercises that come before. The connection of them is so obvious that I pulled them together into this single post.

Farm Spotting

While planning my 3rd navigation flight, my instructor was sitting on the other side of the table. All of a sudden he printed an A4 page, handed it to me, and said: “This time we will add a new bit – first you fly a Track Hold & then a Track Crawl. You already did that, do you remember?”

Yes. Track Hold involves following the calculated heading on the compass – I should never veer off that heading by more than 5° degree. Track Crawl is following some features on the ground. In both scenarios, I tell you where we are every few minutes by checking our position on the chart first, I am not allowed to look at the chart for longer than 3 seconds. Besides, I shall fly accurately: max. +/- 100ft in altitude, +/- 10kn in speed and to make sure there is enough of a challenge, handle the radio – correct?

“Exactly! You got it. After that, you fly me to this farm. He points to a circle he had drawn on what looked like a piece of paper. It is actually a very detailed chart that shows only a very small bit of an area called an Ordnance Survey Map ( OS Map – 1:25’000 ),

With a smile, he adds: “And you are really lucky, it is quite windy today – perfect conditions for you. Otherwise it is too easy.” – “Great! So we go farm spotting – I love it & can’t wait. Let’s go!”

It’s this kind of jovial approach that had accompanied us since -my first radio-first navigation flight-first practice forced landing – go and more. During all those steps, I got really used to the fact that it constantly gets more and more even though I had only just got a slight idea of the last bit.

It is part of the steep learning curve. Part of the self-experiment of training the brain that all together builds up to an awesome satisfaction and the necessary self-confidence.

This Farm Spotting flight ended up being one of the most challenging, memorable and bumpiest flights of my entire training. It was really uncomfortable in the helicopter. My brain was running at 300% whilst trying to find my way, manoeuvre in these conditions, trying to fly with somewhat acceptable accuracy, handle the radio and finally spotting this farm. But I found it!

After landing, my brain immediately started to review the flight and store every little byte & bit in that new brain capacity I call dreality. Absolutely amazing.

“Landing in a Confined Area”

This is one of the last exercises we are doing. Not because it is so extremely difficult, but, we just kept one left for the end on a day we couldn’t fly any navigation exercises. They are more important at this stage. Like a joker you could say.

In the meantime, I have completed almost all the exercises of the PPL training. The ones most relevant for landing in confined areas are probably  -Circuits & Approach, -Power Check, -Limited Power Knowledge and -Farm Spotting.

It sounds ridiculous if I say I liked this flight the most because I say this to almost every flight! The full Helicopter PPL Training is simply great and brings along loads of adventures. But it’s for sure not wrong to say, it is again one of those flights that stay in my mind forever.

We take off in really lousy weather but there is good visibility over the ground. We cruise along the clouds, see a spot, fly two recce circles while descending closer to the ground and finally hop exactly into the spot. It’s once in the corner of a river, then in a wood glade up on the hill and so on. Can’t believe those views – FANTASTIC.

I always wanted to do exactly this. And finally doing it, feels even better than I imagined.

I love it that much, that from here we will spontaneously do a confined area approach on many other flights on the way back home – just to practice.

There is one important picture you have to bear in mind, develop and adapt it to each approach – and you are all set.

    


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