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Helicopter students find hovering extremely difficult. It’s often described as being like trying to pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time, but many people would say it’s harder than that!

How to Hover a Helicopter

Hovering is tremendous fun. But it is extraordinarily difficult, at least in the beginning. It takes time to learn, and at the start can seem absolutely impossible.

The helicopter has three highly sensitive controls, all of which operate differently, and which all affect each other. To further complicate matters, there is a lag between operating each control and the helicopter responding.

For example, the collective controls the helicopter’s height, by altering the pitch of the main rotor blades, while the yaw pedals control the pitch of the tail rotor blades. If the pilot raises the collective, the helicopter will climb, but it will also yaw to the right. So the pilot needs to apply left pedal to keep the aircraft straight. So if one is hovering and feels the helicopter sinking, the thing to do is raise the collective and apply left pedal. However, there’s a large amount of lag in the collective. So a new student may raise it, but feel as though he or she isn’t climbing. So he will tend to raise the collective more. Suddenly the helicopter will positively shoot into the air. In mild panic the student will lower the collective… but nothing seems to happen, so he lowers it still further. All of a sudden he is heading full speed for the ground, and yawing violently left.

Meanwhile the student is also trying to handle the cyclic. This controls the helicopter’s movement forward, backwards, and sideways, by altering the attitude of the rotor disc. The cyclic is by far the most sensitive of the three controls, and the hardest to master.

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