On a sunny but blustery day in August I was very lucky to be taken for a trip in an R44; only my third experience in a helicopter!
I was meeting ‘Instagram friend’ Rachel at our strip. Our plan was to fly the RV up to Wellesbourne before jumping into a helicopter and flying to the Classic Motor Hub. The funny thing being that the ‘Hub’ is less than 500 metres from our home strip where the RV lives.
Thus, we had a most decadent morning. Traversing the Roman Empire-built Fosseway four times in as many hours, a feat it’s military strategists of the day would have thought impossible!
The day began at 0830, as I needed to clean the RV after my old man had flown it to Blackbushe the day before. With the perspex shining, seat cushions sorted and walkaround complete I was focusing on the next hurdle; the persistent crosswind.
Wind was forecast as 280/10 but in reality was gusting to 15 as the windsock was horizontal at times. This gave us a very good crosswind but nothing that the RV can’t handle. As long as you stick to the appropriate techniques she handles fine.
The 15-minute flight up to Wellesborne was uneventful and thankfully we landed on runway 23 in the usual feet-kicking, stick-hurling manner that is any taildragger on a gusty day.
Rachel flies from Wellesbourne-based Heli Air who opperate R22s and R44s from their hangar. Rachel had chosen an R44 for the morning which, to my surprise, is a bigger beast than I had first realised.
It has an imposing stance with the tall rotor hub and big fuselage (compared to the R22), but the biggest surprise to me was that it is hiding a Lycoming IO-540. Thinking about it, it makes sense to have that much power in a four-seat helicopter but I had still expected something like an O-390.
I know so little about rotary wing flying that I was only guessing at half the actions Rachel was performing during the start-up and run-up processes. However, understanding the many considerations above and beyond those that fixed wing pilots need to think about that gave me a healthy respect for our rotary powered cousins.
The flight was truly amazing. There is a fantastic sense of flying when in a helicopter that I think beats fixed wing aircraft, made easiser thanks to the field of view, especially when low and slow. It’s a very odd feeling cruising into a landing site 50ft over trees at 20mph.
I made use of the view and snapped lots of photos, some of which you can see below.
We headed down the Fosseway straight to the Classic Motor Hub and landed on their helipad . We had a quick coffee, cookie and a look at some very impressive cars before heading back up to Wellesbourne. It was a really enjoyable morning and thanks go to Rachel for organising it all!