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.