2016 Bensen Days Gyrocopter Fly-In

2016-03-31 Wachula Airport, CHN, FL

Boy have these things come a long way!

You can still buy basic gyrocopters that look like they are erector sets but you can now also buy very refined versions. Interesting thing, though, in the U.S. you can NOT buy one that it factory certified: they're all experimental. Many, if not most, do offer a quick build option where you go to the factory and work with their builders to meet the 51% rule to qualify as Experimental Amateur Built.

Prices range from about $10k for a decent used unit to $100k for the latest, fully enclosed cruiser.

Rotax 912's were the powerplant of choice. One manufacturer said their company was the single biggest buyer of the 912.

Asking about safety generates some interesting, conflicted, and heated discussion about the craft's dark corners. All craft have them. My observation is that these dark corners must be understood, especially here, because the consequence tend slightly to be more severe. But it's probably true that with any appropriately stabilized craft and well-trained pilots, the safety may be about as good as a paramotor. They definitely warrant thorough training from someone who knows the common causes of accidents. Nothing is really that safe including what I flew down on, the helicopter, or the paramotor. I get it. But I do prefer to have some idea of where the risk lurks and that's not an answer that everybody seems to agree on.

As with all things that I've flown, gyros are an absolute blast: they feature ultralight openness but with the ability to handle strong winds.

Sadly, I've been told that airport management is not friendly to paramotor pilots although I haven't had any firsthand experience. Hopefully that's not the case, especially if it's an airport that has accepted federal funds.

Approaching from the North landing on runway 18. There is no control tower but a guy monitors Unicom and puts up a green flag when there is no fixed wing or other traffic for the runway. That helps the gyro pilots avoid getting in the way of other local traffic. Very polite of them!


This is the Bensen Gyrocopter after which the event is named and the data plate on its rotor.


One of the new, sleek machines, an Aerotrek two seater, and its representatives. On the right is company partner Daniel Lopez from Italy. Unfortunately I didn't get the other fellows name.


There were 3 rows of fancy flight hardware.


We were walking back to leave when these blocks caught our eye. Any guess as to what they were for? We were sure surprised!


This fellow must have done 20 touch and goes in an hours time. It looked like every one of them was a power off landing.


Roy Davis is an American Airlines pilot who likes to fly. This ultralight helicopter lives in a trailer he tows behind his motorhome. That's approaching the portability of our craft (paramotor). Of course a retrieve may be a bit more tricky. He was fascinating to talk to since he, too, had an engine failure in this and he's into competition with Gyros. He represented the U.S. in the 2015 World Air Games in Dubai.

Tim & I flew down in Ellie, a 1969 Enstrom helicopter and we could have had the oldest aircraft there. This was the first time I've ever flown to, or even been to, a rotorcraft fly-in.

It's always cool to be around people with passion.

© 2016 Jeff Goin & Tim Kaiser   Remember: If there's air there, it should be flown in!