Fatal Gyro Accident in Putnam County, Fl

loftus

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Learning to fly a gyro, possibly a less intimidating term for pilots in training than balancing on the mains is 'feeling increasing lightness in the nose'. Especially with all the arguments going back and forth about whether one has to learn to balance on the mains or not when learning to fly a gyro. The point is that it's the progression of weight transfer that is critical for initiating a safe takeoff in a gyro. Unlike open gyros most new Eurotub gyros one cannot actually even see the nosewheel. May sound like a way too subtle a thing for experienced pilots but for new pilots a far more comfortable concept than somehow doing a wheelie down the runway. We all know that its really about building and maintaining that lightness in the nosewheel that then allows the gyro to simply fly itself off the ground when ready. I used to practice that for hours before my first solo flight, which for a number of reasons was truly solo in that there was no instructor around.
 

anthom

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Learning to fly a gyro, possibly a less intimidating term for pilots in training than balancing on the mains is 'feeling increasing lightness in the nose'. Especially with all the arguments going back and forth about whether one has to learn to balance on the mains or not when learning to fly a gyro. The point is that it's the progression of weight transfer that is critical for initiating a safe takeoff in a gyro. Unlike open gyros most new Eurotub gyros one cannot actually even see the nosewheel. May sound like a way too subtle a thing for experienced pilots but for new pilots a far more comfortable concept than somehow doing a wheelie down the runway. We all know that its really about building and maintaining that lightness in the nosewheel that then allows the gyro to simply fly itself off the ground when ready.
In none of the "Eurotubs" whether open cockpit or enclosed, can the nose wheel be seen. Hence it is quite difficult for students to be "building and maintaining that lightness in the nosewheel". How does one quantify the amount of "lightness on the nose"? Most to the time the nose wheel keeps making contact with the RW and sometimes leads to nose dart as AS is increased. It is a lot easier to keep the nose wheel without making contact with the RW and keep it there with appropriate cyclic pressure and throttle.

I demonstrate to all students how it is possible to go the length of the RW with the nose wheel up and keep the "wheelie" going from about 25 mph to 40 mph. The students seem to get a great deal of benefit from the maneuver in learning how to use all the controls appropriately.
 

loftus

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In none of the "Eurotubs" whether open cockpit or enclosed, can the nose wheel be seen. Hence it is quite difficult for students to be "building and maintaining that lightness in the nosewheel". How does one quantify the amount of "lightness on the nose"? Most to the time the nose wheel keeps making contact with the RW and sometimes leads to nose dart as AS is increased. It is a lot easier to keep the nose wheel without making contact with the RW and keep it there with appropriate cyclic pressure and throttle.

I demonstrate to all students how it is possible to go the length of the RW with the nose wheel up and keep the "wheelie" going from about 25 mph to 40 mph. The students seem to get a great deal of benefit from the maneuver in learning how to use all the controls appropriately.
I am not arguing the concept of balancing on the mains at all, simply imparting my experience while learning. It's a subtle difference essentially achieving the same thing. I was taught this process first by taxiing on a long runway learning to feel the inverse effect of stick position on aircraft speed and RRPM. From there the nose lightening effect and then wheel lift just came naturally, and yes, in the end I was balancing on the mains even if only transiently before takeoff. Just trying to provide a suggestion on how my CFI taught me, that may be helpful for others to incorporate. Once I understood and felt this inverse relationship of aircraft speed and RRPM with stick position, the rest just followed easily. If I recall in my MTO about 2800 RPM and below was the critical throttle setting that I could do this all day.
 
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Philbennett

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We are all in danger of over thinking and over describing the "balancing on the mains" element. Everyone balances on the mains to so degree indeed here are a bunch of fixed wing pilots I think we will all agree are probably very capable "balancing on the mains" its just they probably don't call it that.

It doesn't really matter your preference and how or what you call your own process or technique. I have a preference, others have a preference, mine has worked for me for I should imagine getting on for 10000 take offs in gyroplane so that is likely tested / proof enough it works for me. Others no doubt will highlight something else works for them in 100x more take offs than that. I suppose we are all winners then.

What is clear to me and should be clear to all reading is that people are pre-disposed to making a mistake. The type of mistake that is set to snag you will depend upon the way you fly, what you fly, your experience and your preparation.

That said nothing in the last few fatal accidents seems to have its blame in the take off, what ever the method.

 

Resasi

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Agreed, and a very fine sight that was, though while on the subject, during training I had to complete 30 hrs with a reduction of 10 credit for having a PPL. At the time LASORS which was the FAA ‘bible’ dictated not less than 15 hrs must be done in a two seater, and in my case was all done in a block in an RAF 2000, before, I progressed to the single seat Bensen.

Wheel balancing was neither taught nor done during this two seat period. I only began wheel balancing exercises, after progressing to the single, and then only after the various exercises leading up to that, particular exercise.

Wheel balancing in a single is easier to see and comprehend, due to the lack of surrounding cabin structure, though not as easy to master as perhaps in a tandem two seater. Mastery of sustained balancing was indicated to me as an absolute must before attempting taking off from the runway in a single seat. It is not an exercise that is taught or even considered in fixed with flying, and not really much of an issue in two seat gyro flying.

In any gyro I have flown since then, it is always my intention during take off, once I have achieved sufficient RRPM so as not to risk blade sailing/flapping, (varies with the type of rotor/type of gyro), to balance on the mains.

Then smoothly increase to full power while maintaining runway centreline, compensating for any crosswind component, allow the machine to lift off, when it is ready,(this procedure will automatically take care of existing weight temp and alt), then lower the nose to remain in ground effect while accelerating to the planned/desired climb speed, then raising the nose to maintain.

This is not quite the case in some transport/airline types where exact weights, temps and density alts are used to calculate precise V1 V2 Vr for specific runways. and Vr is the point at which the nose is raised and calculated to guarantee an almost immediate lift off.

I was not completely conscious of doing this in the earlier stages of training in the RAF due unfamiliarity with the machine and the added complexities of a gyro take off compared with a fixed wing take off. But the differences became much clearer with switching to the single seat and the building up of experience.

The two types of flying machine fixed wing and gyro, do require very different techniques, and a very much greater comprehension of ‘rotor management’, a term I am well aware is sometimes suspected and being too vague.

I use it simply meaning an understanding that it encompasses, a reasonable comprehension of the aerodynamic properties, limitations and operating procedures of rotors, that differ from fixed wing lift generators.

Something that some pilots do not take the trouble to grasp fully and that can if mishandled can kill them in a heartbeat...or however many it takes to hit the ground, after they have trashed/damaged their rotors/rudder through rotor mismanagement.

In this case a very sad subject.
 
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fara

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I hear you fara with the profile of the recent gyroplane victims over the last 4-6 weeks the majority seem to fit the older and less experienced gyroplane pilot and as you say the unbelievable can become believable.

All that said this take off didn't cause his LOC. Important to state so that the less confident don't throw everything they know about their own flying in the bin. The examples you relate where you have issues at the start of a take off roll are just insufficient rotor RPM's which requires very little intelligence to remedy. Probably also worth stating that the loss of rudder authority doesn't need to lead to LOC.[of course talking about the Utah accident here]

On the Florida accident did you find more wx data? As seems weather related.

Very little intelligence to remedy low rotor RPM on start of takeoff. Well people do it all the time. Yes I agree that red takeoff did not flap the rotor and hit anything on takeoff. I do see him fight with maintaining attitude in pitch on climb out, nose down, nose up, nose down and up again and then bank and really up.
On the Florida accident I am working with NTSB and FAA FSDO ASI and giving them everything to be able to get the flight log in the EFIS read by proper technical people and also various engine outfits right here in Florida that can help them inspect the engine and all final exploded view diagrams to check the whole control circuit for continuity. Thankfully there was no fire in either of these crashes so everything is there.

I have not found a definite airport very close by with historical weather (AWOS) but I know visibility in Palatka town was 3 miles and mist on the ground. A flight school at Zephyrhills cancelled their students solo cross country scheduled that day because it was reporting marginal or in some places even low IFR heading north and east from here. Their CFI is the one who alerted me to look at weather because he was reviewing his solo student's flight plan and checking weather in the afternoon and decided to call off the solo cross country flight for his student.
 

Philbennett

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Yep the FL one would seem wx related - 3miles viz is horrible even if planned to be there in that, plus local mist/fog. Not ideal. The other accident I don't know what transitional / differences training he was undertaking but it seems to me that he put himself in an upset state and I don't know the level of training in the US that gives the tools to escape that scenario - more to the point that low to the ground the options decay rapidly. The video is probably the NTSB's primary source of data and without an obvious pilot medical or aircraft mechanical issue there will remain a range of possibilities.
 

fara

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Yep the FL one would seem wx related - 3miles viz is horrible even if planned to be there in that, plus local mist/fog. Not ideal. The other accident I don't know what transitional / differences training he was undertaking but it seems to me that he put himself in an upset state and I don't know the level of training in the US that gives the tools to escape that scenario - more to the point that low to the ground the options decay rapidly. The video is probably the NTSB's primary source of data and without an obvious pilot medical or aircraft mechanical issue there will remain a range of possibilities.

There is an EFIS with a flight log in the red machine which has airspeed, altitude, engine and rotor RPM data I believe. Our second installation of that EFIS so its a bit of unsure thing but I believe that is what it collects.
I have an edited version of the video with zoom in on the gyroplane and slow motion. I am asking some independent sources in Europe who have a lot more experience with such accident investigations to take a look and give their ideas. I definitely see things but always good to have completely different experienced people with such accidents take a look without any input besides raw data.
 
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Greg Vos

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These accidents are really tragic. My sincere condolences to the family.

I am currently training students in three types of gyros. The open AR1, enclosed Eclipse and Magni M24. All three have their individual characteristics. I teach wheel balancing on both the tandems, but the M24 has a problem of the tail wheel making contact with the RW if the nose wheel is kept up for any length of time. So I do not teach wheel balancing on it.

The reason I teach wheel balancing is so that the student gets to use all the three controls appropriately before getting fully airborne. It also ensures that the rotors at the right flight RPM,

This particular crash is like many others, where no witnesses were involved. So we'll just have to wait for the Safety report.
No, wheel balance with the 24 is not difficult you just have to be more careful... IMo
 

Greg Vos

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Wheel balance is the most important aspect of flying a gyro.... it entails full control of pitch, rudder, and cyclic....a simple over debated technique that a student or veteran pilot should be able to demonstrate .... if you can’t control it 3 inches from the ground you should not be in airspace that could compromise others ....sorry I’m being brutal...


you sure as hell ain’t going solo under my watch if you cannot do this.... as our instructor / Student relationship develops I want to see it in a crosswind too ....😁
 

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As regards the PIO some have noticed in the video, I am reminded of a conversation I had years ago with some very famous Guro designers in our industry.
"We need a noobie like you to fly this rig, it will help with some things we are looking at"
"What can I possibly tell you guys, I'm just learning?"
"Once you have 1000s of hours in the air you learn to subtly overcome and adapt for small changes without thinking. We would like someone who IS NOT an expert at adapting to try it and see what they think"
Blew me away bat the time, but could see the sense of it.
Wonder if there may be some of that goi g on with these designs...
 

fara

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As regards the PIO some have noticed in the video, I am reminded of a conversation I had years ago with some very famous Guro designers in our industry.
"We need a noobie like you to fly this rig, it will help with some things we are looking at"
"What can I possibly tell you guys, I'm just learning?"
"Once you have 1000s of hours in the air you learn to subtly overcome and adapt for small changes without thinking. We would like someone who IS NOT an expert at adapting to try it and see what they think"
Blew me away bat the time, but could see the sense of it.
Wonder if there may be some of that goi g on with these designs...
Yeah I am newbie with 3600 hours of backwards control experience (trikes)
 

BEN S

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There was no offense implied, I am aware you have some connection to the AR1 but not sure of the nature of the connection.
I only mentioned it because I was not allowed to solo untill I had proven that I could see and stop pio immidiately.
I have also seen a guy make a similar movement at a fly in when he left a gusset lock on his rudder and took off! He managed to get it back down but just barely.
When it comes to accidents I try to look at ALL the possibilities not just the ones I like.
For instance, in this recent spat of accidents were they all learning from the same unnamed CFI?
Is there another connection were not seeing like a youtube video that teaches takeoffs that has erroneous info in it?
I believe the model for training in gyros is flawed specifically where the manufacturers selling 100 k machines to crossover pilots is concerned.
This stuff was all hashed out in the 70s I believe with the slow progression of learning from gyro glider to single seat open to more powerful and complex types in a linear fashion.
But now it seems the buisness model has shifted to appealing to older affluent fixed wing pilots to transition straigt into 100k, 100hp duals.
I have said it before and will say it again, mastering the basics is key. If you have never hand started a set of rotors in no wind and gotten them up to flying speed, you may have missed out on the basic rotor management skills of needed to be a skilled gyro pilot. Havent seen too many of these big fancy rigs you could even reach the rotors on!
I am by no means an expert in gyro crashes, ut I have had a few and have lost a few good friends to them.
I hate seeing these reports.
Condolences to the families and a warni g to the community as a whole, quit selling the rigs as "turn key simple to fly and fun machines!"
They are anything but "simple"
 

fara

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There was no offense implied, I am aware you have some connection to the AR1 but not sure of the nature of the connection.
I only mentioned it because I was not allowed to solo untill I had proven that I could see and stop pio immidiately.
I have also seen a guy make a similar movement at a fly in when he left a gusset lock on his rudder and took off! He managed to get it back down but just barely.
When it comes to accidents I try to look at ALL the possibilities not just the ones I like.
For instance, in this recent spat of accidents were they all learning from the same unnamed CFI?
Is there another connection were not seeing like a youtube video that teaches takeoffs that has erroneous info in it?
I believe the model for training in gyros is flawed specifically where the manufacturers selling 100 k machines to crossover pilots is concerned.
This stuff was all hashed out in the 70s I believe with the slow progression of learning from gyro glider to single seat open to more powerful and complex types in a linear fashion.
But now it seems the buisness model has shifted to appealing to older affluent fixed wing pilots to transition straigt into 100k, 100hp duals.
I have said it before and will say it again, mastering the basics is key. If you have never hand started a set of rotors in no wind and gotten them up to flying speed, you may have missed out on the basic rotor management skills of needed to be a skilled gyro pilot. Havent seen too many of these big fancy rigs you could even reach the rotors on!
I am by no means an expert in gyro crashes, ut I have had a few and have lost a few good friends to them.
I hate seeing these reports.
Condolences to the families and a warni g to the community as a whole, quit selling the rigs as "turn key simple to fly and fun machines!"
They are anything but "simple"

Ok let me try.

I do not understand what having a locked rudder would have to do with a pitch PIO.
So you are insinuating that I or the FAA or NTSB will NOT look at ALL possibilities. Ok.

No. One guy was in Florida and one was in Utah. One trained by Mike Burton at AirGyro a couple of years back and one was trained by Raul Szalazar at Gyroplane Training Academy in an ELA. Both were instrument rated private pilots in airplanes. I had personally flown with the one in Florida for a few of hours to check his proficiency in an AR-1 and he was fine.

I don't know anything about a YouTube video that people may use. I do not understand how that is going to solve a problem of someone in a PIO. No instructor ever says hey PIO creates a better takeoff or anything. This line of thinking even does not make any sense to me Ben. May be you already have a specific video in mind and may be you should say what that is so it makes more sense

Model for training in gyroplanes is flawed? Ok. I tend to agree but you have not said what is flawed in it so not sure if we are thinking the same thing. Got to be somewhat specific. And please do not tell me that you mean we all need to learn on a gyro glider first now or only on a single seat gyro first.

And there you go. You are saying we need to not go dual in a 100 HP machine. 100 HP actually is just ok power for a dual seat modern gyroplane. It is not excessive at all. At least not for American sizes in July. The customer who got the 915iS gyroplane in Utah was not a new gyroplane pilot as best as I knew. He used to own a Cavalon. I only got to fly him a short demo flight of 25 minutes in gusting winds of 28 knots in an enclosed AR-1 but I did not allow him to takeoff and land in that gyro in those winds. I did that myself.

As to business model shifting to offer $100k machines to affluent fixed wing pilots. Well would you like manufactures to offer $100k machines to poor people? I don't understand. We don't go looking for fixed wing pilots. They come looking for gyroplanes to us. Many happen to be older and yes that is a concern and needs to be evaluated. Just in the last 10 days I have literally refused to sell or have persuaded two 73+ year olds not to try their luck at starting to fly now. The time for getting into flying isn't when we are already frail and in bad health. I have definitely lost at least one sure shot sale of $110k because of that but I flew with them and after a few hours as an instructor I refused to train them anymore. Period. That is my conscience as an instructor not manufacturer but I do not personally instruct every single customer. That is impossible.
The question for us all is why younger folks are not getting into gyroplane flying or flying in general. That is a question all of aviation industry has to answer and find a solution to. Its not money by itself. There are plenty of software engineers and professionals with enough income to get into flying and afford some machines.

I am sorry that you want people to hand start rotors. I would like you to hand start some helicopters that have teetering rotors because mast bumping is a problem in them.
 
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Philbennett

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If the last few weeks have told us anything its that low time, students and older pilots are very vulnerable but we all know that. Exactly as fara is saying no instructor is suggesting PIO makes for a great look and likely most/all? are well intended, passionate, enthusiastic folks who are instructing for all those reasons. None are doing it for the money.

What is utterly depressing is this odd race to do things ahead of being ready and that is where regulation is the only thing that will save you. You have nice people, likely intelligent people [hey intelligent enough to fund a $100k discretionary purchase] a lot are commercial rated pilots in other classes and they fire it into the ground. Caught out in mucky wx or the guy in Utah just too keen and eager and within 35secs from brake release on his first solo he is effectively dead. That is utterly shocking [and more so because we can actually see it] and if that isn't enough to effect change literally fuk knows what will.
 

BEN S

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Mr. Fara, you you have taken my words way to literally.
100k 100hp....okay 100+hp.....better?
The guy who had the gusset lock had some severe manouevres just after take off as he tried to figure out why he couldn't turn left. In his attempts to analyse the problem, he let the bird get away from him.(sorry, he allowed the nose to porpoise)
As for the FAA or NTSB issues, it was my experience that as it was an Experimental, they were mostly interested in filing a quick report and moving on. The investigation was not quite up to the level of scrutiny for Pan Ams flight 103 in Lockerbie.
Do I think every student should learn how to hand pat up a set of rotors on a no wind day?

You bet your sweet ass!

Cause by the time the lightbulb goes off you will NEVER misunderstand "rotor management" again.

I was not suggesting that a youtube video was saying PIO looked good.
I was questioning if there was an exterior facet to their training/understanding that might NOT have been overtly obvious in their schooling.

I can see why you have taken my thoughts on this personally, maybe even proffesionally but just because you might not like my line of thinking doesn't make me wrong.
Flying a gyro safely is not as simple and easy as some would have us believe, the accident rate shows this.
As a friend once told me about getting into bomb disposal as a career, "It ain't like the poster!"

I will leave this subject and this thread alone. Nothing I say will make any difference to anyone here anyways.
Again my condolences to the family.
 

XXavier

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These accidents are really tragic. My sincere condolences to the family.

I am currently training students in three types of gyros. The open AR1, enclosed Eclipse and Magni M24. All three have their individual characteristics. I teach wheel balancing on both the tandems, but the M24 has a problem of the tail wheel making contact with the RW if the nose wheel is kept up for any length of time. So I do not teach wheel balancing on it.

The reason I teach wheel balancing is so that the student gets to use all the three controls appropriately before getting fully airborne. It also ensures that the rotors at the right flight RPM,

This particular crash is like many others, where no witnesses were involved. So we'll just have to wait for the Safety report.

It's true that, in the M24, with a relatively small angular range between front/tail wheel contact, balancing on the mains is more difficult than in an ELA. I always start the take-off run with the stick forward, the three wheels on the ground. When the airspeed is 30-40 km/h, I pull the stick to lift the front wheel, and proceed to open the throttle firmly, keeping the gyro on the mains. The machine gets unstuck at the right time, RRPMs, and airspeed. I'm not sure if this is the optimal way to do it, but I was taught that way, and it works well...
 

anthom

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It's true that, in the M24, with a relatively small angular range between front/tail wheel contact, balancing on the mains is more difficult than in an ELA. I always start the take-off run with the stick forward, the three wheels on the ground. When the airspeed is 30-40 km/h, I pull the stick to lift the front wheel, and proceed to open the throttle firmly, keeping the gyro on the mains. The machine gets unstuck at the right time, RRPMs, and airspeed. I'm not sure if this is the optimal way to do it, but I was taught that way, and it works well...
No problem taking off. It's being done as per the POH.

I'm talking about instructing someone to wheel balance for an extended period of time down the RW as a practice maneuver. I've done it, but it's not the same as doing it in a tandem. So I do not advocate it for practice.

There are other maneuvers that I teach instead to gain control proficiency.
 

anthom

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While these accidents are tragic, and in many ways avoidable, I've been seeing a fairly common theme. These are some of my thoughts:

1. Many older 60+ folks want to learn flying gyros.

2. Most are in a hurry to get their add-on rating.

3. The ones transitioning from airplane have the most unlearning to do.

4. Getting the rotors up to speed during take off seems to not be the problem. The modern pre-rotators do the job well.

5. Most problems during take off are poor cyclic and rudder control (directional control). Blade flap is a big possibility.

6. Most landing problems are due to failure to maintain forward speed and direction till flare.

7. Excess fore and aft movement of cyclic during take off and landing.

8. Poor overall understanding of the theory in general.

9. Understanding the limits of the machine is a problem. It's not a "yank and bank" aircraft.

I'm sure other instructors will have many more suggestions. For me, I focus on the above areas, and it seems to work well.
 

Philbennett

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Pulling some of the themes together one area that is missing globally is a sense of club or community. Possibly because of numbers / geographic / history you don't get in gyroplanes what you do in say gliding.

Many gliding clubs [well UK anyway] have a old bus in the centre of the field and a variety of club members man the winch, get the gliders out, make the tea, strap in, attach the tow rope, man the radio, someone might even fly the tug aircraft etc - all day. The prize is maybe they get the odd circuit in a club glider.

That spirit helps a) getting people interacting and exchanging views b) it makes you think about flying often. You don't just wake up think "hmmm I'd like to do gyroplane flying... " then for some the next thing they do is spend $100k on one and then only after that do they even consider having to fly it!

Its utterly nuts. Where is the arm around the shoulder, the engagement? It just isn't there and to Ben's point I'd love to spend all day in a gyro glider or an old single seater. I'd be there all day every day in the summer. Problem is you just can't do that anymore. Would it make me a better pilot? I guess it won't make me worse. The bigger benefit is it makes people air minded. In 2020 newcomers are not that, although the guy in Utah, he should have known better with his experience as a pilot. So for that type its regulation.
 
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