Causes of helicopter crashes

What are the most Common Causes of Helicopter Crashes?

Helicopter incidents, accidents, and even fatal crashes are unfortunately still way too common, especially compared to the fixed wing world. Every month or so there are still news articles featuring the latest unfortunate helicopter events. These are then followed by safety reports on how to prevent it in the future, but things are seemingly not improving as much as we would like. So what are the most common causes of helicopter crashes nowadays? What does Read more…

Pitot-Static Flight Instruments

How do Pitot-Static Flight Instruments Work?

Today we go back to basics! The bread and butter of a cockpit instrument panel or Primary Flight Display are the basic instruments. A big chunk of them work using air, the other chunk are mostly gyroscopic. The ones using air pressure are called pitot-static, which we are going to focus on. So how do Pitot-Static Flight instruments work exactly? For the cadets coming straight out of training this might be an easy one. But Read more…

What are the Causes and Effects of Dissymmetry of Lift?

Helicopters are fascinating flying machines. If you talk to someone with fixed wing experience about the effects of airspeed on a helicopter, they will look at you like you’re from a different planet. Fixed wing aircraft are for the most part inherently stable, while helicopters are inherently unstable. This means most answers to aerodynamics-related questions just create more questions. Most of these questions all come from the fact that airspeed does not affect all parts Read more…

What is a sonic boom

What is a Sonic Boom, and How Does it Affect Helicopters?

Sonic booms: not talked about very much, especially in the helicopter industry. However, the speed of sound and the effects of breaking it, has a massive influence on the design, procedures and aerodynamic of both planes and helicopters. So what is a sonic boom, and how does it effect helicopters as well? For clarity, the picture above is called a vapour cone, and is NOT the same as a sonic boom, but is related to Read more…

Calculating density Altitude

How to Calculate Density Altitude: A Step by Step Guide

Out of all the atmospheric variables we get to deal with as pilots, density altitude is by far the most relevant and important. You should really have it in the back of head when you enter the cockpit for the day. Knowing how to calculate density altitude is something a lot of pilots get lazy with over the years, as technology helps us more and is often only a few taps away. That’s why today, Read more…

6 Crucial Tips for Starting a Pilot Career

Becoming a pilot is considered a pretty common childhood dream. But of course, like any other career, it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows at times. There is a lot to learn along the way, so today I’ll go over 6 crucial tips for starting a pilot career. I was (and am) fortunate enough to be surrounded by incredible professionals who have often shared their own mistakes and struggles for me and others to learn from. Read more…

The Most Common Turbine Engine Starting Failures

Turbine engines are used widely across the aviation sector. They come in all shapes and sizes: Turbojets, Turboprops, Turboshafts, and Turbofans. While they all have different characteristics and use cases, they share a lot of similarities at the same time. So what are the most common turbine engine starting failures, and how can you recognise them as a pilot? While we won’t dive into the mechanics of each engine here (we will in the future), Read more…

VTOL

EASA Issues World’s First “VTOL Vertiport” Design Guidance

EASA has just issued the world’s first “VTOL Vertiport” Design Guidance. This is a massive step, and will help to keep up with the rapid development of the Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) industry and the various aircraft (or in English: flying autonomous vehicles carrying people). There are a lot of variables going into this, and there are a lot of people in aviation industry who have strong feelings for and against this development, often Read more…

Why do Some Aircraft not Appear on Flight Tracking Websites?

A common question for both aviators and non-aviators: Why do some aircraft not appear on flight tracking websites such as Flight Radar 24 and Plane Finder, while others look like the pilots are trying to give passengers a roller coaster experience? How is it possible that most airline traffic even shows up in the middle of the atlantic ocean, where ‘ordinary’ radar stations cannot even reach in the first place? Meanwhile, why does Cessna X Read more…

Evidence Based Training (EBT): What Exactly Does it Mean?

Right then, on to the next most requested topic: Evidence Based Training (EBT)! You might have heard about it already in the last few years, or you might be in an organisation who has already fully embraced it. At the same time though, there are loads of professionals in the aviation industry who have not been exposed to EBT at all. We’re going to cover what exactly EBT means, where it came from, and what Read more…

What are the Causes and Effects of Triggered Lightning?

Lightning by itself is usually not considered to be a force that can crash airplanes. The last confirmed US crash that was concluded to be caused by lightning was PAN AM Flight 214 in 1967, which crashed due to a lightning strike that hit one of the fuel tanks, causing an in-flight explosion. So with that in mind, what are the causes and effects of triggered lightning? Since that accident, tools to deal with lightning Read more…

Integrating Drones into the Aviation Industry

Drones: A threat to some, a living for others. It is very obvious that no matter where you are in the world, drones are becoming more and more common, and are starting to impact the aviation industry globally. To integrate drones into the aviation industry is not something easy to tackle in an when there are so many variables, safety considerations, and perspectives. Understanding the legal implications of having drones flying around inside and outside Read more…

Hypoxia: How Does it Work?

Hypoxia: how does it work? It’s a term we all get hammered with during Human Performance and Limitations training during the ATPL’s. For most though, while the facts don’t lie, it sometimes feels like a term that is very distant and one of those things that ‘you know about’ but probably won’t ever encounter, especially for helicopter pilots who rarely fly above 6000’ AMSL. And while that might be true, helicopters are not even pressurised, Read more…

How Exactly Does the NOTAR System Work?

Tail rotor systems are one of the most crucial components onboard a helicopter. While pilots can deal with tail rotor emergencies, there are variables that could be extremely hard to deal with and manage. This is why the structural design and manufacturing of tail rotor systems is taken extremely seriously amongst aircraft manufacturers. Many implementations and designs have surfaced over the last few decades. Manufacturers are getting more creative every year to minimise the amount Read more…

The Ultimate Guide for Picking a Flight School

One of the most talked about (and requested) topics for aspiring student pilots: where do I begin with picking a flight school and navigate through all the options, advertisements, promises, and costs? Do I pick a modular course, or integrated? Should I expect to be a flight instructor first or not? What about the instrument rating (IR)? How many hours do I need to get a job? Today we are going to answer all these Read more…

Vortex Ring State and the Vuichard Recovery Technique

Vortex Ring State (VRS) is one of the most hazardous conditions a helicopter pilot can be in. While it’s part of all the helicopter pilot training syllabuses in the world, it is still present in (fatal) accident reports and discussed widely in the helicopter industry. Lots of pilots have requested for it to be covered on Pilots Who Ask Why, so let’s get into it! One development that has actually started a lot earlier than Read more…

What are the Most Important Personality Traits & Skills for Pilots?

Pilots come in many variants and there are many variables regarding the traits and personality profiles. But what are the most important skills for professional pilots? There is a lot that comes into this. Things like upbringing, country, company culture, training, and personality all impact in what way student pilots develop and what kind of pilot they end up becoming. Of course, the learning never stops, and any pilot that considers themselves a professional should Read more…

5 Reasons Virtual Reality Will be the Future of Flight Simulators

We haven’t quite entered the times presented in ‘Ready Player One’ just yet, but it’s actually slowly getting there. Virtual Reality (VR) technology is getting cheaper and more advanced every year since companies like Oculus and Valve made it more mainstream, resulting in companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Google all pouring resources into research and development to bring VR to mainstream society. It is likely that virtual reality will be the future of flight simulators. Read more…

All Helicopter Pilot Training Exercises (EASA)

Whether you are just starting out on your journey to become a pilot, or you are a seasoned TRE: It is always a good idea to (re)familiarise ourselves with the fundamentals of what we do every day: flying! Which is why we are giving you free access to all helicopter pilot training exercises. It is easy to take the basics for granted, especially while being submerged in the complex nature of all the jobs that Read more…

How Exactly do Night Vision Goggles Work?

If you went to your AME and said “I have lost my colour vision, I can’t see depth, and my vision is reduced to 2 small circles in the middle of my original field of view”, you’d probably not walk out with a class 1 medical. Somehow though, pilots use these exact conditions to fly to and from sometimes very hostile environments or congested areas using Night Vision Goggles (NVG’s). It is quite impressive just Read more…

CAT A/B vs Helicopter Performance Classes

Probably the most misunderstood and also most ‘scary’ topic for helicopter pilots: the helicopter performance classes. Not only can this topic be extremely confusing, the finer details are also dependent on where you are in the world. There are plenty of extremely experienced helicopter and fixed wing pilots who do not fully understand the ins and outs of performance classes, as well as the importance of the finer details that come with this topic. It Read more…

What is CDFA and How Does it Work?

Over the last few years, any pilot who has flown IFR has been bombarded with this abbreviation: CDFA. But what is CDFA exactly, and how does it work? For some, it’s a technique that is so ingrained that they don’t know any better, especially with PBN peeking around the corner: CDFA will become a wider used technique. For others (especially rotary wing pilots), it is something very new that can be quite confusing if you Read more…

What is Time Dilation and How Does it Affect GPS?

Yep, you’ve read that title correctly. In this article we will be going through the phenomena describing the slowing down of time itself: time dilation! But what is time dilation and how does it affect something we use every day: GPS? Hard to get your mind around or even accept it exists? Definitely. This one will be a little less practical than other “Pilots who ask why” articles. However, if you can stick around, it Read more…

What is Wind and Where Does it Come From?

From a teeny little breeze that might tickle some leaf on a tree, to a hurricane lifting an entire wall of a building: wind is part of every day life for humans, but especially for aviators. What is wind and where does it come from? For any flight, it could be the difference between life and death. Yes that sounds like I am being a bit of drama queen, but it is actually true! Plenty Read more…

Introducing Pilots Who Ask Why!

Welcome to ‘Pilots Who Ask Why’! We as pilots (and other aviation personnel) don’t ask “why?” enough when it comes to principles and theory behind every-day tasks. The excellent global aviation safety culture that results from SOP’s and checklists can unfortunately also create an environment where we get complacent when it comes to the actual reason why we are doing the things we do. It is tempting to say “I am just an engineer / Read more…

The Future of My Pilot Blog

It has been a while! Last year has been pretty eventful ever since I obtained my EASA ME IR(H), as you’ve been able to see on this pilot blog. Upon passing my skills test I spent a lot of time on just making sure my CV was finetuned to the tiniest detail and wrote loads of application letters to multiple companies. Then, after a lot of writing and follow up calls – I received a Read more…

Cloudsurfing in an IFR Helicopter

We are getting really close to test date now! After about 5 flights each we are getting ready for the progress check. If that goes well we’ll be looking to do our ME IR test soon! Interesting days for sure, especially considering the flights we’ve done today included some different views than we’re used to as VFR helicopter pilots during some cloudsurfing we ended up doing due to the holding height. Having to enter the Cranfield Read more…

Flying Through Clouds for the First Time

I just flew my first IMC flight! After all that prep, straight away I felt both prepared and excited. Cloudbase was variable, just as the cloud coverage, which resulted in some new and interesting situations while flying through clouds. Constantly going in and out of cloud is a weird feeling, and probably will be for a bit, having avoided clouds for the best part of 3 years. It is easy to get disoriented without the Read more…

Kneeboard Management in an IFR Helicopter

We are about halfway through our sim time and really are getting the hang of things now. Most routes we fly have the format of: take up a standard instrument departure using 1 or more nav aids, followed by 2 or 3 legs using VOR’s or NDB’s, join the hold of the destination, fly 2 holds, go beacon outbound for an NDB approach and finally a go around procedure (usually merged with an engine fire Read more…

Learning IFR Procedures in a Helicopter

Right, after getting used to the basics and having switched our mindsets completely from VFR to IFR flying, it is time to get serious with learning IFR procedures! So far we have logged about 9 hours each. It’s a very good thing we are both allowed to sit in each other’s flights, we learn so much by seeing eachother f-up different things and you can process your own difficulties better as well while the other Read more…

Simulator Training During the Instrument Rating

After having completed our AS355 typerating, we have started our simulator training. It’s an FNPT2 procedural trainer, which means it does not have any motion to making the pilot feel control inputs. It’s mainly used, as the name suggests, to train procedures and to get used to not looking outside anymore like we are so used to. The first things to get used to is the sensitivity of all the controls. Everything is so sensitive Read more…

Multi-Engine Rating: Check

Done! Passed the AS355 Type Rating skill test! The whole type rating course was over in a flash looking back at it, we only started last week and now we are ready for the next step after exactly the minimum course hour requirement of 8 hours: the simulator! The last bit of the course was all about loads of repetition and getting really efficient with the emergency drills as well as getting used to the Read more…

Flying the AS355 During the Instrument Rating

Off we go! We just had our first couple of days flying the AS355 Twin Squirrel above London! After spending quite some time on practicing checklists and startups / shutdowns, as well as getting used to all the different figures and turbine engines, we started with hovering, straight and level flight, using the autopilot to hold headings or heights, and even to turn and descend or climb at a specific rate. Taking it into the Read more…

Multi-Engine Instrument Rating: Here We Go

Here we go, after all the arrangements, prep and looking forward, me and Rida started with the IR course today! For the first two weeks we will be doing the AS355 ‘Twin Squirrel’ type rating with Ian, our TR instructor. Then after that we’ll do 40 hours in the simulator followed by 10 hours of actual IFR flying with Clive, our IR instructor. The plan is to get IR rated before the end of November. Read more…

I Flew my 700th Flight Hour in Helicopters

There, new milestone. I just flew my 700th flight hour in helicopters! Last couple of weeks have been awesome fun with a lot of flying. New students, new experiences, pipeline patrols and lots of studying / prep for my IR. I did some flight discovery days as well. Which is about showing a new student what flying helicopters is like, this of course includes a private site landing at a restaurant called Barnsdale lodge, took Read more…

First Year as a Flight Instructor

My first year as an instructor has been amazing! It has not been an easy road to get here, with lots of sacrifices, but so worth it. The exercises, the views, teaching, student progression, learning so much every day, it is all very rewarding. I have logged about 650 hours now! When I started my training in April 2014 I couldn’t even have hoped for progression like this, everything is going according to plan, I Read more…

I Passed my EASA CPL Flight Test

It has been an awesome journey already, but last week I passed my EASA CPL flight test to be able to get paid for flying helicopters! I passed my EASA CPL(H) skills test with UK CAA Examiner Richard Craske! It feels great to finally reach this milestone. But the journey is far from over. Next step is to get about 30 hours in, hopefully as a commercial pilot, after which I will start my flight Read more…

ATPL Theory Exams: All Passed!

Finally! After 7 months of full time studying, with almost no flying, I passed all the ATPL theory exams! My last sitting results: General Navigation: 90% Flight planning: 97% With everything completed, my average result is 96%, very happy with it! Next two months will be hour building as much as possible. I need to build around 55 hours, so if the weather permits, my CPL course could start as soon as the first of Read more…

ATPL Exams Sitting 3

Alright, almost there! I just received confirmation of passing all my ATPL exams during sitting 3! Now there is only two left and then, finally, the real fun begins: non-stop hour building! I got my R44 exam to pass, my Bell 206 typerating lined up, and after that my CPL course starts, can’t wait! But first things first: passing my last 2 exams. These were the last results: Performance: 100% Meteorology: 96% IFR Communications: 100% Read more…

ATPL Exams Sitting 2

Due to some issues with the ATPL exams booking, I was able to do only 3 more exams before my trip back to the Netherlands for christmas. In addition to the studying, I also got my R22 type rating and almost done with the R44 type rating as well! These are my results for this sitting! Air Law: 98% Operational Procedures: 92% Mass and Balance: 97% Overall pretty happy with it! I am taking a Read more…

ATPL Exams Sitting 1

Alright, I passed my first 5 ATPL exams! After my holiday I decided to work 200% in order to make it for the consolidation (which you need to do before you are allowed to sit the exams). It were a rough couple of weeks but I made it through the first batch! So that is 5 done out of 14. Next sitting will be the next 6 probably! Here are my results! In addition to Read more…

I Passed My Private Pilot Licence Exam

Allright! After 4 months of both flying and studying, I managed to pass my private pilot licence exam and receive it 1 day before the scholarship deadline. The scholarship deadline is set on the 31st of july, the day after I passed for my PPL exam! After a holiday with my girlfriend and friends, I am back on track as of this day. I got my scholarship interview on the 9th of September, and if Read more…

Completing my Solo Cross Country Flight

There, done! After some more solo navigation, more practiced forced landings, confined area training and advanced autorotations, I completed my solo cross country flight! I flew from Leicester to Gamston Airport, from there to Peterborough Conington, and back to Leicester Airport! The weather was really good, although a little gusty, but overall it was great! I have flown about 55 hours now (including 8 hours solo). I need 2 more solo hours and some other Read more…

My First Solo Flight in a Helicopter

There we go! I completed my first solo flight in a helicopter! After a flight with a lot of different exercises, emergency procedures and questions about system failures, the instructor said: “land over here, I am happy to say you can go solo!”. I landed next to the H and let Simon out of the helicopter, he attached the seatbealts to the left seat and informed me my call sign was now “Student Helicentre 20” Read more…

My PPL Training Progress

After a lot of both studying and flying, I made a lot of PPL training progress! I got my first hover lesson, which went absolutely perfect! Hovering is so much fun, but hard to get the hang of. It takes familiarisation with the pedals, cyclic and collective, and their secondary side effects. Change one input, and the other 2 need to change as well. After the hovering we also did air taxing and spot turns, Read more…

The Private Pilot Licence Exams

So the Cabris got some problems with the throttle control, which apparently means I will not be flying for the coming days (also because of the weekend). My first upcoming flight would probably be monday at 9.30 AM.So only one useful thing to do: studying for my private pilot licence exams! There are 9 PPL exams. I need to pass all of them with a score of at least 75% within 6 sittings at most. Read more…

My First Week of Pilot Training

There we go! I started my training! Today I had my first 2 lessons, and fortunately, both went excellent and it was SO exciting! The day started at 8.15 with an inspection practice for the helicopters, were I basically followed a checklist for every part of the helicopters that need to be checked, this is done every morning. I also learned to fuel a Cabri G2: After the briefing I was ready for my first Read more…

Starting My Helicopter Private Pilot Licence

I’ve officially started my PPL(H) training! I received all my required flight equipment today. Straight after getting my 4G contract, a bike, a property meeting and some other stuff, I went to the airport to meet all the guys and ladies at Helicentre and to get my equipment. Everything is here except for 1 book and my flight suit, so I need to wait a bit more for those. The school is currently 15 minutes Read more…

Starting My Helicopter Pilot Career

Finally, After 8 years of anticipation, preparation, and graduating, my helicopter pilot career finally begins at Helicentre Aviation in Leicester (United Kingdom). I will be trained ab-initio to Commercial Pilot and Flight Instructor. The helicopter I will be training on is the Cabri G2. The most modern training helicopter to date, and a very new type in the industry. The first couple of months will be all about getting my Helicopter Private Pilot License (PPL(H)). Read more…