Off Airport Landings

Back in August I got to do what was supposed to be a long loop hike in the mountains up on the Idaho-Montana panhandle. Ended up cutting the hike short because of worsening weather, but got to see something that you probably won’t ever see in a helicopter, but will help your pinnacle and confined landings. The zone of demarcation is the transition layer between the smooth (laminar) flow over the terrain, and the underlying turbulent layer. Stay above the ZoD and your ride will be smoother and power requirements lower. Get under it and you will be dealing with turbulence and down drafts. Just watch the video, and if anybody’s up for it, I’d like to hear some opinions on how you might be able to best do an approach to this saddle.


Zone of Demarcation

Quick Stops Bad. Rapid Deceleration Good.

Thoughts? There’s  a thread on the good side of JustHelicopters to discuss teaching and using the maneuver commonly referred to as the Quick Stop. I thought I’d use it as an opportunity to formulate that lesson plan. So how do you teach it, what does it teach, how do you use it, and what do you call it? Post your thoughts and questions here, on the JH thread, or on the lesson and let’s see what we can come up with.

LAX West Helipad Departure (and Commercial Approaches)

The one weekend I flew with BoatPix back in August I hit as many airports as I did during my entire flight training. One of them was LAX, which, if you haven’t seen it, has a pretty cool helipad to land on. We were flying by LAX on the way home to SNA (John Wayne/Orange Co) and needed to clean the helicopter’s bubble anyway, so…. Unfortunately, my camera has some issues with sun glare, and pointing it directly into the setting sun fried its sensor for the entire approach. Maybe I’ll get to do that approach another time, but the basic challenge on the approach is that Tower wants you above the runway complexes that flank the helipad in the center of the airport. You  bring the helicopter in high over the runways, then make a steep descent for a pinnacle landing to the helipad. (Although it’s a steep descent, the actual approach maintains a normal angle–the idea behind the steep descent was to get to an altitude where I could make a normal approach.)lax helipad

The departure is not as much fun, but it’s still very cool. This time, your flight path has to parallel the two runways that flank you (25 to the south, and 24 to the north). Eventually, you have to cross paths with departing airliners that are using those runways though. For this, the tower keeps you low along the shoreline until you clear the airspace. This turns out to not be that unusual, and earlier that weekend we were working off the departure end of North Island Naval Air Station (where we were moved out of the way of a C5 that was outbound).

The last part of this video shows me doing a less than smooth approach into SNA. I’m still stuck on the flight school mentality where I fly a pattern to land. If you’re working on your commercial ticket, you need to get experience breaking out of the downwind/base/final and 60 KIAS/200 fpm approach mentality. Yeah, I never did them during training; the school was more worried about noise complaints from the homeowners who bought houses next to the airport. To pull them off now takes a bit of brain power–something that’s running short when you haven’t flow a lot recently and you’re at an unfamiliar airport. There’s nothing difficult about them, it just requires you to break some ingrained habits.