More fun flying The Predator.


Gyroplane CFI
Oct 30, 2003
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.



Active Member
Nov 16, 2003
Paxton, Il
Helicycle N360SF
Total Flight Time
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.


Active Member
May 24, 2010
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: