Up up and away

Host: Yougawalla Pastoral Co.
Written by Angus Campbell – Pilot, Yougawalla Pastoral Co.

Learning to fly a helicopter has been one of the most mentally challenging things that I have ever done. I have always wanted to fly ever since I was a young fella watching the super planes flying at treetop height over home. I was very lucky to start to learn how to fly fixed wing aeroplanes in the last two years of school and it gave me a taste of the world of aviation.

4.1 Angus at Margaret River Station in 2014 copyAngus at Margaret River Station in 2014.

In 2014 I took a year off after uni and headed over to the Kimberley to work for Yougawalla Pastoral Company. I hadn’t had anything to do with helicopters until I worked up there and I changed from wanting to fly planes to helicopters. After my year in the north I headed back home and took a management job out near Goondiwindi in Queensland. I was approached by Haydn last year and he offered to come back and learn how to fly helicopters.

When I finished uni I thought I would never have to study again . . . but how wrong I was! I decided to try to get all my theory out of the road over the summer before heading off to start my practical training. I don’t think I’ve ever done so much study in my life. There are seven commercial theory subjects with six of them you must achieve a minimum of 70% to pass and the other 80%. Trying to juggle social life in Brisbane and trying to study was very difficult at times.

4.2 Not a bad place to learn to fly copyNot a bad place to learn to fly.

I moved to Broome at the end of March to start my private pilots license at a newly opened flight training school in Broome. As I had only ever flown a plane before, I didn’t quite know what I was in for. Learning to fly the helicopter takes a lot to get your head around. When moving the controls to do what you want it to do there is a secondary effect that also comes in to play to throw you off. I found myself holding onto the controls so tight that by the end of the hour lesson, I felt like my hand was going to fall off.

After learning the basics of flying straight, level, climb, and descend, it was time to learn how to hover. I thought hovering would be straight forward, it’s just sitting in one spot, how hard could it be? I think it was the most difficult thing that I have had to learn so far. The controls are so sensitive that I found myself trying to stationary hover over an area 50m X 50m.

4.3 Learning to hover copyLearning to hover.

Once I got the hang of the basic flying maneuvers, it was time to put it all together and start doing circuits and practice emergencies for engine failure and jammed controls and prepare for my first solo flight. After a lot of practice of circuits and emergencies it was time to go solo. This was very nerve-racking when the instructor gets out of the helicopter and tells you the controls will feel different with the less weight on the left hand side. He walks away and turns around, gives me the thumbs up and I am ready to go. As I go to lift up into hover it feels a lot different to what I was used to and as I proceed to takeoff down the runway I think to myself I hope I can land this thing when I get back around. Full of adrenaline coming in for landing I find myself gripping onto the controls tighter and tighter as I get closer to the ground. Eventually I pull into a hover and land with such a feeling of relief when the skids are on the ground.

4.4 Out on a navigational. Good place to put down and go fishing. copyOut on a navigational. Good place to put down and go fishing.

Since going solo it has gone very quickly – from flying eight minutes by myself to doing nearly two and half hour navigation circuits from Broome to Derby and back again. I’m nearing the end of my training and will hopefully be sitting my flight test in the next few weeks. It is one of the most mentally draining things I have done and even though I am only flying two to three hours per day I come home feeling buggered. I don’t know how the mustering pilots do it for ten hours but I guess it all takes time. I can’t wait to get back out to the station and start flying around checking on different things around the property and build my hours up to become more and more confident and eventually ease my way into mustering.

4.5 Up and around Broome copyUp and around Broome.