Gyro Flight

A friend takes me for a ride in his open cockpit gyroplane.

An Angry Bird
Now this is an angry bird!

One of the great thing about living at an airport is that you’re exposed to neat aviation things on a daily basis. And what isn’t neat about an open cockpit gyroplane sporting a custom Angry Birds paint scheme?

My friend George owns this one. He was at the airport most of this week, teaching a friend how to fly it. Well, he was trying to. The wind howled pretty fiercely on Tuesday and much of Wednesday morning.

George and his Gyro
George posing with his gyro.

(This is a gyroplane or autogyro, by the way. Gyrocopter refers to the Bensen Gyrocopter manufactured by Bensen Aircraft.)

On Wednesday afternoon, George took me for a ride — despite winds 14 gusting to 20. It was an interesting experience for me.

With George
Strapped in and ready to go.

Like helicopters, gyroplanes have a mast and main rotor blades. But unlike a helicopter, a gyro has a means of propulsion — normally a pusher engine/prop. To fly a gyro, you use a pre-rotator to get the blades spinning. You then use the engine/prop to move forward on a runway or other suitable surface. At the right speed, the pilot pulls back on the stick like he would in an airplane to take off. Lift is generated by the rotor blades, which remain spinning in a mode very similar to an autorotation in a helicopter. The engine does not directly drive the rotor blades; the pre-rotator is disconnected before takeoff roll.

Low and Slow
Low and slow in an open cockpit plane? What could be better?

We were airborne for about 20-30 minutes. George demonstrated low flight along a creek bed, high flight, and a power-off landing that had us descending backwards in the stiff wind. (He had to dive to make the runway.) He demonstrated several very short landings and takeoffs. We flew low much of the time and waved at people on the ground waving up at us.

Side View
It’s a great feeling to have nothing between you and the ground you’re flying over.

I thoroughly enjoyed the flight. It reminded me a bit of the powered parachute ride I had a few years ago back in Washington — the closest thing to flying like a bird.

George is a CFI and I’m tempted to take a few lessons. It would be fun to better get to know this kind of aircraft. But there’s no gyroplane in my future — at least I don’t think there is — so getting a gyro rating would probably not be worthwhile.

Still, you never know…

One thought on “Gyro Flight

  1. Hi Maria,

    My name is Ryan Kavanaugh, I work for Indigo Films and the Discovery channel. We are based in Northern California, about 45 minutes from San Francisco. We are currently producing a story for one of our shows that involves an autogyro / gyrocopter pilot and we are trying to find someone in Northern California to assist us as an expert for a day of shooting. We primarily need access to a gyrocopter and a pilot who knows how to do some basic things in it. It has been very difficult to find someone via the web and I’m wondering if your friend George could be a possible candidate?

    On a side note, we are looking for a recreation actor (to play the part of the gyro pilot) and your friend George has a striking similarity to the original pilot. The part would be very simple and primarily just involve him doing things in the gyro that he probably does all the time. However, this is a long shot, we are first and foremost looking for someone who would give us access to shoot B-Roll of their gyrocopter and act as a consultant on the machine.

    If you think your friend would be interested in speaking to us and is located around Northern California please let me know. Also any recommendations for California gyro pilots / experts would be greatly appreciated. We are going to be prepping this episode next week so if you know of anything please let me know!

    Best,
    Ryan Kavanaugh

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