Question to the forum just popped into my mind based on my last posting in another thread

Above is the post that prompted my curiosity. Here’s the question:

Since bicycles and airplanes are inherently stable and unicycles and helicopters are inherently unstable, if given FREE flight training to learn how to fly an airplane or a helicopter, which of the following options would you choose:

  1. Neither because I have no interest in aviation or becoming a pilot.
  2. Neither because I prefer to remain on the ground due to fear of flight or personal preference.
  3. Helicopter, because like the unicycle, I enjoy mastering an unstable vehicle.
  4. Helicopter just because I like them better than airplanes and/or find them more useful in certain ways.
  5. Airplanes because they are far more practical for long distance travel or I just like them better.
  6. Airplanes because they are much cheaper to own, operate, and rent.
  7. Airplanes because either I believe they are safer or because I am simply not comfortable with rotary-wing aircraft.

3 Helicopter, because like the unicycle, I enjoy mastering an unstable vehicle.
8 Helicopter, because I have never had the opportunity to fly a helicopter.


I would choose number 3 but also for the ability to land in places I couldn’t with an airplane which I guess would be number 4 also

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Seems I left out a category that may be fairly broad! Good catch!

Though the sample size is quite small, at the moment it seems my hunch that unicyclists would be more drawn to helicopters than to airplanes may have some merit. Even before I became a helicopter pilot, as a unicyclist I always had this weird sense of fraternity with whirly-bird pilots. Though idling isn’t exactly stationary, it’s close enough to hovering for me! And besides the fact that both helo pilots and unicyclists operate inherently unstable vehicles, another similarity is the way we initiate movement. On a the unicycle, I pitch the frame forward a bit to accelerate, while in a helicopter I pitch the rotor disc forward a bit to accelerate. There are surely other similarities, but I won’t go on and on about a topic that is likely of limited interest.

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  1. I love airplanes and have my private pilot certificate, working on instrument rating now. That being said, my favorite type of planes are tail wheel, which are inherently instable on the ground. I haven’t flown full scale tailwheel yet, but remote control tailwheels are very fun to master and require a great balance to keep going straight. I would like to train in helicopters at some point for sure, but for now am sticking to planes because that’s my first love. I have drawn many connections between remote control planes and full scale planes, but it seems like the nature of a quick and accurate control loop from flying rc helicopters might translate well to full scale helicopters too. I’ll find out one day.

Something came to mind… a person can survive a UPD on a Uni. Try that in a helicopter.:thinking:

Maybe we can say a UPD for helicopters could be an unplanned landing, in which case I recommend you check out videos on autorotation landings, which are landing without power to the engine.

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Very true. Maybe that is part of the reason I have still never ridden in a helicopter?

I read a quote somewhere that was similar to, “The differences between a bicycle and a unicycle are similar to one of the differences between an airplane and a helicopter. Airplanes are designed to fly. Helicopters are designed to withstand a crash.”

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Here’s a video of a simulated autorotation landing that I enjoy everytime I watch it.
To the thread opener’s question: While I find aviation fascinating to some extent, I wouldn’t want free flight training. The joy of few people means too many emissions, notably noise, for too many other people, in my view. Except maybe for gliders (they still have to become airborne somehow). I guess that’s answer number 2 for me, then.

I’ve had my share of helicopter flights, Sans UpL.

Very nice! Good luck with your instrument rating. The three hours of hood training I had saved my life on my solo cross country flight in a Cessna 172 when I found myself in a cloud (and experienced a total whiteout) 5000 feet above the Delaware Bay and then got into the beginning stage of a graveyard spiral. I was completely disoriented and went from 5000 feet to 1500 feet in a flash and nearly put myself into an unrecoverable situation. I was very lucky to have received excellent flight training. I heard my instructor’s voice in my head telling me not to listen to what my body was telling me and that I must rely on my instruments. That’s when I saw my indicated airspeed was beyond Vne and my artificial horizon told me that I was banked in the opposite direction that I thought. It was quite a harrowing situation but a good learning experience.

Tailwheel planes are super cool! Lots (I think maybe most) STOL airplanes are taildraggers. I would also like to learn how to fly them at some point.

According to my helicopter flight instructors, flying RC helicopters is of little or no help when flying full size copters. RC guys came in for lessons and didn’t do any better than students with no RC experience.

An unplanned landing in a helicopter would surely be the equivalent of a UPD on a unicycle. I am impressed with your knowledge of helicopters. Most people do not know that in the event of an engine failure (and certain other emergency situations) all type-certified helicopters can autorotate to a safe landing (if there’s a suitable landing area within gliding distance and the pilot executes the maneuver properly). For the autorotation to be successful the pilot must be outside the height/velocity curve (AKA the “dead man’s curve”) when the autorotation is initiated. The h/v curve shows what minimum airspeed you need to have for any given altitude (for example: 50 feet altitude = 40 knots, 400 feet altitude = 0 knots) to pull off a successful autorotation. Helicopters with high inertia rotor systems can store a lot of energy in the rotor system, so you can flare the helicopter and once your airspeed gets slow enough, the pilot can set it down softly from 10 or maybe even 15 feet above the ground. I flew a helicopter with a low-inertia rotor system so I had to end my flare no more than about 5 feet above the ground in order to be able to set the copter down without having a hard landing because the rotor system could not store a lot of energy. On the positive side, if I were to get into a low rotor RPM situation in the helicopter I know how to fly, a little twist of the throttle (or reduction in the pitch angle of the rotor blades) and the RPM spools right up, whereas in a high-inertia rotor system helicopter, it would be more sluggish so it could result in a catastrophic situation if the pilot doesn’t catch it early enough and respond correctly.

Soon I will be building a 36er with a high-inertia wheel. It will offer me some very important advantages for the type of riding I enjoy most, but it will also have some disadvantages. The amount of inertia of the rotor system (helo)/wheel (uni) is yet another similarity between helicopters and unicycles that I find fascinating, even if that makes me a weirdo.

If one looks at a UPL/autorotation as the equivalent of a UPD in a helicopter, then many people have already been forced to try that in real life emergencies and have survived. During flight training, student pilots practice autorotations constantly from various airspeeds and altitudes.

I am also a hang glider pilot. I get airborne in my hang glider by launching off a cliff or a mountain and then I use ridge lift or solar energy (rising thermals) to stay aloft and ascend. We climb in the thermal by flying a corkscrew pattern inside the thermal. It’s similar to how hot air balloons obtain lift, but nature makes the hot air for us so we don’t need any gas or a burner - we just need to stay in the thermal.

You don‘t see these very often over here, today (read: very rarely). They were more widespread when I was a kid. Then paragliders took over. Must be nice to use thermals to gain altitude. One of the best guys in this sport (he does long distance competitions) is Swiss. He likes to use the same thermals that birds use, but they seem to ascend quicker than he does.

@Wheelou I’m not sure where “here” is, but paragliding has indeed become far more popular than hang gliding nearly everywhere in the world, probably due to its convenience and faster learning curve. Depending on your age, mainstream paragliding may have been essentially non-existent when you were a kid, as it was when I first started hang gliding at the age of 12. Most free-flight pilots share thermals with birds every so often. They are a sure indicator for us as to where the thermals are located and sometimes they fly right across from us in the thermal (which is quite magical), so we very much appreciate pilots of the feathered variety… most of the time. Apparently, at least in some parts of the world and at certain flying sites (perhaps during certain times of the year), for some bird species our feelings of awe and admiration of our fellow pilots aren’t reciprocated. There are certain territorial birds that have been known to attack hang glider pilots (and probably paraglider pilots, too)! You can see video of it on YouTube. I don’t fly in mid-day conditions at flying sites that are known to have banging, “bullet” thermals, but I know the pilots who do fly in those conditions can ascend at well over 1000 feet per minute and it may be something like 2000 feet (or more) per minute in the strongest of thermals. Nonetheless, the air is birds natural habitat and they have been flying constantly since their early youth and have all the needed skills well ingrained in their brains, so I am sure they can out thermal us mere terrestrial beings when we take to the sky.