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Airplane Vs. Helicopter Flying  
User currently offlineJawed From United States of America, joined Sep 2006, 482 posts, RR: 0
Posted (7 years 7 months 3 days ago) and read 32767 times:

Just curious -- is learning to fly a helicopter significantly more difficult than learning to fly an airplane? I know it's less common...

Someone who has never been in a plane could probably steer a plane fairly well, and maybe even land. Probably not true in the case of a helicopter?

I think I saw a statistic claiming that flying helicopters is slightly more dangerous than airplanes. I also read that helicopters need constant maintenance because the helicopter's fundamental mechanics are essentially tearing the helicopter apart while flying. Also, a military helicopter pilot once told me that helicopters leak enormous quantities of oil as a standart part of operation. Is all this accurate?

[Edited 2006-12-30 08:54:28]

15 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineVref5 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 1, posted (7 years 7 months 3 days ago) and read 32767 times:

I'm not a helicopter pilot. But I can say that flying a helicopter requires much more 3D thinking than for airplane operation, from what I've seen of helicopter ops. (For instance, use of the collective in a helo...)

Some people has an aptitude for 3D thinking, and some don't. (Certain psychological tests will test for things like spatial reasoning, for instance.)

If you've got the aptitude and willingness to learn, you'd probably make a fine helicopter pilot at some point, is my impression.


User currently offlineArluna From United States of America, joined Jun 2006, 88 posts, RR: 1
Reply 2, posted (7 years 7 months 2 days 5 hours ago) and read 32767 times:

Hi all,

I had a pilot in my unit in Viet Nam tell me once that flying a helicopter is like trying to balance a ball bearing on the end of a pin. He also said that with practice just about anyone could learn to fly a helicopter and that it was probably easier for a student pilot who wanted to fly a helicopter to start in a helicopter and transition later into fixed wing.

I don't know how accurate these statements are so maybe some of you folks who have experience in both types could enlighten the rest of us.

Thanks,

J


User currently offlineCptSpeaking From United States of America, joined Apr 2006, 639 posts, RR: 1
Reply 3, posted (7 years 7 months 2 days 4 hours ago) and read 32767 times:

I'm primarily a fixed-wing pilot, and thats all I'm certified for by the FAA. However, I've gotten several chances to ride along and fly (with the real pilot hands-off) some helicopters. I've flown them in cruise flight and also gotten to do a couple landings and hovers. They are significantly more sensitive and difficult to handle, and if I had not had a lot of prior knowledge of their aerodynamics and procedures, I would have been completely lost. You can't fly them by moving your hands and feet. Just thinking about it puts enough pressure on the controls to do what you want to do, and that is no exaggeration.

That said, I would absolutely love to get my license and maybe find a chopper job out there someday. I love the feeling of flying them and go at any chance I get. They are sooooo much fun! One of the biggest complications though is the cost...plan on 2-3x more $ for helicopter training than fixed wing.

Big version: Width: 604 Height: 453 File size: 45kb

On the right of the pic in the left seat...
Your CptSpeaking



...and don't call me Shirley!!
User currently offlinePilotpip From United States of America, joined Sep 2003, 3148 posts, RR: 11
Reply 4, posted (7 years 7 months 2 days 4 hours ago) and read 32767 times:

Quoting Arluna (Reply 2):
Hi all,

I had a pilot in my unit in Viet Nam tell me once that flying a helicopter is like trying to balance a ball bearing on the end of a pin. He also said that with practice just about anyone could learn to fly a helicopter and that it was probably easier for a student pilot who wanted to fly a helicopter to start in a helicopter and transition later into fixed wing.

I don't know how accurate these statements are so maybe some of you folks who have experience in both types could enlighten the rest of us.

Thanks,

J

I've talked to people that have done the transition in both manners, and taught a guy to fly fixed wing that had rotor experience. The general consensus was rotor to fixed is easier than vice-versa.

With a good instructor, I doubt that it would be an more "difficult" per say. Each has it's own challenges and I'm sure there are people that start both and can't hack it. One reason the helos are more rare has already been stated. It's MUCH more expensive to learn to fly a helicopter.



DMI
User currently offlineAvt007 From Canada, joined Jul 2000, 2132 posts, RR: 5
Reply 5, posted (7 years 7 months 2 days 2 hours ago) and read 32767 times:

There's a good video out there of a guy who bought a helicopter, and had no training on it, but decided to take it for a spin. It ended predictably, except the guy walked away a lot poorer, but hopefully wiser.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AoRy8JDhw7k

[Edited 2006-12-31 07:14:30]

User currently offlineRotorImage From United States of America, joined Jun 2006, 40 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (7 years 7 months 1 day 22 hours ago) and read 32767 times:

Jawed,

I have flown all kinds of aircraft, from helicopters to turboprops, to supersonic jets....

I have always found that in IMHO, helicopters are easier. I always feel more "in control" of rotary-winged aircraft, just to to the increased manuverability I have, and the ability to slow the aircraft down if things get into a muddle. When flying airplanes, I always feel a little bit like I'm just "taking a ride," since the thing is going to keep flying in the general it's all ready going, regardless of what you do.

That being said, some of the smaller piston helos (I've flown the Robbie, Schweizer, and Enstrom) are definitely a bit "squirrely," but I still feel safer (call me crazy) in those vs. a lot of airplanes. The ability to autorotate to a spot, instead of having to find a place to make a rolling forced landing is a nice ability to have in your hip pocket if things go bad.

Again, just my two cents....open to comments/questions.


User currently offlineSlamClick From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 10062 posts, RR: 68
Reply 7, posted (7 years 7 months 1 day 15 hours ago) and read 32767 times:

I had about two thousand hours of fixed wing when I checked out in helicopters at Fort Rucker. Background was private license fixed wing, UH-1 Huey crewchief/door gunner - instructor, then fixed wing pilot training, so I knew quite a bit about helicopters when I started flying them.

I don't think there was much difference in the difficulty of mastering aircraft control from the point of view of raw-meat student to ready for your final checkride. They are just matters of what the controls do, learning to quickly assess a couple of instruments and the actions you must take with hand and foot to make it all go where you want it.

After that, it is not so much that helicopters are difficult but that fixed-wing is so boringly easy. You can even let go for hell's sakes! Two of the helicopters I flew, the OH-13 like on M*A*S*H and the similar OH-23 took a good deal of flying to make them behave. They were underpowered and sensitive and had no real inherent or induced stability. The Huey was much easier and one sweet-flying machine.

Helicopters are much more expensive to operate. To operate a helo for hire and make money at it you kind of have to do things that are not near as safe as most fixed-wing flying. Most of the money is to be made in the coffin corner, hovering over a mountaintop microwave antenna and things like that.

Engine failure and autorotation are the very least of my rotary worries. Not a complete non-event but normally less stress than a fixed-wing forced landing. The things that worry me are the things you won't walk away from. I've lost friends to several such events. Helicopters will teach you how to preflight an aircraft because just about everything on them can kill you.



Happiness is not seeing another trite Ste. Maarten photo all week long.
User currently offlineZKSUJ From New Zealand, joined May 2004, 7086 posts, RR: 12
Reply 8, posted (7 years 7 months 1 day 3 hours ago) and read 32767 times:

I have heard with a few people I know that rotary requires alot more co-ordination as fixed wing flying. Pretty much what everyone above said Big grin

User currently offlineUH60FtRucker From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 9, posted (7 years 6 months 4 weeks 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 32767 times:

Quoting Jawed (Thread starter):
Just curious -- is learning to fly a helicopter significantly more difficult than learning to fly an airplane?

I have both rotor and fixed-wing licenses... and I can say without a doubt that flying a helicopter is more challenging.

I can go months without flying a fixed-wing aircraft, and I will hop in and it's like riding a bike. Granted my landings might be a little rusty... but nothing to worry about.

However, if I go even a few weeks without flying a helicopter, and I can easily see the difference when I get back in. It takes constant practice and it's a perishable skill.

Quoting Jawed (Thread starter):
Someone who has never been in a plane could probably steer a plane fairly well, and maybe even land. Probably not true in the case of a helicopter?

Agreed... if someone didn't have any experience, and was forced to attempt to fly that helicopter (say because the pilot was incapacitated) he/she would most likely crash.

Because the thing about helicopters - you essentially have three flight controls in the cockpit:

-anti-torque pedals
-collective
-cyclic

And when you make in an input in any one of those controls, the other two must be adjusted. And you can easily get yourself into a dangerous situation if you are not careful.

I am reminded of a quote:

The thing is, helicopters are different from planes. An airplane by it's nature wants to fly, and if not interfered with too strongly by unusual events or by a deliberately incompetent pilot, it will fly. A helicopter does not want to fly. It is maintained in the air by a variety of forces and controls working in opposition to each other, and if there is any disturbance in this delicate balance the helicopter stops flying; immediately and disastrously. There is no such thing as a gliding helicopter.

This is why being a helicopter pilot is so different from being an airplane pilot, and why in generality, airplane pilots are open, clear-eyed, buoyant extroverts and helicopter pilots are brooding introspective anticipators of trouble. They know if something bad has not happened it is about to.

— Harry Reasoner, 1971


Quoting Jawed (Thread starter):
Also, a military helicopter pilot once told me that helicopters leak enormous quantities of oil as a standart part of operation. Is all this accurate?

Yes, we typically leak a good amount of oil. In the UH-60 we have a large "drip pan" above the cabin to prevent the passengers from getting soaked.

-UH60


User currently offlineSlamClick From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 10062 posts, RR: 68
Reply 10, posted (7 years 6 months 4 weeks 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 32767 times:

Quoting UH60FtRucker (Reply 9):
if I go even a few weeks without flying a helicopter, and I can easily see the difference when I get back in. It takes constant practice and it's a perishable skill.

I agree. I did not find it especially difficult to learn but true finesse, real expertise does require a lot of practice. Right after I checked out in the OH-23 I took one across the airfield to a closed runway which had big Xs painted on centerline. I chose one of these Xs and spent 45 minutes at hovering practice. The bars of the X were only slightly wider than my skid width.

I'd position myself over the middle, aligned with the stripes, then hover backwards out to the end of one bar, do a 270 pedal turn, then hover sideways to the opposite end of the stripe and so on. Three minutes of this and there was sweat pouring out from under my helmet.

I think a helicopter will allow you, if you master it, greater displays of airmanship, just the sheer finesse of aircraft handling than is available with fixed wing. After the session described above I parked the old Hiller, went in and got a cup of coffee and just sat and grinned.

I don't know much about the flying my friend, above, does in Iraq but I know my rotorhead friends in Vietnam (I flew fixed wing there) performed incredibly difficult feats of flying. I've said this before but I think an Army Warrant, 3/4 of the way through his tour in Vietnam was doing something on a daily basis that the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels pilots would have been proud to be able to do.

In the movie Bat 2-1 (terrific book - stupid movie) at one point an Air Force Oscar-Duck (O-2) pilot jumps in a Huey, cranks it up and sets out to teach himself to fly it so he could rescue colonel Hambleton. Absurd! IF he survived the crash that would have been the instant result, he'd have lost his wings and been court-martialed.

Non-pilots have managed landings with little or no damage in fixed wing. Ain't gonna happen in a helicopter!



Happiness is not seeing another trite Ste. Maarten photo all week long.
User currently offlineAirfoilsguy From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 11, posted (7 years 6 months 4 weeks 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 32767 times:

Here is an interesting video of what happens when someone who thinks he can fly a helicopter actually tries it for the first time with out instruction.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AoRy8JDhw7k


User currently offlineSlamClick From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 10062 posts, RR: 68
Reply 12, posted (7 years 6 months 4 weeks 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 32767 times:

Quoting Airfoilsguy (Reply 11):

Well he did a fairly good job. He stayed airborne for about 16 seconds before knocking his tail rotor off. Not a record but not bad.
Wonder how long the time seemed to him?
Instant?
Eternity?



Happiness is not seeing another trite Ste. Maarten photo all week long.
User currently offlineCptSpeaking From United States of America, joined Apr 2006, 639 posts, RR: 1
Reply 13, posted (7 years 6 months 4 weeks 1 day 15 hours ago) and read 32767 times:

Quoting Airfoilsguy (Reply 11):
Here is an interesting video

Thats a classic...I've always wondered what in the world his friends were thinking:

a)letting him go
b)instead of stopping him, taping him

Same applies for him...what made him want to go so bad and why didn't common sense stop him...

Your CptSpeaking



...and don't call me Shirley!!
User currently offlineSlamClick From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 10062 posts, RR: 68
Reply 14, posted (7 years 6 months 4 weeks 1 day 14 hours ago) and read 32767 times:

Quoting CptSpeaking (Reply 13):
what in the world his friends were thinking:

It was my impression that the video was taken not by a "friend" but by some other airport-hanger-outer. He did seem to know the helicopter crasher or at least know who he was, but I don't know that he was a friend. Not many people would go over to a relative stranger and order them out of their own flying machine. I don't like to think of myself as a snitch but I'd call the FAA in a heartbeat if I thought it would save someone's life. What I wonder is why people with video cameras think they need to be zoomed in so damn tight. They lose the picture that way all the time.

I have flown that one a very little bit, or at least the H-269 which I believe it to be. It is fairly twitchy, sensitive and so forth like many others. It also has a fully articulated rotorhead and sprung skids. It is therefore susceptible to ground resonance effects and he had no real chance of getting it back on the ground safely.

I've heard of three or four other incidents like this. Some guy with enough money to buy one except that he had just used his wealth to buy the ultimate luxury item - a huge ego. No respect for their instructor, after all, they buy and sell guys like this. Every one ended exactly like this. The rotors hit the ground and the thing does the dance of death.

I even knew one of them. Quite elderly, really interesting man. He owned a helicopter and had a pilot on his payroll. One day he got in it alone and ended his long and successful life.

Who would buy a helicopter and:

1. Have no idea that their fixed-wing expertise was not transferable.
2. Never have heard that they are difficult to fly.
3. Get no checkout from the seller or...
4. Utterly disregard the fact that the instructor had not endorsed them for solo.

Feel free to add your own to the list.



Happiness is not seeing another trite Ste. Maarten photo all week long.
User currently offlineAirfoilsguy From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 15, posted (7 years 6 months 4 weeks 1 day 14 hours ago) and read 32767 times:

From what I remember about this incident is that the instructor left the student ( a fixed wing pilot but no experience in helicopters, that was his first lesson) alone in the idling helicopter. The student bumped something, probably the rudder pedals, which caused the helicopter to slightly rotate. After that the student tried opposite rudder and pulled back on the stick and the rest is history. He did do a decent job of saving his life considering he has never flow a helicopter before. I think it is ironic that the camera man is telling the guy to stay away from the wreckage at the end of the video. That would have been better advice to give at the start of the video  Smile

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