More fun flying The Predator.

DavePA11

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Rochester Motel gave your room to someone else without you checking out? Didn’t they see your stuff in the room? Any more photos of gyros at Menrone? Thanks!
 

PW_Plack

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West Valley City, Utah, USA
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Sport Copter Vortex 582
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Vance, sounds like a great trip, with just enough adventure to make it memorable. Sorry your skill at picking out charming older inexpensive motels let you down!
 

Vance

Gyroplane CFI
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Oct 30, 2003
Messages
15,674
Location
Nipomo,California
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Givens Predator
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2200+ in rotorcraft
In my travels I have found it best to remove everything every day when staying in an off brand motel Dave.

I just got a $35 refund and headed down the highway.

I made it as far a Cloverdale and stayed in an upscale for me Motel 6 for $67.15.

It didn’t have much charm but it was clean and quiet and the extra distance allowed me to make in home Monday evening.
 

Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
15,674
Location
Nipomo,California
Aircraft
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2200+ in rotorcraft
Vance, sounds like a great trip, with just enough adventure to make it memorable. Sorry your skill at picking out charming older inexpensive motels let you down!
It was a great trip Paul.

I normally inspect the room before I part with my money.

I was tired and the $45 price was alluring after spending $414 for three nights in Neenah.

My time saveer shower head did no good without water pressure.

Everything else on the trip went perfectly and the Prius averaged 52.6 miles to the gallon with a maximum speed on the GPS of 106 miles per hour.

The proficiency check rides paid for the trip.

Life treats me well.

I hope you are getting better and I hope to see you at the Ken Brock Freedom Fly In.
 
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Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
15,674
Location
Nipomo,California
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Givens Predator
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2200+ in rotorcraft
An unexpected weekend adventure.

A common mistake gyroplane pilots under instruction make is to not orient the rotor correctly in a cross wind take off. If the wind is from the left they have right rudder in to keep her on the centerline and often have right cyclic in. As soon as they lift off the gyroplane will start a right turn because of the right cyclic and that combined with the cross wind will sweep us across the runway to the right. This is usually followed by an over control cyclic to the left resulting in what I refer to as the drunken sailor takeoff (DSTO). If they are holding the nose too high in The Predator the DSTO can result in the horizontal stabilizer contacting the runway degrading the fabric covering.

I go to Rowena’s Flying Fabrics at the Santa Paula Airport (SZP) for my fabric work so after making an appointment for 1:30 I planned a Saturday flight to Santa Paula.

My hopes for an early departure and a nice lunch at The Waypoint Café at the Camarillo Airport were slowly trampled by a lingering marine layer at Santa Maria. I was off at 11:55 when the temperature/dew point spread reached four degrees C.

There was a lingering mist that gave a mystical look to the hills.

Santa Barbara Approach was busy and helped me to manage traffic as I headed east along the shoreline.

The mist thickened over Lake Casitas.

There were four aircraft in the pattern as I approached SZP all giving good radio.

I fit in easily making left traffic for runway two two with a nice touch down I was quickly clear of runway two two and looking for Rowena’s new hangar.

Rowena was ready for me and we backed The Predator into her new hangar with her mumbling about how she hates fabric repairs and she would be done in about an hour.

Henry met me at Rowena’s new hangar and we had a nice talk with a friend of his on the road who had just attended a class on gyroplanes in Maryland. I continue to be amazed by the capabilities of cell phones.

At 2:30 Rowena was still grumbling so we headed off for a late lunch.

The Café at the airport had closed so we found a nice restaurant in town.

When we returned Rowena was grumbling about how it looked and I thought it looked great. She is an artist

I was still tired from my recent cross country trip and Henry offered to put me up for the night.

I checked the weather and it was supposed to be VFR along my route with a slight head wind and not much turbulence so I demurred his invitation and Henry headed for home about 45 minutes away.

I paid my bill and headed across the field for fuel. As I used hard left rudder and toe brake my foot contacted some wires that I had not properly secured the last time I had had the panel apart.

My active noise reduction stopped working and I worried about what else might have been affected. After fueling up and a good preflight inspection I found the power to a small panel on the left that contained the starter button, prerotator button and ANR for the headset had been interrupted. I called Rowena and shared my challenges and her husband Pete came over.

We spent some time trying to find a way to get power to the starter but the relay was buried deep in the rotor tower. Pete tried to hand prop her without success.

I checked the weather and they were predicting Santa Maria to go IFR at eight so time was pressing in on me. I teach to never hurry aviation so I needed to follow my own advice.

I called Henry and he had just arrived home. Without hesitation he agreed to come back and get me, put me up for the night and we could use his tools and hanger the next day to make repairs with his assistance.

I am proud to know Henry and pleased to have him as a friend.

The next morning after a nice breakfast at the Flight 126 Café on the field we pulled the panel apart and removed the cover for the rotor tower. We found the problem and needed an aviation specific crimper and our efforts to find something in Santa Paula failed.

Upon our return an Airframe and power plant mechanic across from Henry’s hangar who I had never met before loaned me his crimper and gave me a proper aircraft fitting. I love the magic of the aviation community.

Everything worked and after checking the weather and another preflight The Predator fired right up and seemed eager to get into the air.

I found lots of lift over the hills and soon reached my VFR west altitude of 4,500 feet and could see the coastal fog clawing at the hills.

Santa Barbara Approach was cordial and busy. They gave me a squawk code and verified altitude. He turned me ten degrees right for traffic and told me to resume own navigation when the traffic became no factor.

I was dealing with a head wind most of the way so I decided to stop at Santa Ynez (IZA) for gas. If the coastal airports go IFR I am headed for Taft about 45 minutes away so I try to always have an hour of fuel on board.

I was catching lift along the ridge at 4,500 feet over Lake Cachuma and pulled the power well back to reach pattern altitude of seventeen hundred feet and just sort of rumbled along for six miles left upwind to enter a left pattern for runway two six.

As soon as I pulled up to the pump there was a steady flow on interested pilots wanting to learn about The Predator so it was two hours before I actually put gas in her.

I checked the weather and it looked good with a gusting head wind and ten plus miles visibility.

If felt good to hear the Santa Maria Tower say; “Experimental 142 Mike Golf, runway three zero clear to land.”

I sat in the afterglow in front of the hangar for almost an hour reliving my weekend flying adventure. The magic never seems to fade for me with just the right balance of challenges and successes.
 

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DavePA11

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Northborough
Vance - I don’t understand why a student would do this?

“A common mistake gyroplane pilots under instruction make is to not orient the rotor correctly in a cross wind take off. If the wind is from the left they have right rudder in to keep her on the centerline and often have right cyclic in. As soon as they lift off the gyroplane will start a right turn because of the right cyclic and that combined with the cross wind will sweep us across the runway to the right.”
 

Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
15,674
Location
Nipomo,California
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Givens Predator
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2200+ in rotorcraft
Vance - I don’t understand why a student would do this?

“A common mistake gyroplane pilots under instruction make is to not orient the rotor correctly in a cross wind take off. If the wind is from the left they have right rudder in to keep her on the centerline and often have right cyclic in. As soon as they lift off the gyroplane will start a right turn because of the right cyclic and that combined with the cross wind will sweep us across the runway to the right.”
My theory is when doing pattern work they have just landed and they controlled their position over the runway with the cyclic. If they were too far left they would use right cyclic.

When taking off with a wind from the left the gyroplane needs right rudder while on the ground so to make it go right the use right rudder and right cyclic even if they understand intellectually that they need right rudder and left cyclic.

This is not a mistake I made so I could be wrong and it could be for some other reason.

It never the less is a common error for new gyroplane pilots doing pattern work.

Allowing the nose to get too high is a mistake I made and it seems most people make. They are just not quick enough with bringing the cyclic forward.
 

Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
15,674
Location
Nipomo,California
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Givens Predator
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2200+ in rotorcraft
I had one of those magical experiences recently that add to the joy of flight instructing.

It started out a little rough as the starter ring gear on the pre-rotator gave up on Sunday and Glen was scheduled for three days beginning Friday. To replace the ring gear involves ordering parts, several individuals and requires removal and complete disassembly of the rotor system.

I had to cancel Rusty and I sent Glen an email telling him of the risks of not getting The Predator back to airworthy and asked if we could reschedule for the next weekend. He already had his motel reservation and preferred that I get her flying for Friday and to keep him informed of the progress toward airworthiness.

Monday I found a better source for the ring gear and had it in my hands Tuesday at 1:00.

My machinist was available and the removal and replacement of the ring gear on the hub went well. We made some modifications to the engagement that slowed the process a little. The rest of the day was devoted to trial assembly.

After a long day Wednesday night I made my maintenance flight and emailed Glen we were good to go for Friday.

Glen is an active glider pilot and hasn’t flown a single engine land plane in more than twenty years. He is also 72 and I have been told people my age have a harder time learning new skills.

Glen had done his homework and understood about gyroplanes from the Rotorcraft Flying Handbook. We did a couple hours of ground and went flying. I made the takeoff and gave Glen the aircraft controls. He was amazingly smooth on the controls and managed our flight along the shoreline well.

After lunch we did turns around a point and S turns over a road before heading back to the airport for some pattern work.

He had been using the cyclic for altitude and I asked him to use the throttle for altitude and the cyclic for airspeed. Glen warned me this would cause some challenges as he would have to rethink things and he was right.

Together we made the decision to move him to the front seat Friday evening. This involves learning to operate the radio, the transponder, the mixture and the brakes for steering. He is also responsible for the engine instruments I was worried I was pushing him too hard at the risk of task overload. It requires reliance on check lists.

We had a lot to do to get him ready for his proficiency check ride so we needed to move right along.

We flew three missions Saturday and focused on pattern work, managing airspeed and altitude to practical test standards. His improvements came in leaps and bounds with an occasional setback.

I had Glen teach me to do a preflight inspection Saturday evening.

Sunday we did engine at idle accurate landings and then on our second mission headed off to the practice area for recognition and recovery from low airspeed and high rate of descent turns around a point, Steep turns, S turns over a road and slow flight. Everything was to practical test standards. The wind began to come up on the way back and Glen handled it well without my input.

Because we came in from the south over the town of Orcutt we were at 1,300 feet instead of 800 feet (550 feet above the ground) that is pattern altitude for rotorcraft at SMX and I let him manage it all unassisted.

I am confident he will pass his proficiency check ride and become a safe gyroplane pilot.

He did so well it made me feel proud to be his flight instructor. I loved how far we had come in such a short time. I loved signing his log book and his form 8710-11.
 

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Brian Jackson

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Hamburg, New Jersey USA
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GyroBee Variant - Under Construction
I admire your passion for instructing and safety. I've lived somewhat vicariously through your posts in preparation for my training. You've made me think about so many things I wouldn't have considered. Thanks for these informative reports. Glad this one went well.
 

Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
15,674
Location
Nipomo,California
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Givens Predator
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2200+ in rotorcraft
KBFFI 2019

It is always an adventurous flight to the Ken Brock Freedom Fly-in. I had been watching the weather all week and as is typically the case; fog in the morning along the coast and wind in the high desert in the afternoon.

I checked the weather before sunrise Thursday morning September 26 and felt there was no hurry because it was doubtful I could get out of SMX before 11:00 for the fog and things didn’t look good at Santa Barbara.

Because I am an optimist I headed down to the airport and worked through my preflight and loaded The Predator for the trip with four days of clean clothes, several warmer layers of clothing, my computer and extra helmet carefully arranged in Lieutenant Pack (my back seater for this flight).

I could see patches of blue begin to appear around 9:00 and I was loaded up by nine thirty and sort of ready to go. I called flight service for a weather briefing and was reminded of a notice to airmen for runway closures. I find it easy to sort of gloss over NOTAMs. Runway two-two zero would be closed from ten to noon local (NOTAMS are in Zulu) AND several lines down runway one two-three zero would be closed from ten to noon. There are only two runways at SMX and I did not realize they would both be closed at the same time.

Leaving at noon would get me deep into the predicted high winds in the high desert of El Mirage Dry Lake so I fired up The Predator and worked through my check lists reminding myself repeatedly not to hurry aviation. It is a mile from my hangar to the runway at alpha eight. It appeared that I would not make it before the 10:00 closure. I called ground at 9:55 and made them aware of my inability to properly process NOTAMS and ground replied; “We will get you out Vance.”

I soon heard the magic words; “Gyroplane 142 Mike Golf, runway three zero clear for takeoff, right down wind approved!” Those words always make my heart beat faster as the adventure begins!

It was misty with ten miles visibility flying at 60 knots of indicated air speed showing forty six knots of ground speed. I was in no hurry because the fog near Santa Barbara was not projected to clear up till 11:00 local time so I just floated along enjoying the feeling of the cool moist air against my face.

As I approached Lake Cachuma I could see fog spilling over the hills and the San Marcos Pass appeared blocked. Ceiling at Santa Barbara (SBA) was 1,600 feet and pilot reports had the tops of the marine layer at 2,800 feet.

Flying near the pacific coast if I might divert for weather I like to have a fuel reserve of at least an hour so I decided to stop for gas at Santa Ynez on runway two six despite winds three five zero degrees at fifteen knots gusting to twenty knots.

The pattern was busy with airplanes going around and I slipped in and landed on runway two six with little drama using full rudder.

The takeoff was less elegant with a strong gust from the left at lift off performing what I call the drunken sailor takeoff from not guessing the rotor disk tilt into the wind correctly. She leaped into the air and immediately headed left with considerable left yaw.

I checked in with Santa Barbara Approach for a transition to the east and was given a squawk code and my altitude verified. As I approached Lake Cachuma it became clear the coastal route was not going to work and I would need to fly north of the ridge. I don’t do on top. I called Santa Barbara Approach back, made them aware of my intentions, canceled radar services and squawked VFR.

The wilderness area is stunning and I climbed up to 5,500 feet because the highest hill in that quadrant is six thousand seven hundred feet. I wanted to be above any mountain obscuration. The world seems to expand and slow down as I gain altitude. The fog added a sense of mystery and made some of my landmarks indistinguishable.

As I approached Lake Casitas I checked the weather at Camarillo and the ceiling was three thousand six hundred feet and I could make it over the hills at two thousand feet so I began my descent from five thousand five hundred feet over Lake Casitas.

As I surveyed the potential weather challenges I was glad I had filled up at Santa Ynez. I was once stuck on top over Santa Paula and had to return to Santa Maria.

I passed over the ridge at two thousand five hundred feet and began an aggressive descent reaching one thousand feet over the Saticoy Bridge. I love to pull the power back and hear the shish of the rotor become the dominant sound.

I found a break in the busy pattern and slipped into Santa Paula to fill up again.

I called flight service and they were predicting twenty five gusting to thirty five knot winds at Fox Field by the time I arrived.

As I neared Interstate Five I called Whitman ATIS and the ceiling was a little over three thousand feet and it appeared the winds were blowing the marine layer over Santa Clarita and into the hills.

The ceiling seemed to be descending as I neared Agua Dulce Airport so I began a descent in conflict with my desire to get over the hills. Worse case; I could follow highway fourteen through the low pass but that put Palmdale in the way of getting to Fox Field and didn’t give me many options if the fog closed in.

As I neared Palmdale the sky opened up as if to welcome me. My spirit soared as I climbed to five thousand five hundred feet and flew direct over the hills to Fox Field. I called Fox Tower from ten miles to the south west descending through five thousand one hundred feet. I was to make a base entry for runway two four and report two miles. I had to repeat aircraft type twice. I pulled the power well back and it seemed to take a very long time to float down to three thousand two hundred feet patter altitude.

As I approached Fox Field I briefly mistook the prison for the airport (I use paper charts) and had some trouble identify runway two four in the mass of buildings at the prison. Then I spotted the Apollo Community Park just west of Fox Field and I felt like it was all downhill from there. I met some very nice people at Fox Field after I filled her up.

Gyro Cove at El Mirage is about thirty four miles from Fox Field on a compass heading of .087 degrees. A left downwind departure was approved.

I arrived at gyro cove about thirty six minutes later to relatively gentle winds and after circling around landed to the west.

Several people asked me how far and how long. The flight was 199 nautical miles (229 statute miles) and three hours and twelve minutes for an average speed of 59kts (68 miles per hour). I missed being the furthest gyroplane flown to the event by 20 nautical miles.
 

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Vance

Gyroplane CFI
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Messages
15,674
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Nipomo,California
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Givens Predator
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Fun at the KBFFI 2019 and the flight home

Shawn made his first real flights in his extensively refurbished Air Command earlier and was still quite excited. He made several flights during the weekend being cautious about the winds. Later I flew Shawn’s virtual reality gyroplane flight simulator and was not able to crash it. Several others found a way.

Chuck made some great burgers for dinner and we did a lot of hangar flying as people wandered in and out of our circle.

I slept in the bed over the seats in Chuck’s class A motor home. I got up during the night to relieve myself and the ladder slipped out of its hooks depositing me on the floor with some violence.

It has a low ceiling above the bed and the wind sounded like dirt being shoveled on the roof. I dreamed I was being buried alive in a coffin and awoke with a start smacking my head on the ceiling.

The plan was to sign John off to solo at El Mirage so we needed to start early and I was up at sunrise to a great breakfast of bacon, eggs and potatoes skillfully prepared by Chuck.

The wind was calm and it looked like a great morning for John to balance on the mains. It would be an understatement to say he was excited. He worked through his preflight and had an opportunity to learn some time consuming things about preflight. John was eventually ready to launch just as the wind was coming up to a steady five knots. I was proud when John decided not to fly because of the wind. This would have been the climax of a two year adventure and I suspect it was not an easy decision. Less than twenty minutes later his decision was validated as we were hit with some sixteen knot gusts.

Gyroplane enthusiasts showed up throughout the day and there were many conversations with old friends and I met some new ones. I had a great hot dog for lunch skillfully prepared by Terry.

I got to know Alex with Tango Gyro and enjoyed our interactions a lot.

Saturday we “planned” a memorial flight in honor of Marion Springer and the wind was blowing twenty five knots gusting to forty knots most of the day. Dave, Alex and myself were the only ones silly enough to fly in such conditions and I had Marion’s granddaughter as my back seater. I saw eighty four knots of ground speed at fifty knots indicated air speed on one pass. The landing was uneventful with some maneuvering required to get The Predator’s rotor stopped in the winds.

Saturday’s dinner was great and the banquet was lots of fun.

Sunday morning Paul decided to head straight for home rather than tag along with me along the coast because of winds, time and a lack of sleep. The flight to San Martin was still challenging for him having to stop for a hand warming cup of coffee in Tehachapi to manage hypothermia.

I headed straight out toward Fox Field and was flying into a twenty five knot head wind and was not certain I would have enough gas after flying around for the memorial. It took an hour to make the thirty four miles to Fox Field (WJF).

When I made my radio call to Fox tower from ten miles out I found my lips were numb with the cold and did not work well. After we worked out the communication I was to make a straight in for runway 24 and report two miles.

As I was filling up with sixteen gallons (she holds twenty two) I watched the fog spill over the tops of the hills so I chained The Predator down and sought some local pilot knowledge. During my quest for local knowledge the situation fixed itself and it was an easy climb over the hill to clear skies.

It was gusty over Santa Clarita as I came down the hill. It settled down as I neared Santa Paula.

I was on a right downwind for runway four when they changed to runway two two so I flew upwind over the city and crossed over following noise abatement procedures. There were four other aircraft in the pattern and it all seemed nicely choreographed. I gassed up, visited with friends before checking the weather and making a quick departure to miss the strong afternoon winds at Santa Maria (SMX).

I flew above Santa Barbara’s class Charlie airspace at four thousand five hundred feet and checked in anyway. Over the San Marcos pass radar services were terminated and I began a slow decent to one thousand seven hundred feet and entered a left pattern for runway two six from over the river at Santa Ynez. I luxuriated in the lift I found along the hills.

I was not ready for the flight to be over so after leaving Santa Ynez I wandered around for a bit over the hills feeling the freedom of the skies with no destination in mind and a full tank of gas. I checked the Santa Maria ATIS the winds were 290 degrees at twenty knots gusting to thirty. ATC welcomed me home. It all seemed pretty smooth compared to some of the winds around El Mirage. I felt good to be home.
 

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Kevin_Richey

Yamaha gyro...Oregon, USA
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Oregon, USA
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Sport Copter gyroplane
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300+ gyroplane, 11 airplane, 1.5 PPC, AND... a ZILLION hours of flying in my dreams!
Since no one has written it yet, who flew those 20-odd miles further than you into El Mirage, Vance?
 

Kevin_Richey

Yamaha gyro...Oregon, USA
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Oregon, USA
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300+ gyroplane, 11 airplane, 1.5 PPC, AND... a ZILLION hours of flying in my dreams!
What is John's Gyroplane?
Is this John of the couple Sylvia & John?
 

Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
15,674
Location
Nipomo,California
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Givens Predator
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2200+ in rotorcraft
What is John's Gyroplane?
Is this John of the couple Sylvia & John?
John's gyroplane is a one of a kind single seat 912 powered gyroplane called the viewmaster if I remember correctly.

She is very well built with lots of unusual features.
 

Kevin_Richey

Yamaha gyro...Oregon, USA
Joined
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Location
Oregon, USA
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Sport Copter gyroplane
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300+ gyroplane, 11 airplane, 1.5 PPC, AND... a ZILLION hours of flying in my dreams!
John's gyroplane is a one of a kind single seat 912 powered gyroplane called the viewmaster if I remember correctly.

She is very well built with lots of unusual features.
I've flown along together w/ Dennis, who built the Viewmaster. He posted some videos he had taken from a video camera he mounted onto his helmet.

Here is one where he & I flew from Scappoose airport in Oregon over to Woodland airstrip in Washington, alongside the "5", as they say in southern California (I-5). This was when my gyro still had a Rotax 503 for power. From Woodland, we split off, he returning to Buzzard Flats airstrip in Battle Ground, Wa., & I returned back to Scappoose.


He posted more of flying around the El Mirage area in his "Viewmaster" gyro. He named them

and


In the "Flying with Steve" youtube video, those who have attended El Mirage gyro events will recognize Steve & his VW-powered, twin stacks gyro, who regularly flys over from their airstrip about six miles to the west. They call their place "Area 52".

At 1:36 in that video, you can see the Viewmaster in flight, filmed from the ground. Rather shaky video for those several seconds. Around 2:12, you can see Teddy's place, w/ airstrip in the distance, about 12 o'clock, w/ the Chicken Ranch airstrip in the foreground off to the left.

There are some beautiful shots of the sunrise/sunsets, as well as low flying just off the desert scrub that is the El Mirage area. Lots of foundations of prior buildings abound. Really nice music sequences Dennis incorporated in his videos. The Viewmaster appears to be one very smooth flying gyroplane.

In the "chacing Kevin" video, one can see & feel what it is like flying a gyro close up behind another single place machine, @ "Gyrocopter Cove".
 
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Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
15,674
Location
Nipomo,California
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Givens Predator
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2200+ in rotorcraft
I received a call from Matt who wanted to learn to fly a gyroplane.

He had some helicopter experience and considerable fixed wing experience. He has flown lots of different aircraft.

He works from wherever he is so we probably could not start before 11:00.

He scheduled four days starting 9/30 with our primary goal teaching him to fly a gyroplane safely with a secondary goal of getting signed off for a proficiency check ride. I told him it would be hard work and Matt was ok with that.

My timing wasn’t flexible because Friday 10/4 I had a commitment to fly up to Pine Mountain Lake; the gateway to Yosemite.

I had just returned from the Ken Brock Freedom Fly-in and had some cleaning up to do so starting at 11:00 worked for me.

The first day by the time we were ready to fly at noon winds were 290 degrees at twenty knots gusting to thirty knots so we worked on ground instruction and preflight.

I had the feeling Matt was learning but I didn’t know him well enough to know. It was clear he had a very broad range of knowledge and he asked good questions.

We also decided to transition him to the front seat where he would be responsible for the engine instruments, the mixture, the transponder, radio and the brakes. The Predator steers with differential brakes and there are on brakes in the back so typically I start people in the back seat until I find out their level of skill. We went out and taxied around a bit; the winds were so strong even that was difficult but it was good practice.

Check lists become very important when a client is in the front seat and Matt was very good about using the check lists.

Tuesday Matt was able to start at 9:00 and I made the takeoff and turned the controls over to Matt. He did very well as we worked through the ground reference maneuvers and amazingly did them to practical test standards so I could cross that off the long list of required tasks. There was not much I could teach him. This is often a time of letting the client get into trouble and taking control of the aircraft.

On the second mission we worked on landings and then takeoffs and things were going extremely well crossing off cross wind landings and takeoffs off our list.

The wind got stronger so we did some more ground instruction and we finishing up most or the ground instruction.

I gave him my copy of The Rotorcraft Flying Handbook to study that night.

Wednesday was back to 11:00 and the conditions were much nicer. We managed three engine at idle accurate landings to practical test standards and did more regular takeoffs and landings.

After lunch we did steep turns, slow flight and recognition and recover from low airspeed and a high rate of descent finishing up all the tasks of the practical test to practical test standards.

We filled out his 8710-11 for his proficiency check ride and I was confident he would easily pass his proficiency check ride to earn his Sport Pilot-Gyroplane certificate.

I was worried that we had not covered enough for safety and spent some sleepless time Wednesday night worrying about what I might have missed.

Thursday Matt showed up early and had some good questions and I searched for things I might have left out or weaknesses in his knowledge.

We went flying and I realized that Matt had truly learned to fly a gyroplane. He was relaxed and proficient. Each time he would perform a maneuver perfectly I would laugh uncontrollably. He felt relaxed and competent and when we were finished I felt confident we had fulfilled the fly safely part of the mission.

Please understand this was an add-on rating so I did not need to start from scratch and Matt is a very focused, high achieving individual.

Most people take seven to ten hours of dual instruction before we make the decision that they are ready for their proficiency check ride.

It was very exciting to watch Matt’s quick progress. I suspect it has more to do with Matt than his flight instructor. I feel it would be a mistake to discount the value of ground instruction in our success.
 

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Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
15,674
Location
Nipomo,California
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Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2200+ in rotorcraft
An example of poor aviation decision making.

It is my observation that most aviation accidents are a chain of poor aviation decisions.

I offer this post in the hopes it will help other pilots recognize when they are putting together a chain of poor aviation decisions that elevates the risk of a flight.

I received a call from Mike, a stranger to me and he asked if I would be interested in flying to The Pine Mountain Lake Airport Day October 5th and perhaps flying a sort of demo flight as many of the people at the event have never seen a gyroplane fly.

I love to have a reason to make a cross country flight so it sounded like fun with a few logistical challenges. Santa Maria often has fog in the morning and there are often strong winds on my flight path in the afternoon making it unlikely I could arrive at E45 by noon. Leaving at 3:00 after the event I would likely not get back to Santa Maria before dark and the possible returning marine layer. I asked about a place to stay Friday and Saturday night and cover for my open aircraft.

Mike said he would do his best to accommodate my request so I wrote it down on my schedule.

Pine Mountain Lake Airport (E45) is a lovely airport and airport community nestled in the Sierra Foothills. By road it is about 280 miles and a five and a half hour drive from Santa Maria. It is about 230 nautical miles (265 statute miles the way I was going to fly and at my typical cruise speed of 65kts (75 MPH) the flight should take around three and a half hours with gas stops at Paso Robles (PRB) and Hollister (CVH). I have lots of friends at both airports and it is easy for a gas stop to take forty five minutes because there are often people interested in our gyroplane, The Predator and it is part of the fun. I don’t like to be rude. I figured at least five and a half hours in route not allowing for winds. I don’t like to hurry aviation.

In August Mike sent me an email that he had a hangar for The Predator.

A month later I received an email that Joe has a room for me in addition to the use of his hangar.

I was honored and this added to my desire to complete the flight Friday. This desire to complete the mission on time is often a link in the accident chain.

I also worked to get some other gyroplanes to join me.

I carefully planned the flight and checked the weather each day for a week prior to departure.

I laid the route out on a chart and enclosed it in a zippered plastic bag so I could read it in flight.

I knew the earlier I left the less likely I was to encounter a head wind and the easier it would be to complete the flight as planned.

I was pleased to see clear skies at 7:00 Friday morning and I headed down to the SMX airport.

At 8:00 I received a request for some additional flight instruction before a proficiency check ride and this required an extensive debrief I did my best to focus on my client despite my concern about the time. My departure was delayed till noon.

Weathermeister showed a strong head wind for my entire route of flight at all altitudes I might fly and flight service had the same thing to say. There were no temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) along my route of flight and the notice to airmen (NOTAMs) were all benign.

The sun sets at 6:33 at E45, civil twilight ends at 7:00 and the moon was 79% waxing. E45 is at 2,933 feet mean sea level and the highest terrain in that quadrant on the chart is six thousand two hundred feet msl. It is sparsely populated with few lights and the mountains tend to disappear as moonlight envelops the foothills. There is not even a visible horizon so spatial disorientation is a real possibility.

In other words the Sierra Foothills are not a good place to be flying at night.

I had a 15 knot head wind from the start as I climbed to 3,000 feet for the Cuesta grade.

The head wind increased as I left Paso Robles. I like to cruise along in The Predator at around 65kts indicated air speed (75 MPH) so by the time I reached King City I would have been making 25kts (28miles per hour) of ground speed at my typical cruise speed. I just like the way she rumbles along at that speed.

To mitigate the challenges of the head wind and imminent sunset I increased my indicated air speed to 75kts (86mph) burning eleven gallons per hour instead of seven requiring an extra fuel stop. I was still only making around forty knots of ground speed and as the head wind increased as I approached King City I was making thirty five knots of ground speed.

I love the rolling hills out of Paso Robles and following the winding Salinas River.

My personal minimum fuel reserve is an hour so I decided to stop at King City Airport for gas and made a nearly vertical takeoff in the forty knot gusting wind.

I love the climb out over the increasingly rugged terrain and then following Highway twenty five (AKA Airline Highway) as it winds through the many valleys to Hollister was the very essence of the freedom of a beautiful cross country flight in an open aircraft

The wind became calmer as I neared Hollister and I topped off the tanks there and called Mike to tell him I might not make it tonight.

My anxiety did not diminish my joy in the flight over the hills.

The wind was worse by the San Luis Reservoir with moderate turbulence so I decided to stop at Gustine for gas.

I was wheels up at 4:50 fully expecting to stop at Turlock (O15) for the night if I encountered too much head wind flying across the San Joaquin Valley and felt I could not make it to E45 before dark. It is 52 nautical miles (60 miles) from Gustine to Pine Mountain Lake as the gyroplane flies.

I was seduced by the beauty of the flight and I abused my freedom of the skies. I simply didn’t want to stop.

Most of the way across the San Joaquin Valley I was seeing 85kts (98 mph) indicated air speed and making around 60kts of ground speed at 5,500 feet msl.

I carefully surveyed the terrain as I passed O15 in case I needed to return after dark.

O15 was my last chance to make a good aviation decision where my choices were not limited.

My ground speed picked up to 75kts as I left the San Joaquin Valley behind.

I felt pressing on was a poor aviation decision possibly putting me into the Sierra foot hills in the moonlight. I had read enough accident reports to know that was a poor choice.

At 12 nautical miles from E45 I could see the beacon and my GPS switched to night reminding me the sun had set.

I made my initial radio call at ten miles and 5,500 feet msl.

The Sierra foot hills with all the lakes are stunning even from that altitude and the airport looked mysterious and inviting nestled in a misty valley.

I could feel the cool moist air on my face.

The shadows were getting longer and less defined.

I made another radio call at five nautical miles from the airport and heard a voice say; “is that you Vance?” Mike had been worried about me.

My descent was irregular because of the turbulence and it was hard to know the direction of the wind. The wind sock was hard to read in the fading light. Based on my ground speed I chose runway two seven and crossed over mid field. I was alone in the pattern.

The landing on the downhill runway was uneventful and I felt a relief sweep over my body and release my mind.

Several people along the taxi way cheered and waved as I taxied by.

I was thankful to not have paid for my poor aviation decision making.

Darkness descended on Pine Mountain Lake airport as Mike led me to Joe’s hangar. I found I could still identify the ridges in the moonlight. I suspect it would have been harder from above.

My entire body was tired from the internal struggle between completing the mission and appropriate caution.

I spoke of my concern about my poor aviation decision making and some pilots said; the decisions were good because it all worked out.

I feel this thinking is fundamentally flawed and tends to lower the bar for what is an acceptable risk.

Some of the more experienced pilots agreed with my assessment of my poor aviation decision making.

I will write about the fun at Pine Mountain Lake and the flight home when I get some time.

I have some work to do on The Predator and The Santa Maria Air Fare is this weekend.

As Mike led me to the hangar I found I could just make out the mountains in the moonlight.

Joe’s house and hangar were magnificent and although he was not there he had left little signs to lead me to my bed.

Mike’s wife would not hear of me going out for dinner and made me a delicious chicken salad with lots of interesting textures.

I was treated like the prodigal son

Fly free, fly safe.
 

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j4flyer

Member
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Apr 7, 2004
Messages
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Location
Woodland, Ca
Welcome to the human race. There isn’t an aviator alive who hasn’t questioned a decision. What is clear in your post is that you made an after flight risk assessment analysis. The action of flight provided you with experience. The after flight debrief demonstrates your growth as a pilot. You now have more to pass along to your students. You also have creditably. Now that you have debriefed the flight, confessed to all, close the door , move on and pass on. I would be far more comfortable flying with an instructor who accesses flights than one who wings it.
 
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