Heli Expo Sywell 2016
We flew up to Heli Expo this year. The day before, I fetched the Cabri G2 from Goodwood and landed in my garden over-night. However, it was an interesting approach and landing and I think I should have given it some more deep thought before going in. Firstly, the Cabri was completely full – 170 litres. I had never flown it full before. Then there is my relative weight – I am only around 60 kilos (roughly 130lbs) so I was on the aft edge of the weight and balance envelope (ie hard to get the stick forward as all the weight is behind). Then there was the approach path, which, because we live in a village, meant I had to stay west of the village to avoid the houses, and, because we live in a valley, to approach from the south down the hill. NB. The wind was from the south-west. There are also high tension wires along the side of the valley.
Making the first approach, and not fully understanding the affects of approaching downwind in such a configuration I turned in from the west inside the wires with a high rate of decent in the turn. However, I felt the tail was definitely wagging the dog as the wind, which was gusty, was swirling around the fenestron, and my balance ball was shooting across its cage. The nose pitched up and noticed I had very little airspeed, and the low rpm horn starting going off with the yellow back-up light on; my instincts warned me things were not going well. So I dropped the nose, got up speed and as soon as I could flew back up to the level of the hills.
For my renewed approach, I crossed over the high tension wires first, so I came down the side of the valley, instead of having to turn inside them or cross them. This negated one obstacle. I also came in down the hill aware of the wind behind and that this would mean my speed was higher than it registered on the dials. I kept straight to avoid the excessive pedal movements and high rate of descent. I was still aware of the wind and needed to be careful with my pedal movements, but this time I felt secure and was able to land without trouble. Although slightly scaring the sheep!
The next day Siggy and I took off for Sywell, eventually, after the rain cleared. This meant that the forward aft balance was better but the overall weight was higher. In fact, since I had now done a better weight and balance calculation, we were only 30 lbs under the maximum all up weight.
This time, I had given my departure route a lot of thought, and I took off into wind, clearing a low hedge and turning right towards the recreation ground, which although now down wind was lower in height and away from the high tension cables and the hill. I gathered speed before I turned to climb towards the hills. Even so, given our weight, we needed a lot of power and even had a second or so period in the red arc recording 117 % (top is 120%). When I immediately reduced power we were fine at normal power settings but were still close to 100%.
So, it was an interesting learning experience and I will think harder about making approaches to new places in the future. Even if they look easy there are often unforeseen obstacles, and the weight and balance is a very important issue when going into confined areas. There is also a case of ‘know your machine’ here. I am used to the Schweizer 300, which, with my weight can carry full fuel and still not have a balance problem. This may not be so simple in the Cabri, which has different weight and balance criteria. I know, because I have visited the Accident Investigation Bureau, that most accidents are the result of the pilot not knowing his machine sufficiently well.
Having a south-west wind we arrived at Sywell quickly and were ahead of our arrival slot. This, however, was not a problem as only a quarter of the expected arrivals had managed to leave home thanks to the low cloud and poor visibility in the south of the UK.
Very nice day at the show with quite a lot of helicopters on show. See the next issue of Helicopter Life for more details of the show.