Wow, awesome flight today! It happened in two parts. First part was lifting off from KMMU to fly into the city. I got lost leaving the airport and couldn't find Route 10 to take me to Route 280 (Heli chart for reference) so I had to turn around, go back to the airport and upon flying over re-oriented myself properly. After that the flight into the city went without a problem. I hit the Hudson and turned upriver to touch down on the pad at KJRA with no problems on the first approach. Pleased, I lifted off and headed back downriver to The Lady and flew past Governer's Island to land at KJRB. Once again I smoothly decelerated and although I hit a hover early, I kept her straight and nudged her in for a landing on the pad. Next was to continue up the East River and land at 6N5, using the proper approach of coming in over the water. Well, I almost ended up in the drink but I managed to increase the throttle enough to keep me dry, then slowly crept in for a landing - this time with my entire tail boom over the tarmac! Still, I put her down hard on the skids because I felt I was drifting into the terminal again. Finally from 6N5 I flew a new route, which was Throgs to Republic - leading me to Republic Airport (KFRG) where I touched down on the tarmac since it had no helipad (but does service helicopters in real life).
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After that I had to shut down and go run open workout at the gym. When I got home again I was back in the sim at KFRG. Refueled and ready to go, I decided to fly out to the tip of Long Island. Studying the heli chart for Long Island I saw my only option was to fly along the shoreline, no doubt to reduce noise over the residential areas which make up the majority of the island. So I took routes Republic and Meadowbrook to South Shore and plodded along the coast at around 110 knots cruise, low at 1500 feet since I planned to make landings at two airports along the way. The first was Brookhaven (KHWV), and although the airport in FSX didn't have a helipad (I'll have to fix that) the satellite ground textures did! So I put her down on the pad, or where one was supposed to be. From there it was back to South Shore and my next stop, which was Gabreski (KFOK) not too far away. Again, no helipads in the sim so I set her down on the tarmac and hover taxied to a parking spot. A hover taxi is moving around the airport just a few feet above the ground. Managed it pretty good. I climbed out of KFOK to 2500 feet since I didn't plan to set down again, but as I flew I continued to study the heli chart and noticed that one of the many heliports listed wasn't marked Pvt (Private). This was pretty much the only one so I decided to check it out since it was right along the shore. Turns out Southampton (87N) isn't in the sim but as with KHWV, I could see the pad in the ground textures so I set her down there. Then it was back to 2500 feet, around the tip of Long Island just as the sun was hitting the horizon, and back along Route North Shore. A few minutes into my return leg a plane flew no less than 500 feet under me - very close in aviation terms. So I tuned into NY Approach for flight following so they could notify me whenever traffic got close. I continued on without mishap until I spotted my landmark to turn over land and make for Long Island Mac Arthur (KISP). So used to not finding a helipad, I almost missed the one KISP had! But I approached slow and almost, almost descended straight onto the pad without having to futz around in a hover to orient myself over it properly. But I did have to do that - bright side is when my skids finally kissed the Earth I was dead center of the pad oriented along the H. Win!
A couple of technical notes about this flight.
First, long flights in a helicopter are tough without an autopilot. I mentioned previously how much attention you need to give the controls since there is no trim to hold it level, and I mean it. You can look away for a second and find yourself 200 feet higher or lower than you were previously. While I can keep my hand off the throttle, my right hand has to remain on the stick at all times, constantly adjusting pressure to keep the helicopter level. Really the single most important gauge on your control panel is the Vertical Speed Indicator, as it will tell you if you are flying level or not. You can't use your Artificial Horizon, as the helicopter's pitch adjustments are too minute to be able to tell by looking at it whether you're in level flight. The VSI needle goes up, a touch more pressure on the stick. The VSI needs sags down, ease up slightly on the stick. It's a constant adjustment.
Second, turning still needs work. I can keep the turn coordinated by "stepping on the ball" properly using the rudder pedals and the turn coordinator, but it's interesting how the helicopter wants to climb so much when you bank into a turn. So I need to get better at anticipating this increase in vertical speed and dip the nose further as I roll into a turn. And it's not even that easy, because at some point in the turn I will start to lose altitude, so I need to pitch forward into the turn, but then start to level back out before the VSI needle begins to drop. Still, the entire flight I was able to stay +/- 200 feet of my target altitude like 98% of the time.
Speaking of the turn slip indicator, I noticed for the first time how even in level flight with no bank you need to step on the right rudder pedal and hold it ever so slightly to counter the torque of the main rotor - and the slip indicator tells you this. Centering up the ball really makes the chopper fly straight. Luckily my rudder pedals stick very well and so I don't have to maintain constant pressure on them once I get them into position - I just have to exert pressure to move them. As you can imagine, when I vary the throttle, the slip indicator is affected as well since the amount of torque from the main rotor changes. I'm learning to better anticipate this.
Finally, my throttle and pitch control are insanely better, which is the main reason I was able to make every single landing today on the first approach. Yes, when I got down to within 50 feet of the ground I usually futzed around in a hover for a good minute or so before finally setting her down, but I was able to keep the chopper slow and in control so even if I came down short of the pad I was able to increase throttle just enough to maintain altitude and work the pitch to nudge me over the pad before setting down, and in most cases setting down without bouncing back up or bumping or sliding along the ground on my skids. I can also transition to and from a hover much smoothly and better control how fast I want to move over the ground.
Things'll get more interesting next time. I'm going to mix it up a lot...