One Area that I always check on Private and Commercial helicopter rides is Confined Area Operations. There are several techniques that work well but the goal of this rant is to point out the troubles I see repeatedly and to make one suggestion.
The number one error that most pilots make is rushing this maneuver. For example flying the high recon at normal cruise airspeed. SLOW DOWN! Depending on the helicopter a good speed is around 50 knots during the high recon. Another problem with the high recon is flying a pattern that is way to tight! Widen out the pattern and take a look around the helicopter. Don't just look at the spot you want to land! Third and Fourth error starting the approach with a high airspeed and a very tight pattern. Again, slow down! It's very important we don't get rushed at this point, if you do, you'll have a crappy approach all the way in. Think of your way in to the confined area. Too often I see very tight patterns and very short final approaches into the confined area. Fifth error. Flying the approach too steep and too fast. This is a great way to get into a settling with power situation. The approach should be stablized at an angle that will safely clear obsticals at an airspeed just above ETL. If you are not set up correctly or don't feel right, go around! Please!
The suggestion: One thing I got into a habit of is at then end of my low recon is doing a go-around. This is a planned go-around. The purpose is two fold. One is to fly my takeoff path to make sure its safe, and second it's also where I do my power check to insure I have enough power to depart safely. After the planned go-around, if I'm happy with everything, I'll come back around and fly the real approach into the area.
Slow Flight & Stalls
I've had a couple of interesting check rides recently. Both applicants had problems with stalls and one had problems with slow flight.
Since the Colgan Airlines accident in Buffalo NY, the FAA has increased it's emphasis on stall recognition and recovery. What this all boils down to is all pilots must be able to fly their aircraft at speeds just above stall, recognize that the aircraft is approaching a stall, and when the airplane stalls the correct recovery procedure must be followed.
The emphasis is on the correct recovery procedure; lower the AOA, add power and return to normal flight. In that order! Of course you can refer to the FAA Airplane Flying Handbook and there are two updated ACs available from the FAA. here are the links:
AC61-67C Including Change 1
Even though I allow the use of the iPad on check rides, I have chosen NOT to let my students use them in their primary training. Some of you are asking "Why the heck not?" The answer is simple. I want my student to have the necessary BASIC airmanship skills engrained in their heads.
The iPad with Foreflight or WingX Pro can make life very easy on a pilot. If you're enroute and decide to divert, two fingers is all you need to find a heading and distance to the alternate. What if that iPad stops working, now what? I'm not so sure some people could get out a sectional, use a plotter and a whiz wheel (or basic math for that matter) to get to an airport.
After the basic skills are engrained and the my student passes his/her check ride, then they can use the iPad all they want.
Like I said above, I'll allow the use of the iPad on check rides, but I won't be letting my students use them till after their rides.
That's my opinion, I maybe wrong :)
I've noticed a trend recently. Some pilots have failed to add full power, pitch for Vy and clean up the airplane after determining a go-around or missed approach was required. A couple of examples. One pilot on his BFR decided to go-around from a short field landing attempt. The first thing he did was to raise the flaps at a slow airspeed. Not good.
A second pilot wanted to shoot a missed approach from an ILS which called for a climbing right turn. This pilot added partial power raised the flaps and gear while cruising down the full length of the 5000 foot runway. He started a shallow climb around 300 FPM. ATC wasn't to happy with his missed because he didn't follow procedure. I wasn't happy either.......for several reasons. One, Didn't added full (or climb) power. Two, Didn't pitch for Vy. Three, Didn't follow the IAP procedures. Four, Put himself in a dangerous position of not meeting the required climb gradient.
Those two examples are from fixed wing pilots but I have seen the same type of issues with Helicopter Pilots as well. The main problem has been the failure to add climb power and pitch for the desired climb airspeed.
The idea is to get away from the ground as safely as possible. Power up, Pitch up, Clean up!
Circling Approach and the Miss
Missed Approach 5-4-21. Missed Approach
a. When a landing cannot be accomplished, advise ATC and, upon reaching the missed approach point defined on the approach procedure chart, the pilot must comply with the missed approach instructions for the procedure being used or with an alternate missed approach procedure specified by ATC.
b. Obstacle protection for missed approach is predicated on the missed approach being initiated at the decision altitude/height (DA/H) or at the missed approach point and not lower than minimum descent altitude (MDA). A climb gradient of at least 200 feet per nautical mile is required, (except for Copter approaches, where a climb of at least 400 feet per nautical mile is required), unless a higher climb gradient is published in the notes section of the approach procedure chart. When higher than standard climb gradients are specified, the end point of the non-standard climb will be specified at either an altitude or a fix. Pilots must preplan to ensure that the aircraft can meet the climb gradient (expressed in feet per nautical mile) required by the procedure in the event of a missed approach, and be aware that flying at a higher than anticipated ground speed increases the climb rate requirement (feet per minute). Tables for the conversion of climb gradients (feet per nautical mile) to climb rate (feet per minute), based on ground speed, are included on page D1 of the U.S. Terminal Procedures booklets. Reasonable buffers are provided for normal maneuvers. However, no consideration is given to an abnormally early turn. Therefore, when an early missed approach is executed, pilots should, unless otherwise cleared by ATC, fly the IAP as specified on the approach plate to the missed approach point at or above the MDA or DH before executing a turning maneuver.
c. If visual reference is lost while circling-to-land from an instrument approach, the missed approach specified for that particular procedure must be followed (unless an alternate missed approach procedure is specified by ATC). To become established on the prescribed missed approach course, the pilot should make an initial climbing turn toward the landing runway and continue the turn until established on the missed approach course. Inasmuch as the circling maneuver may be accomplished in more than one direction, different patterns will be required to become established on the prescribed missed approach course, depending on the aircraft position at the time visual reference is lost. Adherence to the procedure will help assure that an aircraft will remain laterally within the circling and missed approach obstruction clearance areas. Refer to paragraph h concerning vertical obstruction clearance when starting a missed approach at other than the MAP. (See AIM FIG 5-4-28.)
d. At locations where ATC radar service is provided, the pilot should conform to radar vectors when provided by ATC in lieu of the published missed approach procedure. (See AIM FIG 5-4-29.)
e. Some locations may have a preplanned alternate missed approach procedure for use in the event the primary NAVAID used for the missed approach procedure is unavailable. To avoid confusion, the alternate missed approach instructions are not published on the chart. However, the alternate missed approach holding pattern will be depicted on the instrument approach chart for pilot situational awareness and to assist ATC by not having to issue detailed holding instructions. The alternate missed approach may be based on NAVAIDs not used in the approach procedure or the primary missed approach. When the alternate missed approach procedure is implemented by NOTAM, it becomes a mandatory part of the procedure. The NOTAM will specify both the textual instructions and any additional equipment requirements necessary to complete the procedure. Air traffic may also issue instructions for the alternate missed approach when necessary, such as when the primary missed approach NAVAID fails during the approach. Pilots may reject an ATC clearance for an alternate missed approach that requires equipment not necessary for the published approach procedure when the alternate missed approach is issued after beginning the approach. However, when the alternate missed approach is issued prior to beginning the approach the pilot must either accept the entire procedure (including the alternate missed approach), request a different approach procedure, or coordinate with ATC for alternative action to be taken, i.e., proceed to an alternate airport, etc.
f. When approach has been missed, request clearance for specific action; i.e., to alternative airport, another approach, etc.
g. Pilots must ensure that they have climbed to a safe altitude prior to proceeding off the published missed approach, especially in nonradar environments. Abandoning the missed approach prior to reaching the published altitude may not provide adequate terrain clearance. Additional climb may be required after reaching the holding pattern before proceeding back to the IAF or to an alternate.