October 2023 News

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Hot Helicopters 🌡️

October often signals the turn for warmer weather in Melbourne. Sunny days at the beach and driving with your window down are great to look forward to, but as a pilot the impending heat should be sounding warning bells!

It is easy to forget that there are often very real limitations on the performance of your rotorcraft. During winter, when the air is cooler, denser and drier, the density altitude (DA) is far lower and allows for better performance (less power required to hover, transition, cruise etc). We often don’t have to worry about Hover in and out of ground effect charts (HIGE and HOGE). But when the air heats up, it loses density and the helicopter has to work much harder to produce the same amount of lift.

If the air is warm enough, and the take off weight of the helicopter high enough, there may be little to no power margin in the hover. Keep in mind that this will limit your transition and approach profiles. You can calculate what altitude you will be able to hover at before you leave home by using the HIGE and HOGE charts in the flight manual of your helicopter.

Pay close attention to how much power you are using in the hover before taxiing to the tower pad as it will have a very real impact on what transition you will be able to make. For example if you pick up into the hover and see that you are pulling 96% power on the MLI in the G2, you will only be able to make a cushion creep transition and likely a zero-zero approach. It is very easy to approach too fast or too steep and require a large suck of power to arrest your airspeed or rate of descent. If you think that your zero-zero approach is either of the above, simply call a go-around and try again.

Power Availability in a Cabri G2

Above: Example of an in-flight performance calculation in the G2. This matrix can be found on the G2 checklist. There is an R44 version which uses mmHg rather than %power.

PPL Theory Dates 📚

The dates for the 2024 PPL theory courses have been released:

  • 22nd January – 2nd February
  • 29th April – 10 May
  • 5 August – 16 August
  • 11 November – 22 November

The PPL theory course takes students who have no aviation background knowledge to test-ready in 2 weeks. The course includes comprehensive notes, tuition and practice questions/exams to ensure that you will be able to tick off the theory component of your private helicopter license.

If you are interested in attending please email chris@wakefield.digital with your preferred dates. There is no obligation to attend if you register your interest.

New Headsets 🎧

The A20 Headsets in DGL and PDV have been updated to feature the Lemo plug. The Lemo plug draws power for noise cancellation from the battery/alternator of the helicopter, bypassing the need for those pesky batteries which so often go flat or missing.

Please take care if ever plugging in or removing the Lemo plug as it features a locking mechanism that will need to be lifted before removal.

Lemo plug in the Cabri G1

Radio Chat 📻

When flying around, especially near the city or inbound reporting points, I regularly hear pilots making calls to ATC and each other use the word “approaching” when describing their location. This is not only incorrect, it is unhelpful and sometimes, outright dangerous.

Whilst it may be technically true that we are “approaching” Christmas, since it early November, the only people that believe we are actually close to Christmas are the overly excited children and the supermarkets.

The phrase approaching is mentioned in the AIP radiotelephony procedures section, but only in reference to when a pilot is closing in toward a flight information region (horizontally) or climbing/descending to a flight level or altitude. It is NOT in the list of standard words and phrases and should not be used when broadcasting your position.

When using the radio, pilots and air traffic controllers need a specific location (if you are over the top of a well known landmark) or an approximate distance and direction from a landmark to help find you quickly and efficiently.

“…Helicopter ABC is approaching Albert park lake…” only says you are nearby. Without a distance or direction, who knows where you really are?

On days with lots of traffic around, when making inbound calls to ATC, don’t be surprised if you are asked to squawk ident so ATC can pinpoint your location. Also don’t be too surprised if they make you wait a few minutes and issue a clearance to other pilots more able to specify their location ahead of you…

“…Helicopter ABC is one nautical mile south east of Albert park lake…” gives ATC and other pilots a much smaller area of the sky to look in, spot you and turn to avoid, if necessary.

– Gray Human

Radio Communication at Melbourne Helicopters