I know there’s a few fixed wing pilots on these boards, and at least one helicopter pilot (paging Johnny L.A.).
I’d like to ask your opinions of autogyro’s as recreational aircraft. Advantages, as I understand it:
[li]Less expensive.[/li][li]Storage - with no wings sticking out, they can be stashed in your garage and towed someplace for use, rather than requiring hangar space.[/li][li]Very short runway requirements allow them to take off and land many places not suitable for an airplane.[/li][li]Unstallable, and capable of flying at low airspeeds - comparatively safe and easy to fly (note that I said “comparatively”. I’m not assuming they’re idiot-proof or flyable without training).[/li][/ul]
[li]Inherently slower than an airplane - rotors create drag.[/li][li]Intended for positive G at all times - bank one too steeply and you are in serious trouble.[/li][li]They are strictly recreational - any existing models aren’t suitable for really using for any kind of transportation.[/li][/ul]
I’m imagining that you keep these things out of controlled airspaces, too.
Poking around the net a bit, I find that most information is out of the UK. Is there much interest in the US?
Is it feasible to train initially to fly an autogyro? What’s the training like?
I’m not an autogyro pilot, but I’ll take a stab in the dark and see who screams.
The advantages you list sound about right, but you might run into trouble with the “unstallable” part. A helicopter can have “retreating blade stall” when the forward speed is such that the rearward-rotating blade cannot develop enough lift. On the other hand, there’s what can happen if you’re not quick on the collective if the engine quits: loss of rotor RPM. Do gyroplanes have a collective lever? I don’t know. In any case, the fact that one of these craft is always in autorotation has been touted as its main safety feature.
Disadvantages? Helicopters are slower than airplanes, and they’re also much more expensive. Strictly recreational? I’ve seen some multi-seat models that look like they may do a good job of going from here to there. Check out the latest (or previous – I don’t remember which) issue of Kitplanes for several pages of rotorcraft kits.
About positive G: In a semi-rigid rotor system such as those used on Robinson R-22s and Bell JetRangers, the pilot must maintain positive G because it’s a “teetering” rotor. Unloading the rotor disc can cause it to “teeter” in a random direction. The POH uses the word “doomed”. So yes, you must maintain a load on the rotor disc, but it’s the same as a lot of other helicopters. Also, banking will increase Gs.
I suspect these things are popular in England because they’re generally homebuilts. That would make them less expensive to buy than a Cessna or a Piper or whatever. Flying in other countries costs much more than in the U.S. For example, take helicopter instruction. A trainee can fly to the U.S., take helicopter training to get his private license, and pay for an apartment while he’s training for less than it would cost to take the training in England. So I think that inexpensive, economical gyroplanes are popular because they are not expensive, non-economical fixed-wing aircraft. (I’ll bet that homebuilt fixed-wings are popular there as well, and for the same reasons.)
As I said, I haven’t flown gyros; but I imagine the training would be similar to any other aircraft you want to learn in. You can train in gyros ab initio if you want to; you don’t have to hold any other license (well, the student license and class III medical of course).
**Woo hoo, my first flight training was in a Farrington Twinstarr gyroplane. Very fun to fly.
**This depends. You can get a lot of ultralights/small homebuilts that cost the same, or cheaper. The Twinstarr I flew was around $20k. You could build a Gyrobee for a lot cheaper, maybe $3-4k.
**Big advantage here, I knew a lot of people that would trailer them to the airport. You may be able rent the corner of someones hangar, too.
**This can be true. They take off short, but this is made a lot shorter by a good prerotator on the rotor. If you spin the blades up to 200-250 RPM first, you can take off in 150 feet or maybe less. Landing is VERY short. You can land them with a steep approach and a very short rollout
**They are unstallable, and pretty easy to fly. Low and slow is gyro territory.
**Yes, they are very slow. The one I flew had a 150hp 0-320, and maxed out around 85-90 or so. 75 was a comfortable speed. The same engine in a Vans RV-9 will cruise at 170+.
**You have to keep positive G at all times, yes. Banking increases load factor, so banks aren’t the problem. I will get into the problem in a moment.
**Very true. Not much you can do with one, other than chase birds and sightsee.
**They are subject to the same rules regarding airspace as anything else. You probably wouldn’t want to fly one into C or B airspace anyways. That would require an electrical system, radios, etc.
**There is some interest here. Check out the Popular Rotorcraft Associations website at www.pra.org . They list all the flyins and events and such. I don’t think you will have too much trouble finding people with an interest close by.
That’s how I started. I flew gyros before I got my fixed-wing certificate. Note that if you get your fixed wing rating, you can legally fly an experimental gyro, with no other signoffs or ratings. Just because it’s legal doesn’t make it smart, though. You need to get gyro-specific training before you fly one, or you will probably die.
The thing that will kill you in a gyro is called the Power Pushover. If you look at most gyroplanes, they have a thrustline above the center of drag. This is okay normally, since you have the draggy pilot below the thrustline, and the draggy rotors above the thrustline, so everything cancels out. The problem is when you pull negative Gs and unload the rotor, the rotor drag goes away. If you have some power in, the engines thrust will push the gyro end over end, and it will all be over except the screaming. Power Pushover is unrecoverable. Another problem with unloading the rotors is that they need airflow to rotate, and unloading them in flight can cause the RPM to decay to an unrecoverable point.
Gyros are VERY fun to fly. They handle great, they ride very smooth, they can handle lots of wind, and they land and takeoff very short.
I don’t know if there are any other gyro pilots on here, so ask me anything you like. I never get tired of talking about them.
Yep, exactly. There are a few gyros that have collective pitch, but they are rare and used mainly to do jump takeoffs. You have the rudder pedals, the throttle, and the cyclic. The Cyclic tilts the rotor disk left/right and fore/aft, handling similiar to an airplane. The rotor blades automatically adjust their own speed, compensating for increased load factor, weight, and so on.
Retreating blade stall is not much of a worry, since most gyros are too draggy to go that fast. The rotor is hinged to compensate for the advancing blade generating more lift than the retreating one.
My brother is a licensed pilot and owns & flys a Quicksilver ultralight and built and flew a Benson autogyro.
What Joey G. posted pretty much sums it up. I’d re-emphasize the danger of a power pushover. Even if you fly fixed wing aircraft (in fact probably more likely if you do) a PP can sneak up on you and if it does you’re dead. Not only will the gyro pitch over, when it does the main rotor will smash into the tail basically causing total structural failure (and certain death).
Another thing to consider in gyro vs. ultralight- It’s almost impossible to mount a BRS (ballistic recovery chute) onto a gyro (main rotor’s in the way!) so they’re less forgiving in that regard as well.
If you looking for a simple, recreational aircraft you could consider a Buckeye powered parachute. Technically I don’t think they’re airplanes but they’re pretty foolproof.
Although a gyroplane can’t stall, it can get “behind the power curve.” If you let your airspeed fall below a certain value, you will descend, even if you apply full throttle. The only way out of that dilemma is to lower the nose and trade altitude for airspeed.
This vertical descent will be pretty rapid, but not so rapid that if you do bang into the ground you won’t be able to walk away from the aircraft. You’ll land at around 10-20 MPH or so.
An aircraft type-certificated as a gyroplane would require a gyroplane rating. Since there were only two of them (A&S 18a and McCulloch J2), you don’t see the actual gyroplane rating very often. An experimental gyroplane does not require a gyroplane rating to fly, since there is an exemption in FAR 61.31(k)(2)(iii). Sounds odd, I know, but this exemption is widely used in the gyroplane world.
Of course, sometimes there will be a stipulation in the experimental gyros airworthiness certificate stating that you must have a gyroplane rating. I don’t think that happens often.
Here is a link for you, check out the “Can I fly an Experimental Aircraft with another Pilot’s rating?” question, halfway down. http://www.pra.org/exp.html
I know nothing about gyroplanes but I just wanted to meantion I saw a documentary about them with footage of the inventor in the 1930s taking off, flying and landing and it was just so sool to see this airplane land almost vertically with just a couple of bumps and almost the same taking off. They sound like a neat thing to fly.
Don’t know where the OP is posting from, but there’s a thriving gyro group at the Lansing, Illinois airport. So if you’re in the neighborhood check them out.
However, it bears repeating about the negative g’s and “power pushover” hazard. We had just such a fataility at Lansing a couple months ago. Remember that anything that leaves the ground can kill you if you get careless.
If it’s gyros and rotorcraft that interest you, start with them if you can.
Powered parachutes are NOT airplanes NOR gyros NOR rotorcraft. They’re this weird sort of other thing. Yes, relatively safe as flying things go, although very limited in speed and wind tolerance.