My First Helicopter Flight Experience
Category : General
My First Helicopter Flight Experience
By Ofonime Essien
I had flown in commercial airplanes a number of times but never in a helicopter. I had seen some helicopters parked at some airports and heliports and had seen helicopters fly but never had the luxury of flying in one until I met late Captain Ejiofor Omesili in Accra, Ghana on 12th October, 2011.
I had gone to meet him in Accra, Ghana from Cotonou, Benin Republic on some business deal that was to help me raise enough money for my helicopter flight training in the United States of America (USA).
The day after I arrived Ghana, he was flying to Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire from Kotoka International Airport, Accra – Ghana. He had to refuel at Air Force Base Takoradi, Ghana before proceeding to Abidjan.
During the flight, I got to see the popular Densu River, Ghana where two different rivers that come from the same source meet but run parallel. They do not mix together because of their properties. One was whitish, the other blueish in colour. I got to see the Cape Coast Castle where slaves were gathered for onward shipment to Europe and America.
We flew Eurocopter AS365 Dauphin helicopter with capacity for 11 passengers plus 2 crews and a service ceiling of 19,242feet. We were cruising at 120 knots, 1,100 feet above mean sea level. Flight time from Kotoka International Airport, Accra to Air Force Base, Takoradi was 105 nautical miles (nm), approximately 52 minutes.
During the flight, he showed me the controls, then handed over the control of the helicopter to me. Because I had been studying, flying simulator and watching helicopter videos, I was ready. I took the controls of the aircraft and flew for about 10 minutes. I flew straight & level and turns. While flying, he showed me a mountain to his right and asked me to fly to it. He said “If mountain will not go to Mohammed, Mohammed must go to the mountain”.
Instinctively, I looked out, banked right, rolled out and flew straight to the mountain. It was fun. It was a rare opportunity and one I didn’t fail to take advantage of. I experienced how to fly an aircraft on autopilot. It was the most wonderful flight experience of my life. Flying from an aircraft’s cockpit was an awesome experience.
Prior to this flight, I had discussed the possibility of flying from the cockpit of an airplane with an Aero Contractors and Dana Air Captains but was told the era of flying from the flight-deck jump seat was over, thanks to the changes in the aviation industry as a result of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States of America. I was curious about how Pilots see their way through dark clouds, hazy weather and generally, how they navigate from one airport to another. I was willing to pay anything to have the view from the cockpit.
My first helicopter flight experience answered some of the questions I had. It was an awesome experience. It was an experience that prepared me on what to expect later in flying school. I will always be grateful to late Captain Omesili for the experience. Further trainings later answered all the questions I had, especially flying in clouds and at night. The flight was based on Visual Flight Rules (VFR), that is flight based on visual reference to prominent landmarks, aeronautical maps and global positioning system (GPS). He advised me to always go with an aeronautical map on all flights as the GPS in the aircraft can pack up.
I realized later that flying in clouds, at nights or marginal weather are conditions referred to as instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) and Pilots fly in IMC based on Instrument Flight Rules (IFR), with sole reference to radio navigational aids on the ground and in the aircraft. Flying IFR requires special skills and training. Instrument flying is often the most difficult part of any flight training apart from hovering for helicopter pilots.
I was able to take advantage of the first helicopter flight experience because I was prepared. Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States said “I will prepare and someday my chance will come”. In whatever situation you find yourself today, I urge you to always “Prepare and Wait for Opportunities”.