Took a new livery of the Bell 222B out from Lincoln Park (N07) this morning. I knew the weather was hanging low and hazy but decided to see how it went and just turn around and cancel the flight if I needed to. Gotta love the price of virtual AVGas – nothing! I started the flight with something new – a rolling takeoff. Since the 222B has wheels I can taxi around and also takeoff sort of like an airplane by building up speed on the ground instead of lifting off vertically. I’ve never tried this before and I really had no idea what I was doing – it was a spur of the moment idea. I just throttled up a bit to get rolling then slowly increased throttle until I felt the nose dip as the wheels came off the ground. Then I overcompensated backwards on the stick because I was afraid of plowing nose-first into the runway. So I oscillated a bit up and down and swung left and right as I tried to compensate for the torque effect of the main rotor now that the wheels weren’t holding me straight. It’s easier to do when you’re taking off vertically because you can gradually add rudder (counter-torque as helicopter pilots call it since there’s no rudder like on a plane) as you add throttle (collective, to use chopper speak) – if you do that on the ground though you nose-wheel steer off the runway, heh. I made it up and out okay, but I’m going to do some reading up on how to do a proper rolling takeoff (and landing) to see about doing it better next time I have the chance.
Once airborne I was climbing into clouds almost immediately. They were thin, so as I approached them I was through them, but the whole layer extended for several miles and so I had trouble navigating while only catching glimpses of the roadway below. Plus I’m supposed to be flying VFR and not even supposed to be in a cloud at all. Luckily the virtual FAA is in my pocket Still, I got as low as I could without generating any noise complaints from residents and followed my route into the city. I noticed I was off when I realized I was approaching north of Teterboro airport, which meant I had followed Route 80 instead of Route 46, but no big deal it’s not like I filed a flight plan. So I hit the Hudson River at the GWB rather than further south towards the Intrepid aircraft carrier. By this time I had switched on my pitot heat as I had noticed my airspeed indicator read 0kts. I also switched on my engine de-ice just for good measure since I was over the water now.
I thought my approach to Wall Street heliport (KJRB) was pretty sloppy, but it actually turned out alright. I had meant to go straight-in from the Hudson River side and ended up swinging over the pier onto the East River side before landing from the little bay formed by the platform. It still looked good when I replayed the landing, so hey – whatever! I hovered early and nudged over the platform for my landing but didn’t futz around and touched down soft as a feather – HTR reported a landing speed of 0.7 feet per second. Booyah! My passengers might still have thrown up during the flight but at least I didn’t compress any spines on landing. I was again not too happy with my attitude performance during flight. I was up and down, up and down, up and down. The VSI needle hardly ever sat still.
Next I hopped into the other livery I left sitting at Newark Liberty (KEWR) and decided to head up the Hudson to the Haverstraw heliport (H43). Weather was much nicer over Newark, but I knew it was still hazy with low clouds back over the city and northwards. I meant to turn on my pitot heat during startup but again had to switch it on in-flight, which isn’t easy mind you. I have to use the mouse stick on my throttle since letting go of the cyclic isn’t an option when flying a helicopter. Even grabbing the cyclic with my left hand and mousing with my right I’m still taking eyes off the horizon and not being able to feel inertia means the helicopter can go a ways out of proper attitude very quickly while I’m trying to hit a switch that’s moving out from under my cursor as the virtual cockpit pitches and rolls with the aircraft.
Anyway, I was up at 1200 feet approaching the city since that’s in the airway for aircraft just flying through the area but again the clouds closed in and I had to drop down to about 550 feet instead. Didn’t run into any traffic though, literally or figuratively, so all was good. Once past the city and over the GWB the skies seemed to be clearing so I started to climb again and leveled off at 1000 feet. Once I hit the Tappan Zee Bridge though I slammed into another low wall of cloud and was forced to drop all the way to the deck. Thankfully I could just stay over the river and only buzz boats, not houses, but I was still at times only 150 feet off the water, zooming along at 130kts. It was pretty cool! I was afraid that the clouds were going to keep getting lower and turn into fog and I would have to turn around since the only approach into Haverstraw is visual, but luckily the cloud bank let up a bit and I was able to climb to almost 300 feet and get my bearings, spotting the heliport and making my approach. I messed up a bit on the landing and drifted off the grass onto the hard surface where I landed. Technically you’re supposed to land on the grass and taxi over to the hard surface. But dammit those trees around the small landing field freak me out. I still remember the time it took me three separate attempts to land the 206B here because I kept crashing into the blasted trees. Makes for a nice challenge though. Despite my drift I still landed less than 1 foot per second.
I was pleased this time out with my attitude during the flight – the helicopter was much more stable and I was able to hold my altitude much better while climbing and descending when needed without lifting my passengers from their seats or crushing them into their seats. Turning was better too but I still need to get used to pushing my nose down more as I begin the turn – the 222B climbs a lot more aggressively in the turn than the 206B does. Practice makes better and since my landings are all so awesome, I’m going to start doing even longer flights in the 222B. Which is cool since that’s what it’s for anyways!