More fun flying The Predator.

Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
16,455
Location
Nipomo,California
Aircraft
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
An unexpected treat!

“Good afternoon Vance, this is Michael; are you at the airport?”

I can be; what would you like?

“I would like a flight lesson in The Predator, I first saw her 20 years ago at El Mirage and hear about her from time to time and would like to know how she flies.”

I will see you in an hour at the Santa Maria Public airport (SMX).

This was particularly fortuitous as I was just about to recommend Michael as an examiner for a proficiency check ride for a client and he is one of the few gyroplane CFIs I had not flown with.

I try to take advantage of every chance I get to fly with an experienced flight instructor because I always learn something. Michael is number forty.

The airport is twenty minutes from my house so I emerged from my Covid cocoon, dropped the top and headed down the hill in the M Roadster singing along with Patsy Cline.

I worked my way through the preflight in about twenty minutes listening to the SMX tower that was supposed to be closed till Wednesday morning according to the notice to airmen from last Wednesday.

I was about to check the tires and take a fuel sample from the gascolater when I head Michael cleared for a straight in and to report three miles.

I went to the end of my hangar row and Michael’s landing in his Magni was as nice as could be and I waved from my hangar row.

I rolled The Predator outside and finished the preflight so Michael would have a place to park his Magni.

The required paper work to give instruction went quickly with a picture of his driver’s license and pilot’s certificate going in Michael’s file.

I gave the standard FAA pre-flight briefing (experimental, seat belts, emergency procedures and the more extensive briefing for the front seat. Operation of the radio, transponder, starting procedures, steering, rotor brake, control stick buttons, switches etc. The flight instruments are pretty standard layout and Michael properly understood the engine instruments.

I found it intimidating giving a preflight briefing to such an experienced instructor.

Michael followed the startup check list well and managed the differential braking for steering comfortably as we headed to self-serve to fuel up.

Information Tango was current and we taxied via Alpha to Alpha Eight for run up.

There was little to do as Michael worked his way through the run-up.

Michael asked me to make the first takeoff and I reminded him he was steering until the rudder became effective at around 15kts of indicated airspeed as there are no brakes in the back.

At about three hundred feet above the ground I gave Michael the controls and was rewarded with very nice smooth control inputs. As we headed toward the practice area I realized I had not showed Michael our route on the chart or the location of Vandenberg’s restricted air space so we went with; follow California Highway One to California 135 toward Los Alamos and the valley is my practice area.

When we arrived Michael made a beautiful steep 360 and then experimented with some very slow flight maneuvering and power on and power off vertical descents exploring the rudder effectiveness and the lack of power-pitch-yaw coupling.

All his control inputs were smooth and deliberate and I am thinking; “that is how a real pilot flies!” All his maneuvers had the yaw string straight back despite the rapidly shifting 15kt winds in the little valley.

Michael’s radio calls were like I would like to sound and he received an instruction he didn’t understand that needed local knowledge (report the Orcutt Y). We were instructed to make a left 360 for spacing and Michael made a lovely two minute turn.

Air traffic control told us runway 30 was clear to land number two and was not clear on how they wanted our base entry for runway 30 and I probably over instructed him on entering the pattern. We basically flew direct rather than intercepting the centerline with a base to final turn.

I would find it very intimidating looking at runway three zero; having never seen The Predator land and knowing I needed to land her.

Michael flew so well that together we decided to have him make the landing. I talked Michael through the first landing and it was a beauty. I undoubtedly said more than was necessary. He floated her in and touched down nearly stopped so smoothly I had to double check we were down.

The takeoff was nice with some minor instruction from me and I pretty much kept my mouth shut through two more landings. The second takeoff was perfect despite changing winds.

The debrief went well and I made some log book entries and finished up the paper work before Michael’s departure.

After Michael’s departure I reviewed the video of the flight and thought about what I had learned; grateful to have such skilled and knowledgeable friends.
 

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StanFoster

Active Member
Joined
Nov 16, 2003
Messages
16,980
Location
Paxton, Il
Aircraft
Helicycle N360SF
Total Flight Time
1250
Vance.....You are a legend and have done incredible accomplishments in so many areas of your life. Thanks for letting little ol me have some of your time over the years we conversed.
 

hillberg

Super Member
Joined
May 24, 2010
Messages
5,554
Location
Low Earth Orbit
Helicopters at CMA we cut a short pattern between the Sheriffs hangar/ Air Port Burger joint and the tower. Mid field.
Hope to see you there sometime....
Oxnard's got nuten :sleep:
 

Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
16,455
Location
Nipomo,California
Aircraft
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
A part of being a gyroplane flight instructor is having an airworthy aircraft.

Some time back I replaced the David Clark Isocom intercom. They don’t make them any more so I purchased one on eBay with a questionable history. It worked much better than the one I replaced but it developed a strange quirk where the side tone on the intercom would quarrel with the side tone on the radio and make my radio transmissions almost unreadable.

There is an adjustment that is supposed to address this that was not effective.

It meant for the tower to understand me I needed to turn the intercom off before talking on the radio.

I took a deep breath and purchased another Isocom with a questionable history that “came out of a working aircraft”.

I pulled the instrument panel off today at great risk of breaking one of the many little tiny wires and was reminded once again how useful depth perception is when working with small fasteners is a crowded, poorly lit environment. My one eye works ok but the world is flat to me. Getting the angle just right on my bifocals can be hard on my neck.

As with most everything in the panel the air speed indicator had to come out to make room for the intercom to come out so my pitot-static system was also at risk.

I have a client tomorrow and I don’t like to test things with people in the aircraft so I went out and did three laps around the pattern.

The moment of truth came when I asked ground for a radio check and it came back five by five. WOOOHOOO!!!!

As thrilled as I was with the apparent success I had less volume on the radio (hopefully just an adjustment) and my electric pre-rotator makes a new whine in the radio. I suspect one of the grounds behind the panel is broken.

You would think three laps of the pattern would be old hat to an experienced pilot and yet as the nose came up my heart beat faster and as she lifted off I felt like my problems got smaller.

As I approached pattern altitude and reduced power some strong gusting winds made The Predator do a little dance and I felt it was an extension of the joy I felt to be airborne.

I felt like I was skipping around the pattern and I loved it each time I made a radio call without turning off the intercom. Mind you there was no one to talk to but it was a test.

I had three of those magical landings where I could barely feel her touch down and I guessed right on the disk angle to deal with the cross wind on each takeoff.

I felt a little silly sitting in the afterglow for twenty minutes after the flight in front of the hangar and fortunately nobody came by to ask me what I was doing.

I did most of the preflight for tomorrow and rolled the big hangar door shut.

It was perfect convertible weather for the drive home and I had nothing but good news for my wife Ed who asked me how it went.

I edited the pictures off my GoPro camera that is a good training tool.

I love it that I can still feel the magic of even this simple flight and I love the thought of sharing it with a friend tomorrow and opening the door to this special world to him.
 

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Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
16,455
Location
Nipomo,California
Aircraft
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
That means flying one with an airworthiness certificate, right?

There is more than just an airworthiness certificate required to give flight instruction in an experimental aircraft.

To give instruction in The Predator I have a letter of deviation authority.

To comply with the letter of deviation authority for The Predator she has hundred hour inspections in addition to annual condition inspections and there are restrictions on the kinds of flights I can make.

These can be a challenge to schedule and they are outside what some of the fixed base operator’s insurance company permits.

I have to have a transponder certification in the preceding 24 calendar months.

A LODA is not required if I am giving instruction in the clients aircraft although I need to check that the transponder certification is current and that there has been a condition inspection in the last twelve months.

Keeping the communication system working well is always a challenge.

More than one client has forgotten to unplug their helmet when they exited the aircraft and this is intercom number two.

I typically have the helmets serviced once a year and have three just in case.

The earpieces in the helmets are a common problem. I have to replace them every six months.

My new COVID 19 protocol is hard on the microphones although I have not had a problem yet I have a spare microphone.

So far I have only had to cancel one flight because The Predator was not airworthy.
 

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Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
16,455
Location
Nipomo,California
Aircraft
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
I have been watching the weather to fly from Santa Maria (SMX) to El Mirage for the Ken Brock Freedom Fly In.

The challenge is fog in the morning along the coast and winds in the afternoon in the high desert.

Today;9/24; would have been perfect. I could have gotten an early start out of Santa Maria with the field going visual flight rules at 8:51and arrived before the 260 degrees and 20kts gusting to 30kts at William J Fox predicted to start at 3:00. Edwards is predicting 260 degrees at 15kts gusting to 25kts starting at 3:00.

Monday SMX didn’t go VFR till 10:51 and the winds were stronger in the high desert.

I am flying with a friend (Richard) so my wind limit is 35kts with a ten knot gust spread.

We will fly down the coast to Santa Paula and then head up the valley to Agua Dulce (L70), over the hills to William J Fox Field (WJF) and then over the high desert to Sothern California Logistics (VCV Victorville) before flying to gyro cove at El Mirage Dry Lake.

We will see what tomorrow brings.
 

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All_In

Gold Supporter
Joined
Apr 21, 2008
Messages
15,537
Location
San Diego, CA. USA
Aircraft
Piper Archer, Aviomania G1sb
Total Flight Time
Not sure over 10,000+ logged FW, 260+ ultralights, sailplane, hang-gliders
That sounds like a fun trip!!! Please share pictures along the way.
will see you Saturday at El Mirage.
 

Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
16,455
Location
Nipomo,California
Aircraft
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
Flying to the Ken Brock Freedom Fly In

I arrived at the Santa Maria Public airport (SMX) at 7:00 AM to clear skies and light winds rejoicing that we were going to get an early start and perhaps get to El Mirage before the afternoon winds.

My hopes were dashed when I called flight service and was told VFR (visual flight rules) was not recommended on most of the route. Santa Inez (IZA) had 200 foot ceilings Santa Barbara (SBA) was IFR (instrument flight rules) as was Camarillo (CMA). Winds at Fox Field (WJF) were predicted to be 20kts gusting to 30kts beginning around 3:00 and Edward’s Air Force base was predicting the same. Edward’s is the closest to El Mirage that has weather forecasts.

I did a very careful preflight on my aircraft (The Predator) despite doing one the night before. She is an older working girl and requires vigilance and care.

Richard and I went over the flight plan and kept impatiently calling flight service and checking my computer to find out the latest weather and around 11:00 Santa Ynez (IZA) was VFR.

We were off quickly and I gave Richard the flight controls and got out my camera. I took a quick picture and saw a big smile as he flew very well +-50 feet of altitude and +- knots of indicated air speed. This is better than half the standard for Sport Pilot and he was very smooth on the controls. The question was would he still be smiling at the end of the somewhat challenging two and a half hour flight.

I called flight service from IZA and CMA was still IFR. CMA is very close to Santa Paula (SZP) that does not have weather reporting.

We decided to start for Santa Paula and run along the north side of the ridge to stay out of Santa Barbara’s class C airspace because I still had not had a completely successful test of my ADSB out on The Predator.

I have read enough accident reports of people flying up the wrong canyon that I took the controls and carefully worked my way up with plenty of altitude to turn around. The smoke made the distant mountains look closer and they appeared very much higher. I was pleased when we finally reached the big valley with Lake Casitas and gave Richard back the controls. I told him to descent to 3,500 feet from a little over 5,000 feet and it was lovely pulling the power back and hearing the rotor become the dominant sound.

Santa Paula was busy with some conflicting traffic so I was busy on the radio reporting where I was, my intentions and speed. Things worked out and we were down and off the runway two two quickly.

We met Richard (Richard’s dad) at Santa Paula and he brought some fried chicken for lunch and was going to bring my sleeping bag and a change of clothes to El Mirage. With two people on board there is not much room for other stuff in The Predator.

We managed to fit into the traffic and were off quickly making a left downwind departure.

There is an aerobatic box there so we flew up one side of the valley slowly climbing to 3,500 feet flying over Magic Mountain.

There was a big temporary flight restriction (TFR) for a fire near Palmdale and I had intended to fly to Fox Field (WJF) to miss it. I checked the weather and it was twenty knots gusting to thirty knots so we stopped at Agua Dulce for gas.

Agua Dulce (L70) is down in a little valley and the steep approach is fun. The airport was deserted as we fueled up and we were off quickly for the high desert.

As we skirted the edge of the Palmdale airspace to miss the fire TFR we were showing a twenty five knot tail wind with an occasional strong gust.

It was great practice for Richard and he fly well as we made our way across the high desert toward El Mirage Dry Lake and the Ken Brock Freedom Fly In.

So many flying events have been for Covid 19 I expected a small turn out.

As I approached the flight line it appeared very well attended for the first day.

Richard and I had a lengthy debrief joined by several other people about our adventures. I did not have any doubts about the value of the training flight for Richard. There were lots of lessons about flight planning, aviation decision making and it was his first time flying in very strong winds.

Richard Showed up with my sleeping bag and computer and we hanger flew under the lighted canopy till 10:30.

Terry gave me a place to sleep and a lovely dinner.

I have been visiting with old friends and meeting new ones.

Gyroplanes attract unusual people and it is fun to have that common bond to make everyone feel like an old friend.

Sorry for no descriptions on the pictures, it is getting hot in the camper.

I will be flying back Sunday morning.

Thank you for coming along on our adventure.
 

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Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
16,455
Location
Nipomo,California
Aircraft
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
Saturday was a lovely day at the Ken Brock Freedom visiting with old friends and meeting new ones Saturday. I love the way the love of flight binds such diverse individuals together.

There was a lot of flying and no one was hurt.

I felt like I reduced the likelihood of bent metal for several people.

It is fun to see some people who I have helped along the way maturing into safe cautious gyroplane pilots.

It is magic to watch their fun grow along with the maturity of their skills.

So many people I met were just delightful.

Somehow the sun made orange by the smoke put an elegant finish on a lovely day.

Sunday morning it was time to pack up with many regrets of not spending more time with friends.

Richard was not able to manage the help he needed for the return trip so I had Lieutenant Pack as my back seater.

It is important to secure things so they don’t come loose and go through the prop or obstruct the controls and Lieutenant Pack is good for that. I have the seat belts attached to various loops in various places and he says put without complaint.

It takes a while to get ready and the computer goes in last so I can get updates on the weather.

I called flight service and got a great briefer and we rescheduled various aspects of my flight home to miss the worst smoke and the coastal fog. I called her for the first leg to Santa Paula and we ended up planning all the way to Santa Maria.

I made an extra careful pre-flight inspection and carefully organized and secured Lieutenant Pack.

I like to leave with a bit of a swagger so I flew low over the flight line at 90kts with the big Lycoming singing her special song as I waved goodbye to the already substantially smaller crowd. The rotor blades made that special sound as I pointed The Predators nose toward that special freedom I find in the sky.

It was smoky going across the high desert and I felt lost and confused. There is no road that I can follow that goes straight to Fox Field (WJF) so I have to keep making small corrections. And comparing what I see to the chart. I was about five miles out when I saw WJF and was to make a right down wind for runway 6 and I was number six to land.

There was 4,201 feet missing from runway 6 and many of the taxiways were closed. Fortunately the briefer had made me aware of them all so I could make notes.

Writing down all the closures while flying in the proximity of the airport is never easy or a good idea.

The taxi instructions became somewhat complex. Right on Juliet, left on Alpha, right on Golf and left at the ramp to fuel. It seemed even the locals were confused.

I gassed up and called ground and he gave me a short cut through parking.

I asked air traffic control for a right down wind and he said; “there is no one in the pattern now you can do whatever you want”.

I followed the aqueduct to California 14 and made a right as a way to miss Lancaster’s airspace and the Fire TFR.

Visibility was much less than it had been Friday and I spent a lot of time peering intently into the smoke looking for mountains, towers, power lines and other aircraft.

I was seeing 90kts (104 miles per hour) on the GPS as I wandered along at 60kts (69 miles per hour) indicated air speed. It made the mountains on the sides of the valley all the more intimidating.

I was flying through an aerobatic box so I was late changing to Santa Paula’s (SZP) common traffic advisory frequency. The tail wind should have made runway 04 the runway in use but it was runway 22. It was very busy with two planes doing closed traffic and I managed to slip in and was off runway 22 quickly.

I have lots of friends at Santa Paula so it is difficult to make a quick gas stop.

SZP has picnic tables that were full and they all waved back at my departure.

I again stepped around Santa Barbara’s airspace because we still have not got a clean report on my ADSB out.

I was at a little over 5,000 feet when I started my descent for Santa Ynez and I had her almost at idle to use up the altitude.

There were lots of aircraft and all but one was giving good radio.

I found my spot and executed a particularly nice landing and was off at the first taxiway.

The full service fuel guy noticed that Lieutenant Pack made it hard to get out so he offered to fuel me up at self-serve. This young man is 31 and works two jobs and is the antithesis of everything I hear about Millennials.

As I neared Santa Maria (SMX) it was nice to breathe the cool ocean air.

I landed and asked for flight following so I could again test my ADSB out and it didn’t work at all this time.

I am so glad I dogged Santa Barbara’s airspace.

A friend came by as I was fueling up the Predator and asked about my adventure because they knew what it meant when Lieutenant Pack is in the back seat.

I am home now and just washed off three days of dust, sweat and tears.

As much fun as the adventure was it feels good to be home.

I have a full schedule of flight training next week.
 

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All_In

Gold Supporter
Joined
Apr 21, 2008
Messages
15,537
Location
San Diego, CA. USA
Aircraft
Piper Archer, Aviomania G1sb
Total Flight Time
Not sure over 10,000+ logged FW, 260+ ultralights, sailplane, hang-gliders
Thanks for sharing your adventures with us.
U-ROCK!!
 

Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
16,455
Location
Nipomo,California
Aircraft
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
Magic in the air!

Due to various circumstances I had not flown for 20 days.

My last three attempts at flight were thwarted by the minutia of life.

I have a client scheduled for December 26 and felt it was time to remind myself of how to fly and teach so I gave myself a lesson.

In my opinion flying skills are perishable and a large part of instructing is having good current flying skills.

I also need to be ready to take the controls and make the appropriate corrections if the client does something that puts us at risk.

I arrived at the hangar around 11:00 hoping to be in the air by noon.

The pre-flight inspection went well despite the hangar being a little crowded.

I am in the second month of helping a client (Lonny) get his aircraft airworthy in my hangar and we discussed his progress and set backs at some length and I reminded him in the strongest terms to tie his aircraft down before starting it.

My call to flight services went well with AIRMET Tango (AIRman’s METerological information) for moderate turbulence and low level wind shear.

Conditions at the Santa Maria Public Airport (SMX) were ideal with the wind calm, visibility ten miles with runway three zero in use. It was sixty five degrees (18C) with a dew point of thirty degrees (-1 C) and 80 percent humidity.

I rolled the Predator outside at 1:00 and found various reasons to not start her before 2:00.

I worked through my engine start up list and she burst into life quickly and settled down into a steady idle as I leaned for taxi and continued down my check list.

I checked the ATIS (local weather), filled out my radio call sheet and taxied to the movement area and made my radio call to ground. I was pleased that I still sounded like a pilot and was to taxi to runway three zero via Alpha, Alpha eight.

I made note of four windsocks along the way and the one on top of the big hangar indicated around 270 degrees at fourteen knots. The other three appeared to agree with the current ATIS (290 at nine knots).

The run up went well and I reviewed my takeoff procedure aloud before taxiing up to the hold short line for runway three zero. I called the tower and requested a straight out with a slight left.

I was to hold short and felt grateful the tower was looking out for me as I searched unsuccessfully for the reason.

“Gyroplane one four two Mike Golf, runway three zero clear for takeoff, slight left approved.”

The magic was beginning as I talked myself through the pre-rotation procedure and the takeoff roll.

At 180 rotor rpm I brought in full power and I was a little slow to catch the nose coming up but very smooth on the controls as I brought the cyclic forward smoothly floating the nose just above the ground.

She leapt into the air at just over forty five knots indicating airspeed indicating I had managed the takeoff well and her pitch was nice and steady with the indicated airspeed seemingly frozen at fifty knots till I reached one thousand two hundred fifty feet and began to back off the power.

I was pleased that I had not overshot my target altitude as I turned to a heading of two seven zero degrees.

As I settled into a fifty knot cruise I pulled my camera out and realized that the view of the Santa Maria Valley was stunning everywhere I looked and the azure blue pacific was calling to me from the distance.

I kept an eye out for emergency landing spots. It is easy to become complacent with the abundant fields and I reminded myself that they are not all suitable for an emergency landing into the wind.

Just past Guadalupe I could feel the cool ocean air and I gleefully filled my lungs with it holding it in to savor the taste.

As I turned north along the shoreline I listened to position reports of three aircraft operating out of Oceano and made my first call on the common traffic advisory frequency.

The Oceano Dunes were empty due to the Covid-19 shut down and the windswept dunes appeared pristine in the afternoon sun. I turned around and headed south along the shoreline.

The magical view of the curved shoreline, distant low level mist and the sun shining off the water took my breath away. There was too much sun to capture the picture and the picture I posted is only a hint of the experience taken just before the magic moment. The magic of the moment is muted without the feel of the ocean air in my lungs, the sensuous feel of the flight controls and the reassuring rumble of the big Lycoming.

I turned to a heading of zero nine zero degrees and checked the ATIS at SMX and made my first radio call to the control tower. I was to make left traffic for runway three zero and report midfield. I asked for closed traffic because there were already three aircraft working the pattern and many of the commercial flights happened in the afternoon.

“Gyroplane two Mike Golf, runway three zero cleared for the option, after the option make left closed traffic.”

I talked myself through the power on landing intentionally moving my line of sight from my aiming point to the horizon during the round out. Touchdown was as nice as could be and the takeoff was without drama. On climb out a different controller asked me to make right traffic.

I moved to power off accurate landings and they were all better than practical test standards.

On my sixth landing I requested a short approach with a simulated engine out emergency landing and it was approved as requested.

I fly a close pattern downwind around a quarter mile from the runway and have about a three to one glide ratio. At the rotorcraft pattern altitude I am flying five hundred fifty feet above the ground so roughly speaking I have 1,650 feet to turn into the wind and land.

I usually have a moment of feeling I am too low with too much bank.

I touched down on the centerline within two feet of my target and rolled less than five feet after touch down.

It was a perfect end to a lovely flight.

I filled her up and headed back to the hangar to find the hangar door blocked with the truck that was being used to tie down Lonny’s aircraft.

My friend John stopped by and I went on and on about the magic of the flight while Lonny moved his truck. Lonny does not know me well enough to know that I like to sit in the afterglow of a flight for around twenty minutes reliving the numerous magic moments of the flight so there was no reason to move. He politely waited to speak till I had finished with John and told me the start up and run up had gone well.

Jim, an A&P (airframe and power plant mechanic) who is helping Lonny with the work on his gyroplane stopped by and parked right where Lonny’s truck had been. He went on at some length about how well the run up had gone with no overheating, no leaks and only one peculiar noise.

I hope Lonny will begin his taxi practice tomorrow. He is leaving December 23 to visit Mom in Sacramento and will be gone till January second. Our optimistic fantasy is to have him signed off for his Private Pilot, Rotorcraft-Gyroplane practical test by the end of January. Lonny is from Renton, Washington and has already been gone from home for two months.

After everyone cleared out I still sat in the afterglow for another twenty minutes before rolling The Predator into the hangar, downloading the pictures of the flight to my computer and heading for home.

  • Over the Santa Maria Valley at 1,300 feet.
  • Guadalupe Dunes and the blue Pacific.
  • Turning north along the shoreline.
  • Turning back south over the dunes.
  • Just before the magic picture I didn’t get.
  • Headed back toward SMX at eight hundred feet.
  • Left downwind for runway three zero.
  • Short final for runway three zero.
 

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Tyger

Active Member
Joined
Nov 25, 2017
Messages
755
Location
Germantown, NY
Aircraft
Magni M16
Total Flight Time
350
Rub it in, Vance. My airfield is covered with a foot of unplowed snow.
I guess it's a good time for me to rotate my tires. Yay.

Official advice from Magni is attached...
 

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Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
16,455
Location
Nipomo,California
Aircraft
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
Rub it in, Vance. My airfield is covered with a foot of unplowed snow.
I guess it's a good time for me to rotate my tires. Yay.
I feel fortunate to live in such a mild climate. It gets down into the thirties at night sometimes.
 

Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
16,455
Location
Nipomo,California
Aircraft
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
A surprise happy ending.

Greg is in his 50s and he finds he is drawn back to aviation and is trying to find what may suit him.

Greg’s father was a CFI with over 27,000 hours and though all four sons were exposed to aviation growing up, only one got a Private Pilot’s license.

Greg had 2 hours total of logged instruction in the air and had quit due to his aversion to spins and turbulence in single engine fixed wing craft.

One of the things that drew him to gyroplanes is the way they deal with the wind compared to a fixed wing aircraft. He had read that they do much better in strong winds and turbulence. He felt gyroplanes might be the best way for him to get back in the air.

His renewed interest in aviation and especially in gyroplanes appeared to be more than a casual interest as he had read extensively and understands and questions things on a high level.

I pointed out that although a gyroplane bounces your around a lot less and is easier to land in the wind than a fixed wing; a gyroplanes relatively slow cruising speed makes actually going anywhere in big winds slow and so often impractical. My advice on windy days is to find something else to do.

Despite my discounting of what Greg felt was a primary feature of gyroplanes and living four hundred miles from Santa Maria he accepted my invitation to come and experience gyroplanes for a day. Greg combined it with a family visit and Plan A was to drive 140 miles to Santa Maria in the morning and give me a call when he was an hour from the airport estimated time or arrival around 10:30. My recommendation to spend the night in Santa Maria to be better rested was rejected.

At 7:58 I received the cryptic message; “I am at the gate.” I hustled to get my morning tasks completed and checked the weather. It turned out Greg had taken my advice and arrived the night before and stayed in a hotel here in town.

It was visual flight rules at Santa Maria but the satellite picture looked a little spotty and they were predicting 17kt winds in the afternoon. I feel 17kts is a little high for a primary student to learn to land but good for finding out how gyroplanes behaved in the wind.

As I rolled up to the gate of the Santa Maria Public Airport at 8:45 Greg recognized me from my Facebook posts and gave me a cheery good morning. In the hangar we worked through the paper work as Greg cast a curious eye around my hangar. Checking the weather looking out the hangar door it was blue skies and light winds. I checked the ATIS (Automatic Terminal Observation Service aka local current aviation weather) and there was only a three degree C temperature/dew point spread and I explained why my personal minimum was four degrees.

I am thankful when a client has lots of questions because I prefer an interactive conversation to a monolog. Greg had studied the 40 pages in The Rotorcraft Flying Handbook and was well prepared. Greg was a delight with his knowledge and attitude.

Greg followed directions well as I explained how to get into The Predator and went through the required FAA information on Experimental aircraft, seat belts, helmets, head sets and emergency procedures. We started in on the preflight inspection checklist and Greg was a quick study and appeared to understand most of what I was saying. We were ready to go at 11:20 and I checked the weather and SMX had gone to instrument metrological conditions with 700 foot ceilings and I felt it was a wonderful example of why my minimum temperature/dew point spread is 4 degrees C to take off. The winds were coming up and I explained that the winds would likely soon blow the fog away. The local radar was out of service and the controller sounded stressed. Typically we fly to San Luis Obispo for lunch. Our Governor has closed all the sit down restaurants in most of the state so we made our way to McDonald’s drive through and brought lunch back to the hangar. After lunch it was time to fly.

I checked the ATIS and the wind was 290 degrees at 18kts gusting to 24kts. I checked the terminal aerodrome forecast for SMX and it was supposed to calm down a little near sunset. I explained to Greg that these conditions were not good to learn to take off and land in but would be perfect to see how a gyroplane flies in the wind. Greg seemed a little uneasy so I thought I would do a pattern first before giving him the controls and departing the airport. I called ground and explained my intentions explaining it was a first flight for my client.

As we taxied to runway three zero just after I pointed out that the four wind socks we could see were all blowing in different directions; ground gave us a gratuitous wind report of 180 degrees at 18kts gusting to 23kts. For runway three zero that would mean a quartering tail wind of 12kts and my personal tail wind takeoff limit is 8kts. The winds seemed to be changing around so I continued to the run-up area for runway three zero. I felt conditions were not ideal for a first flight. The run-up went well and it appeared from the wind sock the wind direction had improved. After clearing me for takeoff the tower gave me another gratuitous wind check of 280 degrees at 20kts gusting to 24kts.

To be continued:
 

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Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
16,455
Location
Nipomo,California
Aircraft
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
Continued from previous post:

We were airborne with very little roll and it felt like we were going almost straight up. I was seeing 19kts of ground speed at 50kts indicated airspeed. We flew the pattern with Greg following me on the controls. We made a very steep approach to land and touched down with very little ground speed and were quickly back up in the air. I reminded Greg we would be trimmed for a little back pressure and gave him the aircraft controls and tried to relate our flight path to what we could see.

I saw a slight dip in the nose and then Greg was flying as smoothly as I had been in the turbulent conditions. It took him a while to get used to the constant throttle changes as we flew through various blocks of turbulence.

Typically clients who fly well are doing it through sheer force of will lose situational awareness at some point requiring intervention. I never once needed to take the controls other than to demonstrate maneuvers.

Because the radar wasn’t working I reported leaving the class Delta air space. I took the controls and made steep left and right turns and slowed to ten knots indicated air speed and pulled the power to demonstrate that we don’t stall in a gyroplane. We were moving backward over the ground.

I lowered the nose and to pick up air speed and only lost about 150 feet of altitude before I raised the nose and added power to climb back up to 1,300 feet. Greg had the water tower in sight and I demonstrated an anti-clockwise turn around a point (the water tower) and gave him back the controls.

I was especially pleased when I told him to make a clockwise turn around a point and he picked the best path. This is often difficult for a primary student because they don’t know how to respond to their new freedom. We headed across the highway and I demonstrated S turns over a road and gave Greg back the controls. Greg did very well and is now near the top of my list for primary students making their first ground reference maneuvers. We were catching a lot of lift as we neared the mountain and sink as we crossed the road on the way back and Greg got a little behind on the throttle. Despite these horrible conditions to teach someone to fly in; Greg continued to excel.

Before heading back to SMX I checked the ATIS and winds were 280 degrees at 19kts, better but still a little high for my comfort with a primary student. Greg was doing so well I had him fly the pattern and line up for the landing before I took the controls just before the round out and flare.

As we taxied to fuel I was ready to call it quits and give Greg a big discount for the day because we had not accomplished teaching him to land and had only flown for 1.1 hours. In my experience a primary student has difficulty separating the effect of control inputs from the effect of the turbulence so I felt I couldn’t provide value as a flight instructor.

As we debriefed Greg made it clear he wanted more time at the controls despite not getting to takeoff or land so off we went to my practice area to the south.

Greg did great following California Highway One and seemed more relaxed than on the first flight. There is less traffic to the south so I could let him get further off the target altitude before asking him to make a correction. I could feel his skills improve minute by minute. We had a big wind up our tail with lots of turbulence from the nearby hills. I saw 78kts of ground speed at 50kts indicated airspeed. We turned around just before we got to Los Alamos and started back with the trucks on the highway outrunning us.

The tower was managing two fixed wing aircraft and a helicopter as we approached the airport still without radar and I could hear the stress in the controller’s voice. I was trying to guide Greg on base to intercept the runway centerline because we had a helicopter headed for the ramp inside on our left and a Metroliner making a straight in to runway three zero on our right.

Greg was doing so well I felt it was time to talk him through a landing being ready to take the controls if things weren’t working out.

I asked him if he was ready for a landing and he replied in the affirmative.

I took back the throttle and rudder and demonstrated how the picture would change when I put in some rudder reminding him it was his job to keep his butt over the centerline with the cyclic and flare when instructed. His approach was surprisingly smooth and we were right over the centerline until the very end when we drifted right just before a very gentle touch down at less than ten knots of indicated airspeed and near zero ground speed.

It was a surprise happy ending to a somewhat challenging day. I was so excited I had to struggle to stay focused on the post flight walk around and de-brief.

Our timing was perfect as the sun was setting over the hills. Greg had a long drive ahead of him. He left with a brand new log book with 1.9 hours of dual instruction under rotorcraft, gyroplane. Greg made it clear he felt he had received value and I look forward to his next visit.

I found out later Greg was too excited to sleep and drove the 400 miles home that same night.
 

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Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
16,455
Location
Nipomo,California
Aircraft
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
The Plan didn’t work out.

The plan was to organize my hangar after too many projects.

January 17 was a lovely summer day and the temptation to fly was too great.

I checked the weather, gave The Predator a through preflight and called ground for a taxi to runway three zero.

Ground asked me my intentions and I asked for a left turn out with a turn to the south. This is my normal route to my practice area.

The Magneto check went well and I soon heard the magic words; Gyroplane 142 Mike Golf, Runway three zero clear for takeoff, left turn out approved.

I acknowledged the clearance and was at 120 rotor rpm by the time I reached the centerline. Rotor spool up seemed to go by quickly and despite only three knots of wind I was off quickly.

I rejoice in the magic as my perspective of the world changed.

It was seventy five degrees f (24c) and the warm air fell good on my face.

The Predator seemed to climb effortlessly and I was at 1,300 feet well my left turn out south along California Highway One.

I caught some surprising lift as I neared the hills and as I pulled the power back as I was joined by a couple of red tailed hawks ridge soring effortlessly with very little wing movement. They looked like they were dancing with each other across the cloudless sky and decidedly disinterested in the noisy intruder.

As I approached the hills I tuned in the common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF) for Lompoc and there was not much going on.

As I crossed the hills toward the Lompoc Valley I checked the automated weather observing system (AWOS) at IZA and winds were 280 degrees at 12kts.

I tuned to the CTAF and there were two aircraft reporting 10 miles to the North West at 2,000 feet so I made my first radio call: “Santa Ynez Area Traffic, White Experimental Gyroplane 142 Mike Golf, ten miles to the west descending through 2,000 feet, inbound for left traffic for runway two six, slow moving sixty knots, Santa Ynez.” There were five aircraft on frequency and in my opinion some were not giving good radio.

I called again at five miles to the west over the quarry at 1,700 feet and again mentioning slow moving, sixty knots.

I marveled at the beauty and tranquility of the Santa Ynez Valley.

The radio chatter was nearly nonstop as I called left downwind mid field for runway 26 to land.

It was time to turn base and I could not see either of the two aircraft that were reporting on base and one reporting behind me.

As I called my base turn I mentioned I did not have any landing aircraft in sight and it turned out they were all behind me and had me is sight. A gyroplane is very hard to see in the pattern so it felt good to be reassured I was in sight.

I reported turning final for runway 26 to land and soon after a Piper called that he was on a two mile final. I reported short final and was quickly reporting clear of runway two six at Charlie. I was almost to transient parking by the time the Piper touched down with a big yellow Stearman and a white Pitts S2 close behind.

I had turned a twenty six nautical mile flight into a forty nine mile flight, exercised my non-towered radio skills and been immersed in the magic of gyroplane flight for most of an hour.

The cross country flight I teach my primary students is Santa Maria (SMX) to Santa Ynez (IZA) to Lompoc (LPC) and back to SMX.

As I secured the aircraft a friend stopped by who is an actor who had recently been beaten to death because his son had not handled a drug deal properly. I had not seen the series, Yellowstone if I remember correctly. It was fun to do a little hangar flying with a friend.

The Santa Ynez Airport is one of those charming little jewels of an airport surrounded by vineyards and horse ranches. It has a 2,800 foot runway and is extremely well maintained. It is so nice the locals treat it as a park and there are benches and picnic tables.

It also has a glider port that is the dirt strip that can be seen in my short final picture.

I was greeted by several friends and we hanger flew in the sunshine.

I checked the weather and gave The Predator a good preflight before lifting off at 4:00.

I love the way the low sun makes the shadows in the hills dance giving them a texture they don’t have around noon.

I called the Santa Maria Tower nine miles to the south at 1,300 feet and was to report the Orcutt Y.

I had close to a twenty knot head wind and I loved how it extended the flight.

The tower had some challenges coordinating me with a Bonanza on a right down wind and I was number two behind the Bonanza, report in sight.

I could not find the Bonanza in the ground clutter of Santa Maria until he was on short final.

By the time I downloaded my pictures and video it was getting dark so I did not get any hangar organizing done.

I listened to my radio calls at Santa Ynez on the video and was pleased that I checked all my boxes. It is easy for me to leave something out as most of my flight is at airports with an operating control tower.

I was recently given a big flat screen TV to watch my flying videos on and I spent some time adjusting it as I replayed the flight.

As I rolled the big door shut I looked around and it was clear I had not made much progress on the hangar although I feel it was a day well spent.

  • Heading over the hills that separate my practice area from the Lompoc Valley.
  • Coming up on Solvang descending to 1,700 feet mean sea level for pattern altitude at IZA.
  • The beautiful Santa Ynez Valley from 1,700 feet.
  • Short final for Runway two six at Santa Ynez Valley airport.
  • Back over the hills that have been given detail and texture from the afternoon sun.
  • A different view of my practice area ten miles south of the Santa Maria Public Airport.
  • Heading north over California Highway One with SMX over the hill to the right.
  • Short Final for runway three zero at SMX.
 

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Resasi

Gold Supporter
Joined
Jul 2, 2007
Messages
7,957
Location
London/ Kilifi Kenya
Aircraft
Gyrs, RAF 2000/Mgni/Bnsn/Hrnet/Mrlin/Crckt/MT-03/Lyzlle AV18-A/Prdtor. Pax ArrowCopter
Total Flight Time
100+ gyro, 16,000+ other
Vance, your posts epitomise the joy of flight, when, and if we please, in the manner of our choosing.

I congratulate you upon achieving that happy position, through a huge amount of effort and hard work, well documented and followed by many, here on this forum. (y)
 

Sv.grainne

Active Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2020
Messages
335
Location
Kerrville, Texas
Vance, your posts epitomise the joy of flight, when, and if we please, in the manner of our choosing.

I congratulate you upon achieving that happy position, through a huge amount of effort and hard work, well documented and followed by many, here on this forum. (y)
Saw your post earlier on another forum! What a great excuse for not doing something!
 
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