What goes up …

I may have, at that point, been physically shaking my head side to side, but certainly I had been mentally doing so for most of the flight. Check the list.


2,500 RPM for 2 minutes.
2,000 RPM for at least 1 more minute.
Once the cylinder head temperature drops below 300 degrees C, close the throttle.
Release the clutch.
Pull the fuel mixture knob out.
Close the fuel shutoff.
Turn the magneto off.
Remove the key.
Log the hours.


Every flight in N279SA ends this way. There’s a checklist, and we follow it in order, but for some reason, after the first 2 minutes at 2,500 RPM, I moved to close the throttle and immediately release the clutch. Gregory reminded me I needed one more minute, and I sighed into the mic. “Right. Yeah. One more minute,” I said in the way you do when someone says something very obvious, and you don’t have the energy to say much. I opened the throttle back up to 2,000 and waited.


It’s not that skipping forward is itself a damning mistake, but it was at the end of a flight where I had made many mistakes. So, keys removed, as I went to exit the cockpit, I failed to realize I still had my headset on. In silence, my eyes widened as if I were watching an idiot try to merge recklessly in rush hour. The multitude of off, or just downright wrong, decisions I’d made during the entire flight culminated in tensed muscles at the realization. I sighed again, trying to let it go. I was done speaking if I could avoid it, and a silence filled what normally was a conversation between us. The last of the post-flight inspection done, I turned quietly to walk inside, done.


We had spent the entire flight in and around KBFI, Boeing Field, a place I’d left and landed, but only on the northeast side, where we park, and so I’d never paid attention to the majority of the rest of the airport. There are two runways, and nearly two dozen taxiways crossing them. There are, maybe, five or six places for helicopters to land; they’re not marked with the big H you might be thinking of, but are just areas set aside for us. Also, there are a few traffic patterns, and a lot of aircraft to fill them (relative to S50, Auburn, where we normally fly). Except the volume of traffic, none of these did I know or study beforehand, though we did briefly go through all this minutes before flight. No big deal. It’s just new info, and what I need to focus on is the autorotations, and when to flare, bump the collective, and pitch forward.


Except that all the new info was quite a bit to take in, and Gregory and I weren’t on the same page, often. Compound all this with me just being off a bit, and you have the recipe for frustration. So much frustration, in fact, that mid-lesson, Gregory stopped to ask if we should continue. I held our hover in a slight crosswind as we spoke or sat in silence for those short moments. Despite my clear frustration, it didn’t escape me that maintaining that hover while talking was a good indication of my progress.


The rest of my post-flight day was uneventful, thankfully. It’s Monday morning as I finish typing this (and Tuesday morning as I post it), and I have another flight lesson at noon. I’ll soon make breakfast, get Sera off to work, and head in by bicycle shortly thereafter to arrive early, pre-flight the helicopter, and be ready. What goes up must come down, unless it’s drifting off into space, so similarly while I often have good days learning to fly, sometimes I have down ones, too.

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