camwyn: Me in a bomber jacket and jeans standing next to a green two-man North Andover Flight Academy helicopter. (Default)
I'm awake, which is something of an accomplishment this morning given that I nearly fell asleep all over again with my cat in my lap in between 'get out of bed' and 'get your socks on'. I've come up to full wakefulness, though, and I just finished my morning coffee, so that should help.

This past weekend had a flight lesson in it. Hover practice, mostly. And targeted landing- 'okay, see the square on the runway formed by the various patches and stripes of asphalt color? land in that specific spot'. And pickups and putdowns, which is to say 'take off but don't move forward' and 'land from about a foot above the pavement'. The instructor and I have found that the usual advice of 'pick something in the far distance and keep your eyes on it as you hover' has not been working for me; that's the kind of thing that results in swaying far too far to either side and then having to correct for it. Middle distance visual locks work a lot better, so I'm sticking with that for now. I've gotten to the point where the instructor is no longer trying to find a way to show me how to do what I need to do with hovering, but instead recommending that I get more practice in doing it. Which is promising, because he can't endorse me to solo until he teaches me a couple of things that have 'hover properly' as prerequisites.

I probably won't get another lesson in until the 28th, and the one after that won't be until the 11th of February, but at least I know what I really need to practice.
camwyn: Me in a bomber jacket and jeans standing next to a green two-man North Andover Flight Academy helicopter. (Default)
This weekend was my third lesson with the new instructor (my old one, Markus, has moved out to Arizona or Nevada or something to fly tours of the Grand Canyon). Eric is a great guy, but he's only just gotten to know my flying, and it's been driving me crazy that he would vocally indicate when I needed to correct something- and then do it himself before I could. He seems to have stopped doing that during my lesson this weekend, thank God. I was trying to remind myself the whole time that a, he's only barely seen me fly at all, and b, if you get snarly at your instructor because you think you know what you're doing, you probably won't learn very much. We spent this lesson practicing pickups, putdowns, hovering, very slow travel up and down the runway for the sake of hovering stops/starts/putdowns, pedal turns, and the like.

A thing I need to remember: it is only airplanes that have to keep moving forward until they stop completely. A helicopter that needs to land on a particular spot, so long as it is not turning around or hovering backward on the main active runway, can pause in midair and adjust its downward trajectory if need be. Because it's a damned helicopter. Stopping midair is sort of what we do.
camwyn: Me in a bomber jacket and jeans standing next to a green two-man North Andover Flight Academy helicopter. (Default)
No flight lesson this weekend. The instructor had to cancel due to family stuff. I spent the time instead studying the chapter of the Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge on flight instruments and how they work.

Here's a thing you should know: instruments suck.

Well, okay. They don't, not really. But the instruments that take up the control panel of your average flying machine- the book is written primarily with fixed-wing craft in mind, us rotorheads have to make do with some adaptations- are all fundamentally approximations. They're crude human attempts at building sensory apparatus based on the phenomena we can manage to measure. The airspeed indicator, for example- that measures differences in air pressure between a tube that pokes out of the side of your aircraft, or occasionally the inside of your aircraft, and the air pressure being forced down the aircraft's tiny, tiny pitot tube of a throat by its forward travel. You can lose the ability to see how fast you're traveling if a single piece of crap happens to wrap itself over one of the openings involved. Your compass only works completely accurately if you're flying straight and level and if you're on a particular heading; if you're heading east or west, and you accelerate, your compass will swear on its very soul that you just turned to the north. If you're flying someplace where the air pressure is high and you fly into a low-pressure air mass it will result in your altimeter lying to you, because as far as it can tell, you just experienced a swift climb in altitude; it does its job based on air pressure differences and it really has no idea whatsoever where the ground is. Same deal if you go from warm air to cold air, since that's 'oh hey, the air's way denser now, we TOTALLY changed altitude' time.

And don't even get me started on the number of places along the coast of Maine with 'yeah, your compass is going to lie to you EXTRA HARD' notations on the map. Seriously, there's a bunch of islands that'll screw your compass up by an extra ten degrees on top of everything else you have to correct for.

Anyway, the point is: humans try to build things that let them perceive the world safely and correctly, but every single one of them has to be corrected in some way, or at least have its many limitations acknowledged and compensated for. It's kind of amazing that our machines let us manage as well as we do.
camwyn: Me in a bomber jacket and jeans standing next to a green two-man North Andover Flight Academy helicopter. (Default)
I'm awake. I'm at work. It's sunny out, and I've had some iced coffee. I can deal with the day even if it's forty-five degrees and humidcoldwindy out. Tomorrow I'll be flying again, on the lone forecasted sunny day this weekend; there's supposed to be a nor'easter arriving overnight in time to drop a mess on Sunday. Or maybe it's set to change its path before then, I don't know The point is, whee flying tomorrow.

I need to do more ground class studying. If I'm getting to the point of being able to hover properly, fairly soon I'll be learning to do autorotations, and then it'll just be a question of getting all my log documentation together to prove that I have the hours and the skill to solo. And in order to solo, you have to pass the FAA written test, and while the written test minimum passing grade is 70, the flight school I'm at does not allow its students to take the written test unless they can pass the practice tests with a score of at least 85. Preferably higher. So, yeah, I have some studying to do. Which is fine, because it's been a long time since I really did any academic work and I'd feel better if I had to periodically lock myself up with a book or an e-text.

I'm also going to have to consider something else. Back when I got my student pilot medical certificate, the doctor asked me if I had any scars or tattoos, for identification purposes. I kind of got it into my head that I would look into getting a tattoo somewhere on my back once I soloed. I'd thought at the time that I rather liked the Brotherhood of Steel emblem, and I still do, but given what they wind up like in Fallout 4... gah. Not likely. Something else would be more appropriate. I want to look into a few options, both in terms of design and in terms of reliable artists.

I also need to contact AOPA and see about pilot's insurance. Apparently the basic policies a lot of people have through their employers don't cover general aviation accidents even if they cover crashes on commercial airlines. I don't own an aircraft, but if I'm going to rent one for solo hours, I'm still treated as pilot-in-command, which affects things.

Wonder if I can take a chunk of vacation time this year and just practice flying every day for a week....
camwyn: Me in a bomber jacket and jeans standing next to a green two-man North Andover Flight Academy helicopter. (Default)
I can now forgive Heath Corson for the writing of Justice League: War and Justice League: Throne of Atlantis, because Assault on Arkham was awesome to a degree that kinda outshone Son of Batman and Batman vs. Robin. Corson got the dialogue right on all the characters I knew (Batman, Harley Quinn, the Joker, the Riddler, Amanda Waller, the Penguin, Captain Boomerang, etc.) and did what seemed like a damn good job on the others (Floyd Lawson, King Shark, Killer Frost, Black Spider). The story was pretty well plotted and the pace was great. I'm good with the writing.

However, tomorrow when I go to flight school I am going to have to tell my instructor about this, because towards the end my thoughts were occupied with 'wow, the Gotham PD has one hell of a budget if they can get what appears to be a military-grade personnel carrier helicopter- wait, Harley's only moving one control in the emergency effort not to hit the building- well, it looks like a realistic cyclic for modern models of helicopter, and they're not changing altitude- and it IS a glass cockpit with lots of unlabeled controls, maybe the autopilot is controlling the collective- nonono, dude, you grazed the building, that's going to damage several of your rotor blades and affect your flight- okay, she can't find the gas pedal so she doesn't know where the throttle is and she's not fiddling with the tail rotor- I'm seeing what looks sort of like LTE spinning but there's too much control to it- okay, they've crashed and that's fine, but the tail rotor is on the right of the craft rather than the left, what country was that helicopter built in? I need to rewind and see what direction the main rotors were turning to see whether they were being consistent or just careless'.

(This is being shelved alongside my reaction to a rewatch of Iron Man in which my reaction to Tony taking off for the first time was 'Um... isn't Malibu within spitting distance of LAX? Tony's going through class B airspace without even having JARVIS get clearance. The FAA is going to have guys waiting on his doorstep by the time he gets home.')
camwyn: Me in a bomber jacket and jeans standing next to a green two-man North Andover Flight Academy helicopter. (Default)
Had flight school today. Am deeply and profoundly irritated with the trouble I am having when it comes to getting hovering right. I will take it as a personal triumph when I finally beat that; frankly I think it will be easier to get autorotations right. I'm doing better on turns and landings, thankfully. That, at least, is improving.

Also, I saw a bald eagle.

Seriously. Thought it was a vulture or something at first; I was trying to turn and I got distracted by the sight of a large bird and started climbing, which I was not supposed to do. The instructor asked what had my attention and I pointed to the bird... at which point it leveled out (the bird, not the helicopter) and I saw that it had a white head and a white tail. Its body was dark brown above and below, but it was very definitely white-headed and white-tailed.

Bald eagle.

Don't know if it was down from the population I know exists in Maine, or if it was from one of the 36 territorial pairs the Audobon Society has established around the Quabbin Reservoir and had just flown eastward for some reason, or from somewhere else, but it was very definitely a bald eagle that I got to share the sky with today.
camwyn: Me in a bomber jacket and jeans standing next to a green two-man North Andover Flight Academy helicopter. (Default)
Back at work, after spending yesterday working from home. My cold symptoms are mostly abated but the sinus congestion yesterday was still in moderate drip mode, plus I was basically making croaking noises instead of being able to talk in the morning. Thanks largely to the good people at Reckitt Benckiser (they make Mucinex DM), I was able to put the worst of that at bay, and I even got to sleep properly last night, which was a nice change. I took one of the twelve hour tablets this morning before leaving for work, so hopefully it'll e all right the rest of today.

Unrelated to the illness stuff.... I'm taking an online course in introductory aeronautical engineering. It's an edX course and it's free so it's not for credit, just an honor certificate, but it seemed like it would feed into the helicopter training at least in terms of learning principles. We had a question we had to answer on class forums yesterday, during intro week- we had to name people we considered among the greatest aviation pioneers.

A lot of people named the Wright Brothers, obviously, and Chuck Yeager got some mentions, as did Amelia Earhart. A lot of students mentioned Alberto Santos-Dumont, which is only fair and right. (Btw, if you're into steampunk, you want to learn about this man, because Alberto Santos-Dumont gave you one of the most iconic modes of transportation in the genre. Alberto Santos-Dumont designed, built, and flew the first practical dirigible. YOU BETTER RECOGNIZE.)


Anyway. Sorry. Um, there were plenty of others, obviously, including an Ottoman Empire genius named Hezarafen Ahmed Çelebi who developed an early form of glider, and Otto Lilienthal, and a lot of other people. My votes were for Igor Sikorsky, obviously- he didn't invent the heilcopter but he and his team were the ones who made rotary wing flight as we know it today reliable and practical- and Louis Bleriot, the first man to get a powered, piloted monoplane off the ground- and for one other person who wasn't actually a pilot: United States Air Force Colonel Doctor John Paul Stapp, whose contributions to aviation were of the "what horrible things can go wrong when the flying machine stops working, and how can the people on board survive it" variety. Most of which information was acquired by strapping himself into high powered vehicles, accelerating them to ridiculously high speeds, and then making them stop RIGHTTHEHELLNOW. All things considered, that's kind of important.
camwyn: Me in a bomber jacket and jeans standing next to a green two-man North Andover Flight Academy helicopter. (Default)
MOM: We saw Sister Marybeth* the other day. She's got a new outreach program going.
DAD: She asked how you were doing. We told her, and we said you were learning to fly helicopters.
MOM: She laughed, and she said, "That sounds about right."
DAD: And we saw Sister Patricia**, too. She asked how you were.
MOM: I told her you were doing okay, and that you were learning to fly helicopters.
MOM: And she laughed, and she said, "How is that different from her drawing stealth bombers on her entrance exams?"
ME: They weren't stealth bombers, they were high speed biplanes!

... so, um, the point is, it's nice to see some things about me don't surprise people.

*My competent high school chemistry teacher
**My high school principal for several years
camwyn: Me in a bomber jacket and jeans standing next to a green two-man North Andover Flight Academy helicopter. (helicopter)
October 12th, 2014 was my first cross-country helicopter flight, where cross-country is defined as a flight of at least 25 nautical miles terminating at a different airport than the one I departed from. We had a GoPro camera in the cockpit the whole way. No headset sound, unfortunately, just engine noises- I suggest you turn down the volume or mute the video first.

Departure was from Lawrence Municipal Airport in North Andover, MA. The first place we stopped at was Portsmouth International Airport at Pease, aka "it looks like an aircraft carrier" and "the runway is *literally* two miles long, look it up".

In all of these- I had to break the hour-plus video into four segments- I'm the one on the right.

The first twenty minutes of 12 October 2014 cross-country flight from Camwyn on Vimeo.

The second twenty minutes of 12 October 2014 cross-country flight from Camwyn on Vimeo.

The third part of 12 October 2014 cross-country flight from Camwyn on Vimeo.

Last part of 12 Oct 2014 cross-country flight from Camwyn on Vimeo.

camwyn: Me in a bomber jacket and jeans standing next to a green two-man North Andover Flight Academy helicopter. (helicopter)
Had flight school yesterday! No video to show for it, alas. Instructor forgot to turn on the camera. Hopefully next time. For now I'm just glad that it went as well as it did, because I wasn't flying with my usual instructor, and I didn't want it to look like my usual guy wasn't doing a good job as a teacher.

It's always weird when I hear a female voice on the cockpit radio. Most of the pilots and all of the air traffic controllers in the Lawrence area are men. I know at least one of the ATCs at Logan is a woman, because I've listened on, but we've never gone anywhere near Logan's airspace. I don't know if similar conditions prevail at Manchester, which is around the same distance from Lawrence Municipal, but it wouldn't surprise me. I hear another woman's voice on the radio maybe one out of every five lessons, if that. Probably shouldn't be surprised. The FAA forms and medical certificates all refer to the person who wants to get into the cockpit as 'airman', regardless of what's been filled in or circled in the 'sex' blank; it's kind of a male-dominated field. As long as nobody gives me crap about getting my own license I'm fine with that, and nobody's given me crap so far.

I am aware that there are people who probably think I should kick up more of a stink. I find the terminology faintly amusing, to be honest. If the government wants to call me an airman, fine. The only part I give a damn about is the 'air' part. I suppose the reason they don't use 'pilot' instead is because 'airman' covers people who haven't tested for their licenses yet, and having to get a 'student pilot medical certificate' replaced with a 'licensed pilot medical certificate' every time someone goes from flight school to licensure is probably annoying or something. Hell if I know.

Anyway, the lesson went smoothly and with any luck I'll have video to show next time I fly, even if it's just flying patterns or autorotation practice.
camwyn: Me in a bomber jacket and jeans standing next to a green two-man North Andover Flight Academy helicopter. (helicopter)
Went to bed around 10:30 last night; if the cats made any noise after that I didn't hear it. Doing MUCH better today.

Saturday's flight school lesson was pretty good. No ground training this time. My instructor told me he likes to give students a break from the area around Lawrence every five lessons or so. If I wanted, we could fly out to Boston and back. Or, since I'd already had ground training in it from him and from one of the other instructors, we could practice autorotations and I could start getting used to the idea. I wound up going with the autorotations; as cool as flying to something recognizable would be, I ultimately felt it was probably better to get back up there and start learning to handle those things before I forgot what I'd been taught. I'm going to have to be able to do one coming straight in and one with a turn in it for my check ride, and it seldom hurts to start getting an idea of what's involved early on. What's involved:

1. Be at a suitable altitude and speed for practice purposes. Emergencies will no doubt be very different but this is learning how to fly a helicopter, not learning krav maga; the school does not have a philosophy of 'throw the worst thing possible at them from the start', kthx.

2. You have one (1) second to lower the collective control all the way to the lowest position. Don't slam it in an eyeblink; you want to bring it down in the time it takes to say 'down collective'.

3. Roll the throttle towards 'off', so that the engine RPM needle on the tachometer plummets like a brick while the rotor RPM needle stays where it is. That last part is IMPORTANT.

4. Judiciously apply the right pedal to keep your nose pointing straight since you are no longer compensating for engine torque.

5. The cyclic control, the one in your right hand? Bring that aft somewhat so that your nose comes up a bit. Nose dropping is bad.

6. I hope you did all of that in the same second as bringing the collective down, because you were supposed to.

7. And now you should bring the collective back up a bit, just a bit, to check your rotor RPM.

8. Okay, great, now DON'T FUCK WITH ANYTHING.

Seriously, that's more or less how it goes; you spend the next several seconds gliding down from 1200 or so feet to 200 or so feet and you are well advised to just keep your eyes on the horizon so you maintain the correct heading and attitude. If it's falling at the correct angle and speed, don't worry too much about whether you've got exactly the right numbers or not. When you get to around 200 feet you'll be checking your airspeed, rotor RPM, and rate of descent and the horizon, but you need to keep your eyes outside a lot, so look at $GAUGE, correct any problems it may have, and move on to $NEXT_GAUGE- don't go back to the tach if you had to adjust your nose angle because your airspeed was a problem. Keep moving and keep confirming the horizon and your landing spot are in the right place.

Things change a bit at around forty feet or so but my instructor didn't want me to get too overwhelmed the first time, so instead of doing autorotations all the way into the ground (not in the sense of "SPLAT" but in the sense of "*BOMP* Okay, we landed") he had me bring my engine RPMs back up and take off again for another round of the air traffic pattern around the airport. On our last autorotation he took over the controls near the end and demonstrated what would be involved in a real one, and then we taxied back over to the flight school and he had me practice pickups and putdowns a couple of times before closing down for the day.

He said I was one of the better first-timers he'd seen in a while, which was nice, considering how much of a hard time I had with hover work at first. I'm debating exactly how much of this lesson to tell my parents about. They worry enough as it is; I don't want to give them too much extra nightmare fuel, you know?
camwyn: Me in a bomber jacket and jeans standing next to a green two-man North Andover Flight Academy helicopter. (helicopter)
I need to find a pattern for a small, lightweight beanie. My hair is long enough these days that even with the earphone headband holding it down, if I take a lesson in the R22 that usually gets flown with its doors off, I get my hair blown back in my face. Sunday I tried wearing a baseball cap, and the wind decided to try and push my hat off my head, headphones and all. The instructor (who shaves his head) suggested a hijab as a joke, but I gotta say, after twenty minutes of having to try to see around my own hair, the idea of a headscarf's lookin' mighty appealing. I'm gonna need to see about knitting a cap that'll hold things in place, at least until winter, when I can start wearing the furry earflap hat instead.
camwyn: Me in a bomber jacket and jeans standing next to a green two-man North Andover Flight Academy helicopter. (helicopter)
Had another flight school session yesterday. Wasn't planning on it this weekend, as Saturday's weather forecast was horrific for flying, but Sunday was cool and clear and low on wind, and my instructor texted me to ask if I was interested in coming in. I figured why not. Turns out that my hovering is vastly improved by working through the process of direct pick-ups and set-downs- that is, straight vertical takeoffs and landings or near-landings. Which is good, because I was really having trouble with that. We're gonna be practicing that way for a while until I get the whole process more nailed down, but my instructor was happy enough with what I was doing to move on to more material. Mostly that meant radio work and landing practice, and getting me to make my turns shallower, since I have a tendency to try and turn more sharply than I need to. (You'd think it'd be the opposite, considering that we usually fly in an R22 with the doors off.) Some of it involved doing turns based on commands from the tower, as there were a lot of small planes in the area yesterday. Since we basically fly the slowest thing in the sky, planes get given priority for landing approaches and positions in the pattern around the airport; if a Cessna or small jet shows up wanting to land there's a good chance of getting told to turn for the base leg of my pattern early, or to-

Oh, right. Pattern terminology. Taking off from the airport to fly in the area usually involves joining a rectangular or semi-rectangular flight path, and usually they send helicopter traffic to turn in one direction and planes in another, because like I said, we're slow. (Cessna 172s, which are a pretty common small airplane, have a cruising speed of around 122 knots (for purposes of this post, a knot is 'a mile an hour plus a bit'). Robinson R22 helicopters, which are the two-person model in this icon, usually fly at around 65-70 knots. They will in fact stall at 102 knots- this is the official VNE, or 'Don't Go Faster Than This Speed'.) The part of the pattern where you take off is the departure leg or the initial leg and is generally done into the wind where possible. the first ninety degree turn you make puts you on the crosswind leg; the next ninety degree turn is onto the downwind leg, and often the tower will ask you to 'report mid-field', which is 'when you see that you are roughly even with the runway that goes across the airfield please call in and get clearance for whatever you plan on doing next'. Turn again and you're on the base leg, and your next turn puts you on the final leg. Depending on what the tower told you is okay, you may get to land or you may get the option of 'land if you want, touch and go if you want, do a practice run of 'NOPE NOPE NOPE CAN'T ACTUALLY LAND TAKING OFF AGAIN NOW' if you want'.

*cough* Anyway. We did most of the usual practice stuff yesterday, and the pickups and set-downs, and those were good. And on one of our last approaches the instructor said he was gonna show me what's involved in an autorotation, since we'd covered the fundamentals of that in ground class. An autorotation is the helicopter equivalent of a glide. You have to know how to do it in order to recover from emergencies. In a fixed-wing aircraft it may be a little less nerve-wracking, I don't know, but in a helicopter it's the kind of thing that results in an instantaneous "Jesus, Mary, and Buddha!" from me. Remember a few weeks ago when I showed you guys the freewheeling unit and said it was the part that makes you not die? Autorotations are what that part is for. The engine RPMs plummet like a brick, and you have to take the next second and a half to make sure that you, personally, do not do the same.

It was an interesting experience. I have that part marked in my notebook as 'This Is The Chapter We Don't Tell Mom About'.
camwyn: Me in a bomber jacket and jeans standing next to a green two-man North Andover Flight Academy helicopter. (helicopter)
Weather forecast for LWM this weekend has 'chance of thunderstorm' and '80-90% chance of precipitation'. Probably not going to schedule a flight lesson as I would rather not have a repeat of the week where Arthur's offshore presence meant I basically did a preflight check, taxied to the runway, checked the windspeeds, and then did a pre-landing check.

However, last weekend's flight lesson was interesting. The ground portion involved visiting the air traffic control tower to see what's involved in ATC at a municipal airport. Not gonna lie, it looked almost exactly like the interior of the Camp McCarran tower in Fallout New Vegas- to the point where I asked how long the airport and tower had been there, just to see if Lawrence tower had been built around the same time as RL McCarran. Apparently the Lawrence tower dates back to the 1980s, though.

The flight time itself was pretty good. I have to work on my turns- I tend to make them a little too tight. Not sure why, given that half the time I'm turning without an actual door between me and the rest of the world, but whatever. Hover practice is still tricky, but the instructor says I'm getting better, I just can't tell because we tend to practice on windy days. And I did get a decent spontaneous hover during one of our landing practice attempts, plus I'm doing somewhat better at talking to the tower (the ideal thing to do during these communications is cut out any extraneous words or syllables, since nobody else can reach the tower while you're talking to them). Still trying to memorize what's being said to me and repeat the relevant bits back the way I'm supposed to, though. That's a little rougher than I anticipated.

Once we were on the ground and I was paying my bill we had an interesting moment, though. I'm not sure how we got onto the subject, but I mentioned to the instructor that I tended to have a lot of swearing going on in my head when I did something that caused a problem or when I couldn't remember what I was supposed to do. He said that was fine and if I wanted to say any of it out loud that was okay, because he wanted to know if I was any good at swearing.

My Adrian Shephard headvoice went into evil cackle mode at that. Next actual flight lesson may be.... interesting.

(Oh, and the instructor who has celiac told me the chocolate chip cookies were the best he's had in years; apparently he's been forbidden from eating wheat since 2007 and has not had much luck with gluten-free baked goods. I pointed him at the photo tutorial I wrote up in case he wanted to take a stab at the recipe himself. It seemed to make him happy.)
camwyn: Me in a bomber jacket and jeans standing next to a green two-man North Andover Flight Academy helicopter. (helicopter)
Had flight school on Saturday. Hour and a half of ground training, forty-five minutes or so in the sky. I need to get caught up on the ground training front; we're a little behind compared to what the instructor has me doing in the air. Not that we're doing anything all that fancy in the air yet. The instructor has me practicing landing techniques, which are kind of tricky, and I'm still not entirely sure how much of the stuff we do during the takeoff process is him and how much is me. I'm still trying to get the hang of hovering, too, although this week there was a point during stationary hover when the instructor took both hands off the controls and waved them in the air because I was doing well enough. Didn't last long, but still.

One of the things we covered in ground training was magnetic navigation, and all the specific ways you have to compensate for the compass's failings. Some of them are individual to a given helicopter, which is why any bird you get into will have a compass card indicating "if you wanna plot a zero degree heading, you'll have to aim for one degrees on the compass; ninety degree headings need eighty-nine, etc". Some of them are just because the magnetic north pole is about thirteen hundred miles from the geographic north pole, plus it moves, because otherwise it would be too easy. The farther east or west you are from an imaginary line drawn through Chicago and St. Louis (at the moment- like I said, the damn thing moves), the more you have to compensate when taking a compass reading.

Also the pole is beneath the surface of the Earth, a thing which I do not remember learning from school but do remember learning from H. P. Lovecraft, since "The Dunwich Horror" mentioned 'the hidden inner city at the magnetic pole'. This causes more compass screwiness in the form of magnetic dip, since it pulls the needle in different directions during turns and changes in speed- when a helicopter accelerates it tilts its nose down and its tail up and the compass needle suddenly goes "OH HEY YOU'RE GOING NORTH NOW" even if you're headed on a perfectly straight east-west course. Which would be fun enough in itself, but if you're heading northward and turn west or east, your compass needle is gonna lag behind, so don't try making a ninety-degree turn based solely on your compass readings because you'll wind up turning way too far. Heading south and making a turn, the needle overshoots what you've already done, although it falls back eventually. My instructor, who is from Tennessee, told me the easiest way to remember this was 'South Leads, North Lags', though of course that only works in the northern hemisphere.

It never ceases to amaze me that we jumped-up little monkeys have managed to get as far as we did by following splinters of rock and metal that point at an erratic wiggly arbitrary spot in the ground somewhere most of us will never see.
camwyn: Me in a bomber jacket and jeans standing next to a green two-man North Andover Flight Academy helicopter. (helicopter)

camwyn: Me in a bomber jacket and jeans standing next to a green two-man North Andover Flight Academy helicopter. (helicopter)
Got notified that HUMC was willing to send me the discharge records for my kidney stone in 2009, so I should be seeing those soon. Now I just need to get a notarized copy of my driver's license and the HIPAA release form and then have the Nashua FAA doc send something on his stationery to Jersey City Medical Center requesting it.

One step closer to my medical cert.
camwyn: Me in a bomber jacket and jeans standing next to a green two-man North Andover Flight Academy helicopter. (helicopter)
Got my blood test results back from the doctor's office. Two of them aren't relevant to the FAA. The other two, the renal function study and the metabolic series, all place me squarely inside normal parameters. I contacted the Nashua office to make sure I was sending them the right documents.

It's kind of reassuring to hear their regional flight medical officer say that he thinks they ask for too many documents. Especially when you have to go to a notary public in order to get a notarized copy of your driver's license and requests for medical record releases (although that's a HIPAA thing, not an FAA thing). At least I'm not crazy.

Seems like every time I go for more education I run into a medical thing. Kean requested I provide either a measles immunization record or a blood titer showing immunity to measles when I applied for the master's program. Couldn't come up with the record, had to get blood drawn, found out I was no longer immune, had to show up at Kean with a document stating that I'd gotten the jab within the past week.... you'd think I'd be used to this by now.
camwyn: Me in a bomber jacket and jeans standing next to a green two-man North Andover Flight Academy helicopter. (helicopter)
This week's ground lesson for the helicopter was focused on parts. I hadn't memorized them all just yet, but I had a good grasp of most of the important ones, so I've got some studying to do before next week. I did, however, get handed a freewheeling unit that had been taken out of service so I could appreciate it properly. The freewheeling unit surrounds the driveshaft at one point; it looks like this:

Those metal parts are pressed outward by centrifugal force when the driveshaft spins, allowing the engine to transmit torque to the shaft that drives the main rotor. In the event that something goes horribly wrong and the engine stops or drops below an acceptable amount of RPM while you're in the air, the metal parts drop back down into the unit and no longer engage the rotor shaft. This allows the rotor to spin freely, which it's gonna do because if your engine's stopped, you're going to start going down- and that means air is going to be pushing upward through the rotor blades- and if you listened to your instructor you know that the instant your engine craps out you have to slam the collective control to the floor so that your rotor blades all change their pitch the appropriate angle for a controlled descent. If you didn't slam the collective, they're probably still angled for ascending flight or hovering, which means you're not going to get enough lift out of them, which means you're going to stall- anyway, the point is that if you did lower the collective when your engine crapped out, your rotor will be able to spin in the wind being pushed up through the blades and thereby generate a basic amount of lift. Not enough for you to go upwards or to stay level, but enough for you to glide downwards at an acceptable angle, assuming you have enough height vs. airspeed to do it safely. (There are charts of this ratio. you probably don't want to see them.) Without the freewheeling unit you'd just have the rotor blades lock up along with the engine and pretty much kinda plummet like a brick.

That bracelet-lookin' thing there is very literally the part that makes you not die.
camwyn: Me in a bomber jacket and jeans standing next to a green two-man North Andover Flight Academy helicopter. (helicopter)
Flying lesson scheduled for Saturday. Got a call from my instructor yesterday asking if I was interested in a last-minute discount lesson, but I'd have to get to LWM by 4; by the time I got back to him with the local train schedule the circumstances had changed and I'd have had to arrive by 2:30 to have time for a preflight check, possibly earlier. Ah well.

I need to contact Wilzig about their ER records, as my fax to them last week didn't work.

Pretty sure I am putting more effort into this than I did into getting everything in order so I could get a master's degree. Not sure I care. The possibility of turning this into a job eventually exists, but the debt level would be astronomical; you need 200 hours of flight time for a commercial license and most places don't start hiring until you have 400 hours, and it costs a lot per hour. On the other hand, if the FAA likes my medical records and issues me that certificate, the possibility does exist. So... eh, who knows.


camwyn: Me in a bomber jacket and jeans standing next to a green two-man North Andover Flight Academy helicopter. (Default)

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