Sheesh. This is the kind of email I get:
Maria, I just recently found you when I was researching the R44.
I am a new helicopter student, roughly three hours, and hovering or the cyclic in general, is kicking my butt! I have a good grasp of the movements and how you push in the opposite direction and so on, but I tend to move it too much or over-compensate. Would you have any pearls of wisdom you could pass on about how you were able to lick this difficulty? Was there anything you practiced on at home or did you try visualization techniques? Anything would help.
Thanks a lot in advance.
Okay, so this guy thinks that any 3-hour student pilot should be able to hover. That’s there’s some magic trick I can teach him that will make him a whiz at this. Or that he can “visualize” something and it’ll just work.
The answer is easy: practice.
Seriously: practice makes perfect. Ever hear that one? It’s true.
It takes, on average, 5 to 10 hours for a student pilot to learn how to hover. To hover, you need a feel for the controls. You can’t get a feel for the controls without actually manipulating the controls. The more you manipulate the controls, the better you learn how they feel.
In other words, practice makes perfect.
This guy is new and naive and somehow thinks he’s dropping the ball on this. He’s not. He’s floundering the way every single one of us did.
I blame his CFI for not explaining to him that hovering isn’t easy. I’m wondering if his CFI is one of those cocky know-it-alls who is just doing time as a CFI, hating every minute of it and taking it out on his students. The kind of CFI who’ll likely die in an accident on his first or second job — if he isn’t lucky enough to get fired first — because his crappy attitude causes him to cut corners or let complacency take him by surprise. Or he attempts one too many “watch this” moments.
We all know the type. You can read about some of them in the NTSB reports.
In fact, hovering is probably the hardest thing a helicopter pilot learns to do — and we have to learn to do it first. You can’t fly a helicopter unless you know how to hover.
So my answer to him and any other new helicopter pilot who is struggling to learn this basic skill is simple: practice.
And one day soon, you’ll just be able to do it. It’s as simple as that.