Learning to Fly a Helicopter: Taking a Trial Lesson

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If you want to experience a simulated engine failure, just ask. Image by Helen Krasner

The Trial Flight Itself

Once you arrive for your test flight, you will meet your instructor; then you will probably have a briefing. This is a short explanation of how a helicopter works and what the flight will consist of. You may get your briefing  in the classroom, but I sometimes used to do mine out by the helicopter if the weather was good. Either way, feel free to ask questions, but don’t worry if you can’t understand everything.

It is worth mentioning to the instructor that you are thinking of taking the PPL(H) course, (the course to gain a helicopter pilot’s license) so that the instructor realises that this is more than just a ‘one-off’ pleasure flight for you.

After the briefing, you will climb aboard the dual-controlled helicopter. The instructor will show you how the seat belt works, and also how to use your headset. He or she will also probably go over a few safety procedures. Then the instructor will start the helicopter engine, and take you away for your flight.

At some point, probably after you have reached a safe altitude, the instructor will demonstrate how the controls work and let you have a go yourself. If you would prefer not to just yet, then say so. Otherwise, take hold of the control he or she gives you (probably the ‘cyclic’) and relax, and enjoy trying to fly the helicopter.

It does not matter at this stage if you do well or badly; the instructor will not be judging you, so try not to judge yourself. You are just trying to get a feel for how a helicopter works, and – most importantly – whether you are likely to enjoy learning to fly one.

If you want to do anything else, such as try hovering, take photos of a certain area, or even experience a simulated engine failure, just ask. Usually anything like this is possible; trial lessons are very flexible.

End of the Helicopter Lesson

After what will probably seem like a very short time, the instructor will take control again and you will return to the airfield. And now, if you enjoyed your first experience of helicopter flying as much as most people do, you can start doing some more research on where you should learn to fly, which instructor you should use, and on which helicopter you should learn to fly. Good luck!

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