Whatever happened to autogyros?

I’m sure there are still some being made by hobbyists but they’ve essentially disappeared. Were they aerodynamically unsound? Were helicopters just more capable at doing the things autogyros could do?

You aced it. They’re aeronautical novelty items. Helos are better at everything AGs can do.

Wiki Autogyro - Wikipedia has a pretty good writeup.

Cool, the Wikipedia article mentions that they were used by the U.S. Postal Service in the 30s.

Mr. Burns: “Yes, I’d like to send this letter to the Prussian consulate in Siam by aeromail. Am I too late for the 4:30 autogyro?”

They’re still around–check out Groen Brothers (who make a 4-seat true gyroplane) and the CarterCopter (which is an odd gyroplane/heli/plane mash-up–basically it’s a gyroplane with wings that pre-rotates so fast that it takes off like a heli and then unloads the gyro so that it fllies on the wings at speed).

But, except for the above two exceptions, they are mainly just for hobbyists. There was an issue wtih flipping forward in certain models (the RAF 2000 and its derivatives mainly), but large horizontal stabilizers and in-line thrust has solved the front-flip problem. Check out Magni gyros and the Sycamore for some really cool examples.

They USED to be the safest thing flying.

Then a bunch of idiots that didnt have a clue about physics or aerodynamics started building them and dieing in droves due to piss poor designs, macho attitudes, terrible construction and operational practices, and just plain tarditude. I followed a group for a while a few years back. I could have made the statistical argument that just about any activity (including free climbing, base jumping, and being an astronaut) was safer than that bunch of yahoos.

The death trap reputation the gyro group rightfully earned has haunted it for decades. Its just now coming out of it, but it appears to be an uphill battle.

IN THEORY, they should be the safest and cheapest thing around for slow speed recreational flight.

Look up “gyrobee” for something relatively safe and cheap. AFAIK, only one person has died flying that model.

Then, you have the problem that very few people seem to truelly understand how they work, including officials at the FAA and a good fraction of the folks that are flight instructors.

Its a real maze of stupidity and misinformation for sure.

Yeah, helios are better if you have to TAKE OFF vertically, but that literally comes at a BIG cost, ie lots of money and complexity. A gyro is about the simplist and most compact thing you can fly.

They have a distressing habit of losing lift if you nose down too much. Once the air flow comes over the top of the rotor instead of up from underneath, it’s all over but the impact.

But this is a problem that has been solved–put a big-ass horizontal stabilizer on it and make sure the thrust-line is in the right place and nosing over (without massively incorrect pilot input) isn’t that big of a problem.

Note that lots of other aircraft have touchy points to watch out for. Many helicopters have problems in certain flght modes–e.g., if you stop an ascent too abruptly in a Robinson R-22 so that you achieve zero-G momentarily, you are going to have a bad day.

Let me give you an example of how bad gyros got for awhile.

Gyro guy: I want to build an airplane. However, with this design, if you ever stall a wing, even for a fraction of a second, there will be NO way to recover and you WILL DIE as the airplane self destructs in the air.

Designer: Are you fracking crazy? There is no real advantage or reason to design a plane like that!

Gyro guy: Well, you just have to be really careful to NOT stall. Besides, part of the fun is being skillfull enough to not cause a stall.

Designer: I don’t care how careful you are. A random gust of wind could cause that stall before you could possibly react. A design like that is a death trap.

Gyro guy: Well, nothings perfect. You just dont understand.

Designer: Your a fucking idiot.
That pretty much sums up a few decades of gyro design.

I should point out something about my last post.

There is no reason gyros HAVE to be as stupidly designed as I implied with my example. Its just that for many years for the most part they WERE because folks had a bad combination of macho mentality, stubbornness, and a fundamental misunderstanding on the physics of how gyros actually worked.

AFAIK you can still catch a daily autogyro flight to the Prussian consulate in Siam.

“This book must be out of date: I don’t see “Prussia”, “Siam”, or “autogyro”.”

In a few decades, someone will see this post and say “what’s a ‘book’?”

Aren’t Sykorskys gyros?

In Europe (Germany, at least), they are in fashion again. You can fly them with an ultralight license, and there are several manufacturers with new designs.

Nava, I’m not aware of any Sikorsky autogyros, Sikorsky mostly manufactures heavy helicopters.

Just yesterday, I read about a fellow currently on trial in England(??) who had been ‘monitoring’ a fox-hunt thingy and taking aerial pics, etc of the event. One of the ‘hunt’ participants was very unhappy with the pilot and confronted him after a landing…then tried to prevent the pilot from taking off again by standing in front of the gyro. Stupid move on the dead man’s part, of course. End result = massive head injury/death. Full story here if desired.

I only mention this as I was surprised to hear that someone was still flying around in one. So, yeah, autogyros are still around to some degree. I myself have never seen one irl, but would find flying one to be almost irresistible.

Wasn’t the “aircraft in a suitcase” in the James Bond film an autogyro?

‘A non-volatile, random-access storage medium. A book!

I wouldn’t mind having an autogyro. One of my favourite things in a helicopter is doing autorotations, and an autogyro is in autorotation all the time! :wink: But I know little about the different ones out there. I think I’d trust a Bentley, since I’ve heard of them; but some of the ones I haven’t heard of just look rickety.

Looks are deceiving. A gyrobee looks like flying lawn chair, but probably has one of the best safety records around (one? death in decades?) An RAF gyrocopter looks almost like a “real” helicopter and also looks quite sexy, but IMO (and many others as well) it is a fucking death trap, even for the companies own flight instructors. If the companies flight instructors can’t stay alive in em, what chance does low hour joe blow the unknowing customer have?

If you want something a bit more fancy, modern, sexy looking, and probably designed and built right (unlike an RAF), take a look a Xenon. Of course they are bit more pricey than a gyrobee.


That’s pretty sexy!

(Note: I meant ‘Bensen’ before, not ‘Bentley’. :smack: )

As long as I have a mortgage and a car payment, I can’t get any aircraft. When I do, it will probably be a C172, since it’s practical. But suppose I were to get an autogyro. The Xenon is very nice; but I think I’d like a Bensen just because it’s classic. :wink:

So what’s the design flaw with the RAF?
I see from Google Images that a large number don’t seem to have a horizontal stabiliser. DOes it (a) need one and (b) that should be in the prop flow?

Otherwise it looks like… a gyrocopter.