Bell 412 Simulator - RAF Shawbury - written by Guy Cowper
These three brave musketeers had paid £500 each for the day which goes under the title of 'Air Safety Days'.
Terry being the NWAA raffle winner, flew for free thanks to the generosity of FB Heliservices and Rob Lewis who arranged the subsidised flight to help us with our NWAA Manley mere fundraiser in October 2011.
Rob runs the course which comprises of two morning briefings, covering bad weather flying and emegencies, a lunch break, then into the simulator. The simulator seats two pilots, with two jump seats behind. Rob the Instructor has to stand and man his control panel, 'making very bad things happen' to yopu whilst flying!
Rob is a superb Instructor, his career has included 12 years at RAF Valley SAR flying the Wessex and Sea King. He has some great tales to tell and his instructioanl style is superb, putting all his students at ease immediately!
The realism of the simulator is second to none, you really are flying and what a beauty the 412 is to fly! I had a huge schoolboy grin on my face the minute I lifted off. My fello avaitors decreed that I should be the guinea pig so off I went, a quick familiarisation circuit and then straight into auto's, 180 auto's, tail rotor failure in the hover and in the cruise!
It really was incredible to see first hand just how quickly it can all go 'pear shaped' if you are not on top of your game or you get distracted. I have to admit to crashing her a couple of times running her on with a TR failure, but thanks to a quick push of the reset button, we were on our way again! The simulator is without doubt the best training tool any helicopter pilot could wish for. Of particular interest was a scenario where Rob had us 'scudding' around at 400 feet AGL in worsening weather; eventually you end up in IMC and Rob asks for a 180 degree turn on instruments - not easy and definitely fraught with peril in the real world. As Rob says, when you start to feel uncomfortable in bad weather, just land while you still can! Most people will be delighted to see a helicopter appear and land, the whole world is your airfield.
I firmly beleive that if every pilot could experience this in a simulator there would be far fewer weather related accidents.To finish off my session, Rob made me lift off from RAF Valley and fly to a warship steaming at 20knots and tried a deck landing. This made me sweat, I was useless!!!
I then swapped seats and was P2 for Paul Trevor, who I have to say flew very well and his ship landing was tops! Mind you, he was trained by Helicentre!
We all then had a break for coffee and the whole process was repeated for Terry and Barrie. In all, you spend 4 hours in the sim, with one hour actually flying. Sitting in the back and observing is also really beneficial and you can learn without the pressure of being in the 'hot seat'!
I seriously reccomend any pilot to get four of you together and sign up for the day with Rob Lewis. At £500 it is fantastic value and you will walk away from the day a safer pilot. FB Heliservices have only just started to allow civillians to use their simulator, but already there are a number of guy's and gal's who are signing up, some even on a once yearly brush up.
If you would like more information or to book, please contact Rob Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org or his mobile 07884 063876.
The courses are run at weekends, unfortunately the base is closed to helicopters at the weekend, but you can land at nearby Sleap or the Hawkstone Park Hotel.