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  From the Archives: ( I still like this account. Piet if you pass by here, thanks again)       Flight Experiences in a Gyrocopter                  
 


FIRST FLIGHT!

by Piet Barber

"I had my first gyroplane flight this weekend, and I decided to give a copy to everyone interested in my well being. :) I'll be happy to explain any aviation terms that you might not understand. On Sat, 30 Sep 1995, wmercier wrote: > dual seater Tandem Parsons Trainer. > Excellent trainer. The 75 hp engine had a hard time lifting my 185 lb body (and Chris's 150 LB) bodies into the air.

"The takeoff run was long and full power at the optimum speed didn't make us climb very well. More on that later.
First Gyro flight. I'll try to get as detailed as possible. After driving all over the field trying to find the gyros, and after talking to a half dozen people asking where the gyros were, I finally saw one land and taxi back to the other side of the airport (just my luck) so I started my hike back to the place where the single seat gyro taxied in. As I walked in the high 80 degree weather (with a thick leather jacket on) I finally got to the place where Mr. Burgess was looking over the dual seater Parson's trainer.
The Parson's trainer is not the most attractive aircraft in the world. In fact, it's down right ugly! the only saving grace to it is the fact that I would have to go another 300 miles to find the next gyroplane flight instructor. There was no horizontal stabiliser, which at first made me kind of nervous, but as I did more examination of the aircraft, and realized that this bird had many hours of instruction given on it, and nobody has died on it yet, I felt more comfortable. Still, I had never been in an open cockpit aircraft before
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We started with the most painful part of the lesson: the paperwork. He showed me this long form, where I had to read over this agreement, that I was aware of the dangers of flying in an experimental aircraft, that I would pay Gyros Inc, if i busted up a rotorblade, that Stacy would probably not be able to collect any life insurance if I died, due to the dangerous nature of the gyroplane, and also acknowledge the fact that the gyroplane wasn't insured, because of how incredibly dangerous they are (snicker).

"The next phase of the lesson was the pre-flight. We went over the function, installation, and replacement of EVERYTHING on that damned gyro. None of the bolts i witnessed seemed questionable, and the condition of the aluminium was acceptable. I had some good questions like, "Why is there no air filter on this guy?" and "where's the horizontal stabiliser? Why are aluminium and Lead touching each other?" (on the rudder)(different types of metals contacting each other should be a no-no due to electrolysis decay). Chris took the time to answer all of my stupid questions. Having no powered flight before, going over the engine in great detail was a great lesson, even though I know a lot about aircraft engines (from looking over the towplane with great detail, coming from the glider world) I knew enough to not require the difference between two and four stroke engines to be explained to me, but have not actually seen such a powerful engine (75 hp) for such a low weight (60 # I think). It was tiney for all of the power it (didn't) deliver(ed). After realising that the ground instruction for pre-flight was running over an hour, he started to accelerate the pre-flight after we got 270 degrees through our pre-flight circle.

"We spent a small amount of time discussing and examining the rotor, and bearings, and blades. He showed me the reason a gyroplane is actually a cyclic controlled machine, and not a weight-shift mechanism, as most unenlightened fixed wingers would tell you
.

He explained how the relative wind and how it changed the way the advancing blade would be treated by the relative wind, and how the air of the retreating blade would be given more lift due to the fact that the blade was descending. It is not necessary to feather the blade, flapping will do the trick too. Guess Rick Morel was right all that time on the R.A.R. Conference. After donning my flight jacket (real fake leather, but good at breaking wind) on top of my thick George Mason University Sweatshirt, and along with a windbreaker coloured bright orange to make us more visible, I slipped on the helmet with mike and headphones. The helmet fit comfortably, and had good visibility.

"The only problem with it was that when I turned my head from side to side, I felt as if I was sitting in a fishbowl turning around. the plastic shield was large enough to fit over my whole face, which was welcome. I don't fancy the idea of my glasses flinging off into the slipstream (and into the prop) once I look right to clear my turn. Still, even though the helmet was a one-size fits all type helmet, it was hard to get used to. The center of gravity of my head was off, so swivelling my head around just didn't feel right. I think that helmet needed like a weight on the back of it to make it more balanced. I sat in the hard plastic Coca-Cola chair, and snapped my lap belt (no shoulder harnesses.) To snug my buns securely into the seat. After all, this was going to be a flying lawn chair, and I'm sure, the higher we got, the smaller my chair would seem.

Well, anyway... Once we were all geared up to fly, he had me hold the nosewheel brake, which was essentially a piece of plywood that would rub down on the wheel for braking power when applied while he tried to start the 75 horsepower engine
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"After priming the engine, and pumping the throttle forward three times, he yelled "Switch on!" and flipped the switch under the back seat. Straddling the landing gear, he hand propped the engine; to start for a straight 5 minutes. Apparently he over primed the engine, and the fuel in the carburettor needed to vaporise before the engine would start. But he kept throwing the prop blade down (on the aircraft's port side) to get the thing started. The McCullough engine coughed a few times, as it tried to get started. Eventually, the engine wheezed and sputtered to life. This brand of two stroke engine does not really idle happily, so the whole idle engine process did not feel as smooth as a Cadillac. I was not shaken from my seat, but it would have been hard to take a nap in my vibrating seat. During the blade spinup, I remained strapped into my seat and retained stick full aft and centered, while he hand-spun up the rotor blades to... oh , I guess 30-50 RPM.

"I could feel movement on the cyclic every time he pushed on the blades, it would make a tug on the cyclic from left then to the right, depending on where his hands were on the blades. I guess they have to tie down the stick with the seatbelt to spin up the blades when they fly this thing solo. I honestly can't remember if the blades were spun up before or after the engine was started. I remember how hard he was breathing after spinning both the rotor blades, and I also remember how hard he was breathing after pumping the propeller to get it started. I'm glad I wasn't doing the work. His winded breathing could be heard over the microphone system we had set up. He strapped himself in and we were ready to go. The taxiing was quite simple, much easier to taxi in a gyro than in a glider, I must say. Gliders don't taxi very well. They just kinda roll to a stop
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A photo of Piet and Chris.
 
Piet and Chris
 
"Considering that I had never taxied before, I think I did a pretty good job. Just stomp on the rudders for which way you want to go, right? Some models of gyros have it so that you have to stomp on the brake pedal opposite to the direction of the turn that you wish to go. This one was a "you go straight if you break" type brake set-up. The taxiing was uneventful. I'm sure in a good crosswind, I would want to keep the rotor disk bent toward the wind.
We taxied around a Cessna 152, which was going the opposite direction of us, as he was lining up to takeoff on runway 3. We headed on the old runway 36 (now defunct and only a taxiway) and did a blade spinup exercise. Chris took the controls as we raced down the taxiway. He slowly applied throttle with full aft cyclic.

The shadow of the blades zinged by on the ground in front of me (the sun was more or less directly behind us) As he approached one quarter throttle, the nosewheel became light, and lifted off the ground.

"The gyro transitioned to the tail wheel, where he slowly applied the throttle to full. When we had reached full throttle, we had barely accelerated since the transition to the tail wheel As Mr. Burgess talked me through the best part of the takeoff run: the acceleration. He slowly applied forward cyclic, and the gyro RAPIDLY accelerated. It felt really good. I could feel the acceleration on my back as I was pushed into my hard plastic chair. When the rotor blades were moved forward, there was less drag on the blades. the net force changed, and we increased velocity at a rapid pace.

We could have gone all day on the ground with full power, but we would not have left the ground until the cyclic was moved forward. the stick at full aft provided enough drag from the blades that we never would have accelerated, nor would we have lifted off. Within 40 of 50 feet of full throttle application, we were off the ground. The 'run up' was so smooth that I could not really detect the fact that we had left the asphalt surface. Since this was really not a runway, and a taxiway instead (no traffic), once Chris got a few inches off the surface, he relaxed on the throttle
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By this time we had only 300 feet or so of runway left. When Chris chopped the throttle, we settled into an 'autorotative' glide, and the wheels touched down on the ground at about 10 mph.

"Chris pulled full aft cyclic after we got onto the ground, and we decelerated faster than any set of brakes that I have ever seen. No brakes. Just rotor. That is all we needed to stop the craft. In fact, he kept the rotor blades tilted back all the way, and we started to move backwards briefly (he showed me). He turned us around, and sent us back to runway three for takeoff. This time, I would have the controls for takeoff. During the 'back taxi', we kept good ground speed: about 10 mph, to keep the blades spinning. Had we sat still, the blade speed would have eventually decayed to the point that he would have to get out of his chair and re spin up the blades.

As another spam can Cessna rolled out onto the runway for takeoff, we taxied right behind the Cessna making its takeoff roll. We did not wait long at all. Once I got us lined up on the center line of the runway, I slowly applied throttle until we had enough air going under the rotor blades to get them to produce lift. With full aft cyclic through the first part of the takeoff run, the nose eventually got light and lifted off the ground.

"Once the nose was up, I slowly added full throttle, just like Chris did on the taxiway (he was coaching me all the way through this, By the way) When we got to full throttle, I slowly net the tail wheel up, but no so far as to get the nosewheel to bounce on the ground. Awkward at first, the feeling of a cyclic was different. I did move the cyclic a little too far forward, and the nosewheel touched the ground once. After the transition off of the tail wheel, and during the acceleration phase, we lifted off the surface of the earth. I wouldn't really say that we were free from the earth, cause my 185 pound body was really making the engine work hard to lift us from the runways of Fredrick, Maryland. I moved the cyclic forward to get the speed of the craft to about 50 or 45; the best speed for flight. Getting used to having no structure of cockpit was difficult for me. It really was like flying in a magical lawn chair, the view was spectacular. We humans have become so used to being removed from the element of flying
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"When flying in a commercial airliner, we are stuck in these narrow, cramped quarters for hours on end, with only a small porthole to view the world from. When flying light aircraft, we are encased in hundreds of pounds of aluminium sheet metal, and are forced to look through a small oil-tainted window, which forces you to look over the nose. You also can not see above and behind you in high wing airplanes, due to the proximity of the wing. 'Lemme' tell you buddy, there were no viewing obstructions outside of my 185 pound body, my feet in front of me, and the tiny instrument panel to tell me my speed. With the rotor blades spinning around 350-400 rpm, they are but a pink blur on the background of blue sky (the blades are painted bright red) and do not obstruct my view.

"All I can see below me is the lush trees and well plowed fields of Fredrick Maryland. We only went up 300 feet, so everything was close up, not the "everything looks like ants" problem of flying in a jetliner or spam can. Once I got over the initial fascination of being able to view the world at 300 feet without looking at the towplane, or planning base leg to final turn, as I would in a glider, it was time to learn how to fly the thing. We stayed over the plowed fields to the east of Fredrick muni. airport, just in case that wheezy engine gave out.

"Once we got to 400 feet, we turned perpendicular to the runway we launched from, and crossed it. We went over a field of cows, where Chris decided to show me the realities of vertical descent in a gyro. A gyroplane will NOT stall. When you pull aft stick, the nose of the gyro will rise, just like in an airplane, but will not fall, like an airplane. This by far was the hardest thing to get used to. After 80 hours of glider time, I always expect the nose to drop after seeing 15 degrees of sky, and hearing the din of the slipstream quiet. After the nose was about 10 to 15 degrees up in the air, our airspeed dropped, my eyes opened wide like saucers, and I saw the world below stop as well. We begun our vertical descent. It was a very strange feeling indeed. We were motionless, with no headwind, and the earth was growing larger underneath us. During this descent, we had full power on, but it was to no avail. We were still descending. Rudder authority was excellent
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"The prop blast over the rudders could have made it extremely easy to do a quick 180 degree turn, and made directional control effortless. To recover, I just relaxed aft cyclic, and we slowly regained all airspeed. When we were back up to 400 or 500 feet, we did it again, this time in a power off descent. I slowly chopped power to keep the engine from shock cooling, until we reached idle. Full aft cyclic, applied slowly, allowed the aircraft to settle. Seeing the cows grow larger was quite entertaining. Rudder authority was acceptable. The blast of idle throttle was enough to keep the nose going where I wanted. Turning the gyro was effortless.

"Unlike in a sailplane, where the new student learns the reflexes of which rudder pedal to push depending on which way the yaw string was pointing, rudder movement wasn't really that necessary. There was no appreciable adverse yaw that I could detect. I guess I'm so used to having to put in more rudder than the average spam can requires. I was also aided by the yaw string. Less than 1 percent of airplanes have yaw strings (which are excellent directional indicators, btw) using slip/skid balls instead. All sailplanes have them installed for knowing if you're flying through the air as efficiently as possible. the transition from yaw string on glider to yaw string in sailplane was nominal. Still, to get back onto my point of rudders: You don't really need to use them while flying; just move the cyclic in the direction that you want the aircraft to bank, and away you go.

"No appreciable adverse yaw, because the rolling is caused by an increase in lift, therefore an increase in drag, but the drag is not going to affect the direction of the aircraft, because the "wings" are spinning rapidly, and the adverse motion is lost in the rotation of the blades. I didn't do a `very good job in explaining that one. I'll try to do better later. After doing some left and right turns it was about time to do a landing. This supposedly is the easiest part of flying a gyro, which is exactly opposite of flying fixed wing aircraft. The speed in a gyro is so wonderfully variable. Anywhere from 15 to 50 is an acceptable flying range. If you get into a slow speed situation, it is not as deadly as in an airplane, where you plummet to the ground in an uncontrolled stall
.
"Chris instructed me to land in any type of pattern I wished, He told me that I could make the landing as steep or as shallow as I wished by different levels of throttle. We ducked in behind the same Cessna that took off before us. My left turn from base to final had us about 150 feet above the ground, maybe 200 yards short of the runway. The throttle was about 1 quarter open, and we were descending like we had the glide ratio of a manhole cover. Everything was under total control.. I had total control over what the aircraft was doing. In fact, I thought I was going to get a little fancy on my final approach, and did a subtle sideslip to center up with the runway, when I overshot the runway on my turn from base to final (which I thought was sweet by the way. Chris said nothing about it. It sideslips just like a glider). I slowly brought the throttle back, and as Chris talked me through the landing, I picked the spot on the runway that I was going to land on, just a few feet in front of the runway number 3.

"If the spot was moving down under me, too much throttle, if it was moving up in front of me, I was descending too fast, and required more throttle. "No flaring before 10 feet" Chris told me. Flaring is when you pull the stick back to arrest your rate of descent, so that you won't go smacking into the ground at your greatest descent rate. We approached 10 feet above the ground, and I had pulled the throttle back to the back stop. I slowly applied aft stick to slow us down, and to bring our craft to a nice gentle stop on the runway. the wheels touched the runway, and full aft stick stopped the craft within 20 feet
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"My total concentration helped me make one of the best landings in my life (not to mention that I had mentally rehearsed it a hundred times in my head before I had even seen a gyro in person). The landing of one of those things is a sheer pure joy. Both of us were equally amazed about how well the landing was. I was briefly in a state of denial, thinking that Chris was the one doing all the manipulating of the controls for the landing. Flying the gyro was really Phantasamagorical (look it up). The controls were trimmed so that it felt like my thought waves were being transmitted directly to the aircraft, 'kinda' like that Clint Eastwood movie Firefox (where Clint goes to Russia to steal a Russian superfighter which translates pilot's thoughts directly into airplane responses).

"There was a Piper Cherokee and a twin engine sitting on the taxiway ready for takeoff, and we were sitting on the runway, me with my big S. Eating Grin. Chris took the controls and taxied us off of the active runway, so that the power planes could go ahead and take off. I guess the beauty of the first landing, and the compliments of the instructor got my head all swelled up, (I told him not to compliment me very much) because my next two landings weren't nearly as pretty. The second and third landings were not as good as the first because of mental saturation, I think.
"I had learned a whole lot that day, and on the second and third my mind was reviewing the first flight. I think the second and third flights would have been perfect, if I had 10 minutes to review the first. That must be from the world of sailplanes, where the instructor and I would talk for 20 or 30 minutes reviewing the flight, before the towplane came back
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The second and third flights were by no means dangerous, just not as sharp and crisp as the first. Once Chris got us off the runway by a quick blast of throttle, and a jab of left rudder, we taxied up behind the Cherokee and twin engine that took off soon after we cleared the runway.

"When the traffic was clear again, we went to the center line, and off we went again! This time, the gyro didn't climb as quickly as before, because I didn't have enough speed, we were only going 35, and not climbing very well. I relaxed back pressure and let the nose down, and we were back up to 45-50 mph and climbing again. We did some left and right turns as we climbed through 300 feet. When we went over an old farm house, I felt a good thermal. I bet that gyro could have really cored a thermal very well, with that tight turning radius. We avoided traffic, as a Bell Ranger helicopter zoomed 700 feet or so above us and hovered above the opposite end of the runway. We let two other powered traffic land in front of us, as we turned right onto base. At that point, the engine sputtered. We had been running the engine too long at full throttle, and a small detonation occurred.

"Chris pulled the throttle back to about 75 %. If the engine gets to 450 degrees, it can go all day long. At 500 degrees, the heat in the engine makes the fuel explode before the cylinder is ready to ignite the fuel/air mixture, making the engine sound like it has missed a stroke. Once the throttle was reduced, the engine began to sound normal again. The second landing, I had more power on during the landing, so the approach was shallower. My mind must have not been working, cause my flare point was steadily moving down below me
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"In retrospect, I should have closed the throttle all the way, that way I could land on the part of the runway that was right beyond the numbers. When I flared, I had more power, and more energy than I really wanted. Then I got into a little PIO, and dropped the power immediately after recognising it.
"On my pitch up, I ballooned, dropped the nose a little too far (so far that we would have landed nosewheel first), then I pulled back on the stick again to keep it from smacking into the ground. By this time, we had run out of energy, and if no action were to be taken, we would have settled into the ground at an uncomfortable rate. So I added power, just a blast. It got our forward motion going enough so that I could try the landing again: and not settle (smack) into the ground. The third flight was very similar to the second, save the engine pop that we experienced on the second flight. I even got into the same PIO on the final approach as in the second flight
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Generic student photo supplied by Norm Helberg from the original page
 
( This photo isn't Piet and Chris, nobody knows who it is. But looks like a Parson gyro.)
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"The whole experience was very entertaining to say the least. It was by far the best bunch dollars I've spent in a long while."
Video of Parson Tandem gyrocopter ->see
Piet Barber sent us an email recently, he has his own web site >here<
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