Jump to content

I'm discouraged (student) -- considering quitting :(


Recommended Posts

I've been getting really discouraged with my training lately. I have about 25 hours in an R22 now and don't feel even close to confident enough to solo. After my last couple of lessons, I really am wondering if I'm just not cut out to fly helicopters.

 

A little background: I've been a private airplane pilot for about 10 years with around 350 hours in single engine GA airplanes. I have always considered myself to be excellent at operating stuff (heavy equipment, tractors, driving, etc) and similarly, I picked up airplane flying very quickly -- first solo was at 10.5 hours, and got my PPL right at the 40 hour minimum. I have always thought that I have a good sense of touch for machine and vehicle controls, good spatial awareness, in tune with seat-of-the-pants feelings, etc. so I thought flying a helicopter would be the same.

 

Becoming a helicopter pilot has been a life-long dream since young childhood. As a 30-something grown up now, I have finally pulled the trigger to start spending money that I don't have to pursue a career as a professional helicopter pilot. So needless to say, coming to any realization that it may not be for me is heartbreaking.

 

I'm not sure what exactly my problem with flying the helicopter is, but I almost never feel solidly in control. At almost any given time I feel like I'm on the verge of losing concentration and control, and am therefore usually gripped, tense, and anxious to the point that it's not even fun.

 

My biggest issue with pre solo has been becoming consistant with hovering, hover taxiing, pick ups, and set downs. When I practice (especially set downs), I find myself getting too deep inside my own head and becoming anxious such that I start letting the helicopter drift and wobble around, to the point of wishing that my instructor would just take over. I don't know if this is something that I will get better at with time and practice, but every time I go out for a lesson it's pretty much the same old struggle. It doesn't help that I sense that my instructor is starting to seem impatient about my slow progress.

 

I know this all sounds like I'm whining and crying a river and not giving things a fair chance, but it is really difficult to put into words the things that I feel when I'm having a lesson where I barely feel like I'm in control. And I really am starting to wonder if there is some trait that I inherently lack to ever become a decent helicopter pilot. Of course I *want* to give it more of a chance, but at the same time I'm spending money that I don't have at an alarming rate and I can't afford to invest a lot of money into something if it turns out that I'm just not cut out for it.

 

What I want to know from folks here is, what is your experience with seeing students in a similar frustrated condition? Do you find that many of them give up and quit flying? Or do you see many stick it through and improve? What seems to be the trend for students who don't feel like it comes naturally to them?

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

How do you get on with your instructor? Do you feel you are getting good instruction? Since you are already a private pilot, you already know how the game works. I would try another instructor ASAP to see if you are wasting your money because of bad instruction or whether you may not be cut out for it. Since you are already rated, I would guess the former. A helicopter is no harder to fly than an airplane, IMO. Good luck.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree totally with the above post. I have seen tons of people go through training, and many have quit for various reasons. Finances usually, but I have only seen one person who quit because they "couldn't" get it, and didnt have any fun anymore. In that case, I believe the instructor was the only one to fault for those feelings and the student quitting. Thats just my humble opinion though.

 

Airplanes can be much easier to hover and taxi than helicopters, even the pickups and setdowns are easier there.

 

I would think that a good first start would be to explain your frustrations with your instructor, hopefully your instructor will be able to motivate you and put some of the fun back into your flying. Usually when I had a student who was struggling in confidence or loosing that spark, I would take them out for a fun flight to show them what helicopters are all about. Get out of the traffic pattern, pack a lunch, go out to the rivers or something, land there and relax for a bit. Sometimes maintaining student confidence and getting the student to relax was a bigger battle than teaching maneuvers.

 

I have taught many people that shouldn't be a pilot, but nobody that couldn't be a pilot.

 

Good luck

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

It definitely gets easier if you relax. Hard to do I know! Hell even after a couple hundred hours with SCAS helping me out I have times when I start to get a little wobbly and tense. You just gotta tell yourself to loosen your grip and let it fly.

 

Are you resting your forearm fully on your leg? If not, that could be your problem. You need a stable platform for your arm. I had that problem for a while and couldn't figure out why I was all over the place.

Edited by SBuzzkill
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The tension will fade with time, I personally didn't solo until around 35 hours or so. Even when I did I wasn't sure if my instructor was making the right decision, until I actually did it and the confidence that came with it woke me up again.

 

Don't give up, there are different teachers or different schools, perhaps you would feel more confident in a different heli, or in a different atmosphere. Give yourself all of the benefits you can.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was where you were not too long ago, Im a student with no prior experience at about 30 hours now. I was doing really well and then everything seemed to go downhill quickly and it seemed like i just couldnt control it anymore. Eventually I started going out just to fly, and quit thinking of when im going to solo or how perfect things are are arent going. I just went to fly and have fun.....after that mindset change I have improved greatly and am getting ready to solo. Stop being so hard on yourself to learn and see how you do

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I definitely attribute a lot of this to the instructor. Being in a relaxed environment is critical to learning. It's your instructor's job to set the mood, and to sense it as well. If you are getting tense, he should be ready to give you a break to loosen up, shake it off, relax for a moment, regain your focus, and then take back over. I have to do this pretty regularly with students when they get too task saturated. Forcing them to deal with the stress is NOT productive to learning. My instructor at Western did this once a flight or so, about mid way through. I was usually starting to wander or get too focused on something and he would just say "you mind if I take it for a minute?" and of course I would let him. Then he would do something interesting or fun, showing off his flying prowess. I would just sit back and enjoy the ride for a moment, and when he gave it back to me I would be ready to learn again. If your instructor is being critical or trying to force you through it, he/she is really not helping the situation. Keep this in mind.

 

Also, the R22 is notoriously squirrely so it takes students longer to master those skills. I can almost guarantee that if you tried a few hours in a Schweizer you would see an improvement.

 

So, with that said, my first piece of advice would be to ask to switch instructors. Do it politely, and just explain that you want to see if another instructor can get to you better than your current one. If that does not work, I would try another type of aircraft.

 

I got my Private helicopter add on in the Schweizer. It was a relatively easy transition for me once I got used to how sensitive helicopters are. Years later I did my commercial and CFI training in the R22. The 22 is SO much more sensitive and unpredictable when compared to the Schweizer. Granted, you do get used to it. But looking back at my primary training, I probably would have had a lot more trouble adapting if I had been trying to get my add on in the R22.

 

Good luck with your training. If it is something you really want to do, keep at it. The fact that you are already a licensed pilot means you definitely have the tools you need, you just need to build muscle memory. The rest will fall in line. I think you are just dealing with a poor training environment, either because of the instructor, or the aircraft.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've been getting really discouraged with my training lately. I have about 25 hours in an R22 now and don't feel even close to confident enough to solo. After my last couple of lessons, I really am wondering if I'm just not cut out to fly helicopters.

 

A little background: I've been a private airplane pilot for about 10 years with around 350 hours in single engine GA airplanes. I have always considered myself to be excellent at operating stuff (heavy equipment, tractors, driving, etc) and similarly, I picked up airplane flying very quickly -- first solo was at 10.5 hours, and got my PPL right at the 40 hour minimum. I have always thought that I have a good sense of touch for machine and vehicle controls, good spatial awareness, in tune with seat-of-the-pants feelings, etc. so I thought flying a helicopter would be the same.

 

Becoming a helicopter pilot has been a life-long dream since young childhood. As a 30-something grown up now, I have finally pulled the trigger to start spending money that I don't have to pursue a career as a professional helicopter pilot. So needless to say, coming to any realization that it may not be for me is heartbreaking.

 

I'm not sure what exactly my problem with flying the helicopter is, but I almost never feel solidly in control. At almost any given time I feel like I'm on the verge of losing concentration and control, and am therefore usually gripped, tense, and anxious to the point that it's not even fun.

 

My biggest issue with pre solo has been becoming consistant with hovering, hover taxiing, pick ups, and set downs. When I practice (especially set downs), I find myself getting too deep inside my own head and becoming anxious such that I start letting the helicopter drift and wobble around, to the point of wishing that my instructor would just take over. I don't know if this is something that I will get better at with time and practice, but every time I go out for a lesson it's pretty much the same old struggle. It doesn't help that I sense that my instructor is starting to seem impatient about my slow progress.

 

I know this all sounds like I'm whining and crying a river and not giving things a fair chance, but it is really difficult to put into words the things that I feel when I'm having a lesson where I barely feel like I'm in control. And I really am starting to wonder if there is some trait that I inherently lack to ever become a decent helicopter pilot. Of course I *want* to give it more of a chance, but at the same time I'm spending money that I don't have at an alarming rate and I can't afford to invest a lot of money into something if it turns out that I'm just not cut out for it.

 

What I want to know from folks here is, what is your experience with seeing students in a similar frustrated condition? Do you find that many of them give up and quit flying? Or do you see many stick it through and improve? What seems to be the trend for students who don't feel like it comes naturally to them?

 

I wonder if you haven't imposed some unrealistic expectations upon yourself? Your airplane experience isn't going to be any help with hover work. Hovering is a whole different ball game to any other vehicle, and that's the root of your unease- hovers.

Not to fault your instructor, I'd also suggest a ride with another CFI. Perhaps a fresh set of eyes will see something in a new way or confirm something you were wondering about.

 

I know pilots who hit the 'hover button' at 4 hours, and guys who didn't hit it until 24 hours. At a couple of hundred hours, one can't tell the difference between the two sets. That said, a good 'stick' doesn't mean you're a good pilot, natural aptitude means squat without good sense.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I know the feeling, there were times I wanted to walk away, frustration was not the word.

Was a late starter with only 2 hours fixed wing 40 years before ( could not raise the interest to fly FW)

My instructor was not the most laid back but he was a good person person, we used to do a lot of off airfield work, he would break up the time with this is the lesson & this is the fun time we flew into clearings, sloping ground, landed on farm tracks, on walls, it was beyond my skills by miles, till one day, he said OK lets go back to base, only touched the controls once to day, I had not realized I was flying without his help.

Hover & confidence took a long time for me as well the basic flying was the easy part it was the first & last 10ft that turned to rat s**t

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree with the above posts for getting a new instructor stat and negative transfer. Most of the fixed wing pilots I have taught could fly straight and level but hovering killed them. You should not go into this expecting to do it in the minimums. It is different for everyone. Try to shake it off and move forward.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I know a guy who got his private license with around 120hrs..... Try another instructor, try to relax, keep it fun, dont expect too much from yourself and ask yourself if this is what you really want to do for a living. If you don't see progress within the next 5-10 hours you should probably walk away from this

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Since I fly both airplanes and helicopters and I made the transition to helicopters with over 3000 hours in airplanes. I think you hit a plateau in learning. While the R-22 is not my first choice to learn in, its a fact of life that your first job is going to be flying one. So its a moot point. Here is what you do, you are over thinking things, its all between your ears. Go fishing for a week or something you like to do and just not think about flying at all. Then once you get your head cleared , just go and hover the helicopter. You will find the hover spot, some find it quick others take a little bit more.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Smooth hovering will come with time and practice, its like riding a bike, your subconcious just has to learn how to balace it, and the less you think the better. As for touchdowns, try sliding it forward as you set it down, that helped me!

 

Don't worry about getting discouraged, I got frustrated and wanted to quit more times than I can remember, its normal!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not much can be added to the good advice already given. The one chunk I’ll add is; go visit a commercial turbine helicopter operator of any type. Hang out and shoot-the-poop with the pilots. If possible, bum a ride. This may ignite some additional motivation and at minimum, make you realize why you wanted to do this in the first place. Simply put, go see what’s at the end of the tunnel……

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

wow! one of the first topics that had good advice from everyone.....nice! its normal whats happening to you. one day you will just go out and it will just come to you. then it will be something else that will frustrate you.....then once again you will get it! its like you run into a wall and you keep racking up the hours and your not getting any better.....dont worry....relax, take it slow, and dont worry so much about the money your spending..... or it will take longer! hang in there you will be fine! oh ya.......like the post up above said.."keep your arm rested on your knee or some sort of pad "(i had to make one)

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Good advice from all. The one thing I will add is that if you aim to make a career of this, you will have to learn to let the frustrations of a flight just slide off as they come. Believe me, you can easily become your own worst enemy, and if you think it's bad now, wait until you get your first job and realize you truly have no idea what's going on. All the frustrating things that happen in a flight need to go into a little box that you only open after everything has stopped spinning and you're debriefed.

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I know it's frustrating to hear people say that it will just click, when I first started I was irritated that I couldn't hover very well and even more irritated when the only help my instructor could give was to tell me it would just click eventually.

 

He was right though, I did two lessons in a day, couldn't hover, took a few hour break, came back and for no other reason but the grace of god, I could do it.

 

I'm not going to say that it will just click (because I swore to never say that to somebody), all I can say is stick with it, try to relax, and keep practicing. With practice, you will have to focus less on each specific control input and more on what it is that you want the helicopter to do. Try not to overthink or complicate things and I'm sure you will have amazing results.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wow, so many great replies. ALL of them. Thanks to each one of you for your perspective and advice, I definitely feel in better spirits about all of this.

 

Nightstalker's post particularly hit the nail on the head I think -- my instructor is a sharp guy and he conveys the lesson material clearly, but he definitely creates a bit of a critical atmosphere that makes me feel like he is constantly judging my mess-ups, which I think is contributing significantly to the tension and my feelings of pressure to succeed. A more laid back atmosphere would definitely help I think.

 

Furthermore, he sometimes relates annecdotes to me about his other students in an overly critical fashion, telling me how badly such and such student of his did such and such maneuver yesterday and almost killed him... and similarly, he often comments on the incompetence of other pilots (most frequently when it comes to imperfect radio calls), so I assume he probably uses my mess-ups as punchlines of anecdotes that he tells others.

 

I also agree that I am putting too much pressure on myself to become good in X number of hours.

 

And the resting the elbow on the thigh thing -- have to work on that, because I do it sometimes but not always.

 

I guess the frustrating thing is the lack of consistency. Some days I absolutely nail it and it gives me a boost of confidence -- I can do everything pretty close to perfect and it feels great. But then I'll have a lesson a few days later and I will feel like it's my first time flying, ever -- can't hold a hover, can't control a hover taxi, can't do a safe set down without sliding sideways or backwards. My performance and my ability to concentrate seems so variable from one day to the next. That's the part that is killing me.

 

I think I am going to try another instructor just to see what happens. And I'm just going to forget about anticipating soloing for now, and just try to focus on having some fun again.

 

Thank you all for the support.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As for touchdowns, try sliding it forward as you set it down, that helped me!

 

This is exactly what I've been trying to do intentionally over my last couple of lessons. Those damn set downs have probably been the hardest thing for me. Usually what happens is I will start with a nice stabilized 5 ft hover and then the instant I think about setting down everything goes to s***. I start having anxiety about going sideways or backwards, which, of course, CAUSES me to go sideways and backwards, then I try to set down anyway and panic at the last inch above the ground because I'm going sideways/backwards and pull back into a wobbly hover, then I'm gripped and wobbling all over the place after that. I often have to fly a mini rectangle pattern over the practice pad just to shake it off, take a deep breath, and get stabilized again. I think if I do what you suggest and just try to make sliding it on forwards the default for now, it will reduce the nerves a bit and will help me learn proper set downs more easily in the long run.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

All new student pilots are dangerous and could kill the instructor. Helicopters are dangerous. It is the CFI's JOB to take you from inexperienced and dangerous, to safe and skilled enough to solo. I'd def go with a new instructor, one because he sounds unprofessional, and two, you're just not learning it from him. Probably because of the training environment he creates.

  • Like 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

As has been stated, a fair amount of the difficulty encountered in learning to fly helicopters is in your head, but it is your INSTRUCTOR'S job to set the stage for this, as I said. It says so RIGHT IN THE INSTRUCTORS HANDBOOK! It's a well documented theory (I won't say FACT because I think that word is thrown around way too much when it shouldn't be) that people learn faster and retain the information longer when they are having fun. If, because of your instructor's nature, you are not having fun, then you will not learn as quickly. He sounds like a couple of pilot's I have flown with over the years. None of which I held in very high regard. He might be a GREAT pilot, technically proficient, knowledgeable, and able to convey the material clearly, but if his personality is critical and judgmental and he has no sense of humor or fun in what he is doing, then he will NOT be a good teacher. Think back to your high school days and try to remember the teachers that you considered the best at their jobs. What were their personalities like? Find an instructor that has similar traits. Unfortunately, due to geographical limitations, you may not be able to without moving or traveling great distances for lessons. So you may be stuck. But even so, at least now you know that it's really not you. Your instructor is just a bit of a stuck up jerk. Keep your chin up and keep at it!

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...