Back Country Gyro Ops. Equipment, mods, techniques.

Jungleman

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John.
A good question and yes hill work can be interesting.
These are some of my observations & ideas. Anyone with others or different views chime in, I am all ears.
Depending if your talking say a strip with some slope or literally a hill. Like some of those rolling green ones you have in Ireland.
The back country areas in my previous posts & pics no hill work there as mainly riverbeds and beaches. So only side slope.
I do however at times trailer my gyro some 20 hrs to the North Island. Quite different country there with lots of farmers airstrips in steep hill country used for plane application of fertiliser. Some of these strips are plenty steep enough and operated on by very seasoned & current Ag pilots.
There are other hills available but a lot have sheep tracks sidling them. There is also an abundance of wires, power & electric fence.
In assessing / trying to determine issues I find it often beneficial to look at the extreme and that will make the issues more apparent & then work back from there.
So in this fine piece of art some things become very obvious right awayC34A76EB-7F9F-4333-887D-607081F85449.jpeg
The landing phase the nose wheel is more likely to contact the ground first. “Wheelbarrowing “ & not what we like. Especially say with a linked nose wheel and maybe some cross wind so it may be well cocked.
So depending on the severity of slope we may need more flare to avoid this. We also do not really want a 3 point landing either.There will be room for a greater flare as the slope provides more tail clearance. Once mastered they are great fun. Even in calm conditions very little ground roll.
An obvious one if avoidable don’t park on the slope whilst having your lunch and rely on the brakes

The take off.
A few things here. First off how good are your brakes. As once over the edge you can be off down slope like a rocket and may not be able to abort, as stick hard back & throttle closed will not have the stopping effect it has on flat ground,
so brake reliant, or a 100% committed take off.
Depending on how steep, you may need a higher than normal pre rotation rpm to avoid over running your rotor & the associated flap issues. This can also be helped by not gunning the throttle early on.
Remembering two essential ingredients are needed to take off these are say 27 knots of AIR SPEED & 270 rotor rpm.
( numbers depending on conditions) One is no good without the other. Also an abundance of one may not make up for a short fall of the other.
Another issue is you will be much more likely to drag your tail & the more you pivot up on your tail as your trying to clear the ground/ slope your blades are possibly getting very close to the ground behind you.

So now the nitty gritty relevant to both the landing & take off phases. That is, possibly very different sight pictures than you are use to & associated issues with spacial disorientation. Depending on topography there maybe no real visible horizon. So reliant on more seat of the pants flying. For example on late approach to this steep green hill & thats all you see in front is green hill up to above the peak of your cap / helmet & you do not pick up on your bleeding off airspeed and you do a good bounce. A steep slope is not a good place to be doing one of those, save them for on the flat.
On the take off same thing now you are high tailing it down hill with no horizon and relying on other cues for attitude
reference. The trick is to fly it off the slope and then adjust to straight and level. So if you usually do a wheel balance
of say 8” then do that and you won’t drag your tail etc.
Hope that makes sense.
This is more for the extreme but remember baby steps and at first work on some gradual slopes where you do have a horizon. Remember something as simple as the sun can cause spacial disorientation.
Also the third drawing indicates the extra vigilance needed regarding rotor management & wind when on sloping or undulating ground. With the gyro leaning you may be more susceptible to the wind getting under the disk & getting toppled.
I am not a youtube kind of guy but at some stage I may set up some cameras as the footage on this topic may be more helpful than words.
A couple of pics below showing how loss of horizon can fox you a bit with reading the slope. You do have foxes in Ireland right ?

PeteF9AAFF6C-FA2F-41A5-AABC-129BC991DB43.jpeg14569A93-506F-46CD-9F1F-7F552DF3E7BA.jpeg
 
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Burrengyro

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Hi Pete,
Most interesting post! Thank you. Back in January 2021, Phil Bennett started a thread on Mountain Airfield dangers in the Training section of RWF to which many experts on this form have contributed their experience and advice. I was particularly interested in how gyros handle relatively steep sloping grass or rough runways as compared to how fixed wing mountain and canyon pilots handle sloping runways. Your experiences of bush gyro flying has been a great source of info for me, both as to gyro modifications and flying techniques in difficult terrain. Hence my reaching out to you for your wealth of experience and knowledge. Some of my search for info is based on the need to build a short takeoff runway of max roll 250m on a downhill slope. My thinking at the time was the slope might increase the effective length of the runway for takeoffs, just like the slope can shorten the takeoff run of a bush plane. Most pilots only experience takeoffs and landings on long hard surface runways.

You and Wolfy seem to have more experience than most of making use of whatever terrain works for you. If you and Wolfy ever get a chance to put a camera on your gyros, please upload your videos of such sloping runway takeoffs and landings and some explanation of your techniques.

Thanks again for the great advice in you post and I hope you can share more experiences to pass the lockdown.
John H
 

Jungleman

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Hi Pete,
Most interesting post! Thank you. Back in January 2021, Phil Bennett started a thread on Mountain Airfield dangers in the Training section of RWF to which many experts on this form have contributed their experience and advice. I was particularly interested in how gyros handle relatively steep sloping grass or rough runways as compared to how fixed wing mountain and canyon pilots handle sloping runways. Your experiences of bush gyro flying has been a great source of info for me, both as to gyro modifications and flying techniques in difficult terrain. Hence my reaching out to you for your wealth of experience and knowledge. Some of my search for info is based on the need to build a short takeoff runway of max roll 250m on a downhill slope. My thinking at the time was the slope might increase the effective length of the runway for takeoffs, just like the slope can shorten the takeoff run of a bush plane. Most pilots only experience takeoffs and landings on long hard surface runways.

You and Wolfy seem to have more experience than most of making use of whatever terrain works for you. If you and Wolfy ever get a chance to put a camera on your gyros, please upload your videos of such sloping runway takeoffs and landings and some explanation of your techniques.

Thanks again for the great advice in you post and I hope you can share more experiences to pass the lockdown.
John H
John.
Your welcome. If we cant be flying em we might as well be talking about em. I enter 2 weeks hotel lock down next week
but nothing like yours, I feel for you there.
Are you able to let us know what sort of slope your dealing with. Approx degrees or total height of drop.
And maybe some pics showing your fly away area etc.
Also what rpm can you comfortably pre rotate your ELA to.
My main strip at my hangar is 220 meters & the cross wind 150.
For big loads of fuel or pax I use one 3 mins away that is 600 meters of gravel & into the prevailing sou west.
Pete.
 

Burrengyro

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John.
Your welcome. If we cant be flying em we might as well be talking about em. I enter 2 weeks hotel lock down next week
but nothing like yours, I feel for you there.
Are you able to let us know what sort of slope your dealing with. Approx degrees or total height of drop.
And maybe some pics showing your fly away area etc.
Also what rpm can you comfortably pre rotate your ELA to.
My main strip at my hangar is 220 meters & the cross wind 150.
For big loads of fuel or pax I use one 3 mins away that is 600 meters of gravel & into the prevailing sou west.
Pete.
Hi Pete,
Will get a few photos together with dimensions. I usually don't prerotate above 220 as the brakes wont hold the machine on damp grass if I run the engine up higher than 3000rpm. Thanks, John
 

BEN S

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Pete this is a pertinent topic for me as I may soon be using a paved road as a runway. it is 625 feet long and slopes down hill somewhat aggressively, One other thing is the winds usually are coming from uphill to down hill!
Some people I trust suggested trying it first taking off up hill into the wind. No issue with blades hitting the deck and if its not working out well you won't have far to descend to get back on the road.
Well see when I get my trailer set up done. But I have done up hill into the wind take offs before and they can work well. And Aborted Takeoffs come to a stop VERY quickly.
 

Jungleman

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Pete this is a pertinent topic for me as I may soon be using a paved road as a runway. it is 625 feet long and slopes down hill somewhat aggressively, One other thing is the winds usually are coming from uphill to down hill!
Some people I trust suggested trying it first taking off up hill into the wind. No issue with blades hitting the deck and if its not working out well you won't have far to descend to get back on the road.
Well see when I get my trailer set up done. But I have done up hill into the wind take offs before and they can work well. And Aborted Takeoffs come to a stop VERY quickly.
Ben.
Yes good points. My home strip in the North Island is grass sloped 700’ with 50’ trees at both ends, ( Park trees so chainsawing an issue) Not quite the slope your talking but a 50 meter section mid field that probably is. I fly this one either way dependent on wind & it works out well. In fact even in the calm if I do the uphill I experience less rotor bleed than I do on flat sand with say a 2” soft top & maybe sticky.
I know we sometimes think “it’s only a five knot tail wind” true but turn around it’s not just a 5 knot head wind it is now a 10 knot advantage. And if we are talking on undulating or rocks then 10 knots less ground speed needed for the same result is very significant. 22 knots on rocks is far preferable than 32.
This strip as my one in the south I do not fly passengers off. I have access to a 1500’ one 3 miles away on my drive in so too easy. Also I only fly pax about 1% of the time.
Pete
 
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Jungleman

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Ben.
Thought some more on this today. I flew these two slopes today, well my ipad did.
So obviously the more seasoned & current a pilot is, then either up or down hill maybe not too much of a problem. But trying to look for the traps for someone who is not yet that.
So this is in regard to taking off not landing.
So just to clarify (& for discussion purposes use a 30 degree slope ) while going down hill with the nose wheel on ground with stick hard back the rotor blades are X off the ground at the rear.
Going up hill in same configuration the blades are also X (same) off the ground. Makes sense.
Now stick still hard back & nose up and dragging the tail wheel / skid then in both cases the blades are still the same distance off the ground. If you draw a line from the bottom of a main tyre up through the tail wheel and past the blades it shows about 2 feet clearance in both profiles, & on flat ground for that matter.
These pics to me show it better than words.
So in either case if we rotated on the tail wheel say another 15 degrees we would strike. Same for up or down hill or flat ground.
So if that is all agreed upon then the only question is in which profile are we more likely to do that.
Down hill main factor I think would be sight picture issues.
Up hill the gravity issue causing it to want to tip back. Opposite to down hill. The wind coming down hill may be if caught us off guard could cause it to rear up. Also possibly some sight picture issues.
Maybe when put like that then what stops us from rearing them up on the tail wheel on flat ground & over rotating. Maybe simply sight picture.

Dave PA11
We had discussed blade clearance in our posts with the flare pics in Gyroplanes vs Bushplanes thread. So from the pics and this video we can work on 2 feet with stick full back & tail wheel touching.
So you will see in the attached video I am demonstrating a soft / rough ground take off to a couple of my fixed wing mates that were doubtful of a gyros capability’s in the bush. So stick well back until tail wheel almost touching then going for VY.
Sea level , 1 hrs fuel, wind 3 kts 10 O clock then 8 kts when past the camera. Weight 430 kg. Roll 50 meters.
Sorry for the dust. Had just finished the cross wind runway.
Any thoughts greatly appreciated.
Also added a short vid of no dust standard take off 3 hrs fuel and 4 knot 7 oclock quatering tail wind.
Pete
284D922E-50A4-47E2-9B5C-0A68742F7445.jpeg
 
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DavePA11

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Pete,

The slight slopes are fine similar to the beach photo you posted, and still believe gyros with independent brakes are better to assure you don’t veer down into the water when nose lifts off. Gyro would probably tip if one wheel hit the water on takeoff?

I gave up on landing on steeper hills with Sportcopter M912 which I flew often in my Cub fix wing plane. I find landing on the steeper hills was fine, but taxing on the larger side slopes was difficult since the gyro is top heavy and tend to slide down the hill on grass. Maybe the larger tires would help. I was afraid when the gyro started to slide on the grass that it would hit something to cause the slide to stop abruptly and tip over.

Also, no parking brake so you can’t get out of the gyro on the steep slopes since it would roll down the hill so your stuck... In the Cub you can position the plane side ways and it won’t move, but in the Sportcopter with castering front I found it wanted to turn down hill when I got out. I made some chokes with strings attached, but since seated so high it was tough to get them in front of the tire while keeping brakes on.

It wasn’t possible to take off on the steeper side slopes so had to takeoff mainly downhill or taxi down off the hill completely to find a flat spot. Usually trees at bottom of hill so if you can’t take off down hill then you are stuck.

Trying to take off uphill often wasn’t possible since the gyro would tip back and rest on the tail wheel. That sucks cause you can’t get out, and don’t want to slid back and dig tail into the ground. So you have to apply power to turn around and face down hill. It’s not a fun experience, but this scenario might not occur in two place gyro.

I wouldn’t recommend it for gyro, but fine for bush planes. Without big tires would highly recommend getting out and walking the takeoff path to look for goofer holes or other obstructions not visible from the air. I found one goofer hole wider than my gyro tires after landing on small grass patch island along river in up state NY and almost drove my front wheel into it. Big tires definitely help for this use case.

Would be interested in others experiences on steeper hills. I didn’t like the experience in top heavy gyro, and went back to flying bush plane for off airport operations.
Dave
 
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Burrengyro

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Hi Pete, very nice home strip! How long and how long to the red stick marker at wheels up point? The photos greatly help the understanding of your commentary.
My potential runway has a 03 / 21 orientation with the high end at 21 @ 130ft AMSL, flat for 100ft, then slopes down for 600ft @4 degree slope, then flat for last 100ft at approx 80ft AMSL. The exit terrain is mainly at sea level on port side and straight ahead. The exit terrain can be soggy in winter, but ok in summer. See an image of land and surrounding terrain marked in with the leg of a hen, apologies for the state of the drawing, but it does the job.
The runway surface will be mainly crushed compacted rock from a quarry on the land. The prevailing wind is from South West. Your Magni flat keel with tail wheel prevents over rotation and potential blade to ground contact. The ELA has an angled keel empennage, also with a tail wheel. However, there is a greater chance of a rotor to ground contact if over rotation on nose wheel lift off is not carefully managed on a down slope takeoff. Any thoughts gratefully received. John H.Capture2.JPG
 

Burrengyro

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Hi Pete, Runway orientation marked in reverse by mistake. Corrected in image below. John.Capture3.JPG
 

Jungleman

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Jackson Bay. New Zealand
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Pete,

The slight slopes are fine similar to the beach photo you posted, and still believe gyros with independent brakes are better to assure you don’t veer down into the water when nose lifts off. Gyro would probably tip if one wheel hit the water on takeoff?

I gave up on landing on steeper hills with Sportcopter M912 which I flew often in my Cub fix wing plane. I find landing on the steeper hills was fine, but taxing on the larger side slopes was difficult since the gyro is top heavy and tend to slide down the hill on grass. Maybe the larger tires would help. I was afraid when the gyro started to slide on the grass that it would hit something to cause the slide to stop abruptly and tip over.

Also, no parking brake so you can’t get out of the gyro on the steep slopes since it would roll down the hill so your stuck... In the Cub you can position the plane side ways and it won’t move, but in the Sportcopter with castering front I found it wanted to turn down hill when I got out. I made some chokes with strings attached, but since seated so high it was tough to get them in front of the tire while keeping brakes on.

It wasn’t possible to take off on the steeper side slopes so had to takeoff mainly downhill or taxi down off the hill completely to find a flat spot. Usually trees at bottom of hill so if you can’t take off down hill then you are stuck.

Trying to take off uphill often wasn’t possible since the gyro would tip back and rest on the tail wheel. That sucks cause you can’t get out, and don’t want to slid back and dig tail into the ground. So you have to apply power to turn around and face down hill. It’s not a fun experience, but this scenario might not occur in two place gyro.

I wouldn’t recommend it for gyro, but fine for bush planes. Without big tires would highly recommend getting out and walking the takeoff path to look for goofer holes or other obstructions not visible from the air. I found one goofer hole wider than my gyro tires after landing on small grass patch island along river in up state NY and almost drove my front wheel into it. Big tires definitely help for this use case.

Would be interested in others experiences on steeper hills. I didn’t like the experience in top heavy gyro, and went back to flying bush plane for off airport operations.
Dave
Dave.
Really appreciate your input & findings. If ok I would like to attempt to reply to them with some of mine.
First off I possibly need to edit some of the wording in my above post a tad with the up & down slope pics. I did not mean I am out there roaring up & down 30 degree slopes, especially taking off up them. ( I am actually a bit of a chicken. Raced motocross in my youth and always in the last 20% of the pack but still enjoyed the hell out of it. )
I just used the 30 degrees as that was the max that my ipad could rotate the pic & keep it in the frame. I was maximising the slope to show that regardless of up or down slope that with the mains & tail wheel on the ground that
the blades have similar clearance. Also to show visually how the vertical component of gravity moves aft when up hill.

Yes the added drag of one wheel in the water at speed & one on the dry I have found not good. Even on fairly flat ground. Especially with linked nose wheel and if is off the ground. Can be an immediate tendency for the gyro to screw and decelerate putting the nose wheel back on the ground and then you may be facing 10 o’cock & tracking 2 o’clock. Not good in a 3 wheeler.
There is a reason the 4 wheel ATV’s took over from the 3’s
I have not done enough with the independent brakes to see if I would / could react quick enough to avert this. A full castering nose wheel would I am sure help bring the nose around. Best course of action probably do not let the wheel get in the water.
In my mind am thinking the ultimate gyro for me for off field will be a free castering nose wheel with a lock so can also be linked & independent brakes. And it WILL have a park brake preferably that can be worked when standing alongside the gyro. I really miss that in the Sportcopter.
The steep ops I have done have mostly been straight shots. Off a flat then down the slope / hill & back onto it & up onto the flat. Probably similar but steeper to the airstrip make up & profile that Burrengyo John is considering.
As you said you found the straight shot stuff pretty good but manoeuvring & side slope work they leave alot to be desired. I hear what you are saying. But do wonder if some of those issues would be helped & made acceptable with a linked nose wheel, park brake, and larger tyres. I am also wondering though if you are talking more extreme slopes than I am.
Would you by chance have any pics of your plane on some of these, or even someone standing on them.
I may have the opportunity over the next few months to get some & vids, if so will post.
Not long after I bought my first gyro and progressed onto rougher farm strips I did at times contemplate going back to a helicopter. I was not happy at all how it handled. Even a taxi could be a painful task. It did not take much of a stone to cause the nose wheel to go full lock, let alone taxiing on dried out cattle pugged ground. I did not think it was going to be able to satisfy my landing surface requirements. However it ticked so many boxes for me for a recreational aircraft & I loved so much its flight characteristics that I went down the road of the tyre & nose wheel mods & the difference is night & day. Even with the cost and significant weight gain it now allows me to access the country that I wish. In fact given the choice to fly a helicopter or gyro I will take the gyro, even if someone else is footing the bill.
Curious did your M912 have the smaller nose wheel or the latter larger one. See pics. Mine is 4 years old and came with the smaller (red rubbers) & have now fitted the larger ( black rubbers)
Thanks
Pete5AF52F7F-3711-4186-BDB5-2B7016D08D3A.jpeg
 
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DavePA11

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Hi Pete,

My Sportcopter M912 had the smaller wheelbarrow front wheel and tire. I bet much of the sliding on grass on steeper inclines were due to not enough tire surface area on the ground, and with the big tires you may not have this experience. Adding parking brake system would help to get out of the SC if on a steeper incline. Maybe will give it another try, There is a nice M22 for sale locally.

Dave
 

loftus

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Even with the cost and significant weight gain it now allows me to access the country that I wish. In fact given the choice to fly a helicopter or gyro I will take the gyro, even if someone else is footing the bill.
Curious why you would choose a gyro over a heli if cost etc were no object, particularly for difficult access situations.
 

Jungleman

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Hi Pete,

My Sportcopter M912 had the smaller wheelbarrow front wheel and tire. I bet much of the sliding on grass on steeper inclines were due to not enough tire surface area on the ground, and with the big tires you may not have this experience. Adding parking brake system would help to get out of the SC if on a steeper incline. Maybe will give it another try, There is a nice M22 for sale locally.

Dave
Dave.
Copy that. I had the smaller one back on mine just a few months ago & yes big difference. Even just turning around on the grass ( bit clumpy) to line up on my gravel strip.
Also on the beaches I did not have alot of confidence as have experienced first hand a buried nose wheel at speed, & that was the big one.
If you do end up with the M22 let me know. Am more than happy to send you info on my nose wheel adapter etc, & also the toe brakes & nose wheel lock if I do go down that road.
If it has the older brakes then you may need to upgrade if you went to 26”.
Depending on weight & surface with Beringer I can usually get if needed 4,000 rpm & 280 rotor before either they start letting go or skidding forward.
The M912 on the 26”currently with the original brakes 2,900 rpm & 220 rotor but are a bit weak for taxi stops especially down slope so fitting the larger Matco’s soon.
Pete
 

Jungleman

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Curious why you would choose a gyro over a heli if cost etc were no object, particularly for difficult access
Loftus.
To answer that satisfactorily would take a page.
Not sure if would be considered too much of a thread drift to post here.
Could email it to you though.
Pete
 

DavePA11

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Burrengyro - I would say it would be possible to land on either 100’ flat spot that you have in the diagram, and takeoff starting on the 4 degree decline into the wind assuming there isn’t an obstruction 1/2 down. Not sure what that is in the diagram. 4 degrees doesn’t seem like a lot. However, I never flew an ELA...

I wouldn’t want to start a take off on the 100’ flat part then at speed transition to 4 degree downhill slope unless it was gradual transition from flat to decline... What is the takeoff distance normally for ELA with the engine you have on flat paved runway? As Vance would say have to factor in the wind, weight, and density altitude and verify with information in the POH.
 
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