A friend takes me for a ride in his open cockpit gyroplane.
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.
On Wednesday afternoon, George took me for a ride — despite winds 14 gusting to 20. It was an interesting experience for me.
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.
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.
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…