Robinson R44 Cadet

Announced in late 2015 and now available to order, the Robinson R44 Cadet is a brand-new training and versatile use aircraft. The new model incorporates some unique changes over previous R44 models, making it ideal for the training pilot or anyone looking to develop their skills in a modern helicopter with easy maneuverability and impressive performance at high altitudes.

Based on the original Robinson Raven, the Cadet has been modified to make it ideal for a training helicopter. The rear seats have been removed from the airframe, leaving the helicopter with two seats for pilot and instructor use.

The engine is a six-cylinder Lycoming carbureted engine, the same as available in other R44 helicopters. The difference with the Cadet is that the engine has been de-rated, giving it 185hp available for continuous flying and 210hp available at takeoff. The reduced power, combined with the lower weight, make the helicopter more efficient when considering performance at higher altitudes. Due to engine de-tuning, servicing and overhaul times are extended, making it a great investment for flight schools or private operators who seek affordable solutions.

The Cadet’s Maximum Gross Weight is 2200lbs, and it carries 177lbs of standard fuel (with the capability of carrying 102lbs Auxiliary fuel), and it has a maximum range of 300nm.

As a training helicopter, the Cadet is ideal for a number of reasons. Because it is based on the larger 4 seat platform, it allows beginner pilots to develop experience with a mid-sized helicopter, without having to deal with the extra weight or power. This is beneficial for developing skills in a scalable and safe environment.

The smaller size and reduced power also means that operating costs are lower, so flight schools and private operators can cut down on expenses. Best case scenario, total operating costs per hour can be as low as $203.00, which can make for more affordable training sessions, increasing the accessibility of helicopter pilot lessons in a number of key markets.

With a list price of $339,000.00 USD, the R44 Cadet is one of the more affordable helicopters in its class. This is the base price with standard configuration; however, operators can choose to fit optional extras like leather seats, air conditioning, door observation bubble windows, extra instruments and panels, and a variety of extra features. Options can be factory installed by Robinson, and Robinson also offers ground support extras.

The R44 platform is popular throughout the world, and the new Cadet model leverages the standards set by Robinson, with a lighter and leaner package that favors students and private operators alike. With accessible pricing, the R44 Cadet is likely to be a popular model in the coming years.

Rooftop Helipads

Rooftop Heliports

If you have ever flown over downtown LA, you have seen the sea of helipads that dot the landscape. As pilots, we often dream of taking off and landing from these buildings. The idea of running our daily errands in a helicopter like we would a car is appealing, but the reality is that few helicopter pilots will ever get the chance to land on top of a high-rise building. Recreational pilots will likely never get the chance to even practice in a crowded city center where most roof top helipads exist. Crowded urban areas are dangerous training grounds and not well suited for single engine helicopter training, but this doesn’t meant that instructors cannot prepare their students for rooftop operations.

Flight instructors can safely emulate rooftop landings and takeoffs using any pinnacle. Rooftop heliports are nothing more that man-made pinnacles. A hilltop or any elevated surface can be used to duplicate similar conditions. When instructing students, have them imagine the lower ground to be a crowded city center. They must practice gaining both altitude and speed at the same time. The natural reaction for a pilot if to dive off the side of the pinnacle to gain speed, but this doesn’t work in a urban area. There would be other buildings to deal with and the goal must be to gain altitude while moving the helicopter away from the city center.

Helicopter flight training cannot always occur in the ideal environment.. We must work with the geography we are provided, but it is also important for flight instructors to teach there students to confront all environments that they may encounter. Remember, students will go on to leave the environment in which they train and so it is important to teach them how to operate safely under every condition they may encounter.

Running Takeoffs in Helicopters

Running takeoffs are easier and more appropriate in wheeled helicopters (think the Augusta/Westland 109) then in skid helicopters (Robinisons, Bells, etc) typically used in training operations. Skids can wear out or damage the surface of the runway over time. Plus, there is the noise factor to consider. The sound of a Robinson R22 making a running takeoff can only be compared to a giant running his fingernails along the world’s largest chalkboard.

The main reason we practice running takeoffs is to show students how to takeoff when power is not available to hover. Generally, if there is not enough power available to hover then it is not safe to complete the flight. Helicopter performance in unpredictable and if there is not enough power to hover, there is no way to be sure that there is enough power to make a running takeoff. Students should be taught to recognize an inability to hover as a warning sign. The appropriate response is to reduce gross weight, not to force the helicopter into a running takeoff.

Running takeoffs increase the operation envelop of the helicopter and allows for takeoffs or landings in low power situations They are most frequently used in high density altitude operations.

TO complete a running takeoff, the pilot will apply about half as much collective power as they would to hover while applying forward cyclic input. This will cause the helicopter to lift weight off the skids and tilt the rotor disc forward to cause forward motion.

As speed increase, the helicopter will transition through translation lift airspeed. AT this point, the pilot should increase collective pitch, apply aft cyclic pressure, and begun to climb to altitude.

For the typical helicopter pilot, running takeoffs are a maneuver the will be practiced often and used seldom. Always remember if you helicopter cannot hover it is tell you you that it is to heavy for atmospheric conditions. Always listen to your helicopter.

The Pace Checklist

Helicopter instructors can use the PAVE checklist to teach students how to examine risks before a flight. PACE is broken down into four categories: Pilot in command, Aircraft, enVironment, and External pressures.

Pilot in command refers to the students current experience level, currency, physical/emotional wellness, and mental readiness to complete the flight. Your student should ask themselves if there are any personal issues which could prevent them from safely flying the helicopter. Fatigue, alcohol consumption, stress, sickness, and medication should all be considered.

Aircraft refers to the helicopter. Is the helicopter ready for flight? Has a preflight inspection been completed? Has a weight and balance been completed?

Environment refers to the weather. What are the winds? Are there any storms forecasted in the area? Icing can be a serious complication to helicopter operations, what is the temperature-dew point spread? Is it conductive to icing? Student pilots must learn to ask themselves theses questions and learn to evaluate what conditions are safe for the operations of their helicopter.

External pressures are the most often overlooked, but cause their fair share of accidents. Is a client waiting for you? Or is the airport closing at a certain time? Make sure your students don’t rush and put themselves and others at risk just because they have a case of “get-there-itis.”

Using the PACE checklist, students can easily examine each unique situation and make a successful go/no-go decision.

Guimbal G2: A Piston-Engine European Helicopter

The Cabri Guimbal G2 has made its foray into the American Light Sport/Training Helicopter market, and has proven to be the only real competition to the R22 Robinson model. Although this Author has not flown the Guimbal, he has flown an R22, and so this is a statement of the differences between the two aircraft.

Both aircraft use a piston engine. The Guimbal makes roughly a hundred horsepower, but it costs almost $175,000 more than the R-22. The explanation for these extra dollars seems to be that the G2 has a fully articulated rotor head and a ducted tail rotor for safety; the R-22 doesn’t have either. The Guimbal also has greatly reduced overhaul costs (approximately $50k cheaper).

The G2 can carry a maximum of 600 lbs, or two very fat pilots, and the R-22’s left capability is roughly the same, making the both of them similar aircraft in that regard. The hourly operating costs including fuel and maintenance are roughly equivalent (with the except of overhaul costs) as well. The main difference between the aircraft is this: Guimbal’s chief designer was also the designer guru at Eurocopter, and the styling and design of the G2 reflect this.

For instance, the G2 has smooth lines, a ducted tail rotor, rounded skids, and a semi-custom interior featuring leather and plastic. The R-22 has none of these things, instead having fully exposed tail rotors, skids that would look at home on a construction site, and a bare-bones interior. But it is also half the price.

And one can indeed customize the R-22 to look a bit better, but that has never been the point of the R-22; it’s a training and light-sport helicopter, not a beauty queen. The G2 on the other hand, although intended as a training bird, reaches just a little high for the US market. Maybe in Europe without the exchange rate the aircraft is comparable in price, but here in the US there is nothing about the Guimbal that justifies the extra price tag.

As always, I encourage you to test-fly both aircrafts before making any purchasing decision. From what I can tell, the Guimbal is a showroom type helicopter that put it’s futuristic design first. Yes, the articulated rotor head and the ducted rotor are nice, but they are unnecessary in the training market- the R-22 has neither and yet is the top sells. I believe the R-22 has nothing to worry about in regards to this newcomer. The Cabri could easily become a serious competitor, but not at this price tag.

Skids versus Landing Gear Systems

Every helicopter shares one characteristic, no matter the make, model, or year, at some point, it has to land. When your helicopter touches down, it has to support it’s weight on something-you wouldn’t park your car on it’s undercarriage, would you? So, modern helicopter designers have settles on two methods to support the qieght of the aircraft when it lands: either skids or wheels.

Skids are metal bars that are permanetly affixed to the frame of the aircraft. They often resemble the rails of a sled. On the bottom of the skids is usually a reinforced metal coating, as when the helicopter touches down, the skid touches the ground (wher it’s name coems from) while the helicopter settles in. Though stroung enough to support the weight of the helicopter indefinitely, and inexpesive enough to be found on most helicopters (including all Robinson models), skids have one major drawback: they are not retractable, and therefore are a big source of aerodynamic drag while in flight.

Landing gear systems, on the other hand, consist of three or more wheels on hydraulic suspension mounts, that can be retracted into the fuselage of the helicopter once the aircraft has taken off, but can be deployed when it is ready to land. Much likethe gear on a fixed-wing airplane, these systems are more expensive, but allow for better aerodynamics while flying, as there is no drag created by skids or wheels hanging out of the aircraft.

The biggest benefit of skids, practically speaking, is that skids distribute the weight of the aircraft over a larger area. This allows for the attachment of floats, or for landing on ice, or for landing on this surfaces in situations where a gear-equipped helicopter might sink or fall through. Landing gear, in contrast, distributes the aircraft’s weight to three (or four) points, rather than spreading it out over a 1-2m long skid, therefore concentrating the weight into those areas. This can lead to a fall-through situation when landing on, say, ice or snow, potentially causing a fatal accident.

The biggest benefit of landing gear is that is can be retracted into the aircraft, reducing the profile and fuel consumption as well as improving the aesthetics. Traditionally, gear systems are found on more expensive helicopters, all of which are typically turbine powered. This is because the systems are expensive, but although it seems counterintuitive, the retractable great is usually fairly lightweight and adds little to the helicopters gross weigh, while improving efficiency by up to 5%, a significant savings in fuel use over the life of the helicopter.

No matter which system your helicopter has, land safe and don’t try to land without one! That’s like doing a belly flop into a pool- you will feel it later.

AutoPilots in Rotary Aircraft

Modern-day Helicopters often include some form of AutoPilot technology, the most common of them being made by Garmin. This system allows the helicopter to handle flight paths without much input from the pilot, including course changes and directional ‘bearing’ guidance, where the helicopter follows a plotted ‘line’ on the autopilot screen. But how do these work, and are they safe?

The basis of these autopilots is a gyroscope, typically a 6-axis one. This takes a measurement of the aircraft’s potion in relation to the earth on six axis’, and feeds this data into a computer. It also takes note of the aircraft’s speed, elevation, engine power, and (in many cases) data from any on-board radar systems or Collision-Avoidance Radar. Once this information is fed into the computer, it create a profile of the aircraft, which is updated several thousand times per second.

When the pilot enters in the destination that he or she would like to go to, the aircraft calculates the changes that will be necessary to ‘autopilot’ itself to the preferred route from the difference between the preferred destination and the current aircraft profile. As of this writing, the pilot must successfully take off and reach a preset altiditude before the auto-pilot can be engaged; no current auto-pilot system can handle the complexities of takeoffs/landings for rotary wing aircraft as of now.

As the aircraft flies, changes are required to be made to its speed, heading, altitude, etcetera. The autopilot system interfaces with the aircraft’s ‘fly-by wire” controls, sending digital signals to the proper servos and actuators to mimic input from the pilot and therefore steer the aircraft. OF course, the pilot must be sitting in the pilots seat and have his or her hands available at all times; most auto-pilot systems require a degree of human input (which could be as simple as pushing a button to let the computer know the pilot is alive and paying attention) at periodic intervals.

If no input is receive, more advanced autopilot systems will begin a controlled descent, cross-referencing terrain maps to find an empty area. The most advanced autopilots will safely land the helicopter and idle the engines without any input, and some can even notify air traffic control with a pre-recorded message of an emergency.

Although AutoPilots are not so common as to be in almost every aircraft built today, even less-expensive models, such as the Robinson R-44 and R-66 offer autopilots these days. The vast majority of turbine powered aircraft also offer the system, from manufacturers such as Garmin and Uniden. An AutoPilot is a nice feature to have, but there is no substitute for proper training and an experience pilot behind the controls.

Bell 505 Jet Ranger X

The Bell 505 Jet Ranger X is Bell Helicopter’s new five-seat aircraft designed for safety, efficiency and reliability through the use of advanced avionics technology. It incorporates proven dynamic components, advanced aerodynamic design, a dual channel FADEC Turbomeca Arrius 2R engine and best-in-class value.

The 505 also features the Garmin G1000H avionics suite. Preliminary data calls for the 505 to have a 61-cu-ft (1.7 cubic meter) flat-floor cabin, a cruising speed of 125 knots, a maximum range of 360 nm (666 km) and a useful load of 1,500 pounds (680 kg). It is a “clean sheet” design, but will use some dynamic components, such as the rotor system of the Bell 206L-4.

The Bell 505 Jet Ranger X is designed to customer specifications, combining proven systems with the latest advancements in rotorcraft technology. By putting a strong focus on the MSG-3 working group, the Bell 505 Jet Ranger X will not only provide the best value in the short light single market, but also provide superior performance and reliability for operators.

The Bell 505 Jet Ranger X approximately sells for $1m. There is a mission-critical support package–an hourly maintenance plan–for the 505 to take care of customers’ demand for an affordable aircraft, both in terms of acquisition and full life-cycle costs.

The specifications are:

  • Price (approximate): $1,000,000
  • Engine: Turbomeca Arrius 2R
  • Horsepower: 504 shp
  • Seats: 5
  • Length: 42.4 feet
  • Height: 10 feet
  • Fuselage width: 60 inches
  • Cabin volume: 61 cubic feet
  • Main rotor diameter: 37 feet
  • Tail rotor diameter: 5.4 feet
  • Useful load: 1,500 pounds
  • Max usable fuel: 91 gallons
  • Full fuel payload: 881 pounds
  • Cruise speed: 125 knots
  • Max range: 360 nm

 

The Bell 505 Jet Ranger X is an ideal choice for all business needs.

How a Turbofan Engine Works

In a turbine powered helicopter, the turbine is typically a Turbofan engine. However, unlike Turbofan engines on a jet aircraft, instead of the exhaust gases providing thrust, they are used to spin an auxiliary power shaft, which is what causes the rotor to rotate and provides power to the helicopter. But how, exactly, does a turbine engine work in a modern helicopter?

The majority of turbine engines are high-bypass turbines. This means that immediately past the engine’s intake, the fan assembly (which are effectively a low-pressure compressor) pushes part of the air flow into the main compressor. The rest of the air is pressed into a bypass duct, a separate channel in the engine housing. In high-bypass turbofans, about 40-50% of the air is sent down the bypass duct.

On the surface, this doesn’t make a lot of sense. Don’t you need more air, not less, to make a turbine engine more powerful? In the case of turbofans, however, this is not so. More air is definitely NOT better. Since pressure ratio is the key performance characteristic of a jet engine, and in our case a turbine, designers put a lot of work into increasing this pressure ratio.

If an engine has to compress a lot of air, then the pressure increase is distributed over a large volume. However, by reducing the amount of air that flows into the compressor, more work can be done on a smaller volume, meaning a greater pressure increase. This is very good. Then, the designers increased the rotational speed of the compressor itself. With the compressor stages spinning around quickly, more work is done on the air that IS sent to the compressor, and this again means a greater pressure increase.

And this was where the original turbine designers ground to a halt, because at speed the temperatures that the nickel turbine blades were exposed to were in excess of their melting point. SO, a new process created Single Crystal turbine blades, which had a much higher melting point. On top of this, because they were cast with holes during the forming process, cold air is spread through tiny holes in each blase from the compressor during operation. The bleed holes produce a protective film of air, which keeps the turbine blades from coming into direct contact with the hot exhaust gasses.

Since helicopters don’t use rearward thrust to fly, the gasses are then passed through a second spinning turbine assembly, attached to the auxiliary output shaft, which is itself attached to the gearbox for the main and auxiliary rotors. Even with this added step, these engines produce exponentially-higher power levels than their piston engine counterparts, and are often much smaller and lighter, resulting in high performance aircraft that are light and agile to fly.

Beginning to Fly Helicopters

Learning to fly a helicopter is a fun and rewarding experience, but it can be a frightening one, quite understandably. You’re suddenly in charge of a million and one pieces that are constantly trying to vibrate themselves apart in mid air, and you’re suddenly responsible for pedals and sticks and throttles and temperature gauges and more.

That being said, the best place to start is to purchase a copy of a good flight simulator application. Microsoft Flight Simulator is a good example. Try flying a virtual helicopter for a while to see if you can stomach the idea of being in the cockpit.

The next step would be contacting your local flight school that offers Helicopter Pilot Training. The FAA certifies flight schools to offer rotor craft (the technical term for a helicopter pilots’ license) license instruction.

The next step would be to contemplate if you’re going to purchase your own helicopter (most commonly, a Robinson model). R22 Helicopters cost just over $250,000 brand new or they can be rented from many flight schools for $250 per hour.

Finally, you’ll have to take and pass a test administered by a designated examiner. Your flight school will help with this.