FAA Rotorcraft Gyroplane vs Helicopter Regulations


Supreme Allied Gyro CFI
JR I've always found this more confusing than helpful for gyros- we "should avoid the flow of FW aircraft until turning final" - does this mean we can or should do what it advises specifically helis to do in 9.a.4 ie closer in and same or opposite direction traffic? lower AGL left traffic? is it specific approval to fly opposite direction traffic?
Other than airports that have comments in the AF/D to specifically avoid certain direction traffic for noise avoidance or to avoid flying over housing how would you know what "local policy" is?
Reading between the lines, I have always interpreted this as reflecting a recognition that while helicopters don't typically need a runway, gyroplanes might need the very same strip of pavement (albeit less of it) that the airplanes are headed for, and that gyro speeds are unlikely to fit in well with the airplanes. Hence, avoid the typical pattern until you MUST join it on final to minimize conflicts and spacing problems. In practice, I fly lower and closer, inside the airplane pattern so that my time on each leg is comparable to the time spent higher, farther, and faster by airplanes, and sequencing is easier. Airplane pilots looking down toward the runway also have a better chance of spotting me that way than if I do some other avoidance method. I use an opposite side pattern only in my helicopter, not in my gyros.

Local policy is typically noise sensitivity driven, and if you don't find it in the chart supplement publication (formerly A/FD) you'll only learn it with a visit or a call in advance, or a complaint after you land.
Helicopters get a pass because many of their missions, in fact, their whole reason for existence, is takeoff and landing in confined areas.
No such need for gyroplane operations in close proximity to people on the ground.
Powered Parachutes and Weight-Shift-Control Aircraft do not have any more need to be in close proximity to people on the ground than a Gyroplane does.
Yet, they also get the pass!

Brent Drake

Gyroplane Instructor
There is a reason why the FAA call Gyros gyroplanes. It has plane in the wording. Just let that soak in and all starts to make sense.

greg spicola

Junior Member
waspair I concur wholeheartedly with your explanation of rotorcraft gyroplane operations and were worded much more eloquently than I ever could ,
I have to explain this to my students on a regular basis and have also found that when entering in controlled airspace I'll be at sometimes with a little explanation after a certain approach and request to a landing I hear the music to my ears which is proceed as requested from the tower:yo:


Comm Rotor Gyro, ASEL
“’There is a reason why the FAA call Gyros gyroplanes. It has plane in the wording. Just let that soak in and all starts to make sense.”’

Very true. As a relatively new gyro pilot who loves the flight characteristics of these flying machines, I personally find it easy to think they’re “90% helicopters” - but they’re not. Truth is, they’re closer in most phases of flight to a Cub or other low/slow STOL fixed-wing, IMHO. And the Bensen types are pretty close in performance to “other” “ultralights”, like a Kolb Mark III or something, again IMHO.

With that frame of reference I personally find it easier to understand the “confusion”/silence in the regs, how I should behave in the pattern, etc. so as to fit in with the rest of the flyers - and at least not worsen the image of gyros among our flying peers. As a fixed-wing pilot for the past 30 years, that’s probably an easier perspective for me to adopt.

Just me...

Last edited:


FW and Gyros
From a zippy thread about exactly this subject.

According to its own self-description, Advisory Circular 90-66B only "
recommends" traffic patterns.
It hasn't the force of law as the FAR does.

Also, avoiding the flow of fixed-wing traffic is only required in the FAR for helicopters, as corroborated by screenshots
of the PTS for both classes of rotorcraft.


AC 90-66B.png

Helicopter vs. Gyroplane PTS traffic patterns.png


Comm Rotor Gyro, ASEL
Per the AC:

“12.1.3 In the case of a gyrocopter approaching to land, the gyrocopter pilot should avoid the flow of fixed-wing aircraft before making a turn to final for the runway in use to avoid turning in front of another aircraft on final approach.”

Seems to me, that influences “2. Complies with proper traffic pattern procedures” and “3. Maintains proper spacing from other traffic”

If something happens, good luck telling the FAA guy you don’t think the AC doesn’t have the force of law. I’ve dealt with Federal Regulations for the better part of the past few decades and documents such as the ACs are seen as how the federal agency owning the regs understands their interpretation.

I recommend deferring to a DPE for the interpretation of that AC statement.



Gyroplane CFI
I concur Ed; it appears to me two and three are referenced in AC 90-66.

I feel one also applies to AC 90-66.

It is listed in the references so the flight instructor and the applicant know where to look because they are required to demonstrate a knowledge of the AC.

I feel that six makes flying a pattern at five hundred feet above the ground when the pattern altitude is one thousand above the ground not meet the practical test standards.


Comm Rotor Gyro, ASEL
Agree. And the PTS actually cites the AC as a reference for the standards.

Oops - looks like you noted that.



FW and Gyros
In my opinion, it is technically impossible with any close gyro pattern to fulfill the stated purpose of AC 90-66B 12.1.3.
Any turn to base from close pattern is at odds with
"to avoid turning in front of another aircraft on final approach".

EdL, you're now disagreeing with yourself:


Comm Rotor Gyro, ASEL
Kolibri;n1142166 said:
EdL, you're now disagreeing with yourself:


Yes, I fully recognized when you made your earlier post that you would see that as a contradiction. It is not. The AC is not TECHNICALLY regulatory yet good luck trying to talk the FAA out of it.

Not sure why you waste so much energy on trying to argue with people instead of actually helping improve gyro flying but, hey, it’s a free country. Again, IMHO, your credibility on things that really matter suffers. Your choice...


FW and Gyros
Advisory Circulars (ACs) are the FAA's way of explaining their regulations.
They're broken down into sections which generally match up with the FARs they're interpreting. Some ACs may rival the lengths of handbooks, but they are much more narrowly focused, generally dealing with a single topic and often much easier to understand than the legislation they're interpreting.

Advisory Circulars are informational documents produced by the Federal Aviation Administration to inform and guide institutions and individuals within the aviation industry, as well as the general public. Advisory Circulars are intended to be informative in nature and not regulatory; however, many times they describe actions or advice that the FAA expects to be implemented or followed.

Advisory circular (AC) refers to a type of publication offered by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to provide guidance for compliance with airworthiness regulations, pilot certification, operational standards, training standards, and any other rules within the 14 CFR Aeronautics and Space Title. They define acceptable means, but not the only means, of accomplishing or showing compliance with airworthiness regulations. Generally informative in nature, Advisory Circulars are neither binding nor regulatory; yet some have the effect of de facto standards or regulations.

The only way to "avoid the flow of fixed-wing traffic" on final is either to have joined in the flow on downwind and remained in the flow, or land on a taxiway or different runway.
To not be a part of the flow before final, and then land on the same runway as fixed-wing risks turning in front of them. It's a paradox.

Given the garbled and self-contradictory nature of AC 90-66B 12.1.3, I think a gyro pilot who acted wisely and competently would prevail with the FAA, especially since he's broken no FAR.

Not only does AC 90-66B 12.1.3 not explain or illuminate any FAR, it does not even suggest how to comply with itself.