More fun flying The Predator.

Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
16,760
Location
Nipomo,California
Aircraft
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
SBP again!

SBP again!

Wind variable at 3kts.

Blue skies, summer temperatures and Lockheed Martin had nothing bad to say.

Lately I have been enamored with how slow The Predator can fly so I headed out across the fields making less than 50kts of grounds speed and the engine at 1,950 rpm. I loved the way the warm air felt and could not contain my joy so I began singing Lost Highway.

I soon heard a flight of three experimentals request a low pass at SMX with a departure to the west. I was to the west and was concerned that people who want to show off may not be giving their full attention to flying. I decided to head a little further south in an effort to avoid traffic.

When they were cleared for a low pass I turned around and started back toward the airport. I saw three Glasairs make a low pass and then depart to the north.

I finished my flight to the beach and called Oceano Area Traffic from seven miles to the south, transitioning to the north along the shoreline at 500 feet and fifty knots.

They had just dropped parachutes over Oceano and the jump plane was reporting his intentions when the flight of three reported a five mile straight in to land at Oceano. I was pleased they would be down before I passed Oceano.

The vehicles were scattered like match box toys along the beach.

I reported every odd mile and when I was abeam the Oceano airport I saw a yellow Stearman takeoff.

He never reported on the CTAF and was probably at 300 feet and flying in an erratic manor.

When he turned around I snapped a picture. I was flying at 500 feet so you can get a feel for his altitude. He departed south along the shoreline without making a radio call.

It seemed to be my day for aircraft conflicts.

I called San Luis Obispo and was to make left traffic for runway two niner and report down wind.

There were as many as six aircraft in the pattern and I was number three behind a Cessna on a five mile straight in.

We were off quickly and I was to taxi across Alpha to restaurant parking. The first row was filled up so I pulled into the second row and secured The Predator.
 

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Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
16,760
Location
Nipomo,California
Aircraft
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
Home Again.

Home Again.

After lunch I headed over to the flight school and watched instrument training on their flight simulator. The young lady was doing very well and my friend was pretending to be Point Magu Approach and had set things up so the ceiling was 76 feet above the 200 foot minimum. She made two missed approaches and when I queried about putting the landing gear down the instructor said they were down and welded. She was flying a Cessna 172.

I felt my friend was doing a great job of preparing her for her practical being very specific about what the designated pilot examiner (DPE) would test her on. Apparently the DPE debriefs the instructor on what he could do better to get the student to pass.

I also spent some time with the CFI from Utah and his student who had less than 100 hours. They were planning a flight to El Monte to get some complex time. It was fun to be around such focused aviators.

At 15:00 I walked out to The Predator and she just looked ready to fly so I tried to capture the emotion.

The wind was ten knots straight down the runway and we were off quickly with an early left cross approved. I was flying directly into the sun so I took some pictures out the side. The afternoon shadows added depth to the hills.

There was no traffic at Oceano as I headed south along the shoreline.

I never tire of the coastline.

I called SMX after getting the ATIS and was to make left traffic for three zero and report down wind.

A helicopter was requesting some low level grid work so the tower asked me to make right traffic.

Some tankers were coming in that needed to drop their load so things were going to get complicated.

A Mooney was added to the mix and I heard the tower say; “experimental two Mike Golf, please make a short approach and get on the ground as soon as possible.” They didn’t have to ask twice and I saw 95kts in a slight descent (101kts of ground speed, 116 miles per hour). I loved making the big steep sweeping turn around the tower and setting her down as nice as could be at Alpha 4.

“Thanks for your help Vance, taxi to parking monitor ground; have a great evening.”

What a nice way to end a lovely flight.

It was fun watching the tankers unload over the fields.
 

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kyron

Newbie
Joined
Jun 7, 2015
Messages
36
Location
Encinitas
Vance,
I just love reading your posts. It really helps me to follow along as a student pilot since I've done that trip with you a few times in Puff. Pics are great. Can you take a few pics as you come through Edna Valley and also pics of SBP as you enter downwind (if possible).
Thanks!
Kyron
 

Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
16,760
Location
Nipomo,California
Aircraft
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
Glad to have you along Kyron!

Glad to have you along Kyron!

Vance,
I just love reading your posts. It really helps me to follow along as a student pilot since I've done that trip with you a few times in Puff. Pics are great. Can you take a few pics as you come through Edna Valley and also pics of SBP as you enter downwind (if possible).
Thanks!
Kyron

I went back to the November fifth flight and found most of the pictures you are requesting.

I seldom take pictures on the downwind for two niner because I am often busy with the tower there either reporting my position or receiving instruction and clearance. If they extend my downwind I have rising terrain to deal with so I need both hands to fly.

As you know the pictures can't are a pale representation of the experience.

We need to go flying again soon Kyron.
 

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Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
16,760
Location
Nipomo,California
Aircraft
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
Riding the wind to Santa Ynez!

Riding the wind to Santa Ynez!

I have cumulonimbus clouds peeking over the hills so I have time to write about Sunday’s special flight.

I was working through my pre-flight when Chuck stopped by. We have a funny relationship. I feel he is one of my aviation mentors and he feels I mentor him.

He used to be an air traffic controller so he has some wonderful input on my radio calls. He says I teach him to appreciate the fun of flying. He built and flies an RV9 and has an owner built hangar/Man cave on the field.

The conversation came around to ridge soaring and how much lift I find along the ridge near Santa Barbara. Chuck wants to take some gilder instruction to get a better understanding of it. I talked about the way The Predator responds to a tail wind over the mountains on one of my routes to Santa Ynez that is the home of Santa Barbara Soaring.

I called Lockheed Martin for a standard VFR briefing for a flight from SMX to IZA and there was a 012 degree 12kt wind. They didn’t have any bad news and they weren’t expecting rain till 23:00 PST. They felt the fog lingering just off shore would continue to linger off shore till well after dark.

Santa Ynez doesn’t have a restaurant on field but it is just a few miles to several nice eateries in town. I had already had lunch so it didn’t matter. I didn’t need an excuse to fly to this charming little airport.

Lately I have been flying more direct to Santa Ynez and decided to have some fun in the hills on this flight.

I asked for a left downwind departure to the east and I was cleared immediately. I was 150 feet above the ground when the new guy said; “experimental two Mike Golf please began your left turn when able.” One of the things I love about gyroplanes is how maneuverable they are and I gladly responded; “experimental two Mike Golf turning left.”

I climbed to 800 feet and turned east south east over California Highway One. I caught the tail wind with a little turbulence near the hills and began a climb to 1,500 feet figuring on following the little valleys through the hills toward Buellton. The tops of the hills are a little less than 2,000 feet MSL.

I caught some lift as Highway 135 leaves Highway one and backed the power down to 1,850 RPM at 50kts indicated air speed.

I love the way it feels when I guess right about the lift. It had been a while since I had flown my secret valleys so I was unsure of my navigation. The path seemed to unfold magically and I found lift on all but a quarter mile section. I left the power alone and used airspeed to manage my altitude.

Soon the hills will be a velvety green. They are still more vibrant than the pictures show.

I checked the automated weather observation system (AWOS) at IZA and wind was 270 degrees at 12kts. Pattern altitude at IZA is 1,674 so I climbed up a little over the Santa Ynez River and made my ten mile call for landing, runway two six.

I followed the Santa Ynez River passed Buellton and reported five miles over the quarry.

There was an RV coming in from the north for a midfield pattern entry and a Skywagon over Lake Cachuma that claimed he would make a left forty-five entry for runway 26. I estimated the speed and this would put him in conflict with my 45 degree entry as he made his 225 degree turn. Just before I called my forty five entry over the river bridge the Skywagon called entering the forty five. I broadcast that I did not have the Skywagon in sight and soon he reported entering a left base. I reported Skywagon in sight as the RV was touching down. I exhaled and enjoyed having the airport to myself as I turned a wide base and final.

There is another thread about CFIs and what they didn’t teach. I wish more CFIs would teach better radio work and a better understanding of pattern entry at pilot controlled air fields.

I watched a lot of glider activity as I sat back in the Adirondack chair in the shade of the willow tree.

I called Lockheed Martin based on what they said I had a fifteen knot plus head wind going back to SMX the same way I came. The take off and climb out were quick and found a lot of lift and turbulence as I flew a little higher over the hills.

As I was leaving the area I heard a King Air call that they were ten miles to the east and would be making an upwind entrance for run way 26. This would be great except the gliders have a right pattern for runways 26 at IZA and most of them don’t have transponders so they wouldn’t show up on his traffic collision avoidance system (TCAS). A sail plane can be very hard to see head on.

At one point I pulled the power to idle and was sinking less than 100 feet per minute as I was heading into the valley near Harris Grade. I love the swish of the blades and continued for a little over ten minutes with the engine at idle. I watched the hawks and they helped to guide me for the best lift. I wish I had the words to describe the feeling of elation and freedom. It swept over me like an ocean wave.

I called the tower with Quebec from ten miles to the south east. I was to make a straight in. That would have put me over the highest hill and in conflict the fast aircraft making a straight in approach so I asked for a left base entry. ATC had me ident and had me make a base entry for runway three zero.

There was a Bellanca doing closed traffic at SMX and the new controller didn’t seem to grasp how slowly I was going (35 to 40kts of ground speed) so he had him make right traffic as I made a left base entry for runway 30. He has a ground speed readout on his radar but he cleared me to land as I was making my base entry from five miles out. As I touched down twelve minutes later one of the regular controllers welcomed me back and gave me taxi instructions. ATC uses me as a teaching aid for new controllers because of my different pattern altitude, tight pattern, maneuverability and speed.

I reveled in the afterglow for almost 40 minutes. It was great to recall the feeling the wind. I miss it sometimes when I am mission focused.
 

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Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
16,760
Location
Nipomo,California
Aircraft
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
One more picture.

One more picture.

This is what Chuck and I saw over the top of the rotor as we talked on Sunday.

We were both drawn into the sky and needed to fly.
 

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Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
16,760
Location
Nipomo,California
Aircraft
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
Flying The Predator from the back seat with Nick.

Flying The Predator from the back seat with Nick.

I got a call from Nick and he wanted to learn what it was like to fly a gyroplane.

I explained that I didn’t have an aircraft to train in but I could take him flying in The Predator and give him some stick time. If he wanted we could try him in the front seat.

Nick is complex aircraft and helicopter rated and liked the idea even though I couldn’t give him formal instruction or endorse his log book.

He rebuilds old pianos and sells modern player pianos for a living and is very good at it. The last time I talked to him on the phone he and his wife were rebuilding a grand piano from the late eighteen hundreds.

Nick was stuck in traffic coming through Santa Barbara so it was almost 11:00 when I got a call that he was at the gate. He is interested in a Cavalon but still wanted to go through preflight on The Predator. I had finished the preflight while waiting so we worked through the preflight check list in about 20 minutes. It is a lot easier than the preflight on a Robinson 22.

I explained again that this was a learning experience for me too as I tried to anticipate the challenges from flying from the back seat without toe brakes, magneto switches or being able to talk on the radio. There is so much wind noise in the back seat I have a push to talk button on the intercom and I can only listen to radio calls. I have not yet figured out the side tone squeal on the radio when the intercom is on so I explained about turning the intercom off when talking to the tower. Not having toe breaks meant I had to depend on Nick for steering.

Nick asked a lot of questions and my briefing went almost an hour overtime.

In retrospect I didn’t spend enough time explaining the panel and radio operation.

Nick wanted to be home by 6:30 so we wanted to be done by 2:30.

He was confident that he could manage the radio, toe brakes and the check lists. The Garmin Pilot III was a complete mystery to him and we felt it wasn’t that important. This was my first mistake.

We worked out communication procedures if the intercom failed.

The startup went great and my anxiety diminished as Nick worked carefully through my preflight list reading it aloud.

He hadn’t flown in ten years so his radio calls were a little rusty and procedures have tightened up since his last flight. Ground control worked through the things they needed and we were to taxi to runway three zero via alpha, alpha eight.

Weather conditions were great with wind variable at 3kts.

Nick did a great job of keeping The Predator right on the line while taxiing as we made our way to the run up. He turned left instead of right to face the wind and we were blocking the taxiway for Fed Ex as he performed the run-up. Ground let us know that we were blocking the taxiway even though there was nobody trying to use it and I was pleased to see that Nick did not appeared to be flustered by the scolding.

Nick turned off the intercom and called tower ready for departure. His radio call sounded great.

Runway three zero has clear for takeoff and I took the controls as planned. Nick didn’t realize that he still needed to steer with the toe brakes at slow speed on the ground and he focused on the prerotation procedure. The wind was variable enough that I wasn’t able to steer with the rudder and I wasn’t brave enough to get up enough speed so I got Nick’s attention and he turned on the intercom so I could tell him to steer. Note to self; better explain difference between aircraft controls and ground steering.

Our second take off roll went well and we were off as nice as could be climbing into the clear blue skies.

As we reached the end of the runway I gave Nick the pedals first so he could get a feel for the effect of the rudder before I gave him the aircraft controls. When I gave him all the aircraft controls he followed the exchange of controls well and managed airspeed and altitude to commercial standards as we flew toward Guadalupe.

I took the controls back once we were out of class D airspace and demonstrated steep turns, slow flight and an engine at idle vertical descent. We were soon at my practice area and I demonstrated turns around a point. Nick leaned into the turns so his helmet made it difficult to read indicated air speed when we turned right and the altimeter when we turned left. I went with left.

When I gave Nick the aircraft controls he flew the first turn a little egg shaped because of a strong onshore breeze. His altitude and airspeed control were to commercial standards. The second one was much rounder while still doing a great job on altitude and airspeed.

I took the controls back and demonstrated S turns over a road before giving the aircraft controls back to Nick. He did very well so I told him to head out to the beach and turn right. Nick flew like an experienced gyroplane pilot. His turns were smooth and his altitude and airspeed control were impressive.

He found my radio procedure for Oceano a little confusing at first but understood the reason for it. By the time we reached one mile to the south he had it down.

I took the controls back as we past the Pismo pier and we tuned to the San Luis Obispo ATIS and heard nothing. I thought it was because we were too low on the other side of the mountain so I started climbing but it turned out they were changing it, special observation.

Nick’s radio call to San Luis Obispo Tower went well and we were to make left traffic for two niner and report abeam. This was not a procedure Nick was used to but we got it worked out in time.

I gained new appreciation for how windy the back seat of The Predator is when I ran her up to 75kts in the Avila Pass.

We were number two behind a Citation and then our landing clearance was amended to number three behind a helicopter. Nick found both of them before I did. The wind sock was twitching around a little but my first landing from the back seat of The Predator was as nice as could be.

I forgot what a challenge it is to be unfamiliar with an airport and did not anticipate Nick going straight ahead as a fixed wing would after touchdown. We worked it out, changed to ground and made our way to restaurant parking.

We had a nice debrief and a great lunch at the Spirit of San Luis.

We were behind on Nick’s schedule so we decided to fly direct back to Santa Maria (SMX).

We had the takeoff procedure down and we were off quickly making an early left crosswind. I gave Nick the controls and he finished the climb out.

He had trouble finding “the line” on the Pilot III for his track back to SMX. I told him to aim for the water tower but he couldn’t find it and kept fiddling with the GPS.

Note to self: I need a newer GPS or at least a fresh memory battery.

Nick eventually found the water tower with some guidance and made his call to SMX and we were to make right traffic and report mid field down wind.

I eventually realized Nick was looking just over the nose and tried to describe our course in different terms. I had not perfected this as he looked for SMX and then the SMX tower.

Note to self; fixed wing pilots are not used to the sight picture of downwind at 500 feet AGL, work on description of location.

The wind was supposed to be 300 degrees at 12kts but the two windsocks near our touch down point were pointed almost in opposite directions. I can’t see the yaw string from the back seat so I felt a little uncomfortable as I kept increasing the pedal pressure to keep The Predator pointed straight. The back seat makes this easier and the touchdown was near perfect in the quartering tailwind. I was pleased that all my tricks to find out where the runway is worked just as well from the back seat.

Nick was unfamiliar and the hangars all look the same so I had to just tell him “turn right now!”

After a very short debrief I showed Nick to the gate with his face still stuck in a grin. I grabbed a quick picture of Nick in deference to Paul’s suggestion that I need more pictures of the people.

I felt we both learned a lot and had a lot of fun.

Nick sent me this nice email:
“Hi Vance,
My wife keeps asking me why I have that smile plastered on my face. Just wanted to thank you for a great introduction to gyro plane flight. Having trained with many instructors and considering this was sort a first for both of us, l'd say you did a great job. Your knowledge and willingness to share is much appreciated. Hope we have the opportunity to talk and fly together again. I will be in touch.
Thanks again,
Nick”

I suspect some of you can relate to the smile thing.

Nick was nice enough to allow me share this story with my friends on The Rotary Wing Forum and did not ask me to sugar coat anything and did not ask to review it. I imagine he felt he made more mistakes than he did. I suspect when you are used to being the pilot in command of an aircraft you are familiar anything less feels like a mistake.

I feel he did great!

I love flights like this one and the people I meet because of my involvement with gyroplanes.
 

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Last edited:

Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
16,760
Location
Nipomo,California
Aircraft
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
I learned a lot.

I learned a lot.

Thank you Mark, I was surprised how easy she was to fly from the back seat without being able to see the indicated air speed and altimeter well and not being able to see the yaw string at all.

Nick did very well and it is not an experiment I would try with just anyone.

It was nice of him to let me share the fun with my friends.

I may go with a hand held to better manage radio communications.

The challenge with the side-tone with the intercom seems to have to do with the push to talk on the cyclic combined with the voice activated microphone on the intercom. Just pushing the push to talk button doesn’t cause a problem till someone speaks. The noise is in both headsets and loud enough to be very distracting. If I am using a hand held I can step around the whole problem until the student starts making all the radio communications.

I like to talk the student through the takeoff and landing procedures and it is not a good time to have the intercom turned off.

I tried to cram too much into one day and I will most likely go with three hours of ground and an hour of air time for the first flight for most people.

My trepidation caused me to overemphasis some things and I feel I overloaded Nick with responsibility that may have detracted from the fun.
 

Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
16,760
Location
Nipomo,California
Aircraft
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
Sunny Sothern California!

Sunny Sothern California!

I thought I would share that every day is not great flying weather around here for an open gyroplane; it was raining and windy most of Sunday and today peak gusts are 53kts at Sandburg where it is 2.8 degrees C. Its 16kts gusting to 22kts at Santa Ynez at 13:50. Hale covered some of the ground in the Santa Maria Valley this morning.

SIGMET Whisky is in effect till 16:20 PST for occasional severe turbulence below 14,000 feet and low level wind shear.

I don’t have a compelling reason to fly so I am going to work some more on my lesson plans.

It is sunny.
 

Nickm

Newbie
Joined
Nov 16, 2015
Messages
1
Location
So. Plainfield
Total Flight Time
1035
First flight in the Predator

First flight in the Predator

Just wanted to thank you for allowing me the experience of flying with you and your gyroplane the Predator. Frankly, I did not know what to expect or if I would even like gyro flying at all. As mentioned, I have not flown actively for the past five years but researching and seeing some new designs in gyros got me thinking it was time to give it a try. It's interesting that there are so few instructors available when compared to fix wing and helicopters training. After more research all roads led to Vance. Although it would be a three hour drive I couldn't pass up his gracious offer to go flying.

Although I was late due to our traffic delays, Vance patiently answered many of my questions which I had a week or so to think about. We did a secondary detailed preflight, checked weather and were ready to fly.

Being as rusty as I am my radio communications with ATC were a little rough. After some time getting comfortable with the radio it got a little better. Flying any new aircraft takes some getting used to but I found the Predator was an absolute blast to fly. It's stable in slow flight and much more forgiving then for example an R22. Flying low and slow along the coast was a real treat. You get to see many things you couldn't possible see in a fixed wing. This flight has really got me excited to get back into flying and at this point I'm going to try to fly some different types of gyroplanes to see which type would best suite my missions and also continue training. I'm afraid Vance has infected me with the gyroplane virus and I couldn't be happier.

Thanks again Vance, will be in touch.
Nick
 

Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
16,760
Location
Nipomo,California
Aircraft
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
Thank you for your help and patience Nick.

Thank you for your help and patience Nick.

Welcome to the Rotary Wing Forum Nick!

I am glad your excited Nick!

I look forward to more flight time.

I feel I overloaded you with responsibilities and you helped me learn from my mistakes.

For most people that would have taken the fun out of it.

I thought you did very well and learned very quickly.

From your first turn I was impressed with your transition into and out of turns. You are a very smooth stick without a hint of over control.

Given a little more time I have no doubt you could have learned takeoffs and landings in The Predator.

I am sorry I didn’t manage the time better; I was trying to do too much and should have requested more time from you. My transition to the back seat took more time than I expected because I have a low fear threshold.

I have much of Wednesday scheduled to work on the intercom. The loud side tone is an interesting problem involving an interaction between the push to talk button and the voice activated intercom. I suspect the solution is simple with a challenging diagnosis.

We have had rain and big cold winds so I have not flown since Friday. I hope to get a little air time tomorrow afternoon.

I have a meeting scheduled with a representative of the Van Nuys FSDO Wednesday night.
 

Mike G

Junior Member
Joined
Jun 16, 2005
Messages
1,609
Location
Lillebonne France
Aircraft
Owned Magni M16 now ELA 07
Total Flight Time
550FW + 500 gyro
Vance
Buy a Flycom intercomm and helmets. No sidetone problems, no ANR electronics just crystal clear intercom and radio especially in the windy turbulent back seat of a gyro.

I have no link with that company, I threw away the Lynx on my Magni for Flycom and threw away the French intercom on my ELA for a Flycom and am about to fit Flycom to the WT9 Dynamic (3 axis 120kt fw ultralight) that I fly. The clarity of communications reduces your workload dramatically.

Mike G
 

Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
16,760
Location
Nipomo,California
Aircraft
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
I would like to try to fix it before I replace it.

I would like to try to fix it before I replace it.

Thank you Mike.

I have a David Clark intercom and an Icom radio so I feel they should work well together.

I have a considerable investment in the helmets and active noise reduction so I would rather not change things out.

If I can’t get it to work properly together I will consider new equipment.

I appreciate the suggestion.

I tried to get the system to act badly in the hangar after flying and was not able to. The intercom made no difference and the sound was as nice as could be with no side tone issues.

It was a little windy so exploring it with a running engine will have to wait for another day.
 

Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
16,760
Location
Nipomo,California
Aircraft
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
Always an adventure!

Always an adventure!

I arrived at KSMX (Santa Maria Public Airport) around 11:00 and checked the ATIS. Winds were 310 at 12kts.

I worked through my pre-flight and checked with Lockheed Martin and it seemed like a good day to fly to San Luis Obispo. I had not flown since last Friday so I was experiencing gyroplane flying withdrawals.

Lockheed Martin had the winds at KSBP (San Luis County Regional Airport) at 280 degrees at 9kts.

I figured I would work on the intercom after I returned from lunch.

A friend stopped by and it was almost noon when I fired up The Predator.

Gas prices were $.50 per gallon cheaper at SMX so I headed to self-serve.

I monitor ground even if I am taxiing in the non-movement area.

I heard an exchange between ATC and a Kodiak that seemed uncommonly contentious.

ATIS said the restricted area 2516 was hot and the Kodiak pilot told them to call Los Angles to make certain. They did and he told them to ask again. Then he said he would just fly through it anyway.

I have included what a Kodiak looks like but this is not the aircraft in question. It seemed very tall as he taxied by self-serve on his way to runway 12. This puzzled me because the latest ATIS had winds at 360 degrees at 16kts gusting to 25kts and the runway in use was runway two.

As I was filling out my log book the Kodiak flew by at very low altitude with no indication of climb out. I later found out it was a ferry flight to Hawaii.

Santa Maria has an 8,000 foot runway and ferry flights are often operating over gross so they like the flat fields off of runway three zero. There is rising terrain off the end of runway one two and emergency landing spots are rare.

I called ground for a taxi to runway two and was told to stand by so I missed a lot of the excitement on the tower frequency

At the fast meeting later I heard that he excitedly exclaimed; “I am not going to make it, roll the crash trucks.” ATC directed him to the fairgrounds for an emergency landing and he came back and said; “I am headed for Morrow Bay”; as the crash trucks rolled.

The pilot of the Kodiak apparently continued on to Hawaii.

“Experimental 142 Mike Golf runway two clear for takeoff, left turn out approved.”

The takeoff was a nice as could be and I climbed to 1,300 feet over the City of Santa Maria before turning North West.

I called the San Louis Obispo tower just past the water tower with Charley inbound direct. She sounded a little rattled as she asked me to ident. I was to stay south of the centerline for runway two niner and report four miles.

At the time I didn’t think she had probably dealt with the Kodiak pilot on his way to Morrow Bay.

I was making 47kts of ground speed at 65kts indicated air speed rocking and rolling in the winds.

About six miles out ATC said to make all possible air speed direct to the numbers; runway two niner clear to land.

A Cessna 182 reported a ten knot wind shear on takeoff and a reginal jet reported severe turbulence 12 miles to the East at 2,500 feet.

I picked up the speed to 85kts and didn’t like the way she felt in the turbulence so I backed her down to 60kts and told the tower I was slowing down making about 41kts of ground speed.

“Experimental gyroplane 142 Mike Golf, head out to the shoreline and report entering the Avilla Pass.”

I usually fly at 700 feet through the Avilla pass but was flying direct because of the gusting wind so I stayed at 1,200 feet and made my way to the beach and then over the Avila pass. When I reported I was to report left downwind mid filed for runway two niner. I enjoyed the different view and how well The Predator handled the turbulence.

There were reports of extreme turbulence and wind shear in all quadrants and several go arounds. The wind direction was moving through about 30 degrees. She gave nearly everyone a wind report.

I came in high and found the wind shear about 100 feet AGL. It was closer to 13kts and I let the tower know.

Touch down was as nice as could be and I called ground for a taxi to restaurant parking.

I wrestled with the rotor a little as she spooled down trying to keep the tip path level.

I was guided to a parking spot by a member of the ground crew who didn’t seem to understand my desire to stop the rotor before I got near him or the other planes. The wind made the spool down take a lot longer and he became more animated when I stopped to let the rotor spool down.

I called Lockheed Martin and made a pilot report about the winds. They were predicting 280 degrees at 12 knots at SBP before I left SMX. He had several other pilot reports about the winds at SBP. It was not easy remembering the wind direction and speed and describing my convoluted path the SBP.

It was exciting watching the landings during lunch and helped me to appreciate how well a gyroplane handles turbulence.
 

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Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
16,760
Location
Nipomo,California
Aircraft
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
Always learning and growing in aviation.

Always learning and growing in aviation.

Lunch was great and I check Lockheed Martin and found a lot of pilot reports for turbulence and the winds at Santa Maria were 360 at 12kts gusting to 30kts. I had some trepidation about the gusts and the winds favored runway 2.

I checked ATIS at SBP and winds were 310 at 22kts.

“Experimental Gyroplane 142 Mike Golf, runway 29 clear for takeoff, left downwind departure approved; I will call your crosswind for inbound traffic.”

I added a little power and pushed the pre-rotator button as I watched the rotor rpms build quickly. A gust brought the nose up at about 30kts indicated air speed as I added power. She seemed to leap off the ground and we were climbing out at over a thousand feet per minute making less than thirty knots of ground speed at 60kts indicated air speed. It felt like a fast elevator ride.

My left turn was approved and the ground speed picked up a little along with considerable crab as I flew along the crosswind runway. I was at 1,200 feet well before the downwind turn so I backed off on the throttle. As soon as I turned downs wind I saw 95kts of ground speed at 60kts indicated air speed. Even at that altitude the jump from 55kts of ground speed to 95kts was very evident. We caught some lift from the hills and I had to reduce power further to keep from climbing. I love imagining how the hills affect the winds and I find joy when I find a smooth updraft. It didn’t last long and soon I had the power back in to keep from descending still showing over 90kts of ground speed at 60kts indicated air speed.

I checked the ATIS for SMX and winds were still 360 at 12kts; gusting to 30kts; runway two was in use.

When I called in left downwind abeam runway two was clear to land; long landing approved.

As I descended I watched the straight out wind sock slowly move to directly across the 75 foot wind runway. As expected I encountered turbulence for from the trees mid field but the air was as nice as could be as I rounded out and touched down just before crossing runway three zero.

I find it exciting to ride the wild winds and I was pleased to be on the ground as I taxied to the hangar carefully managing the rotor spool down in the gusting wind.

I had just enough time for a little testing of the intercom and a post flight inspection before heading off to the Santa Maria Museum of flight for the FAST meeting.

There was a lot of gossip about the Kodiak but no news on if he made it to Hawaii.

The meeting was opened by announcing the newest CFI at the field and they gave me a black T shirt with an aviation check list on the back. It was fun to see all the friends that were involved in helping me achieve that goal. Probably more than a third of the 60 plus people in the room.

Our speaker was Dave from the Van Nuys FSDO and we covered a wide range of topics.

I was pleased with how many answers about the RAFs I knew and had to stop raising my hand to give others a chance.

A question I had was about the rotorcraft pattern at San Luis Obispo. It is right at 500 feet above the ground (700 feet MSL) and takes me over some housing developments that I would call a congested area over a town. It seemed to me that the downwind leg was not necessary for takeoff or landing so I wondered about the legality of this.

Sec. 91.119 — Minimum safe altitudes: General.
Except when necessary for takeoff or landing, no person may operate an aircraft below the following altitudes:
(a) Anywhere. An altitude allowing, if a power unit fails, an emergency landing without undue hazard to persons or property on the surface.
(b) Over congested areas. Over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open air assembly of persons, an altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet of the aircraft.
(c) Over other than congested areas. An altitude of 500 feet above the surface, except over open water or sparsely populated areas. In those cases, the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure.
(d) Helicopters, powered parachutes, and weight-shift-control aircraft. If the operation is conducted without hazard to persons or property on the surface—
(1) A helicopter may be operated at less than the minimums prescribed in paragraph (b) or (c) of this section, provided each person operating the helicopter complies with any routes or altitudes specifically prescribed for helicopters by the FAA; and
(2) A powered parachute or weight-shift-control aircraft may be operated at less than the minimums prescribed in paragraph (c) of this section.

The answer was it was ok but I was not satisfied with the justification. He could not point to anything regulatory that allowed flight in a gyroplane below minimum safe altitude as spelled out in 91.119 b.

Camarillo has a similar problem for all aircraft as the pattern altitude for all aircraft is 877 feet and the airport is 77 feet MSL. The right downwind for runway 25 takes me over what I would call a congested area of Camarillo.

There was a lot of interesting discussion about who owns the airspace above KSMX with the answer being Santa Barbara Approach who has a letter of understanding with the SMX tower. I had not understood this.

Because there is an instrument approach to Santa Ynez (IZA) it is considered controlled airspace even though it doesn’t have a control tower. I knew this and yet I didn’t understand it. I love to learn.
 

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okikuma

Member
Joined
May 21, 2006
Messages
2,129
Location
Santa Clarita, CA
Hello Vance,

When flying a gyroplane downwind to any runway with any airport, one is not obligated to fly the same ground track or the same pattern "width" as the fixed wing aircraft.

Using the example of flying a right downwind onto Rwy 26 at KCMA over the "congested area" north of the airfield, if you experienced a sudden lost of power, would you be able to immediately turn towards the airfield and "glide" to a safe landing? Flying a "tighter" closer in downwind pattern in relation to the runway is not forbidden. Aligning your downwind track roughly over the 101 Freeway "inside" the normal wider fixed wing pattern will give you better spacing from faster fixed wing aircraft, keep you away from the more "congested area" north of the airfield, and will always guarantee you safe gliding distance to the runway.

Earlier in the month, when I was watching you depart KSZP into the setting sun and haze, I was concentrating on how soon I would loose sight of you and the Predator from where I was standing next to the runway. I lost sight of you at about 1/2 a mile a way (2640 ft). That's a hair less than the runway length of Santa Paula airport (KSZP).

In fact, when flying the wider "fixed wing sized" pattern in a gyroplane, and one did experience total loss of power, and is unable to glide to a safe landing onto the airfield, landing or crashing outside the physical airfield boundaries, one could be held in violation of 91.119. Granted, many pilots will argue the first sentence, "Except when necessary for takeoff or landing, no person may operate an aircraft below the following altitudes" negates the rest of the requirements within 91.119. Ask any FAA representative, and they will argue that the first sentence will only negate the altitude requirement within 91.119, but never the safety requirement of part (a). Believe me, I personally have know several pilots who have been violated by the FAA under 91.119 when attempting to land at an airport and ended up short of the airfield boundary.

After reading about the Kodiak event, I'm certain the pilot will be speaking with FAA representatives at the Honolulu FSDO upon arrival.

I would love to have the chance to fly a Kodiak someday. I have some time in a Cessna C-208 Caravan and I'd like to compare the differences.

Wayne
 

ToddLer

Newbie
Joined
Nov 21, 2015
Messages
1
Location
Springfield, IL
Total Flight Time
60
Vance,

I'm brand new to the forum and community and enjoyed your flight report very much. Your passion for gyros and flight procedures is evident. I look forward to reading your future reports and even more so to getting started making my own memories in these fantastic machines.
 

Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
16,760
Location
Nipomo,California
Aircraft
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
You are always a fountain of knowledge Wayne.

You are always a fountain of knowledge Wayne.

Thank you for the input and observations Wayne.

My point was; there are airports where the downwind is over congested areas and the pattern altitude is less than 1,000 feet AGL. This appears to me to violate 91.119 because I don’t see any specific wording in the regulations that allows it other than it could be required for takeoff or landing. The downwind pattern does not seem to me to be required for takeoff landing.

At Camarillo I fly a right down wind for runway 25 over the 101 freeway. I feel this qualifies as a congested area.

Once I am over the 101 I can make the runway with a power failure from 800 feet AGL.

Thank you for the observation of The Predator’s departure from SZP Wayne.

I have found all small rotorcraft very hard to see and work to mitigate the challenge. The low sun reflecting off the mist exacerbates the challenge. I find that particular area with all the traffic with different goals flying at different speeds particularly challenging. Four airports in such close proximity are bound to cause traffic problems. Any aircraft could be talking (listening) to CMA, OXR, SZP, NTD or Magu Approach. They could also be listening to ATIS for any of the controlled airports. I am surprised at how few midair collisions there are in that area.

I have learned more about the Kodiak event and all I can say is wow.
 

Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
16,760
Location
Nipomo,California
Aircraft
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
Welcome to the Rotary Wing Forum Todd!

Welcome to the Rotary Wing Forum Todd!

Vance,

I'm brand new to the forum and community and enjoyed your flight report very much. Your passion for gyros and flight procedures is evident. I look forward to reading your future reports and even more so to getting started making my own memories in these fantastic machines.

Glad to have you along on our gyroplane adventures.

I love to fly and love to share the fun.

I am very fortunate in my opportunities.

I look forward to reading about your gyroplane adventures.

I am always amazed about how much goes on with even a short flight.
 
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