A whole new perspective delivered in the form of a Gyrocopter
Have you ever seen something that captured your attention because it just happened to be so innovative, so cool looking and so out of the ordinary you couldn’t stop thinking about it? Well if you have a passion for general aviation like me that could just be something called a Gyroplane.
It happened to me when I saw a new and modern version of this aircraft at an airshow. I just had to find out more and experience it-at least once.
Gyros operate on the principle of auto-rotation. This means that the rotors rotate freely and are made to spin by air passing up through the blades (think Sycamore seed). No motor drives the blades like a helicopter-just a pusher prop in back. A real benefit of this is that the aircraft is always in autorotation so if an engine failure occurs the aircraft simply rotates softly to the ground. Think of it as having a BRS safety parachute deployed all the time on your Cirrus aircraft, and enhancing performance too.
This November I embarked on a journey to get my Gyroplane rating and hopefully more-like becoming an instructor and even entering the business. Booked the airfare, hotel, rental car and lessons at the Could9 Helicopters, a Flight School in Palm Beach Florida at the North Palm Beach County Airport. Mind you I’ve never flown in a gyro but I just knew it would be great. I met my instructor, Denny, a terrific gyro pilot with over 1000 hours flown in Gyro’s. He introduced me to the MTO Sport gyrocopter from Autogyro in Germany.
Now I live in the Midwest-it’s cold there half of the year and the MTO sport is an open cockpit Gyro. How was I going to like this? Like no other open cockpit aircraft, you can see in all directions-a full 360 view. A J3 Piper Cub with no high wing obstructing your view. Note that Autogyro sells fully enclosed and heated ships too.
It was 82 degrees at the airport so open cockpit flying was do-able. Denny gave me a full briefing on the mechanics and workings of the MTO sport. After that we got in, started it up and headed out to the run-up area. It was there that things became a bit different from both fixed wing aircraft and helicopters. I learned how to “pre-rotate” the rotor blades on the MTO. This means getting the rotors to spin before rolling down the run way. Otherwise it would take a very long runway to get the rotors spinning fast enough.
We practiced high speed taxis by pre-rotating then taxing down the runway keeping the nose gear just 6 inches off the ground-that was a new learning experience. We then practiced short hops. Meaning getting airborne at about 10 feet then landing and repeating several times down the runway. Try that in a fixed wing.
Finally, we got up and into the pattern. Of course, like a helicopter we ran the pattern only about 500ft AGL. You can fly this low in a gyro because you can basically land anywhere-it’s safer at low flight than most any fixed wing aircraft. Landing a gyro is a surreal experience. This craft lands in space of 20ft or less in a headwind. A Walmart parking lot would do just fine.
After an hour and a half of practice in the pattern Denny said lets go play, I want to show you what this can do. Off we went to the natural swampland of Florida. We took her down to 100ft AGL and skimmed the ground and around the trees. Weaving and bobbing following canals and channels. It really felt as if I was on a motorcycle in the sky, a real crotch rocket. Then Denny took the controls and showed me how to do 180s on a dime in the air. Wow is all I can say.
I am hooked-line and sinker- on the gyro. It’s an amazing aircraft and I can’t imagine flying anything else this much fun and exciting. Not to mention the looks you get at the airport. I don’t regret for one minute embarking on this. I now have a new way to get a whole new perspective on aviation –and the planet we live on. Gyrocopters are definitely a new found passion. Denny is a terrific instructor-igniting that passion is what great instructors do. Tomorrow we take on the test standard maneuvers.