My love affair with the Gyrocopter
By Mark Attwood | Flying
I can’t remember if it was Sean Connery in Little Nellie in “You Only Live Twice”, or Jon Pertwee as Doctor Who in an extended chase sequence episode in his final six-part story “Planet of the Spiders” that first got me all excited about gyrocopters as a 5 year old in the seventies.
Here’s James Bond in a Gyro…
and you can see the good Doctor in action on youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ME_7kNUeio (it wouldn’t let me embed it)
Whichever it was, I know that I am about to consummate this love affair now that I’ve booked my trial flight in one of the new generation of gyrocopters that are shaking up light aviation right now.
If you don’t know much about gyros, this is what wikipedia has to say (and you may be suprised by how long these machines have been in existance):
“An autogyro (from Spanish autogiro), also known as gyroplane, gyrocopter, or rotaplane, is a type of rotorcraft which uses an unpowered rotor in autorotation to develop lift, and an engine-powered propeller, similar to that of a fixed-wing aircraft, to provide thrust. While similar to a helicopter rotor in appearance, the autogyro’s rotor must have air flowing through the rotor disc in order to generate rotation. Invented by the Spanish engineer Juan de la Cierva to create an aircraft that could safely fly at slow speeds, the autogyro was first flown on 9 January 1923, at Cuatro Vientos Airfield in Madrid. De la Cierva’s aircraft resembled the fixed-wing aircraft of the day, with a front-mounted engine and propeller in a tractor configuration to pull the aircraft through the air. Under license from Cierva in the 1920s and 1930s, the Pitcairn & Kellett companies made further innovations. Late-model autogyros patterned after Dr. Igor Bensen’s designs feature a rear-mounted engine and propeller in a pusher configuration. The term Autogiro was a trademark of the Cierva Autogiro Company, and the term Gyrocopter was used by E. Burke Wilford who developed the Reiseler Kreiser feathering rotor equipped gyroplane in the first half of the twentieth century. The latter term was later adopted as a trademark by Bensen Aircraft.”
The full entry is here.
What’s facilitating this revolution is the fact that these new German and Italian gyros are factory-built (you could only get kit form gyros until about 5 years ago). Mix this with incredible performance, safety and low costs, and you’ve got a real winner. The lynchpin for me, however, if the fun factor. I mean, just look at some of the machines you can get now for £50k-ish:
You can get a better look on this brilliant video by Phil Harwood at the Gyrocopter Experience. Look out in particular for the beautiful Magni M24 Orion:
This video from Andrew Lysser at Chris Jones Gyroplanes is worthy of mention, particularly for the low level stuff in the Lake District (I shall be paying a visit):
I’m very much looking forward to seeing how this amazing aircraft handles. As someone with a few very expensive helicopter hours under my belt, it’s going to be interesting to see just how viable an alternative to the rather dangerous Robinson R22 this type of closed cockpit gyroplane is.
I’ve booked to fly either the M24 Orion or the Calidus, and shall report back here when I have done so. In the meantime, I’d love to know if you’ve had any gyro experiences worth sharing?