Tell me about gyrocopters!

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by cowman, Apr 16, 2015.

  1. cowman

    cowman En-Route PoA Supporter

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    Wanted to separate this from the recent news but the fact it could land in that itty bitty space and from my cursory searches the cost of acquisition and operation seem attractive. I could see landing one in my 5 acre horse pasture and wheeling it into the barn with a lot less fanfare than the current drive to the airport.

    I know almost nothing about them though. How safe are they really? What's the real cost of ownership, how much of a transition for someone already holding a ASEL private certificate?

    Mostly curious... would be cool to have something cheap to bomb around the countryside in. Maybe even to go from doorstep to the airport for my faster fixed wing :D
     
  2. write-stuff

    write-stuff En-Route

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    I'm probably in the minority, but I think they look like a blast. I've wanted one since I was a kid and saw a classified ad in the back of Boy's Life for the Benson Gyrocopter.
     
  3. rbridges

    rbridges En-Route

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    my big question is how safe are they? They look pretty flimsy to me.
     
  4. cowman

    cowman En-Route PoA Supporter

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    Yeah that's my concern too. The enthusiast sites I've found play up how since they're always auto rotating by design, an engine out is a non event. That sounds pretty good..... but yeah they don't exactly look robust do they.
     
  5. evapilotaz

    evapilotaz En-Route

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    They are some nice gyros out there. Don't let the crappy piece of junk on the news fool you.
     
  6. Alexb2000

    Alexb2000 En-Route

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    I wanted one ever since I saw "You only live twice".
     
  7. Shepherd

    Shepherd En-Route

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    I had some serious fun in a Benson, way back in the day. I'm sure there have been improvements since then, especially in the engine department.
    The one I flew had floats so we could fly it off the pond next door.
     
  8. geneseib

    geneseib Line Up and Wait

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    Some of our Illinois guys
     

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  9. docmirror

    docmirror Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Actually, there have been very few advances in safety from the Bensen B8-M days. Snappy cockpits, better engines than a 2 stroke 4 cyl drone by McCulloch(yes, the chain saw people). That's about it.

    There are two critical components on one. The rotor head, bearings and the cyclic to control it. Everything else is along for the ride. Rudder would be nice, but not really needed in an engine out.

    The most critical issue to research for safety is called power pitch over. It presents with a significant pitch up when power is applied and leads to a serious case of pitch oscillation or it will drop speed off enough that no amount of forward cyclic will get the nose down, and they mush right into the ground. The reason is the thrust line is well below the lift loading plane of the rotor disk. It can be managed, but a lot of people have gotten caught up and crashed from PPO(and variations of pitch issues).
     
  10. docmirror

    docmirror Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Last edited: Apr 16, 2015
  11. frfly172

    frfly172 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    The new ones are very good looking. Prices are going up on the newer models going to try and find a demo flight after sun n fun. Met a pilot at a fly in last week,explained the principal behind gyros.
     
  12. cowman

    cowman En-Route PoA Supporter

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    Could I safely land one on top of a grassy field in ~400'? Well more like 700' treeline to treeline but 400 inside a fence?

    *and take off again....
     
  13. docmirror

    docmirror Touchdown! Greaser!

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    400' landing is no problem unless there's a lot of trees or wires. Taking off in 700' might be a challenge depending on the model and the load.

    Most modern gyros have a pre-rotator that spins the main rotor up before the take off roll. I think if you had 700' with some over-run area that isn't all corrupted with trees wires or buildings you can prolly get back off. Nice thing is, if you try it and find it won't do the job, take the blades off, put it on a trailer and roll it away.
     
  14. Subsea

    Subsea Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Do a high(ish) G turn before landing. This loads up the rotor rpm, and can allow roll outs that rival helicopters.
     
  15. cowman

    cowman En-Route PoA Supporter

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    Here's the proposed ground. What isn't apparent from the satellite view is the clearing is the top of a relatively steep hill so the tree tops aren't that much higher than the ground level.

    Second pic/measurement is representative of about where the boundary of the fence will be(this is becoming a horse pasture).

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     

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  16. Subsea

    Subsea Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I bet you will need a pre-rotator for that take off, although taking off on the north side followed by an immediate right 45 in ground effect looks interesting. If you are looking at ultralights, pre rotators are usually weight prohibitive. I have often thought about a rotor pre rotator system, where a spool is set up on the main rotor, and a 3/16 rope was wrapped around it, say 15 times. Tie the rope to a tree, and take off with forward cyclic. After the rope has done it's work, pull the cyclic back and allow the forward air to gather more RPM.
     
  17. Flymy47

    Flymy47 Pre-takeoff checklist

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  18. Fearless Tower

    Fearless Tower Touchdown! Greaser!

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    With my Waco, it is the other way around. I am in the air in less than 400'. Landing, I need 1500-2000'. Back in the 30s, the UBF-2 was able to outperform the Pitcairn Autogyro.

    But, yes, I suspect you are right about gyro copter performance.
     
  19. RotorRambler

    RotorRambler Pre-Flight

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    Gyroplanes have advanced beyond those of the Bensen gyrocopter era nearly fifty years ago.

    I think it's fair to say that gyrocopters have a dubious reputation. Some of those earlier, slapped-together designs made with cheap materials and flown by persons who thought they could teach themselves to fly them are still around. But persons who form their opinions about gyroplanes based upon those older designs may be surprised to learn about developments that are making modern gyroplanes better, safer, and more inviting to fly.

    If they're something you're interested in, learn more about them for yourself and from someone who has some direct experience with them rather than someone who simply has an opinion that may be outdated. Better yet, find an instructor and learn what it's like to fly one. They are indeed fun.
     
  20. Flymy47

    Flymy47 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I was lucky enough to grab a ride in an Air Command Tandem 1000 back in the day. Let me say also, I have a fear of heights, and looking past my thigh at the ground 1500 feet below was an eye opener, but not terrifying. Being strapped to that thing was a blast! It was a very exhilarating flight, and I learned a lot about aerodynamics from a great instructor. I love my Chinook, but gyros have always been one of my fascinations.
     
  21. Art VanDelay

    Art VanDelay Pattern Altitude

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    The gyro can do 90% of what a helicopter can do for 10% of the cost. You can spend as much as 200k for sleek model like the ArrowCopter or as little as 8k for something like our favorite Mailman had.

    The problem with them being (as I have posted on here before) is that there are only a dozen or so CFI's for them in the entire country. Because they're considered experimental or ultralights you can't rent them (except in Costa Rica). So many prospective pilots buy the low end versions and try to self-learn how to fly them - with the predicted results. This being the largest single reason their safety record is such a train wreck.
     
  22. PW_Plack

    PW_Plack Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Whoa! A few misconceptions here. Those videos of untrained pilots backsliding into the ground are caused by pure, old human panic. They don't stall like a fixed-wing, but there's still a power curve, and if you're far enough on the backside of it, more back-stick is a recipe for going down, not up.

    As one good friend puts it, it's not intuitive to point the nose of the aircraft at something you're trying not to hit. (In this case, the ground!)

    PPO stands for Power Push-Over, which is caused by a propeller thrustline above the center of mass. It results in a nose-down pitching force whenever power is on, and equilibrium is produced by pulling the stick back till the thrust vector of the rotor moves ahead of CG to produce a balance. Unfortunately, rotor thrust can be interrupted by air currents, and if it disappears for a second while at a high power settings, the resulting forward tumble can allow the rotor to hit the airframe.

    This issue became a problem when the high-RPM VW Beetle and drone engines with their small props were displaced by Rotax two-strokes and four-stroke auto conversions with gearboxes to turn larger, slower, more efficient props. Amateur designers just used taller masts to clear the bigger props, which put the thrustline way above CG. Early machines often also lacked horizontal stabilizers, making the problem much worse.

    Newer designs have solved that demon. The slick euro machines still have thrustlines a little above CG, but they're balanced with a little negative incidence on the horizontal stabilizer. The tandems also have a greater moment of inertia in the pitch axis, making it harder for them to surprise you with uncommanded pitch excursions.

    A ride in a newer gyro is a revelation.

    The Dominator kit gyros (like the ones in the pix from Indiana) actually place the thrustline below CG on purpose, since having the aircraft nose rise into a downdraft or lower into a thermal is a stable reaction, and intuitive reactions by pilots to the aircraft's response will always be in the corrective direction.

    The simulated engine-out freaks out some fixed-wing pilots during intro flights, so be ready. If the noise quits you can descend vertically in complete control at 1200 FPM till about 300' AGL, but then the nose needs to go down steeply to maintain enough airspeed to flare. For some, it's an awesome roller coaster. For others, a laundry issue.
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2015
  23. PW_Plack

    PW_Plack Pre-takeoff checklist

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    The mailman's gyro was built a few years ago by a guy in the Charlotte area for $5K. He was a great scrounger of used parts, including the front fork from an old go-ped, but this represents the very low end.

    CFI availability is rapidly improving. The explosive sales growth of the European machines is causing US distributorships to sprout, and every sales operation needs both builder-assist and training support to be competitive. Two years ago there were only two active gyro DPEs in the country. Now there are about eight.

    But you're spot-on about the problems when it comes time to solo. Gyros are the only aircraft class in the US in which there are no rentals for students needing to solo. If you don't own your own machine to solo, your training stops. If you do own a gyro, you have to be prepared to fight the (apparently irresistible) temptation to take it out before your instructor has signed you off. That happens a lot. And since the operating limitations for most experimental gyros allow them to be flown by Private Airplane pilots with no specific training minimums, CFIs have little leverage.

    We're putting together a flying club based around a single-place gyro here in Utah just to address that issue. Students will be able to buy shares to do their solo work, then sell out and move on, or stay in and fly to maintain currency or build hours. Insurance is going to be ugly, but we're committed to giving it a try.
     
  24. docmirror

    docmirror Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Whoa, you're talking about a bunt. What I described, and mislabeled as 'pitch' is the issue of thrust causing a nose UP moment of inertia, which causes the aircraft to mush. Note that I didn't say or use the word stall. This is just as common or more common than the bunt problem. As shown with the video shots. If you notice from the video each time he increases thrust, the nose goes up, because the thrust line is way above the rotor disk where the lift is generated.

    Now, I'm one of those notorious guys back in the 80s who taught himself to fly one on a B8-M. I've experienced the pitch up with thrust and know what it feels like.

    Certainly newer models have better thrust line to prevent bunting, but the pitch up is likely exacerbated. As far as making safety improvements, about the only thing I can see are better engines. The rest of the craft is pretty much like the Benson of old, with really nice fiberglass fairings. Pusher engine/prop, rear rudder, mast, rotor, seat crossbar gear, etc, etc. No BRS, autopilot, lighter materials(still primarily Al).
     
  25. Gucci Pilot

    Gucci Pilot Pattern Altitude

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    Flown by the best of the best...


    [​IMG]
     
  26. RotorRambler

    RotorRambler Pre-Flight

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    What I saw in the video was that the nose was up, not because of the amount of throttle, but because the student pilot was applying too much pitch with the cyclic. If you listen to the audio, at the 3:40 mark and again at the 5:10 mark, the instructor explains that.

    I'm particularly puzzled by your comment that you think "the nose goes up because the thrust line is way above the rotor disk where the lift is generated." Maybe it's a case of everyone not using the same terms. When you use the term "thrust line", can I assume you're talking about the propeller thrust line? If so, how can it be above the rotor disk?

    Certainly, many of the newer gyroplane models are using better engines, engines designed for aircraft rather than automobiles, snowmobiles, or drones such as were used in most of the Bensen-like gyrocopters. That's one of the things that's making them safer and more reliable. To some degree, all gyroplanes share some common characteristics dating back way before Bensen. Many gyroplanes have pusher engines, but some have tractors. Yep, they've got a rear rudder, a mast, and a rotor; no surprise there. A seat crossbar? That's one way of accommodating the main gear, but it's not universal. No BRS? Most airplanes don't have a BRS either, and there's little point in having one on a gyroplane when the rotor is essentially a rotating parachute if the engine quits. Autopilot? I'll give you that one. The gyroplane pilots I know like to fly the aircraft themselves. Lighter materials? Check out the Titanium gyroplane, imported from Australia and newly available in the US.

    Sounds like you're a hearty soul, someone I would enjoy meeting, but maybe it's time you learned more about how things are changing with gyroplanes. I think you'll find they're just as much fun and without nearly as much risk.
     
  27. Lowflynjack

    Lowflynjack En-Route

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    Ira knows I share a hangar with a gyro instructor who is also a Magni dealer. When I first met Dayton, I'll admit I thought he was taking a huge risk by getting into the gyroplane business. I was honestly worried for him. Now over the last few years I've watched him fly hundreds of hours and train a lot of students without incident. I've got another friend Craig who also has trained people for many hundreds of hours without incident. It's amazing how quickly they can take off with a large passenger and engine-out situations are not an issue... you're already in auto-rotation. The big tail, lowered engine centerline, and Rotax engines make this a fun machine to fly. I know I won't change most people's minds, I admit I was stubborn about it, but if you're in Texas or don't mind flying out here, I would highly recommend both of these guys. Every pilot I've seen go up with them comes back with a smile on their face!

    Dayton
    Craig

    [​IMG]
     
  28. rbridges

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    I didn't realize they needed a take off roll. I always assumed they took off like helicopters.
     
  29. yetti

    yetti Line Up and Wait

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    JATO bottles make everything better. my wife and I were at the airport one day and a couple gyro copters were taking off. We both looked at each other and said No Not never. Powered chute I would like to try.
     
  30. Lowflynjack

    Lowflynjack En-Route

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    I've flown in both, I actually owned a powered parachute for many years. My instructor is Craig, who I mentioned earlier. He still teaches in powered parachutes, but I think he enjoys the fact that you can fly a gyro in almost any wind. In a PPC we were getting tossed around pretty bad in anything over 10mph winds, which is often in Texas. I did love taking photos from them and of them though! My PPC Photos

    [​IMG]

     
  31. 1600vw

    1600vw Pattern Altitude

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    These are not cheap. They do not need a lot of room to land, but they do need more runway to take off. Even with auto-rotators they need to get that rotor moving. It takes some runway to do that. Maybe 800'.
     

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    Last edited: Apr 17, 2015
  32. 1600vw

    1600vw Pattern Altitude

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    This is cool.
     

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  33. JOhnH

    JOhnH Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I wanted one when I first saw "Mad Max".
    The guy flying that one is still the image I have of Gyrocopter pilots.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2015
  34. RalphInCA

    RalphInCA Cleared for Takeoff

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    Did anybody actually ever build one of the Benson machines from the plans in the back of Boys Life?

    I'm sure they sold a lot of plans, but I wonder how many got built?
     
  35. Sac Arrow

    Sac Arrow Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Bro do you even lift
    I saw a guy once at an EAA airshow at my home field do an acro demonstration in a Benson type gyrocopter. It looked like a blast. I would take a gyrocopter over other forms of ultralights. They certainly open up the window of available landing sites.
     
  36. FredFenster

    FredFenster Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Me too. :D

    Would love to try one someday.
     
  37. Alexb2000

    Alexb2000 En-Route

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    I'd almost forgotten about Mad Max. Seems like a gyrocopter would be perfect in a vast open post apocalyptic world with no airports. I need to watch that again.
     
  38. nimdabew

    nimdabew Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I was just going to post that I was surprised no one had thought of this. This guy is my idea of a gyro copter pilot; Molotov cocktails and all!

    [​IMG]
     
  39. CT4ME

    CT4ME Cleared for Takeoff

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  40. Tom-D

    Tom-D Taxi to Parking

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    Would you really want to fly one higher than you would like to fall?