Experience after 10 hours of hovering

I decided you give all Safari builders a report on my experiences in the first 10 hours of hovering, and a few translations.

Background: I have a PPL, total time about 130 hours, mostly done in a R22. I have a Jetranger B206 rating, and have flown 3 different BK-117 twin turbine helicopters (a few hours worth, and for free :) , and flown a Hughes 300 once.

I had the help of a local highly experienced B-Cat instructor, and I really needed him the first few hours.

So, how does the Safari compare with a Robinson R22 helicopter for example?

Well, the first thing you notice when you pick it up of the ground, is that it Rolls. What this means is, the Safari gets into a pendulum effect, which is very hard to control in the beginning. The main reason, in my opinion, is the fact that the rotor head is quite low, the fuel tanks are very high, so you have a very short pendulum arm. The tail rotor is also quite low, so every time you change pitch on the tail rotor, the helicopter will roll, which must be quickly stopped by a correcting sideways cyclic movement... And that is not easy in the beginning.

The pedals behave also very different as an R22. The tail rotor is of an very simple design, straight blades, symmetrical, and with no twist. I am spoiled with the excellent tail rotor behavior of the R22, no wonder, as Frank Robinson was a tail rotor design specialist! The R22 tail rotor has a very fast response, and the pedals have almost no force on them, making it very easy and sensitive to handle.

The Safari tail rotor does not have this advanced characteristic. If you want the tail rotor to push against the torque of the helicopter, you have to push against the tail rotor! And boy, do you have to push! The right pedal requires _major_ force in a hover, and when a right turn is required, a lot more force is required. This causes the push-pull cable to get quite tight, which make small movements difficult. Don't forget that most of my experience comes from the R22, which may have the most sensitive tail rotor behavior of any helicopter.

But what really trows me off, is that there is a major LAG in the response. This, in my opinion, is simply caused by the fact that the tail is Heavy. We are talking a major piece of welded steel here, compared with a simple hollow aluminium pipe in the R22, or Hughes 300 for that matter. What is a very nice behavior is that the wind has very little effect on the tail. Most wind blows through; and this means that doing a pedal turn in windy conditions (a nightmare in a R22) is relatively easy in the Safari.

So, you push the right pedal Hard to get the helicopter to turn right. First nothing happens. Then, the helicopter starts to turn right, and gets up to speed.. Oops. Quickly release the (major) pressure on the right pedal. The turn slows down; it stops; its starts to turn to the left, faster... A HARD push on the right pedal... Its slows down; stops; starts turning to the right, ever faster.... :) Great fun (for the onlookers!)

Of course, every time this happens, the helicopter ROLLS. Wag, roll, wobble, twist! I am using the R22 Governor, which keeps my RPM under control. If you have to do RPM control by hand, you will have real fun :)

So now, after about 10 hours of hovering, I start to get it under control. As with all helicopter flying, what must happen is that you lower brain functions learn to automatically respond to what the helicopter is doing, and more important, that your lower brain _knows_ what the helicopter is _about_ to do and move your hands and feet to stop it before it starts. It is this what make us walk on two legs without falling on your face after trying to move you right leg forward.

So, as my helpful instructor said: This helicopter lacks the refinements of modern helicopters with tens of thousands hours of research behind them. So, you need to become a Good Pilot to fly them. But once you have accomplished this, is it going to be an extreme satisfaction and a lot of fun.

I am very happy with my Safari so far, and look forward to getting it flying for real!