Gyroplane planning and design question

Ronnie328

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Hey guys. I'm relatively new to the forum, posting occasionally and never on anything substantive, but i think gyros are about the coolest birds out there, and i want to join yall in the skies. I do have to say, as a disclaimer, that i'm about 3 or 4 years away from actually putting time and money into flying as a hobby, and I have no flight experience whatsoever (something i will DEFINITELY remedy with training before i ever start building or try to fly anything solo).

My questions specifically pertain to building from scratch, and specifically, i think i'd like to go Ultralight before doing anything else. I have been reading everything i can find on gyros (this forum is a great resource!) and learning as much as i can, and i have years to plan and gain more knowledge.

My question is, how much time have those of you who've built models from your own designs actually taken design your aircraft? And what processes have you followed?

Any help anyone has to offer will be greatly appreciated. As i go through the design phases and start moving from general to specific ideas, you all can be sure i will be looking to the forums for opinions and advice!
 

GyroDoug

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Ronnie,

I don't want to dampen your enthusiasm for our sport or try to crush your dreams but I do want to point out that designing and building a gyro from scratch is not really an entry level activity. While there may be some people who have done that and even lived to tell about it, that is no different than talking about the people that use to teach themselves how to fly Gyros and many of them lived to tell the tale (but not all of them).

It is my opinion that the biggest reason Gyros got such a bad reputation in the old days was the Bensen Gyrocopter looks to be such a simple aircraft that people who did not have the training nor any experience decided they were qualified to make design changes and they did, without understanding what those changes would mean to the stability of the machine. I personally knew people who designed their own Gyroplane and they were intelignet and knowledgeable people that had the forum and friends to bounce ideas off. They built machines that most of us thought were perfectly safe. But they are no longer with us because they died in a Gyro accident that we don't fully understand all the reasons for.

I think Dan Donnelly put the concept very sucinctly when he said, "When you have Gyroplanes being designed by ametuers and test flown by innexperienced test pilots, well... the results are predictable." For a beginner to get started flying Gyroplanes the best advise you will ever get is to simply buy a good used machine and get training before you try to fly it. Then once you have some experience flying and know more of what you really want, you can always move up to whatever will better meet your needs. The next safest route is to buy a kit that has a proven track record and has several examples flying. The next level is to build your own Gyro from plans. While I will admit that anyone can learn how to build anything if they want to bad enough, this really will best be executed by someone who has some building skills already and it will really help if you have a shop and your own tools already. Although if you are determined to go this route and willing to take the time to learn the skills and to aquire the tools and take the time to complete a really big project than you might be successful with this route. The next level is taking a proven design and miodifying it to meet some unique requirements you might desire. In my opinion, this should not be done by anyone that doesn't have some experience flying Gyros and Building Gyros and that has spent the time to learn what they need to know to safely make those changes. There is one more level beyond this that is even harder and riskier and that would be designing your own design, from scratch with no experience. In my opinion that is simply very high risk and not a smart way to start out.

Even people with experience and that put a lot of time and money and effort into making a new design, sometimes make mistakes that only become known after someone dies, to point out the problem. We just had 2 deaths in the last couple weeks and both were people flying very light single place machines. We don't really know what the causes were yet, but it is very possible that at least one of these two deaths may be due to a design flaw in the machine. With time we hope to figure out the causes and hopefully keep others from following thier same path. Flying is inherantly dangerous and we all accept a certain level of risk when we fly. But anyone that doesn't do everything they can to stack the odds in their favor, isn't being very wise when it comes to their decisions.

I stronly encourage you to take a more conservative approach to getting started and leave designing your owm machine to a little later in your career when you will be better able to do it safely. Regardless of what you decide to do, the best advice I can give you is to get involved in a local PRA chapter and let the local members help guide you in your quest to start flying a Gyroplane. Listen to everyone, then evaluate the counsel you are getting and decide what feels right for you. Ultimately you must make the decision, but you don't have to do it by yourself. Best of luck!!!!

Doug Barker
 
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Vance

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My Experience

My Experience

My question is, how much time have those of you who've built models from your own designs actually taken design your aircraft? And what processes have you followed?
Hello Ronnie,

What is your reason for wanting to create your own design?

Why do you want an ultralight rather than an N numbered gyroplane?

The gyroplane I fly, The Predator, was designed and built by Mark Givans over about two years.

The Gyroplane I am building, Mariah Gale is about two thirds done in two years because of funding interruptions.

In both cases the gyroplane was for a specific mission that was not covered by available designs.

Part of why I bought the Predator was to learn about gyroplanes.

The more I learn the more sensitive I realize they are to design compromises.

Thank you, Vance
 

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PW_Plack

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...i think i'd like to go Ultralight before doing anything else...As i go through the design phases and start moving from general to specific ideas, you all can be sure i will be looking to the forums for opinions and advice!
Ronnie, to echo what's been offered, get a machine which is a known quantity to start. Don't be trying to fly your first solo hours in an aircraft of unknown stability, reliability and structural integrity.

Just as significant is cost. You can buy a used gyro cheaper than you can build one from scratch. I'd look for a used single-place which is registered with an N-number, get the Sport Pilot certificate, and fly a season or two before you start trying to execute your own design. The interaction with the flight instructor(s), experienced gyro people at fly-ins, and fellow customers/builders of whatever you get to fly will teach you much needed background which will make your odds of designing a successful aircraft much higher.

Welcome to the forum, and good luck in your quest!
 

choppergabor

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Hi Ronnie. I guess I am one of "those" who had dreamed up and built my own design and my own desire of what my machine should look, and fly like. So I can't really blame you for doing so :) 2 years was the time it took me to build mine. Don't do the ultralight way. It always suggests that you don't want to get training and you will be stoned to death (virtually of course) on this forum if you do so! :) Good luck with your dreams. It can happen!
 

gyronutjoe

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I'm looking at buying a Honeybee G2 ultralight (part 103 legal) gyrocopter. I don't want to worry about N numbers for now, but I do plan to get training first.
 

Ronnie328

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Thank you for your concerns everyone. It's nice to feel as if other people value your life, heh. The good news is, i value my life as well, so i can assure you, i won't go out trying to get myself killed. There seem to be 2 questions the 3 of you collectively pose, and i'll try to answer them the best i can.

Why do i want an ultralight over a registered machine?

I'd probably say cost here. I won't say that's the only reason, or even that i'm trying to get in the sky as cheaply as possible, but it's probably the main reason i'm thinking of going ultralight. It's not necessarily the cost of building a machine, but the collective upfront cost of getting training and a sport pilot license, and registering a machine, etc etc. I can spread a lot of those costs out by going ultralight. I want to be clear that i ABSOLUTELY will get sufficient flight training with CFI to the point that they are comfortable with me doing solo flights with a Student pilot's license. And i won't begin building or even finalize any ideas i have about gyros until after a good bit of initial training.

After training and being allowed to fly solo, i really don't see the difference between a bought used machine, a machine from a kit, or a machine from plans. As I'm inexperienced to flying, but not inexperienced to fabrication, i'm probably more likely to buy a lemon of a used aircraft than i am to screw up building from kit or plans.

I also think, whatever i fly first, whether it's a used, kit or plans, they will all be equally unfamiliar to me, unless i somehow manage to get a machine similar to what i'll trained in.

Why go with your own design?

As for my own plans, that's kind of a strong phrase. "My design" will most likely be a slightly modified version of a proven design, and most will be non-flight related changes. I don't have any specific ideas for changes, just very general ones. For example, i have some experience with composites (none with carbon fiber, but i've got a few years to practice with it), and I think i can make a monocoque frame using carbon fiber with vacuum infused resin, giving such a frame maximum strength and minimum weight. Also, since i would be doing the lay ups myself instead of buying prefab'ed carbon fiber tubes and bolting them together, the cost looks like it can be pretty economical (we'll see in a few years what the price of CF does, heh)

Most of my ideas for changes aren't as big as that one, but i've got some neat ideas. I also feel it necessary to say, i wouldn't dare make such a big change, or any change, to a proven design without out tons of research, peer/community opinions, and peer/community advice.

The last thing is, like i said in my original post, before i can even touch a tool to build a gyro, years are going to pass. I've got a lot of time to learn from all of you, learn from local-ish PRA members. I've got a lot of time to get flight training and get used to handling a gyro before i ever finalize any decisions. Most importantly, i've got plenty of time to evaluate my abilities and change plans if necessary.

On a little side note, I live in Austin, Tx. I'm pretty close to both Dallas and Houston, and it seems those 2 cities have good people with a wealth of gyro knowledge and experience. Knowledge and experience I intend to draw on.

ChopperGabor said:
Hi Ronnie. I guess I am one of "those" who had dreamed up and built my own design and my own desire of what my machine should look, and fly like. So I can't really blame you for doing so 2 years was the time it took me to build mine. Don't do the ultralight way. It always suggests that you don't want to get training and you will be stoned to death (virtually of course) on this forum if you do so! Good luck with your dreams. It can happen!
I CAN NOT stress enough, how INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT I believe training to be. Right now, i'm leaning in the Ultralight direction. That may change in the next few years. Whether it does or doesn't, i will definitely, 100%, undoubtedly get training from a CFI!
 
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choppergabor

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Oh I wasn't even thinking you wouldn't get training reading your lines I can tell you mean what you say. I was merely trying to save you from the "punishment" of the forum LOL. I have seen it waaaaaayyyy too many times happen. Again good for you. This should be fun and the only way to make it fun if you give yourself the best chance to enjoy it. You have a lots of great pilots around you and you are blessed with one of the best CFIs out there. Desmon is almost like a superstar amongst CFIs. Be careful when you change a trusted design make sure you have someone in the KNOW looking over your shoulder. :) Good luck again.
 

Ronnie328

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thanks for the great advice Gabor. For the CFI plug, the advice of making sure to have people in on my design changes, and even for the forum protection. They're all very helpful!
 

WHY

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Gosh, this looks like a great thread to draw to "heat and flame" so I will throw out this question.

If one were to consider a larger type gyro, using a 3 blade rotor, and want to have a possible "short run jump take-off", would the use of a helicopter rotorhead such as a Hughes 296/300 be practical, cost prohibitive, hard to find, ect ect ect. Let the flames begin :) :)

Tony
 

Ronnie328

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Gosh, this looks like a great thread to draw to "heat and flame" so I will throw out this question.

If one were to consider a larger type gyro, using a 3 blade rotor, and want to have a possible "short run jump take-off", would the use of a helicopter rotorhead such as a Hughes 296/300 be practical, cost prohibitive, hard to find, ect ect ect. Let the flames begin :) :)

Tony
Thread hijacker!! :)
 

WHY

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We are talking design aren't we ???? :)

Tony
 

PW_Plack

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Why do i want an ultralight over a registered machine?

It's not necessarily the cost of building a machine, but the collective upfront cost of getting training and a sport pilot license, and registering a machine, etc etc. I can spread a lot of those costs out by going ultralight...
Ronnie, this isn't a flame, but an honest puzzlement...If you're going to get the training anyway, how will ultralight save you any money?

Spreading out training can make it really inefficient. Most former students would agree that the most progress for the money happens when you take dual training two-to-three times per week, no more, no less, and knock it out. If you let too much time lapse between lessons, it's like starting over every time you go. A better bet is to save up the money, then train a couple times a week when you can, using your credit card if you overrun your savings a little.

Registering a gyro is cheap.

An airworthiness inspection for the gyro (to get the airworthiness certificate) and a checkride for you (to get the Sport Pilot certificate) should each be in the $400 range. So the difference will be about $1K. For that difference, the registered machine and SP certificate get you:

  • Access to more airports (airport managers have more discretion to exclude ULs)
  • The ability to legally carry more than 5 gallons of fuel
  • Better access to insurance
  • The right to officially log hours flown toward a checkride for SP or higher ratings
  • A life-long qualification that won't expire
  • A big head-start on SP/Airplane, should you decide later to add that rating
  • Better resale value for the gyro

I really doubt there's much of a financial case for staying ultralight, unless you intend to fly only in remote areas, for periods of less than an hour without refueling. Follow your heart, but don't expect a big difference in cost.
 

Ronnie328

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Ronnie, this isn't a flame, but an honest puzzlement...If you're going to get the training anyway, how will ultralight save you any money?

Spreading out training can make it really inefficient. Most former students would agree that the most progress for the money happens when you take dual training two-to-three times per week, no more, no less, and knock it out. If you let too much time lapse between lessons, it's like starting over every time you go. A better bet is to save up the money, then train a couple times a week when you can, using your credit card if you overrun your savings a little.

Registering a gyro is cheap.

An airworthiness inspection for the gyro (to get the airworthiness certificate) and a checkride for you (to get the Sport Pilot certificate) should each be in the $400 range. So the difference will be about $1K. For that difference, the registered machine and SP certificate get you:

  • Access to more airports (airport managers have more discretion to exclude ULs)
  • The ability to legally carry more than 5 gallons of fuel
  • Better access to insurance
  • The right to officially log hours flown toward a checkride for SP or higher ratings
  • A life-long qualification that won't expire
  • A big head-start on SP/Airplane, should you decide later to add that rating
  • Better resale value for the gyro

I really doubt there's much of a financial case for staying ultralight, unless you intend to fly only in remote areas, for periods of less than an hour without refueling. Follow your heart, but don't expect a big difference in cost.
Out of curiosity, how does one obtain air worthiness on a machine if they don't have a pilot's license? Is it something you can do by yourself after finishing only the dual training?

Point of clarification, i have no intentions of spreading out the dual training. My training plans are to knock out, at least, the FAA required dual flight training requirement (and likely a little more dual training than that. Build a gyro. Go back for a training refresher after i finish building it. Then start flying.

After training, i'll decide specifically what classification of craft i'd like to fly. Until then, i'm keeping my options open :)
 

BEN S

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Ronnie,
The Air Worthiness Certificate has nothing to do with YOUR airworthiness!
Think of it like registering/inspecting and putting tags on a car. They don't care of YOU have a license to drive or not...
 

gyromike

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Out of curiosity, how does one obtain air worthiness on a machine if they don't have a pilot's license? Is it something you can do by yourself after finishing only the dual training?

Point of clarification, i have no intentions of spreading out the dual training. My training plans are to knock out, at least, the FAA required dual flight training requirement (and likely a little more dual training than that. Build a gyro. Go back for a training refresher after i finish building it. Then start flying.

After training, i'll decide specifically what classification of craft i'd like to fly. Until then, i'm keeping my options open :)
Ronnie,

There is no requirement that a person be a pilot, have any training, or even a medical certificate/student license to build and certify an Amateur Homebuilt aircraft.
Any one can do it, even if they have no intention of eventually learning to fly. Aircraft certification and Airmen certification are seperate things. You could even go out and but a used Cessna or a new Legend Cub or Robinson R22 without any training or license whatsoever.

As regarding training, I would suggest flying with several people at a fly-in to get a feel of the different aircraft before deciding what to build, and once the aircraft is complete, schedule time with an instructor to knock out all of your training at once to eliminate having to go through a refresher. You may be surprised at how much is lost in the early stages of flight training if it's not used.

You can also ask your instructor to perform the first flights of your aircraft to check rigging, etc., and to also tell you what to expect when it comes time for you to take it up for the first time. A light single-place will handle a lot differently than a heavier two-place.
 

Udi

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Ronnie - I think it is really cool that you want to build a part 103-legal gyroplane. Look up Dr. Ralph Taggart's GyroBee. Plans are available for free. A few people on this forum built and fly a GyroBee, some of them are ultralights and some are not. Let me stress that not all gyros that have "Bee" in their name are the same. I would recommend specifically the GyroBee, and no other.

You mentioned that you have your own ideas about building a gyro. That is fine and is within the spirit of this community but you would be wise to share your ideas and your build progress on this forum for constructive criticism. There is a lot of cumulative knowledge on this forum and we can help you stay clear of stupid mistakes.

Lastly - you should know that building a part 103-legal gyroplane is a challenge. It is not easy to cram all of the necessary parts for a safe gyro into 254 lbs. You will need to know where to save weight without affecting safety. Ralph's GyroBee is a perfect example.

Udi
 

Ronnie328

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Ronnie,

There is no requirement that a person be a pilot, have any training, or even a medical certificate/student license to build and certify an Amateur Homebuilt aircraft.
Any one can do it, even if they have no intention of eventually learning to fly. Aircraft certification and Airmen certification are seperate things. You could even go out and but a used Cessna or a new Legend Cub or Robinson R22 without any training or license whatsoever.

As regarding training, I would suggest flying with several people at a fly-in to get a feel of the different aircraft before deciding what to build, and once the aircraft is complete, schedule time with an instructor to knock out all of your training at once to eliminate having to go through a refresher. You may be surprised at how much is lost in the early stages of flight training if it's not used.

You can also ask your instructor to perform the first flights of your aircraft to check rigging, etc., and to also tell you what to expect when it comes time for you to take it up for the first time. A light single-place will handle a lot differently than a heavier two-place.
Thanks, Mike. Riding with others sounds like great advice. It's something i was hoping i'd be able to do, and it seems the community is kind enough to take people up.

For the air worthiness inspection, isn't there some sort of actual flying portion to that? Who does that?

Ronnie - I think it is really cool that you want to build a part 103-legal gyroplane. Look up Dr. Ralph Taggart's GyroBee. Plans are available for free. A few people on this forum built and fly a GyroBee, some of them are ultralights and some are not. Let me stress that not all gyros that have "Bee" in their name are the same. I would recommend specifically the GyroBee, and no other.

You mentioned that you have your own ideas about building a gyro. That is fine and is within the spirit of this community but you would be wise to share your ideas and your build progress on this forum for constructive criticism. There is a lot of cumulative knowledge on this forum and we can help you stay clear of stupid mistakes.

Lastly - you should know that building a part 103-legal gyroplane is a challenge. It is not easy to cram all of the necessary parts for a safe gyro into 254 lbs. You will need to know where to save weight without affecting safety. Ralph's GyroBee is a perfect example.

Udi
Thanks Udi, that's really great advice as well, and you can be sure any ideas i have will definitely be presented on this forum before i buy any raw materials!

I've looked at the Gyrobee and Hornet plans. I've also looked at pics of Honeybees. They all look like great machines. I haven't settled on which design i would modify if i continue down the part 103 path. Even if i don't go part 103 for the first one, I'll probably eventually give my best shot at putting one together.

Whatever i build, you guys will be the first to know.
 
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