Bent the Golden Butterfly's Rotors

dcarr4321

Dan Carr
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I scraped my rotor blades on the ground today doing high speed taxi runs. :Cry: I am not completely clear on exactly what I did/went wrong. Winds were variable but reported to be 230/05. The only runway was 14/32 which is means there was a 90 degree cross wind @ 5 knots. I was using 32 but the winds would occasionally shift and there would be a slight tail wind then change back to a slight head wind if not directly abeam. On the run just prior to the incident I considered changing directions while watching the sock showing a tail wind and then it changed back to a head wind so I proceeded on to 32. Things were going good and balancing on the mains well. I felt the wheels getting too light and thought I was going too fast and reduced throttle while adding just a little back stick to slow down a bit. That action caused the gyro to lift off about 3 foot. No problem I’ll just settle back down and was aligned well with the runway at that time. As it began to settle it picked up a hard left yaw that could not be corrected with full right peddle. I added full throttle to try and fly out of it. The controls were very mushy and the gyro seemed unresponsive. It still settles, it now picks up a right yaw from what I believe was the engine spooling up and the rudder taking effect. Now I touch down in a right yaw and the gyro rolls left. The blades scrape the runway 3 times before I get it level again. Now I run off the right side of the runway and stop in the grass. Fortunately it did not hit a runway light. Except for the blade tips being turned up about 4 inches on the end, their does not appear to be any other damage. I will inspect it more toughly tomorrow. Not a good showing for my debut at the airport with my gyro. All my friends will be vindicated; you know the statements where they say you are crazy to fly those things........... The wife is suggesting I get out............

Not a good day.

Man those blades were tracking good after balancing them. There was no stick shake at all. It was a sickening feeling on the stick as the rotor drags across the deck. I could feel the rough surface and scraping of the runway and every pebble it slid over in the joy stick. There was no hard yank or shock feed back through the controls, just a grinding vibration in the stick.
 

Vance

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It could have been worse.

I think it is great how clear a picture you have of everything that happened.

For me a 5kt direct cross is a little much.

I think it is worse because your airspeed was so slow.

Please don’t give up.

Thank you, Vance
 

Mayfield

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Sorry about your mishap Dan. Glad you weren't hurt. Good luck with the rebuild.

Semper Fi

Jim Mayfield
 

JonVos

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First of all, I'm very happy that you weren't hurt and that your gyro only suffered damage to the rotor blades. Though we all know that blades aren't cheap, they're definitely cheaper than replacing the entire machine, and much cheaper than an autopsy.

Your incident reinforces a curiosity that I've always had regarding learning to fly a gyro. I, along with (I'm assuming) the vast majority of gyro pilots were at some point in their training to "balance on the mains" down the length of the runway. While I understand that instructors are trying to teach their students (by trial and the sometimes expensive error) rotor speed and power management along with coordination of all the controls of a gyro, it seem to me that "balancing on the mains" is a rather unforgiving environment to learn in.

In no other type of formal flight training is a student told to go out and practice doing wheelies. It would be absurd for a fixed wing instructor to sign his student off to solo, but tell them, "Uh, hey listen, just go up and down the runway doing a wheelie just to get the feel for it... and if you happen to accidentally takeoff, just cut power and land"

The same applies to helicopters. What instructor would say, "Hey, just go get the helo light on the skids for a while and figure out how to keep it from tipping over". Dumb idea.

Yet in the gyro training world, this seems to be the norm! Why are we instructing our students to go and put themselves in what could possibly be the most dangerous situation there is? A sudden burst of headwind and you're airborne (unprepared and well behind the power curve). A sudden burst of crosswind and you're dealing with a sudden rolling/yawing tendency with only mili-seconds to deal with the problem until you end up like Dan... bent rotor blades and a loss of self confidence.

From what I've witnessed, gyro instructors are rather hasty in giving their students the "thumbs up" to go and fly solo. Moreso, it seems that students are somewhat callous about going out and risking their lives in a machine that's flight characteristics they don't fully understand.

I don't have all the answers, and perhaps I'm way off base here... there's lots of gyro pilots out there that all learned to fly the same way, and they seem to be doing fine. However, as an individual that makes his career in aviation, it seems to me that the standards that the rest of the aviation community hold themselves to in regard to training are a bit lax in the world of gyros.
 

All_In

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Thank you for posting so we can learn, it really helps. Glad you were not hurt and hope you will just learn as much as you can from it an become a better pilot as a result. It's hard for a wife who doesn't fly and know the real joy you get from the feeling of pure freedom.

PS: I can't wait for some of the pros to tell us the best way to handle that situation, other than don't fly in a gusting cross wind.
 

mceagle

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IMO A student has to do enough time with an instructor such that the use of all the controls are second nature and instantaneous. If not, then the student is not ready for solo.
The student must then practise in zero wind conditions and stick to those conditions religiously until he gains more experience - then and only then, should he tackle winds, in very small increments.
 

Greg Mitchell

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Dan,

Very sorry to hear of your mishap. Thank goodness you still have the Golden in one peice.

Cheers,

Mitch.
 

JRB549

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Jon Vos, I'm glad you asked that. Just as you said this is'nt like any other aircraft .Training is different. One of the biggest problems I've witnessed as a student and a pilot is, for the most part are those with Flyin time under their belts already. I hear it's hard to forget how to fly other aircraft as you start in a gyro, but a must. You must learn the aircraft, flyin is the easy part, flyin a gyro isnt like others birds. Dave Seace was my BFI, Steve M. is my CFI. As a student I learned in the seat of the trainers, then I had to learn my plane, go do the ground work as instructed.... all the way til solo. I worn out a set of tires on the ground work before I soloed.
 

Vance

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I would like to point out that Daniel is not a student pilot.

He has a commercial pilot rotorcraft gyroplane rating.

He has received more than 15 hours of dual instruction from five of the best instructors out there.

He made a series of mistakes that added up to bent blades. We can all learn from this.

This is a new aircraft for him.

Rotor management can be a challenge.

Part of being pilot in command is taking responsibility for the results of decisions and actions.

I am glad it wasn’t worse.

I cheer his efforts and his discloser so we can all learn.

It is my understanding that taking off and landing straight ahead is a common training exercise in many types of aircraft.

Thank you, Vance
 

JonVos

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Firstly, my apologies if my earlier remark sounded like a slam toward Daniel. It wasn't in any way. I'm sure he is a very comptetent pilot! We all have days when things don't turn out quite the way we planned, and I'm just happy he's alright.
As far as the rest of my previous message, I'm sticking to my guns that balancing on the mains isn't the best way to teach oneself how to fly a new machine.

Secondly, Vance, I'm a bit curious. You mentioned that taking off and landing straight ahead is a common training exercise in many types of aircraft. I was just wondering which types you were referring to. With the exception of a seaplane on a gigantic lake or ocean, I can't think of any other time one would do that. Unless of course you're practicing pickups and setdowns in a helicopter, but in that situation the main goal is usually to remain stationary.
 

JonVos

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The opinion I'm trying to voice is that maybe the gyro community should at least rethink the training concept of balancing on the mains. While it is definitely a crucial part of every takeoff roll, it's a part that in a normal takeoff usually only lasts 5-10 seconds. Why are we out wearing out sets of tires skidding and slipping down runways trying to balance on the mains when we should be taking the time to work on the entire takeoff process.
I would agree with those that said that learning rotor and speed management is a necessary part of learning to fly a gyro. We all learn early on that combinations of high amounts of airflow through the rotor disc combined with low rotor rpm are recipie for disaster. We've all been taught how to bring the rotor up to speed without flapping the blades and seen during the course of our taxi how the blades seem to "get over the hump", or reach the point where individual blades can no longer be counted and the rotors just appear as a blur above you. In my experience, I've found that this occurs at a much lower groundspeed and power setting than is required for takeoff. So my arguement here is that if a student can reach this point, where the blades are below takeoff speed but above the speed where flapping is a concern, technically the student has learned all he/she needs to know about rotor speed management. The rest of the takeoff is really all about putting in the proper control corrections to account for crosswinds, gusts, increasing airspeed and ground track, and these should all be done with the instructor in a two place machine until they become second nature. Then and only then should a student be allowed to solo. And although it can be argued that all gyros do not fly exactly the same, the basic controls are all the same. Therefore the control corrections learned in the two place will be the same corrections needed when the student makes the transition to solo, with only the degree of input modified depending on the sensitivity of the controls.
 

Vance

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Hello Jon,

I have had very limited aviation experience so I may be in error.

In my Helicopter instruction I spent a lot of time performing flight maneuvers at less than two feet above the ground. Hovering and a hover taxi with a 360 degree turn before takeoff was the beginning of each lesson. My training was in Augusta, Kansas so it was often in 15kt gusting wind.

I have some time in a Stearman with the tail in the air and the wheels on the ground.

My hanger mate, John, has made several first flights in experimental aircraft and he always starts with a takeoff and a landing straight ahead.

I know that my father did this with the first flight of the NM1 on the dry lakes. Inadvertent take off was not uncommon.

I watched Jim Mayfield do this as he learned the flight characteristics of my aircraft, the Predator, before he would allow Terry to train me in it. We had several inadvertent “high taxies” during this testing.

I have heard this type of exercise requested of ATC at SMX many times for both conventional gear and tricycle gear aircraft.

I did not perform “crow hops” during my gyroplane instruction.

My instructor, Terry Brandt did not “turn me loose” until he saw me make many takeoffs and landings without his input. When he got out of the aircraft he told me to make three take offs and landings and fly the pattern. He gave me wind limits, cross wind limits, distance limits and flight time limits.

I have followed his instruction for more than 160 hours as pilot in command with only minor incidents.

Jon, I feel you may be confusing self training with instruction from a certified flight instructor. Crow hops seem to be the foundation of self training. I have had instruction from at least seven certified flight instructors and none of them had me spend time balancing on the mains. Marion Springer is the only one I know that recommends this and I have not received instruction from her. I am sure there are others that are crow hop enthusiasts. Chuck Beaty seems to be a glider and crow hop enthusiast.

I am off on my third and last leg to Oshkosh. I am just outside of Lincoln, Nebraska.

Thank you, Vance
 
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C. Beaty

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The risk of bending something is quite high when training or testing in close proximity to the ground.

The risk of ending up in a body bag is quite high when doing the same things at pattern altitude.
 

bpearson

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The risk of bending something is quite high when training or testing in close proximity to the ground.

The risk of ending up in a body bag is quite high when doing the same things at pattern altitude.
In the UK we have had two types of self taught gyro pilots.

When the Air Commands were popular and instruction was short in supply compared to the number needing it, would be gyronaughts tried to fly and if they got off the ground........body bag.

Other hand, dozens followed the Benson method without problem. I suspect without an instructor to monitor progress self discipline is needed.
 

BUD ONEAL

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In 1984 againest everybodys advice to do so I attempted to taxi in a "light" cross wind.Needless to say I got the rotors into the tarmac.They were bensen blades and they were fixed by Bill Parsons. Just like Dan I became airborn and had not a clue as to what happened. Chuck and Ernie got me straight. The rule is if there is a wind at all,cross or other wise DO NOT ATTEMPT TO DO ANYTHING other than wish that the wind would lay.
 

dragonflyerthom

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Hi Dan

Like you I have learned to balance on the mains. I did like Bud and would not do anything unless there was no wind at all.
The balance is just as the rotors have picked up enough lift to rock the gyro back but not enough throttle to push it back down to much. I would reduce my throttle until I had it under control. I don't how many times I did what you did and reduced throttle and put in back pressure to brake forward speed. I was lucky that I didn't scrape my rotors.

I am so glad you are ok and you beautiful gyro is also. By the way who have you had your dual instruction with.?
 

Resasi

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I would second Mr Beaty's pithy and succinct answer. Says it all for me.

My take on the difference between F/W and Gyro is that rotor management is pretty much the entire story in Gyro flight. It is more complex than, and more unforgiving than fixed wing management. Mistakes made at ground level are not necessarily fatal. Anything much over that invariably are.

Cost is always a factor, and some people seek a cheaper method of getting the experience in rotor management than by doing it with an instructor in a twin seat. Wheel balancing and very low runway flights are a means to achieve this
 

C. Beaty

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In the UK we have had two types of self taught gyro pilots.

When the Air Commands were popular and instruction was short in supply compared to the number needing it, would be gyronaughts tried to fly and if they got off the ground........body bag.

Other hand, dozens followed the Benson method without problem. I suspect without an instructor to monitor progress self discipline is needed.
Self discipline, patience, prudence, perseverance and the ability to comprehend the written word.
 

dcarr4321

Dan Carr
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OK, here is the deal. The odds were stacked against me and I did nothing to break the chain of events leading to the ground strike incident. This is as honest of a self assessment as I can make. There are lessons learned here.

Circumstances surrounding the incident:

  • I received excellent training and am technically not a student but certainly a low time gyrocopter pilot.
  • I have many hours flying and never had an incident till now. That always happens to the other guy right?
  • The best training and experience is all for not if the PIC (that’s me) makes a stupid decision which I did.
  • Although trained, I was neither current nor proficient due to a long delay between receiving instruction and attempting the maneuvers.
  • After a long delay in completing the build I felt some what of an urge to make up for lost time during the fly off process.
  • I was flying a different gyrocopter than the one(s) I trained in.
  • I questioned the cross wind with another very experienced gyrocopter pilot and FW CFI as to if I should be doing the high speed taxi runs. He assured me that this was only minor and I should be able to handle it. I should have used better judgment for my self. I am not trying in any way point the finger at my friend but we both made a mistake on this one.
  • I had previous training experiences with strong crosswinds with out any problems giving me a sense of over confidence given my currency and experience level.
  • The actual velocity of the cross wind was masked by the hanger we were in while discussing its effects. We could not feel it.
I am sure there are many more items entwined in the making of this incident that I have not considered as of yet. If there are any other questions from any one, I will be willing to expose and fillet myself for the microscopic examination if it serves a purpose in helping any one else.

Somebody just kick me in the ass.
 

skypuppy

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Overspeed

Overspeed

It could have been a simple error of the speed at which the rotor was tilted back. Reduce power to idle and gradually tilt the rotor back to work as a brake. Don't throw the rotor back suddenly, as this could pop you into the air.
 
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