9/7/11 Today we were in the wake of Tropical storm Lee, which had crawled it’s way into and out of the area deposting between 16-18 inches of rain. What fantastic weather we have experienced in the aftermath of the deluge!The high today was about 70 degrees, and relatively mild winds from the north east. Yes, dense air has been filling in behind the tropical storm and man did it ever give us some great flying conditions today!!!
Building upon last weeks amazing flying session, we pretty much pick up today where we left off last Wednesday. Last week, Dale and I both tossed caution to the side and started flying like we knew we could.; We started pushing the edges of our skill sets and experienced huge rewards by doing so. Today was even better, primarily due to the excellent atmospheric conditions that we had. The air was nice and dense, the engines were pulling very strong, and the blades were really biting well. I was first in the air and spent a good deal of time flipping and flopping everywhere, lots of power, lots of bite, and the Pantera was singing a song and had a rather staggering responsiveness about her! Consecutive flips, aileron rolls, inverted passes and circuits, a little bit of everything.
Darrell Sprayberry arrived at the field during one of Dales flight and it’s always good to have him out with us. During my 2nd flight, I made a few inverted circuits up in the safe zone, but decided it was time to start bringing the inverted flight downstairs a little bit. I set up a pass across the field about 30 feet high, as I cleared the tree line, I ½ rolled to inverted and continued the pass. This was the lowest inverted pass that I’ve made to date. It wasn’t “on the deck” but compared to all my other inverted passes, this one was obviously down where you could see it well. As I approached the other end of the field, the tree monsters were quickly making themselves known. I intended to push a little forward on the cyclic for an altitude increase, but I didn’t have enough forward speed to make a significant altitude increase, and the helicopter simply started slowing to crawl. I quickly got uncomfortable as I knew the heli was about to start heading into the land of backward inverted flight… one of many flight modes that I simply don’t know how to do. A slight pull of “up elevator” pulled the nose back down to prevent the helicopter from slowing to the point of backing up. I then started playing the both cyclic and negative collective to try to gain enough momentum to allow me to be high enough to “pull” the helicopter through a ½ inside loop, but was afraid I didn’t have enough altitude between me and the tree monsters. ; With the helicopter quickly becoming an inverted dot, I grabbed the negative collective hard until I had gained enough altitude that I knew I could clear the treants and then pulled the nose down and through and flew back to the field for what seemed like eternity. Shortly after that, I managed to work up enough courage to tuck the helicopter into an outside ½ loop from the top. Yep… cruising along and started pushing the nose down; and making a nice controlled, nice looking ½ outside loop (from the top) as I leveled out inverted I flew a short inverted straight flight segment and the pushed forward on the cyclic while pulling negative on the collective to perform a ½ outside loop from the bottom. I was successful, but the 2nd ½ outside loop (from the bottom was not nearly as nice and round looking at the 1<sup>st</sup> ½ outside portion. It was nerve racking getting ready to do this move, but once I finally committed to doing it, it didn’t feel all that strange. I followed this with another inverted pass and did a roll from inverted to inverted that didn’t look bad at all. Not perfect, but I think I would have received a 7 or 7.5 from aerobatic judges on it, so I was pretty stoked. My string of 1 was going well. I was being successful with everything I was trying and it sure felt great! Dale’s 2nd flight was just off the hook (for us) and he managed a couple of first time moves. I’ll let him elaborate, but let’s just say that he brought the big boy pants out today!
My 3rd flight was flown in the shadow of Dales awesome 2nd flight (this is becoming a trend.. grrrrrrrrr). My biggest achievement this flight was a nose in landing that was followed by a nose in takeoff with a backward upright climb out and departure. The departure led to a backward upright counter clockwise circuit that felt relatively comfortable and very much under control. I’m slowly getting to the point of not being completely puckered up with I do a backward upright segment. Far from comfortable, but not so up tight that the cranial processing ceases. Maybe one day I’ll feel as comfortable flying upright backward as I do upright forward flight. The other major event of this flight was an intentional/planned auto rotation. Dale had previously set the bar for me, and left me a template for success that I was able to replicate.
A great day chocked full of very exciting accomplishments for us! We both successfully flew into situations where we’ve previously crashed. Today, there was no crashing, only success and the US Patent Pending Panteradise ear to ear smiles. The high fives and knuckle bumps were flying left and right today. One gauntlet would get thrown down was nearly instantly met by the other pilot who in turn laid another down. Yeppers… we were pushing each other to go beyond the same ole same ole flying and we were both up to the challenge that the other threw down. Just as steel sharpens steel, so do pilots sharpen pilots! A phenomenally great day today! I’m afraid I just don’t know how to write today’s events up in a manner that can explain just how much adrenaline was flowing and just how far beyond our normal skill sets we were going. Everything was clicking. To top things off, Dale’s 3rd and final flight of the day pretty much kept me puckered up and often reminding him that we’ve had a great day and that didn’t have to continue to push the skill sets. Did he listen to me? Nope! He just kept on erasing the lines of complacency, and flying beyond his previously established safe zones.
An awesome day like today just doesn’t happen often enough. We’ve managed to string 2 Wednesdays together like this. Another solid 10 on the Panteradise fun-o-meter. Actually… I’m gonna have to check the fun-o-meter gage because I think we may have bent the needle just a little bit by pegging it out so hard! The one thing about the Pantera that continues to perplex me is why every helicopter flyer out there doesn’t have at least 1. This thing flies beautifully, is tough as nails, is about as close to maintenance free as any flying machine can possibly be, easy to work on when you have to… just an amazing little flying contraption!
I hope you guys have had a chance to get your own doses of Panteradise! Until the next flying session (and a new gallon of fuel),