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 hover first time felt amazing, you can really notice how much more powerful it is. The noise level is really low, just like the vibrations. The biggest thing to get used to is the cyclic trim as well as the hover height.
You are sitting way higher in this helicopter so initially it feels like you’re hovering too high. I got used to it quite quickly though and manoeuvring around felt really comfortable quite quickly. Look at the picture below to see the Squirrel compared to the Cabri:
We then went into the local area at around 2000 feet to cover straight and level flight and the autopilot and trim.
It is quite weird to fly hands off, being so used to always being on the controls in single engine helicopters. Having the helicopter trimmed out at exactly the right speed, height or rate of climb and heading without touching anything feels a little surreal, but does leave a lot of capacity to be used on other things like IFR flying or drills.
We used a cruise speed of 120 kts, with a tailwind that was about 140 kts (260 km/h), this is twice as fast as what I am used to so everything went much quicker which means there is more thinking ahead / anticipation required.
Soon after this, I was flying my first couple of approaches, and getting used to the higher speeds and different approach angles, which went really well.
The lessons after that were mostly spent on helipad departures and arrivals as well as engine failures and fires. For a helipad departure, you set the Take off Decision Point (decision height) at 90 feet.
The idea is to start hovering backwards away from the helipad to a height of 90 feet, followed by forward cyclic to go forwards while keeping the rate of climb going. If 1 engine fails before this point, you can gently settle back to the helipad using the other engine, after the decision height, you use Vtoss (40 kts) and climb away using the working engine while continuing with your emergency drills.
The hardest bit is doing all the engine fire or failure drills while having to get your speed bang on 40 kts up to 550 feet, then to 55 kts between 550 feet and 1000 feet. Those two emergencies are the only two that consist completely of memory items, which means you can’t use the checklist.
On the last day of the first week I finished with 180 degree autorotations (simulated double engine failure). I am currently about 4.5 hours into the 8 hour typerating and according to the instructor I am pretty much ready for test now, which leaves me with 3.5 hours to get extra comfortable in the aircraft and prepare for the IR course which starts next week!
We might have the chance to land at the biggest heliport in London as well (Battersea), which would be amazing. More updates and pictures soon and for the post covering my IR test click here.