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DPE Peyton Enloe presenting Melanie Marshall with her Private Pilot Ticket after completing her checkride December 13th 2016.

 RotorWay Phase I, Phase II Training & Checkride 
Chris Kneppers

I normally follow the same flight training syllabus that RotorWay uses, Phase I & Phase II. Usually I am training in newly completed RotorWay kits. For this reason, I think it is a good and cautious practice to fly the new kits in the "hover only" phase for the first 10 to 15 hours. That's what works great with Phase I. We are doing hover training while we are "shaking down" the new aircraft. If anything goes wrong, such as main drive belts slipping, we are only in a 2 to 3 foot hover and it is easy to just ease it back to the ground.

In addition, I have found that most of the RotorWay owners I am working with are in their late 40s to early 50s. Most, and I emphasize most, of my Phase I solo endorsements have been around the 15 to 20 hour area. Hey let's face it, learning to fly a helicopter has been a young man's game. Be aware, I am 50 plus, so I am not picking on the age group. This is has just been my experience. I am convinced that the younger guys that I have started flight training with, have as second nature, excellent hand/eye coordination. Why? Video gaming from a very early age.

Phase II is all the flight maneuver at altitude, such as normal & crosswind departures & approaches, steep & shallow approaches, running take-offs and run-on landings, pinnacle and confined approaches, decels, autorotations & cross country planning and flights.   Expect another 12 to 15 hours of dual with Phase II.

Phase III is the checkride.  Once we feel you are near the completion of your training, the preparation for the helicopter checkride begins.  The checkride consists of an oral exam and a practical exam. The oral will allow you to demonstrate your knowledge of US airspace system, weather, FAR regulations especially as they pertain to helicopter operations, navigation, and helicopter aerodynamics.  The practice test flight will allow to demonstrate your abilities to control and fly the helicopter maneuvers and handle any emergency the examiner would simulate. The preparation for the checkride is done in Foley, AL and we transport your helicopter to Abbeville, LA the day before the checkride. We meet with the Desinated Examiner the next morning and the exam starts at 9:00am and if all goes well and you are prepared, it will be over by 12:00 noon.  Also I now have available the services of a designated examiner in the East Virginia area.  He will also give you your checkride in your RotorWay.

I believe most RotorWay owners should realistically expect to have between 75 & 100 hours before they are ready for their private check ride. I really do not see any advantage stating to someone and that you soloed in 7.2 hours, or having the bragging rights that you took your check ride just after meeting the minimum hours required. I really don't think the insurance companies care how many hours you had when you soloed or number hours you logged before your check ride. Take the check ride when you can perform the maneuvers to the practical test standards. Don't be a marginal pilot when you take the check ride. Experience is the best thing to bring with you for your check ride and it is perfectly legal and you can use it for the whole test.

Mark Peterson

Admittedly, following the RotorWay program has a lot of unsupervised solo flying . And what I mean by this is, if you are learning to fly helicopters at a local flight school, your helicopter instructor will be monitoring your solo flights. In other words, he or she will probably be very aware of your decisions regarding pre-flight planning, winds (weather), planned maneuvers, etc. After I make a logbook endorsements for Phase I hovering flight, I make great effort and stipulate very clearly what the endorsement allows the student pilot do. In addition, I have an agreement similar to Robinson's that clearly states what the endorsement allows you to do and what you are not allowed to do as a student pilot. However, when I leave it is up to the RotorWay owner to follow the endorsement and fly within his or her limitations.

During my CFI flight training, when learning the Fundamentals of Instruction, I was introduced to five hazardous attitudes that can have a negative impact on pilot judgment. One in particular stood out to me, anti-authority. The RotorWay owner's unsupervised solo training can be the breeding ground for this attitude. The problem is, some owners may feel that because it is their helicopter, they can do whatever they want. That owner may say to himself, "Besides my instructor is in another state now, he's not going to know". I just want to give my friend a short hovering flight, no big deal. His friend, being savvy to the seat weight limit, says he is 210 but looks like 230. Friend gets in, they are hovering around at 28.5" of manifold pressure, winds picks up, helicopter gets into some ETL and climbs a little, rpm starts to overspeed, pilot rolls off some throttle, wind subsides, MR rpm is decaying fast, ground is coming up fast, low time pilot pulls collective only. Boom and crunch! Pilot & friend reach down and pull up their socks and egress the helicopter. They now notice the rear landing gear is spread and tail boom wrinkled. Ouch! The antidote for anti-authority is, follow the rules and your endorsements, they are usually right and stipulated for a reason.

The advantage I believe I have when following the RotorWay flight training syllabus is I am not limited to the Monday to Friday timeline like the factory training. I usually tell my prospective students that after the rigging checks, blade balancing and initial test flights, expect to working on the flight training for the next 4 to 6 days. These are pretty intense days with flight training and maintenance training throughout the day. I am often asked by the new and eager student pilot how many hours of flight training are we going to do a day, 4 to 6? I tell them that is pretty ambitious, but let's just wait and see how you feel after your first couple of hours.

Some of may not know this, but most helicopter CFIs will not be willing to train you in your experimental RotorWay kit helicopter, and for good reason. To be successful training in RotorWay helicopters, the CFI must be very knowledgeable about the kit helicopter and the power management & limitations. In most cases a properly rigged RotorWay Helicopter with 2 people on board, has adequate power, with very little reserve power. It an experienced helicopter CFI pilot is used to flying plenty of power type helicopters, then flying and training in the RotorWay will be very challenging, to say the least.

It is also very helpful for the CFI to be able to help you trouble shoot problems should they occur.  Nothing is more frustrating to the initial training program when problems pop-up with the helicopter. They sometimes occur because on incorrect rigging, loose wires, and or rough running rotor system due to blade balance vibrations. 

In addition, with all those moving parts of the helicopter, the experienced RotorWay CFI is a systems manager. When things are going OK, that's great. But when one of the systems goes haywire, the CFI has to detect, react, choose a course of action, do something to adapt a change and evaluate the effect, in a matter of seconds.

In my opinion, I believe the RotorWay flight training syllabus I follow will work provided the student pilot disciplines himself or herself to the strict regiment of helicopter flight training. Learning to fly helicopters is exciting and becoming a rated helicopter pilot will probably be the most rewarding thing you will ever accomplish.  However, it is not for those with the with hazardous attitudes.

Mark Peterson, CFI R/H

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    Mark Peterson
    Foley, AL 36535
    Phone: 727-410-7908