Yes, at some point that's what you have to do, but I know there are better ways to develop the skills necessary for hovering. I've talked to several career-minded CFIs who have their own tips and tricks, and they all sounded less frustrating and more rational than that approach. But none of the instructors I've flown with ever applied any of them (and this doesn't reflect what I saw at a single backwater school). I have my own ideas, but I want to hear from those of you who have some real experience making things work: If you were getting paid by the maneuver rather than the hour, what technique would you use to have students hovering in no time? Since the 269/300 pretty much hovers itself, this is only for those who suffer the R22.
To get started, I'll distill what I thought were the most helpful ones in the FIG, and improve on one of them (courtesy of the CFI Mentoring presentation at HAI):
- Focus on a distant reference; better yet, focus on a distant, vertical reference (eg, the side of a building) that will produce the same sight picture even if the helicopter climbs or descends some;
- Initially, set a goal to stay within a general area rather than over a specific point;
- During breaks, set down while you provide your critique so the student isn't comparing his performance to yours.
I'll just summarize what's been said and what I've gotten from others--for the benefit of anybody who's not a natural or who has an instructor with only one tool in the shed.
- Straight and level, climbs and descents, turns, etc teach the student how the controls work under conditions where they aren't so sensitive (and also teach the student the concept of holding an attitude), and can serve as a foundation for hovering.
- Move to approaches, since this teaches the student how to steadily control the helicopter with the cyclic, and is a gradual and controlled transition into a hover
- Control isolation helps, but this is the only technique most instructors try, and usually devolves into riding the bull
- Let students fix the problem when they start oscillating or losing their position
- Teach students to hover taxi first, then teach them to stop hover taxiing
- "Force" the student to make an input and see where it gets them (assuming it's not upside down and on fire). I was hoping somebody would elaborate on this; in one flight in a 300 the instructor had me do this, then had me make an input and give half back; 15 minutes I was hovering with all 3 controls. The idea is to see what a single input gets you so you can adapt, rather than trying to constantly react.
If anybody is interested, the Australian Civil Aviation Authority has their flight instructor's manual online. If you're an instructor/CFI candidate, it's worth a look. Students might also benefit from it.