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Air Adventures -- Gyrocopter
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Gyrocopter: 7 listings
Cape Town, WC
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Sky Adventures - Helicopter, Microlight & Gyrocopter
Durban, KZN
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Upington Microlight Training Centre
Upington, NC
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Airborne Sport
West Rand, GAU
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303 Squadron Flight School
East Rand, GAU
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Parys Vliegklub
Northern Free State, FS
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Microflight Aviation Academy
Northern Gauteng, GAU
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: Feel the Wind in your Hair...
Gyrocopter Adventure:
Feel the Wind in your Hair...
Gyroplanes are enjoying a revival to a certain extent. Although they have been around for almost a century, they have never really been that popular. However, modern composite technology and the rising cost of aviation fuel have combined to create a new demand for this type of flying.

In South Africa, they have become very popular with the farming community, as they can operate from very short airfields (even roads), are extremely manouevarable, have a wide speed range and are now a lot safer than the initial models.
A word on Gyrocopter:
  One can get a proper insight into the practice of flying only by actual flying experiments. . . . The manner in which we have to meet the irregularities of the wind, when soaring in the air, can only be learnt by being in the air itself. . . . The only way which leads us to a quick development in human flight is a systematic and energetic practice in actual flying experiments.

Otto Lilienthal, 1896.


Gyroplanes, also known as Autogyros, Autogiros and Gyrocopters, were first to achieve practical success as rotary-wing aircraft. First flown in 1923 by Cierva in Spain, 20 years after the first aeroplane flight, they paved the way to the helicopter 16 years later.

All gyroplanes in the past had single rotors and single forward thrusting propellers. Ciervaï's early Autogirosï had auxiliary wings which were removed in later designs.

All but one early gyro used tractor propellers located in front of the pilot seat. Only Buhl in U.S. designed his as a pusher. The majority of modern-day Gyroplanes are pushers and some use shrouded propellers for augmented thrust.

The rotors were usually 4 or 3 bladed and were controlled by the direct tilting head control principle. Blades were usually fixed pitch and started by hand.

Later, power starting and collective pitch controls were added to obtain short field and jump takeoff. Collective pitch was not used in landing; landings were made with a cyclic flare followed by a short roll, just as today.

In the pusher group, Pliasecki's Path finder, is especially interesting. It looks and flies like a Gyroplane, but qualifies also as a helicopter. Its ducted propeller in the tail has deflector vanes which produce enough side thrust to overcome the torque of the rotor when the machine is hovering.

Gyroplanes' strong points are:
  • Their low weight.
  • Low cost and simplicity compared to helicopters.
  • Good gilding capability power-off because of their low disc loading.
  • Simpler controls, as the machine flies more like a stall-proof slow-flying aeroplane than a helicopter.
Disadvantages are:
  • Inability to hover.
  • Limited maximum speed because of high aerodynamic drag.
Gyrocopter Adventure: Takeoff Checks...
Gyrocopter Adventure:
Takeoff Checks...


Gyrocopters are inherently safe and stable flying machines. There were however some fatal accidents early on, which possibly had more to do with the limited understanding of a Gyrocopter's flight dynamics, than of the way the Gyro's were constructed. Today, Gyrocopters are one of the safest forms of flying.

Advancements in construction techniques and materials, as well as the advent of newer lightweight and more powerful engines have resulted in the safety record improving radically.

As with it's cousin, the Helicopter, should the engine stop for any reason, it is possible to autorotate (a form of gliding) to the ground and make a smooth landing.

There is a slight delay between control input and aircraft response - a characteristic of inertia in the spinning rotor blades. Inexperienced pilots may be inclined to repeat or overemphasise a control input owing to a perceived lack of response. The resulting response may then be excessive and the pilot may attempt to compensate with opposing inputs, again with excessive control motion. These inputs can quickly put the aircraft into an increasing cycle of responses which may exceed the safe flying limits. This phenomenon is termed "Pilot Induced Oscillation" (PIO), and has led to loss of control crashes and fatalities. Pilot Induced Oscillation is readily corrected in a certificated autogyro operated by a trained pilot; in a Bensen-type autogyro no amount of training may be sufficient to avoid catastrophe.

Interesting Facts:

As of 2002, Wing Commander Ken Wallis, an enthusiast who has built several autogyros, holds or has held most of the type's record performances. These include the speed record of 111.7 mph (186 km/h), and the straight-line distance record of 543.27 miles (905 km). The record picture is continually changing, and on 16 November 2002, Ken Wallis increased the speed record to 207.7 km/h - and simultaneously set another world record as the oldest pilot to set a world record See:

Andy Keech made a transcontinental flight from Kitty Hawk, N.C. to San Diego, Ca. in October 2003 and set 3 world records. The 3 records are for 'speed over a recognised course', and are verified by tower personnel or by official observers of the U.S. National Aeronautic Association. In February 2006 he set further world speed records, ratified by the FAI
: An impressive craft...
Gyrocopter Adventure:
An impressive craft...


Juan de la Cierva, a Spanish engineer and aeronautical enthusiast, invented the first successful rotorcraft, which he named 'autogiro' in 1923. His aim was to create an aircraft which would not stall, following the stall-induced crash of a three-engine bomber he had designed for a Spanish military aeronautical competition. His craft used a tractor-mounted forward propeller and engine, a rotor mounted on a mast, and a horizontal and vertical stabilizer. His first three designs, C.1, C.2, and C.3, were unstable due to aerodynamic and structural deficiencies in their rotors. His fourth design, the C.4, fitted with flapping hinges to attach each rotor blade to the hub, made the first successful flight of a rotary-wing aircraft, piloted by Alejandro Gomez Spencer, on January 9, 1923. The C.4 was fitted with conventional ailerons, elevators and rudder for control. During a later test flight, the engine failed shortly after takeoff and the aircraft descended slowly and steeply to a safe landing, validating la Cierva's efforts to produce an aircraft that could be flown safely at low airspeeds.

The autogyro was resurrected after World War II when Dr. Igor Bensen (a Doctor of Divinity) saw a captured German U-Boat's gyroglider and was fascinated by its characteristics. At work he was tasked with the analysis of the British "Rotachute" gyro glider designed by expatriate Austrian Raoul Hafner. This led him to adapt the design for his own purposes and eventually market the B-7.

Later autogyros, such as the Bensen B-8M gyrocopter, generally use a pusher configuration for simplicity and to increase visibility for the pilot. For greater simplicity, they generally lack both variable-pitch rotors and powered rotors. Bensen autogyros and its derivatives have a poor safety record due to their deficient stability and control characteristics greatly worsened by use of a teetering rotor, and their marketing as a "build it yourself and teach yourself how to fly" aircraft.

In the 1950s and 1960s there was interest in developing a VTOL capability in autogyros while retaining the efficiency of an undriven rotor in horizontal flight. This led to a number of gyrodynes (also called "heliplanes") which were functionally like autogyros during flight but could apply power to the rotor at take off and for hovering.

Three different autogyro designs have been certified by the FAA for commercial production: the Umbaugh U-18/Air & Space 18A of 1965, the Avian 2-180 of 1967, and the McCulloch J-2 of 1972. All have for various reasons been commercial failures.

The most popular autogyro designs are based on the B8M Gyrocopter, developed by Igor Bensen in the mid-1950s. Bensen, a Russian immgrant, submitted the B8M for testing to the United States Air Force, which designated it the X-25. The B8M was designed to use surplus McCulloch engines used on flying unmanned target drones. A miniature autogyro craft, the Wallis autogyro, was developed in England in the 1960s by Ken Wallis and autogyros built to Wallis designs appeared for a number of years. Ken Wallis's designs have been used in various scenarios including military training, police reconnaissance, and in another case a search for the Loch Ness Monster.

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