Kneeboard management

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 or failure) with an ILS approach. This will also be quite similar to the IR skill test setup which is nice to know. Flying the real aircraft is only a couple of weeks away now! Let’s look at some stuff we’ve learned since last update.

In both the sim and the aircraft (pretty much all multi engine helicopters), there are at least two nav boxes and two coms boxes (frequency selectors). This is because you always need to track SOMETHING at all times under IFR. This means a beacon that is tuned, identified, tested and with a radial selected (in case of a VOR). If there would be just 1 nav box this would not be possible as changing frequencies to the next VOR would leave you ‘blind’ until you are done with the testing of the next beacon. It didn’t take us very long to realise that enroute nav and coms management is crucial and requires quite some planning and thinking ahead for it to be efficient. See below for a quick overview. Your main instrument (right) is the HSI and is coupled to NAV 1 (VOR or ILS). It allows you to select an enroute track to fly or a final approach track using the course selector, in the top left you can see the DME distance (in nm) from the beacon. The instrument on the left is the RMI and is coupled to NAV 2 (VOR or ILS) as well as the ADF for the NDB location. You can only start testing a new beacon if you’re already tracking a fully identified one, wether it’s an NDB or a VOR. Playing around between using either NAV 1, NAV 2 or the ADF, you have to make sure the beacon planning makes sense and is efficient.

Right, that’s the NAV side, let’s move on to the COM side. So there are 2 boxes with each 2 units. Coms 1 starts with the active on the ATIS (see picture below) so you can obtain the relevant weather observations with the standby on the relevant tower frequency for departure. After listening to the ATIS, you swap the frequencies and do your initial call on coms 1 (and therefore it’s checked). Standby can then be changed to the destination ATIS frequency and then set TWR on standby in case coms 2 fails during approach at the destination.

From then onwards, coms 2 is used for all main VHF transmissions. As soon as you swap frequencies, putting the next frequency in standby is important to manage workload for when you’ve got plenty of other stuff to think about. This cycle continues until you end up with the destination approach and tower frequencies in coms 2, all setup for the approach.

To help with the enroute system management as well as maintaining situational awareness, using a kneeboard efficiently helps a lot. Under VFR, most of you reading this will know it’s usually used for checklists and clipping some stuff onto like a pilot log (plog) or a small notepad, together with your airport layout plates or other info. Under IFR, it’s that plus a lot more. While we still plan everything on a chart, most of the nav is done purely using the plog, just having the chart around as a backup.

Fuel planning figures, com frequencies, morse codes, beacon frequencies, ATIS data, timings, checklists, but most of all the NDB and ILS approach plates are all kept in here. The plog we were given is well designed, it basically has space for everything mentioned above apart from (of course) the plates themselves. We take a plate for each planned NDB and ILS approach, as the height and tracks are usually different between the different kinds, this is for both the destination as well as the alternate.

The next thing I find very useful is the ‘timeline’. It’s basically a simplified line of events for the flight, which you can follow from bottom to top. It includes headings, tracks, frequency changes and things like frequencies with their morse codes to make the process more efficient. See below for a simplified one:

The top right shows a hold entry with the tracks as well to help maintain situational awareness during the procedure. For the details we obviously just use the actual plate. Holdings tend to be quite high workload in a helicopter if you have not prepared it properly and whenever some track does not really go exactly the way you planned it to you’ll have to do some inflight problem solving, which is getting better the more we are exposed to it!

That’s all for now, hope you guys enjoyed it. The support is amazing, thank you all so much! It’s crazy to see how my blog is starting to snowball across so many parts of the world every week, this is just from the last 10 days (the country list does not even fit in my screen)! Lovely to see everyone’s finding it both enjoyable and useful so far, I’ll keep posting whenever I have the chance, stay tuned!

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