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TH-55 (Osage) Training Helicopter TH-55 (Schweitzer 300) - Starboard View TH-55 - Port View Lots of helicopters on the airfield Best Time To Fly...Ususally Very Calm Hovering BACK Hovering
(really takes practice)

BACK Instructor Pilot's View

Ever wonder what the typical U.S. Army Rotary Wing Flight School student's first helicopter solo is like?

Student "Well Mr. Instructor Pilot, I've got 13 flight hours under my belt, do you think I'm ready yet?"
[Thinking -I'll test the water]

Instructor Pilot "You're doing fine, I'll let you know"
[Thinking - Is he out of his mind? He's still got a lot to learn, and I don't want to lose my job]

Student "I was just wondering?"
[Thinking - Whew! Thank God, I can relax for another day]

Instructor Pilot "Let's do some more traffic patterns and let's make these some really good ones"
[Thinking - I think he's ready, but I'm still not 100% sure]

Student "OK!"
[Thinking - Oh no, I bet he thinks I'm ready to solo TODAY and just is testing me]

Instructor Pilot "That was a good landing! Let's do another good one"
[Thinking - I think he's ready, but I'm not 100% sure]

Student "OK!"
[Thinking - Hey, maybe I can do this? The Instructor Pilot thought I did OK]

Instructor Pilot "That was another good traffic pattern and landing, let's try it again"
[Thinking - I think he's ready, but I'm still not 100% sure]

Student "OK!"
[Thinking - Hey, that wasn't too bad...this better not be the day...I'm not ready]

Instructor Pilot "That was another good traffic pattern and landing, let's try it again"
[Thinking - I think he's ready, but I'm still not 100% sure. If this one turns out OK, then I'll get out]

Student "OK!"
[Thinking - Oh my God, I just know that this is going to be the day]

Instructor Pilot (while he unstraps his seat belt harness... slides out of the helicopter... and unplugs his helmet) "The helicopter will feel lighter. Stay calm and keep thinking. You'll do fine. I'll be on the radio in case you have any problems. You'll need to do 3 take-offs and 3 landings. I'll meet you back here after you're done"
[Thinking - I hope he's ready and I made the right decision....God be with him!]

Student "OK!"
[Thinking - Where is he going? Oh no...I have to SOLO TODAY. I'm all by myself. If I screw this up, I'm going to die! (sweating profusely and heart pounding so loudly you're sure the control tower can hear). OK, here we go (deep breath and silent prayer)... slowly roll up the throttle...gently pull up the collective... a little left pedal... OK, I'm light on the skids... call the control tower ... OK, here we go for real (sweat dripping out of helmet causing eyes to burn and deathgrip on cyclic)... leaving the ground... moving through translational lift... correct the attitude of helicopter... start my left turn... call tower as I turn crosswind... starting turn to downwind... call tower... reduce throttle to 2700 rpm and reduce air speed... start my base turn... call tower... start my descent... turn to final... get lined up (I'm off course some, but can correct this)... stay focused... continue descent to 1st third of runway... slow air speed... continue descent... slow speed... stay on course... keep moving forward... skids almost touching the ground.... teetering a little... TOUCHDOWN! (Hey, I did it!!!).. call the tower and do this two more times without killing myself (2 more successful traffic patterns and landings)... Call Ground Control and hover taxi to parking...]

Instructor Pilot (as he walks up) "Good Job, you did it"
[Thinking - Thank God, now I can sleep tonight]

Student "Thanks!! That wasn't so bad" (as he tries to pull his hand off the cyclic which has molded itself to become a permanent part of the helicopter ...flight suit is totally soaked ...flight helmet inside looks like it was left out in the rain overnight)
[Thinking - Who's the man? I DID IT, I SOLOED!!!!! Cheated Death again! (silent prayer of thanks)]

Instructor Pilot "See you at the Officer's Club"
[Thinking - I'm going to get hammered]

Student "See you there, as soon as I change my flight suit!"
[Thinking - Me Too!]

Or at least that's my recollections of my solo flight experience over 20 years ago.....of course, my Instrument Check Ride later on makes my first solo looks like... "being born" versus "graduating from college"