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Certified Flight Instructor, Commercial Pilot, Training

A Hazy Week

September 28, 2014

Total Hours: 75.1

I started this week in a haze. I don’t really know why, but there I was. My instructor and I took a fun flight to start the week off and it was probably a good thing we didn’t try and do anything more serious. We flew south along the coast past Kona town. In total we went maybe three quarters of the way to South Point. Along the way we stopped and did a few off airport landings. These were completely different from the off airports I’d done on Puuanhulu Ridgeline. Much of the west coast of the Big Island is lava (surprise!) and because of that there are many cliffs that drop into the water. Some are big, like the ones around South Point, but most are smaller. The cliffs tend to have nice flat tops just before they plunge into the ocean and these make a perfect spot for some off airport action!

I really enjoyed the spots we picked out and my instructor also challenged me to think a bit outside the box. For example after one somewhat confined approach we were facing into some brush with the wind coming from our left rear. I wasn’t sure how to turn the helicopter into the wind because we didn’t have clearance for a normal pedal turn. My thought was to hover high, back up, then turn around, and finally make the takeoff. My instructor showed me one of the wonderful things about helicopters…the blades don’t really care which way the body is facing. To make the takeoff we increased our hover height, started a progressively faster backward hover (almost like a takeoff run), and once we had the clearance we swung the tail around so that everything was in trim. The whole time we kept our momentum moving into the wind. Meaning the blades were always working with the benefit of the wind and all we had to do was turn the body around when the space allowed. It was a great learning experience.

The off airports continue to go well although I still wish that I was a little faster figuring out the exact wind direction. For whatever reason this seems to give me fits. I tend to fly a lot of reconnaissance circles because I can’t decide exactly where the wind is coming from. I believe that some day figuring out this mystifying puzzle will be second nature, but for now it continues to be a head scratcher. Otherwise I am very happy with my off airport skill. They are coming along nicely and I’m confident that I will have the ability I’ll need when the time comes to put these skills to work. As I get closer to my one hundred hour mark I have some new things to look forward to as well. Around that time I will be introduced to the R44, mountain flying, and long lining. I’m looking forward to the R44 because I am very curious about what it will be like to fly another helicopter, even if it is just an oversized R22! But I am even more excited about doing some sling load operations and flying at altitude. After all, these are the skills I hope to use in the working world.

In addition to my off airport flying we worked on plenty of maneuvers. For the most part it is still all about approaches and autorotations. The new twist I haven’t mentioned yet is that I’ve started to teach the maneuvers. I’m starting with the very basics, and just trying to talk my way through them. Of course I don’t really want to talk, I just want to try and fly the maneuver. So it’s a challenge, but a good one. I’m trying to create a standard dialogue so that it can come a little more automatically. Kind of like most radio calls. I don’t really think too much about it, I just say what I have to say and listen for the response. I think that talking my way through the maneuvers will become similar. At some point!

And then there is the ever-present pile of stuff that wants my attention. Lesson plans that need writing. Whiteboards that need drawing. Knowledge tests that need studying. Whew! Overwhelming at times to say the least. And yet progress is made every day and I move a little bit closer to my goals. Which reminds me of something a friend of mine who rode a unicycle across the United States said. To paraphrase, she said that she had no idea if she could finish the trip of over three thousand miles. But she knew she could ride her unicycle for one mile. And she knew she could ride one more mile after that. And she was pretty sure she could finish five miles a day. And five miles a day would be enough to carry her across the country. I feel the same way about this training sometimes. The idea of finishing and becoming a professional pilot seems so far out there that I can’t even fathom it. But I know I can write another lesson plan, do another session of ground, and fly another hour in the R22. Eventually these small steps will lead to my success. Thanks Gracie Cole for your inspiration!! And I think that about sums it up for this week. Thanks for reading.


About Orin Bakal-Molnar

Besides aviation my biggest passion is climbing. I love spending my free time on the side of something big! But I'm almost as happy doing anything outside in the wild. Travel, photography, and fly-fishing are a few of my other pursuits. And of course there's nothing like meeting new people and sharing good conversation.


One thought on “A Hazy Week

  1. I was fascinated by your analogy to Gracie Cole’s cross-country trip. Here’s another analogy. You are on a seemingly endless spiral staircase. Sometimes the rise is so gradual that you feel like you are just going in circles, but each cycle brings you just a little bit higher. you are motivated by a faith in the process more than by a vivid perception of progress.


    Posted by David | October 18, 2014, 10:11

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