BACK TO BASICS
By François Blanc
Copyright : Azur Helicoptere
A glimpse into the experience of a professional pilot with ratings on single and twin-turbine engine helicopters as he rediscovers a single piston engine helicopter. A former pilot for the French emergency medical services (SAMU) shares his experience which warrants a closer look.…
AN UNUSUAL APPROACH. THERE ARE LESSONS TO BE LEARNED WHEN A PROFESSIONAL PILOT, TRAINED FROM THE BEGINNING OF HIS CAREER ON TURBINE–ENGINE AIRCRAFT DECIDES TO OBTAIN AN INSTRUCTOR RATING ON A SINGLE PISTON ENGINE. WHILE THE CASE OF LUCMALHOMME IS PROBABLY NOT UNIQUE, IT DOES HOWEVER BRING TO LIGHT THAT THE FUNDAMENTALS OF FLYING MATTER FAR MORE THAN THE AVAILABLE POWER AND THE AIRCRAFT FLYING SUPPORT, AS THE BEST GUARANTEE OF FLIGHT SAFETY. LICENSED AS A PROFESSIONAL PILOT ON THE ALOUETTE 2 IN 1998, THEN TESTED ON BELL 206 JET RANGER, LUC RECEIVED HIS AS350 ECUREUIL RATING ONE YEAR LATER. HE ALSO RACKED UP FLIGHT HOURS ON THE HUGHES 300, AND EVEN ON THE R22 (A LITTLE OVER 50 HOURS), DURING THE YEAR OF HIS INITIAL TRAINING. HOWEVER NOTHING THAT AS A YOUNG LICENSED PILOT UNDULY LEFT ITS MARK. IN 2003, HE OBTAINED A AS355F RATING (THE TWIN TURBINE ENGINE ECUREUIL POWERED BY ALLISON ENGINES). HE THEN PERFORMED MISSION AFTER MISSION ON BEHALF OF THE PERPIGNAN AND CARCASSONNE EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES. FIVE YEARS LATER, HE RECEIVED TYPE RATING ON THE EC120 COLIBRI, BEFORE FINDING HIMSELF ONCE AGAIN ON THE AS355N, ANOTHER TWIN TURBINE ENGINE ECUREUIL (WITH SAFRAN ARRIUS 1A1 ENGINES) THEN OPERATED BY THE BLOIS EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES.
A distant memory…
His career as a pilot specialized in hospital missions ended in 2014, after receiving a new type rating this time for the H135. At this stage in his career, Luc Malhomme left the company that employed him – a resolution that numerous pilots in France have known as part of contract changes with services providers between hospital managers and helicopter operating companies. Eager to expand his range of skills, the pilot used this “break” to obtain an instructor rating. With his 3,000 flight hours, he felt he was ready for his next mission: training candidates for the world’s greatest profession. Step one to achieving this new objective consisted in renewing his rating on single-piston engine aircraft. He found himself back on the R22. An old friend, but also a distant memory! “After 19 years spent on the largest, most powerful aircraft, getting back into the pilot seat of an R22 was not easy. Relatively speaking, I felt like I was behind the wheel of a car without a license! Not literally of course, but the demanding nature of the cockpit, as well as the technical characteristics of the cyclic control on this machine brought me back to feelings I had forgotten, which was rather troubling,” stated Luc Malhomme.
Brushing up on hovering skills…
To the point that hovering required 45 minutes of training: “I was overcontrolling and was unable to maintain a proper hover.” A rather humbling feeling for an experienced pilot who is used to controlling aircraft with maximum takeoff mass (2,980 kg for the H135) requiring a certain dexterity. With his type rating renewed, the student instructor prepared for the second phase of his training. A Cabri G2 type helicopter was also available to students where he trained. Out of curiosity, he examined the machine from all angles and asked the instructor some questions. With the flight manual in hand, he discovered a recently-designed, modern and in his opinion very appealing machine. “I quickly took stock of the years that separate the design of the R22 (that is no longer built) from the Cabri,” stated Luc Malhomme. “The first dates back to the 1970s. The second seemed to embody know-how that is more common to the third millennium”. Tempted by the prospect of working on this small machine, he took off on one for the first time next to the instructor. “The feeling of the three-blade main rotor instantly reminded me of the former aerospace aircraft such as the Alouette 2, Gazelle or Ecureuil. But additionally, the first feeling oddly enough reminded of the current H120 Colibri. As a pilot with multiple ratings on Airbus Helicopters families, reading the instrument panel proved both easy and intuitive, in other words, it came quite naturally,” he added.
A family resemblance?
When asked to comment on the pilot’s opinion, Bruno Guimbal, designer and manufacturer of the Cabri G2, stated: “The Cabri demonstrator flew in 1992. At this time, the EC120 was being developed [Note from the editor: the future H120 would fly in 1995]; and it would benefit from certain characteristics of the Cabri, like the landing gear and the anti-vibration systems, for example. Conversely, the Cabri would also take on some aspects of the EC120. The first G2 series were delivered in 2001”. Accordingly, this likeness (that we do not dare to call a descendant) between the Cabri G2 and certain aircraft in the Airbus Helicopters family, while not officially premeditated, currently presents some advantages. “You need 15 flight hours to become familiar with the H120 when you are coming from the R22, whereas you only need 3 hours when you have a Cabri G2 rating,” said Bruno Guimbal. When examining these separate opinions made by the two men, we can now better understand why Luc Malhomme, who at first felt out of place upon his return to the piston engine two-seater, ultimately grew attached to this small three-bladed shrouded tail rotor helicopter. However Hélicoptères Guimbal will not be using this as a sales pitch, in an effort not to burden its client base that is primarily concerned with providing the Cabri G2 as part of the initial training of future private or professional pilots, without assuming the type ratings that the young pilots will subsequently obtain. As for Luc, his experience obtaining an instructor rating faced with a new machine, provided a humbling experience. He has no doubt that his training provided him with a review of certain fundamentals, even though he knew them all along.