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A Message to Your Helicopter Trip Copilot

The other day, a friend was telling me that most of the time he flew with his wife, it would end in a dispute. And that’s no fun!

“She just doesn’t do the right things!” he says. I then asked my friend if he’d ever taken a few minutes to teach her some basic information, in order for her to better participate during flights. His answer? “Not really.”


Make Helicopter Travel More Enjoyable

This is how the following came about: it’s fun bringing a friend, your wife, your girlfriend (or girlfriends) along for a helicopter flight. Did you know that just one evening can be enough to teach your valuable copilots some basic skills? I guarantee you that their flight experience will then be more enjoyable—and yours too!

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Here are the subjects that should be covered:

  • Silence
  • Route of flight
  • Restricted areas
  • Weather
  • Radio frequencies and airports
  • Weight and balance


Silence During Key Helicopter Travel Moments

During the flight, take-off and landing or while transiting into major airports, the PIC [Pilot in Command] needs the copilot to stay quiet in order to pay full attention to the tower communication. Listening to radio communication is a must, and part of the procedure! A simple tap on the knee should let the copilot know this particular radio communication is important, and that silence is required. It’s not really a good time to ask questions such as “Why are we turning around?” or “Why is the clutch light lit up?”

On the other hand, if the copilot notices an unusual sound, odor or nearby traffic, he shouldn’t hesitate to tell the PIC or point towards it.


Route of Flight for Your Helicopter Adventure

With the recent addition of GPS and tablets, it’s now easier and also more fun to follow the helicopter flying route to your final destination. Prior to take-off, it’s a good idea to map your digital route of flight with your copilot. Having two heads following the same route of flight could ease the workload. For example, you can ask your copilot to identify the upcoming city for a radio communication.


Restricted Areas During Helicopter Travel

Point out and review certain waypoints along the way with your copilot. Focus on major airports, restricted areas, height of obstacles such has antennae, wind farms and so on. Later on, the copilot will be able to help the PIC identify these or other areas that require attention. This becomes even more important if the weather deteriorates.


Weather During Flying

Nowadays, having access to weather applications in flight is not only possible: it’s necessary, especially for longer flights. ForeFlight and AeroWeather Pro are both highly valuable tools, and having access to weather reports mid-flight may influence your decision-making. Without becoming a weather expert overnight, it could be beneficial for your copilot to provide you with quick weather information. Wondering if the rain you see on your route could be dangerous? Ask your copilot about cloud ceiling, and you’ll be able to make the right call. If there’s poor weather at an airport, your copilot can quickly produce the airport’s weather report, or the right radio frequency to tune in with the ATIS.


Radio Frequencies and Airports        

Note down radio frequencies you expect you’ll need, and have your copilot look them up for you as needed—especially airports. It’s no fun communicating with the airport ground when you think you’re talking to the tower! Been there, done that! Your copilot can also check for operating hours and fuel availability at the airport. I can’t count how many times I’ve landed and shut down my engine, before realizing this particular airport didn’t offer any services on that day. The information above can be accessed on your iPad with an application like ForeFlight. Teach your copilot how to use it, and he’ll be able to help you out!


Weight and Balance for Helicopter Flight

Since this last part of the flight planning process is often neglected or skipped entirely, you could consider making your copilot responsible for the Weight and Balance (W&B) of the aircraft. With applications like Gyronimo making it so easy, there’s no reason to neglect doing a proper W&B for every flight.

There you have it: some basic skills to teach your partner, to make flying even more enjoyable for both of you.

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