Page started February 2013.Status - I've jump ship and bought a wheeled powered para-glider instead.
My Gyro stuffI am not currently a gyro pilot. Don't take any of this as gospel.
What I say below is as an armchair observer with a few minute on the controls, a lot on time on x-plane and a lot of time reading stuff and watching video.
My flying experience is 25 years gliding with some instructor and maintenance qualifications.
I've also flew RC models including heli and power-chutes.
I have been researching gyro-copters for a few years now.
I was a carer for my mother and was thinking about what I'd do after she was gone.
One of our bay island seemed like a possible place to retire too and being able to fly to the mainland was part of the fantasy.
The island doesn't have an airfield.
Whatever my fantasy flying machine was it either had to take off from short strip (beach?) or off the water.
Helicopters are out of the question for most of us so that really just leaves power-chute, float planes, trikes and gyros.
Chutes can't handle wind and aren't great for covering distance.
Float planes could work but really need some water frontage for mooring and hanger-age.
Trikes could possibly be rigged to fly of a beach if the council permits it.
Gyros can potentially launch from short strips, beach or water.
Gyros are fairly easy to move by trailer and need little space for hanger-age.
They fly at reasonable speed and can have many hundred of kilometers range.
Of course the primary reason I want to travel by air is because it is fun. In my mind gyros are definitely fun machines.
This year I am hoping to make the fantasy a reality or at least know the difference fantasy and reality.
The US DOJ have an interesting video looking at different aircraft for law-enforcement work.
Their needs are bit like mine. Low cost, short field etc.
Some people think gyros have all the dis-advantages of both helicopters and fixed wing (FW) aircraft and none of the advantages.
Others say gyros perform 90% the function of helicopters for 10% of the cost. I'm in the latter group expect I think 10% is on the high side.
Gyro versus Powered parachute (PPC).PPC are one of simplest aircraft. They are very simple to fly as they are really a two channel machine - you steer left and right and control power. As a experienced glider pilot I can get my PPC license with ten hours logged in PPC. Most of that is solo and solo could be after just a few hours dual. PPCs are a lot cheaper than gyros particularly for 2-seaters. I can buy one locally pretty much immediately if I want to. PPC have a shorter take-off roll than most gyros and there is no great skill needed compared to the rotor control needed to get a gyro off the ground in a short space. They are compact to store or move by road. They don't really need a hanger.
The real attraction for me is they have a perfect safety record in Australia - there has not been one single death or serious accident.
The down side is they are a lousy way to get from A to B. They use as much fuel as a gyro but travel at a fraction of the speed. They also need very calm weather.
The chutes degrade when exposed to UV and factoring in replacement adds about $10/hour to the running costs.
Also see my Aerochute and Other pages.
Gyro versus Fixed wing (FW).Gyros are less popular than FW so finding clubs, flying schools and instructors is more difficult and more travel is often required.
FW are usually faster, don't have rotor shake and are more forgiving when pushing the flight envelope.
They can handle reduced and negative G loads and are sometimes aerobatic.
FW are less prone to rolling over on the ground runs.
Gryos on the other hand can't stall and spin. They are one the best aircraft in windy turbulent conditions.
Pretty much all gyros can land in very short distances.
Some gyros will beat FW in the short take off department.
They are also easier to transport by road and need less hanger space.
Gyros are very maneuverable and have been said the they can pivot in the air rather than turn.
Gyro versus helicopter.Gyros can't really hover or fly backwards and sideways like a helicopter.
They also can't takeoff and climb vertically (expect on very windy days).
This is really the main advantage of helis but it come at a very steep price.
A small percentage of gyro can "jump" and hoover briefly.
Helis have powered rotors which don't tilt relative to the fuselage. The control and power delivery systems are complex, expensive and require a lot of maintenance. The rotor drive torque need to be counter balanced with a tail rotor or similar - more complexity cost etc.
A gyro rotors are not powered in flight and are not rigidly fixed to the fuse.
Gyros rotors are extremely simple with only a few moving parts in the rotor head and a few more to allow the head to tilt in the pitch and roll plane. Two push rods typically provide the pitch and roll control.
There is no rotor torque to balance so there is no tail rotor - a simple rudder is all that is needed.
If the engine fails in flight gyros don't need any skilled rotor management to put them into auto-rotation mode but I expect helicopters can put down vertically into a smaller space. Without power gyros can glide at around 4:1 slope and land normally. Gryos can also descend vertically and arrive with a thump but without engine power the rudder isn't going to be of much use if you don't have forward airspeed.
The clip above shows a gyro being hand started. The rotor is spun at low revs by hand then a long initially slow ground run is needed to auto-rotate the rotor to take-off RPM - somewhere in the order of 300 RPM.
Optionally many gyros have pre-rotators for convenience and to potentially shorten the take-off roll.
The pre-rotator is usually only used while the wheels are still on the ground to prevent the aircraft from spinning.
Pre-rotators are usually mechanical (driven by the engine) or electrical.
There are also a few which are hydraulic or driven by a separate combustion engine. Even tip jets have been tried.
Most fixed pitch (FP) gryos need a few hundred meters of strip to take off but some as little as ten.
As shown in the clip above - a few (variable pitch) gyros can perform jump take-offs.
This looks useful but requires more complex variable pitch rotors, a stronger pre-rotator and extra skills.
A jumping gyro still needs a clear space ahead where is can accelerate before climbing so it has little advantage over a cheaper machine that can lift off in 10 meters. Bear in mind that many of the impressive short take-off videos are taken on windy days and would not be possible without wind.
Above is how not to take off - too slow and crash. Presumably the pilot was OK. They usually walk away.
As with FW you need safe speed near the ground on takeoff.
Gyros can descend vertically but if a FP gyro descends all the way to the ground it will hit hard. With good enough suspension it will be unharmed in an 8 metre drop and possibly even much higher. The above clip shows G-force landing gear being put to the test with slow approaches and "stop and drop" arrivals.
Gyros are usually propeller driven, at least one uses a ducted fan and who knows what else is out there.
There are also towed gyrogliders which are mainly used for training and joyrides.
Single seaters need 60HP/40KW or so and two seaters 100HP/75KW.
Rotax engines are popular but the are also subaru and other engines in use.
The vast majority are configured as pushers but there are a couple of tractors as well.
Styles.Gyros range from "agricultural" looking to sleek and sexy.
Pilot can be sitting out on a pole or inside a fully enclosed cabin.
The former tend to be cheaper and some people prefer to be sitting in the breeze.
Don't assume the sexy gyros are always safer because that isn't the case.
Above are two clips showing one basic and one modern enclosed gryo.
FYI the guy in the open gryo (Shawn Adams) was the cinematographer who took the sportscopter video.
Seagryos and Amphibians.
There are quite a few examples of gryos on floats.
It works but it is a compromise.
The weight of the floats clearly cuts into the payload and most likely increase drag.
A serious issue is they lower the COG (centre of gravity) and COD (centre of drag) - both are bad things from a safety point of view
(Centre line thrust will be mentioned later).
Extra training is required and this is not for low hours pilots. If things go wrong you could drown but one could argue crashing into hard ground is no fun either.
Even with the lower payload and lower speed they could be viable when water is all you have to operated from.
Ideally floating gyros should be design to be that from the beginning rather than a retrofit of floats on a regular one.
Ducted fans have some advantages for such a machine as the thrust line and COG can be lowered.
Flying motorcyles/cars.If you don't live on near an airfield and/or have a destination which isn't and airfield then you have a transportation issue at each end.
You might drive to an airfield - park you car - fly somewhere and park your aircraft then catch a cab to your destination.
Unless you have secure undercover parking for both car and aircraft you risk damage from bad guys or bad weather.
Wouldn't it be nice to do the whole trip in one vehicle
The flying car/bike concept has been around for a very long time.
People have tried cars wings,ducted fans and chutes with some success but rotors may be a good choice too.
Larry Neal's super sky cycle is probably the first street legal flying machine in the world.
It is street legal in the US, it comes as a kit and isn't exactly cheap. Not sure if they are street legal anywhere else.
Dezsö Molnár's "Flying GyroCycle" seem to be a work in progress.
The Pal-V looks like a toy for rich boys and girls. It is expected to sell for $300K.
Still a lot cheaper than a heli but a lot of money for a personal aircraft.
With an expect fuel consumption of 36 ltr/hr I'm not interested at any price.
Risk.Risk has become such a large section I've put it on a separate page.
BenefitOn the risk page I tell you there is a real chance of death or injury.
On the other hand many of the things you do when not flying have risks too. Even sitting or watching TV increases mortality.
If you already fly (even as a passenger) you probably know how beautiful the world look from above. If you are a pilot you know the unique feeling of moving the runway to line up with your wheels (or skids).
Of course flying can also be a way to get around - possible over rough terrain or water with is difficult to cross on the planet's surface.
But I've made another interesting observation.
My data set is small so this may be random chance and I'm sure there will be counter examples.
The observation is this - no aging pilots I have known have had dementia.
These pilot didn't fly for the last few years of their lives but they flew as long as they were able.
It makes sense to me that a challenging actively where mistakes can be fatal can keep the brain alert.
Both my parents had dementia and I'll prefer not to follow that path.
There no reason with a fit senior can't fly at eighty or even older. I think it beats playing bowls and watch TV.
I suspect it is hard to be depressed while zooming around in the sky.
Safety aids?For high budget gyros autopilots may be safer for long distance cruising than a novice pilot. Most sports pilots though will want to be on the controls.
A cheaper and probably more acceptable aid would be a warning system. I'm told glass cockpits can already do this but are expensive. These days cheap tablets and phones would be quite capable of running these sorts of apps as long as there is a way for them to read some of the avionic data - airspeed and RRPM etc via bluetooth.
G sensors are already in the devices. There are also raspberry-pi type devices along with beagle-boards and small android computers. The raspberry-pi sell for $35 - you can buy a lot of processing power for $50 these days. The down side pilots may become lazy and depend on the warnings instead of being alert to the situation. If alarms go off unexpectedly it might be time to review competency.
As well as real time warning these things could data-log. The logs could be useful for the pilots to review their flights but if things go badly investigators have something to go on others can avoid making the same mistakes.
Another log of sorts is video. Go-pro type cameras can make great flight videos but once in a while they'd be capturing accidents.
Flight Instruction.As a relative outsider training seem to be almost in crisis. Instructors taking on students are few are far between. Club instruction is also a long way away and infrequent.
This is not what I expected.
For comparison learning to glide was very different. For gliding I had a choice of five clubs closer than the gyro club. The club I joined flew every fine weekend and most public holidays. The club had maybe a dozen instructors and there were two on duty every flying day. Instruction was free we only paid our club and GFA fees, the cost of launch and glider hire fee. Learning felt safe and later as an instructor myself I didn't feel any great danger. I soloed in one of the club owned gliders that I trained in and flew it and others of the same type for maybe ten hours before converting to a club owned single seater. The club owned two at that time and later had more. I flew maybe a half a dozen single seater types before buying a 1/4 share in VH-GWR.
My 500 hrs was supervised by a duty instructor with the exception of a few flights as an independent operator.
For gyros the club is over twice as far away and flies monthly. Instruction is in a club owned gryo-glider or privately owned uninsured two seater. Instruction costs more on average (I think). To fly solo I need my own (uninsured) gyro.
So a much bigger commitment is needed just to put a toe in the water.
I don't know of any local instructors taking students ATM but fortunately there is one who I feel comfortable with who could take me in a few months if I want to proceed.
It has been suggested on the ASRA forum than a gryo simulator for training would be a good thing. I agree.
Unfortunately I don't know of any good gyro sims but even not so good may be useful.
When I learned to fly the apple-2's 280×192 graphics was considered high resolution. Chunky as it was by modern standards this was still good enough for me to learn learn approach and landing on an 80s vintage simulator. I had absolutely no trouble later doing this in real life.
A modern PC with gaming card probably has millions of times to video through-put making home multi-screen simulator a reality for a lot less money than one gyro prang repair.
I use x-plane with the monarch butterfly sim model. It is terrible to fly but can be trimmed for reasonable cruise and can be landed in metres once you get the hang of it. I don't have rudder pedals and the twist grip rudder is really bad.
I'm not sure what it would take to get realistic flight characteristics. Ideally the sim should simulate rotor to rudder strikes and break up under extreme flight loads.
Some flight situations are just too dangerous to teach in real life. It is thought the low rotor RPM (RRPM) dives which have killed so may are recoverable - if so this sort of thing could be practiced on a sim.
Models.What I have not seen mentioned is training or research using scale models. Particularly now with good first person view (FPV) gear and autonomous control systems ideas can be tested and demonstrated without serious personal or financial risk.
Too be continued - maybe.
Also see my Aerochute page.
and my Blackhawk tandem quad page.