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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.

Casey Ryan Richards

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.

Casey Ryan Richards

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.

Tail Rotors and Anti-Torque Controls

For any of those who have ever seen a helicopter, you likely know that it has a tail rotor, or some form of outlet (in the case of a NOTAR-Equipped aircraft) at the rear of the tail boom, in order to counter the main rotor’s torque. But what, exactly, does this do?

Well, the tail rotor (and we’ll focus on that, since NOTAR aircraft are far and few between) acts like a ‘stop’, to prevent the body of the aircraft from turning in opposite direction of the main rotorhead. The pitch of the rotor blades is controlled by (generally) anti-torque pedals installed in the floor of the cockpit. Using these, you can adjust the pitch (angle) of the rotor blades, and thus control the direction of their thrust. By doing so, it cause the tail boom to move in the direction you desire, turning the aircraft.

So why is a tail rotor essential? Well, if you don’t have one, your helicopter body would spin wildly as an opposite reaction to the main rotor spinning in the opposite direction. Generally, helicopter that spin wildly don’t make it very far towards their destination. On the plus side, however, if you happen to bring some fruit salad along, you’ll have a nice smoothie when you’re through, as you’ll be spinning around like a turbine powered blender!

The pedals inside most helicopters are fairly straightforward to operate: push the right pedal forward, and the tail will scoot left, causing the aircraft to turn right. Pushing the left pedal forward causes the opposite effect. The controls are similar on NOTAR-equipped helicopters, except that instead of controlling the pitch of the propeller, it controls the direction of thrust nozzles built into the tail boom.

The only helicopters that do NOT have a rear-mounted anti-torque system are those with tandem rotor heads and dual rotor heads. Tandem rotor helicopter platforms have the two rotors (on the same mast) rotating in opposite directions, which counters the torque generated by the opposite rotor. However, these helicopters STILL have anti-torque petals, to control the direction of the helicopters movement in flight.

Each and every helicopter, although designs do vary, needs some means to counter the torque created by the main rotor head. This is a basic law of physics: each action has a separate and equal opposite reaction. So if you want your helicopter to fly normally, by sure to verify it has a functioning tail rotor, coaxial rotor, or thrust nozzles system to ensure you can control the torque generated by the main rotor. Alternatively, if you find yourself with a means to counter the main rotor’s thrust, you could sell tickets to what’s just become among the most expensive amusement rides ever created; a sort of ‘spinning teacups’ from hell.

(No Anti-Torque System (Tail Rotor) = Tea Cups from Hell)