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Barnstormers Logo ISSUE 15 - April 2008
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By Timothy Heilig, Contributing Editor
Greensboro, North Carolina

Okay, first off, let me tell ya how this article came about. After receiving several of the Barnstormers eFLYERs, I noted that there was a featured listing for all types of fixed wing aircraft, but none for Rotorcraft. So being the type that loves anything with spinning rotors, I fired off an email to ask why.

Be careful what ya ask for, as they say. LOL

I received a reply back thanking me for pointing that out, and then after a few more emails, I was asked if I would like to write articles about rotorcraft since I have some knowledge of the various types.

So here we go, bear with me… as I have never written stuff like this before. Lets go on to the subject at hand - the sport of rotorcraft flying - in this case, the Gyroplane, or as many of us know them, by the trade name for the Bensen design, the Gyrocopter.

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The Gyroplane aka The Gyrocopter
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Oh boy, I can hear those same words already being said, as I have heard so many times before… “there use to be a guy tried to fly one at the airport, but he crashed.”

OK in all fairness, yes, the Gyroplane has a bad reputation.

But let us take a look at why.

In the early days, there was only one way to learn how to fly one.

First, you built it from the kit as an un-powered glider. Then you had a friend tow you up and down the runway as a big kite as you learned rotor speed management. With any luck you survived and did not waste your rotor blades by smacking them onto the ground, or flapping the blades and causing damage to them.

Then you were ready to install the ohhhh so trusty Mac 72 horsepower, 2-cycle drone engine and attempt to learn to fly under power.

The lucky survived to fly another day, but as we know many people got hurt and even killed.

Now let us jump forward a few years.

Several years have gone by since the Bensen Gyrocopter was introduced. With time, the two seat powered trainer was introduced. Below is a picture of one of the early open-frame Parson’s Trainers.

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Parson’s Trainer
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Named after the designer, the late Bill Parsons, this one is owned and, to this day, still used for training by Steve McGowan of Macon Georgia. In the background is a newer design, the 2-seat Dominator Gyroplane.

With help from the Popular Rotorcraft Association (kind of like the EAA of the Rotorcraft world), the FAA was convinced to make an exemption to the rules and allowed dual training of gyro pilots in Experimental class Gyroplanes.

Side Note: There were a few certified Gyroplanes at the time, but they had 3-bladed rotor systems and did not have the feel of the lightweight 2-blade semi-rigid rotors of the kit-build gyroplanes.

As more Gyroplanes evolved, so did the training and safety of the gyroplane.

Below is a picture of a modern day 2-seat trainer that I have been taking my lessons in, owned and flown by Gary Neal of Greenville, South Carolina - The RAF-2000 GTX.

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The RAF-2000 GTX
(Click picture to enlarge)

This is just the tip of the iceberg.

The RAF-2000 was one of the first 2-seat enclosed trainers, but on that same note, since the introduction of the RAF-2000, there have been many new and safer 2-seat gyroplanes designed.

Now with the new Sport Pilot regulations, there is a renewed interest in these types of aircraft.

I just want to point out to the many fixed-wing pilots and airport owners that times have changed for the better for these neat little machines. There is now FAA-approved training in safe 2-seat Trainers with FAA-approved Gyroplane CFI’s. So when a new guy shows up at the airport with one of these neat and interesting aircraft, please have an open mind and talk to the person and find out if he has made the effort to be professionally trained… before you run him off.

Training in Gyroplanes, as with anything else worth getting, is not cheap at $135.00 an hour and up. And most of the time, the student has to travel to take lessons. Rest assured, he is just as safety minded as you, the FBO owner, would be (or should be). Granted, there are sadly still some that think they can fly a Gyroplane without training, and these are the ones we hear about. But if you talk to the person first, it is easy to find out if they are safety minded or not. If not, then, yes, by all means, tell them to leave and not come back until they can show proof of training.

Well, I hope I have been able to educate you some on these neat and fun-to-fly aircraft. Yes, you heard right. They truly are aircraft and not a toy! They can do flight maneuvers that to the non-gyro pilot looks crazy and dangerous, but is really just a standard maneuver in a Gyroplane. For that matter, the standard landing looks scary to the non-Gyroplane pilot.

Anyway, thank you for taking the time to read about these aircraft. I hope to write more here and try and educate the public more to these neat and fun aircraft. We are just getting started.

There are Gyroplanes out now that range from $4,000 for a basic airframe kit, on up to over $70,000 for 2-seat fully-enclosed factory built models, with horsepower ranges from 45 hp to close to 200 hp.

I am presently building a single-seat Falcon Gyroplane with a 115 hp Subaru car engine conversion. If there is an interest, reply to the Baroness and I will be glad to do articles with more info on these fun flying machines and of the building of the Falcon.

Fly safe!

For more Information about Sport Rotorcraft
Visit or

Timothy Heilig, Contributing Editor
Falcon Gyro Project Builder and Student Pilot

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