FITS is the new way to train helicopter pilots. And our Boston helicopter school is the place to do it. FITS is scenario based training, and the scenario for today would cover more in one hour than a traditional lesson would cover in three.
Today’s lesson for our commercial PT (pilot-in-training) was straight out of our Part 141 Commercial FITS helicopter syllabus. Lesson C-VFR 5 from the syllabus, to be exact.
This lesson would be heavy on VFR navigation, weather decision making and planning, performance planning, and a demonstration on the dangers surrounding continuing VFR into deteriorating weather with an emphasis on CFIT.
On the Helipad outside Boston
Before departing for our destination heliport (a great confined area), it was time to discuss weather and navigation. Performance planning for our Robinson helicopter, including IGE, OGE, MCP, 5 min MCP, and weight and balance were also discussed and noted. The PT was also planning for a weight and balance change at the destination.
Upon departure, the weather was now a ceiling at 1000 feet, so we discussed the different options for special VFR and how we would get back to the Lawrence Airport if the weather dropped below VFR minimums.
Boston Helicopter Helipad
We arrived at the heliport as the weather was dropping below VFR minimums, with visibilities and ceilings closing in behind us. Not only did we need to calculate a weight and balance on the pad, but we also had to change our destination from Lawrence Airport to Hanscom Bedford Airport outside the Boston area.
Flight planning changes, weight changes, weather changes, and a confined area departure. Enroute to Hanscom, we expereienced a loss of RPM which dictated a quick recovery and adjustment of the governor to ensure we didnt drop below 90% rotor RPM.
On the way to Hanscom, the ceilings were dropping again – 500…400..it was getting tough to maintain forward visibility and safe altitude. There was no way we were going to make it over the next set of hills, and with the weather closing in from behind, no way back.
It was now time for some quick decision making – where can we go as we’re getting lower and slower? 70 knots, 60 knots, 50 knots……luckily we came across an old landfill where we could quickly bank, perform a recon of the area and setup for another task from this lesson – a pinnacle approach. Not to end the lesson yet, we also had to perform a slope landing on top of the pinnacle!
On the way back to Lawrence, we could even throw in an autorotation to runway 5 at Lawrence.
Not to end the lesson here, it was time to follow through with the Learner Centered Grading techniques which is also part of our FITS syllabus. The PT and I each filled in the grading sheet for C-VFR Lesson 5, and out of about 50 different items, from tasks to SRM, the PT and I identified each and every one exactly the same – the exact same grade for the lesson even though we filled out our grading sheets independently.
The power of FITS makes everyone happy – especially our PT!