Well, today was the day. We started out with some normal patterns (there was very little wind and I had trouble getting a good climb going on take-offs - 55-60kts and virtually no climb - in trim, power is good, but climb was not consistent - go figure).
Despite that, the patterns were pretty good. My normal approach was still not great, but it was descent.
Then we did a steep approach. Not bad. Not as good as I have done them in the past though. One thing I kept doing was not keeping enough forward airspeed and getting too slow. I think I was nervous about the autos that were coming. I was definitely more tense than I had been on the last few training sessions.
After the steep approach I did a couple of shallow approaches with running landings. The first one was o.k. but poor heading control (was focused too close in front of the helicopter). My second time was better. I still have to almost force myself to keep the nose down as I'm letting the ship settle, but my heading control was much better.
O.k. Here's the drill from memory:
Normal pattern except climb to 1200' MSL (800'msl). Line up on final like normal, and then lower the collective all the way. Use a bit of aft cyclic to keep the ship level when the nose tries to drop. Next, roll off throttle and keep about a 65kt attitude. Use a little up collective and the lower it back down again and once the attitude is good, it's pretty much about keeping the Rotor RPM in the green with the collective (up to slow, down to increase it). If you keep the attitude and airspeed correct, there's not a whole lot of input required for a straight-in auto.
Now, the hard part. . . at about 40' AGL, flare gently to drop the airspeed (rotor RPM will climb). At this point, the focus really shifts to the RPMs. You want to look for when they peak and start to decrease. Level the ship and roll the throttle back on as the Rotor RPM starts to decrease (don't wait too long and don't start when the RPMs are too high or you'll overspeed the engine).
The first one was a bit hectic and the low rotor RPM warning went on several times. CFI was on the stick quite a bit helping me not make an "unscheduled touchdown"
Next one was a bit better. I still needed some input to get it at the right attitude and I was a little late on the throttle, but it was better.
The next two were much better (not that I'll be doing them by myself for a while, but it was a big improvement). I torqued the throttle a bit on the last one (bit of a jerk when it kicked in), but it wasn't really that bad and the rest of it was pretty good.
I definitely need some time to absorb and mentally collate all the info and get it straight in my own mind, but it wasn't nearly as intense as I thought it was going to be. It was very fun and I'm looking forward to doing more of them.
Anyway, next lesson is Wednesday and I'm sure I'll be practicing plenty of these over the next few hours.