More fun flying The Predator.


Gyroplane CFI
Oct 30, 2003
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
A joyful flight to nowhere.

I had not flown since March third and wondered how much my skills had deteriorated in twenty four days. I feel currency is an important part of gyroplane safety.

My lay off began when a primary student had to return to Colorado to help his son, then I lost a couple of days to the Covid 19 vaccination. We had four days of rain and a weeks’ worth of thirty knot plus winds in Santa Maria, CA.

It is hard to learn what your control inputs are doing when the wind is tossing you around so depending on where my clients are in their learning I have various wind limits. I don’t fly in the rain and unless I have a compelling reason to fly I don’t takeoff with winds over 30kts solo.

I also had to get my wife’s tractor running because the rain has caused our lawn to grow.

I checked the weather Saturday morning and the winds at Santa Maria were variable at three knots. I pretended I didn’t have anything pressing to do and made my way down to the Santa Maria Public Airport KSMX.

The preflight inspection went well and after resolving some GoPro battery issues I checked the weather and carefully worked my way down The Predator’s startup pre-flight list as though I was a primary student.

I called ground for a taxi to the Alpha 8 (the run-up area) with information India and I was pleased I didn’t stumble over my words or leave anything out.

The magneto check went well and I worked my way through the pre-takeoff check list concluding with a takeoff clearance for left closed traffic, report abeam each pass with intentions. My excitement was building.

The takeoff was as nice as could be and the climb out and pattern was to practical test standards.

On the first landing I overshot my landing point by about five feet and I blamed it on the variable winds and lack of currency.

During the climb out I was filled with joy over just how good it felt to be flying again.

On the third pattern I reported left downwind for runway three zero, stop and go; after stop and go, request left turn out with a turn to the south. It was approved as requested.

As I followed California Highway One south and marveled at the lush green of the hills it was clear the winds were picking up.

I saw six hawks circling at my altitude (1,300 feet) indicating rising air. I was flying straight and level at 50kts and twenty one hundred engine rpm and had to pull her back to seventeen hundred rpm to maintain altitude. Usually seventeen hundred engine rpm will result in a four hundred foot per minute descent. The rising air lasted for more than a quarter mile with the engine just rumbling along effortlessly.

Where ever there is rising air there will be sinking air nearby and I soon was a twenty three hundred engine rpm to maintain altitude at fifty knots.

Once I arrived at my practice area I did some slow flight, turns around a point and S turns over a road talking myself through each maneuver as though I was a novice being careful to make clearing turns before each maneuver.

For no particular reason I made a steep three hundred sixty degree turn to the right and steep then seven hundred twenty degree turn to the left. The bank angle was well beyond the practical test standards for steep turns and I rolled out within five degrees of my heading each time.

I checked the weather and made my initial call to the Santa Maria Tower; inbound to land with information Juliette.

I was to report the Orcutt Y for a left base entry for runway three zero.

As soon as I reported over the Orcutt Y I was cleared to land on runway three zero. The tower had lost control of three departing aircraft and worked to straighten it out as he coordinated with a pilot on a right down wind warning him about the inbound gyroplane.

I tried to remember how all this feels as a student pilot and it amazes me how well my clients do.

The landing was a lovely end to an elegant flight.

“Gyroplane two Mike Golf, Taxi to fuel, monitor ground.”

I waved to the tower as I made my way to self-serve.

I made the notation in my log book SMX to SMX one point five hours pilot in command with four daylight landings and was conscious of how little it described the experience.

As I relive the flight to share it with you; the words would not come to properly describe the feelings.

I am grateful for the opportunity to have so much fun and friends to share it with. Life treats me well.


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Gold Supporter
Jul 2, 2007
London/ Kilifi Kenya
Gyrs, RAF 2000/Mgni/Bnsn/Hrnet/Mrlin/Crckt/MT-03/Lyzlle AV18-A/Prdtor. Pax ArrowCopter
Total Flight Time
100+ gyro, 16,000+ other
Thanks for sharing your joy Vance.(y)


Active Member
Nov 16, 2003
Paxton, Il
Helicycle N360SF
Total Flight Time
Vance.....Who needs to fly when someone like you describes it so well?

You are truly blessed in loving what you do. Fortunately I can say the same as I never want to quit building curved stairways.


Active Member
Nov 16, 2015
Stan - Did you ever make a stair case with all glass including the steps? That would be neat.


Active Member
Nov 16, 2003
Paxton, Il
Helicycle N360SF
Total Flight Time
Dave....Years ago I built a glass riser stairway....and right now I am building a three story glass riser stairway for a guy that was on Shark Tank. No glass treads however.


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Active Member
Nov 16, 2003
Paxton, Il
Helicycle N360SF
Total Flight Time
Thanks. I will post some in the off topic section maybe tonight.


Gyroplane CFI
Oct 30, 2003
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
A gyroplane flight to visit friends.

Sunday morning there was a chance of rain and in my optimism I headed down to the airport with the top down and Hank Williams singing Amazing Grace and other gospel songs.

I did a careful preflight on The Predator and checked with flight services (weather). AIRMET Sierra was in effect with low ceilings and mountain obscuration. VFR flight was not recommended along my route of flight with improvement expected soon. Santa Maria (SMX) Oceano (L52) and San Luis Obispo (SBP) were all visual flight rules so I fired up The Predator and after contacting ground taxied to the run-up area (A8) to prepare to launch. The current weather (ATIS) had the winds variable at six knots. The four windsocks I watch were all pretty much flaccid and the density was minus 840 feet.

I asked for a straight out departure with a slight right to the North West and the tower came back Gyroplane 142 Mike Golf, runway three zero cleared for takeoff, make a left turn out. As I taxied out and spooling up (getting the rotor up to speed) the tower asked me to make a right turn of at least 45 degrees putting me over the city so I climbed a little higher so as to not annoy the sleepy residents.

There were a lot of families out with their barbeques and some waved and I waved back.

I checked the weather at SBP and visibility was six miles in mist and ceilings were 1,800 feet.

I wandered over toward the foot hills and was surprised at the lift I found. I love it when the power is pulled well back and the swish of the rotors becomes the dominant sound as we rumble across the sky.

I called SBP tower and was to make a straight in for runway two nine and report four miles.

Air Traffic control (ATC) called back and asked me to remain south of the centerline and pick up my airspeed. As soon as I hit 80kts (92MPH) ATC asked me to make a left 360 for spacing and I was now number two behind a Cirrus. As I finished my two minute turn I reported the Cirrus in sight and was cleared to land number two behind the Cirrus.

I asked for a long landing and it was approved.

I felt a kind of euphoria as I caressed the runway and headed toward the EAA hangar. It seemed like a perfect ending to a perfect flight.

This was the first EAA meeting in a long time because of Covid and we did not have a formal presentation. A couple of members brought their amateur built aircraft and we spent about three hours hangar flying.

I love spending time with pilots and for no reason in particular this group was flight instructor heavy with three freshly minted CFIs and eight more experienced CFIs. It is fun to be a part of mentoring new CFIs. One of the new CFIs wanted to fly in The Predator and we will make it happen.

The weather had improved for the flight home although the wind was changing direction constantly in the Edna valley.

I ended up taking off with about an eleven knot quartering tail wind which is generally speaking a bad idea in a gyroplane. The takeoff was uneventful and the flight home was a delight.

  • Low ceilings and a strip of blue Pacific beneath the clouds.
  • Flying north up California Highway 101 toward the five cities at 1,200 feet msl.
  • The mustard blooming accentuates the hills.
  • Rumbling along next to the hills at less than fifty knots at 1,200 feet with Avilla Bay shining in the distance.
  • Short final for runway two nine at San Luis Obispo.
  • Climbing out of the Edna Valley aiming for the Volcano.
  • A winery makes for some interesting patterns.
  • Homeward bound with the volcano off to the left and Highway 101 below.


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Gyroplane CFI
Oct 30, 2003
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
Home again!

As much as I love a month long road trip; it feels good to be home again.

After catching up on sleep I headed down to the Santa Maria Airport to get current.

After studying a lot of accidents I feel currency has a lot to do with many of them.

There is a lot of responsibility when I take a client up and they expect me to know how to fly and be current. I have a primary student on Wednesday (Stephen).

It was a great excuse to do some pattern work in The Predator.

Preflight went slowly and I found a breach in my static system.

The repairs went quickly and after some hangar flying with two good friends.

It felt good to get back into my flight suit.

I checked the automatic terminal information service (ATIS) and the wind was 310 degrees at 16kts with unlimited visibility.

I called ground and was to taxi to runway 30 via alpha, alpha eight.

Run up went well and I was careful to follow the check lists.

I called the tower with my request and soon heard the magic words; “Gyroplane 142 Mike Golf, make left closed traffic, report abeam with intentions, runway three zero clear for takeoff.”

I released the rotor brake, advance the throttle a little and pushed the pre-rotator button and began my roll. The rotor soon had a bite of the air and I had to add a little more power, at one hundred twenty rpm I released the pre-rotator and turned on the lights. I soon saw 180 rotor rpm and I went to full power with the nose coming up quickly with a clean lift off at 45kts indicated air speed.

I saw a steady thousand feet per minute climb and was soon backing off to anticipate reaching eight hundred feet mean sea level.

I bellowed with excitement as I rolled cleanly into and out of my cross wind turn.

I made my downwind call requesting the option and runway three zero was cleare for the option.

Since I was out of practice I made my first landing at sixteen hundred engine rpm because Stephen will be working up to engine at idle accurate landings on Wednesday. I floated almost 20 feet past my aiming point and gently planted the tires on the asphalt again eliciting my loud approval.

The next takeoff was a little untidy at closer to 50kts with some cross wind correction on lift off.

I worked my way up to an engine at idle landing and set her down just past the mark.

I wanted to test my A game so I looked for a bigger challenge and asked for runway two zero.

The tower gave me a gratuitous wind check of three one zero degrees at 19kts and cleared me for the option for runway two zero. I did a little figuring and felt it was about an eighteen knot cross wind component with a about a seven knot tail wind. The Predator handled it nicely and I needed a little help from the left brake to keep her on the centerline. The Predator has a free castering nose wheel with differential braking for steering. Usually at anything over ten knots indicated air speed she steers with just the rudder, with a seven knot tail wind the rudder is less effective even with a little power.

The takeoff was done with less than full rudder.

It was all I could do control my laughter to make my next radio call.

Runway three zero was clear to land.

There had been some debate about ground effect at Mentone so I floated her down the runway less than a foot above the ground at 1,700 engine rpm (straight a level takes around 2,100 engine rpm out of ground effect).

I taxied toward fuel and sat for a half hour in the afterglow of that simple forty two minute flight with seven landings.

It feels good to be home.


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Gyroplane CFI
Oct 30, 2003
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
Michael is a pilot with a capitol P.

He has so many ratings he has two pilot certificates because they ran out of room.

He called me from around 180 miles north of Santa Maria about adding on a Commercial Pilot, Rotorcraft-Gyroplane rating and I suggested he come visit me for a day at the Santa Maria Public airport.

Like most people of Mike’s stature; at first he did not let on how much he knew about aviation or gyroplanes.

It didn’t take long before I figured out the depth of his piloting experience and research about gyroplanes.

Airline Transport Pilot, Certificated Flight Instructor, Commercial Rotorcraft Helicopter, Glider and multiple type ratings.

He understood about the physics of gyroplane flight and asked a lot of insightful questions about the various manufactures and models.

I find it intimidating to prepare a lesson plan for someone like Mike; If you presentation is too basic he may lose interest and if it is too advanced I may leave out something he wanted to learn.

Because of his long drive we scheduled our meeting for 10:00.

I had already done a careful preflight because I found I can’t preflight properly while teaching.

Mike was patient and attentive as we worked our way through the preflight check list. Mike has a good attitude about preflight inspections. As I showed Mike how to check the springs on the rudder pedals; he pulled on the left pedal and the spring broke with a sickening twang.

I thought I had some spares in the hangar but could not find them so Mike skillfully modified the broken spring and we only lost a half hour. Sunset was at 7:05 so we still had plenty of time to fly.

I worked through the FAA required briefing and felt a little silly demonstrating the seat belts to Mike and reading the experimental aircraft warning.

Finally ready to commit aviation The Predator came to life in an instant and the run up went well.

There was a wall of fog along the shoreline so we decided to use a more inland route to San Luis Obispo. Visibility in the Santa Maria Valley was six miles in mist.

I asked for a straight out departure with a slight right and atc asked me to turn left.

I gave Mike the controls at eight hundred feet and after very little instruction he was managing airspeed and altitude to practical test standards.

His control inputs were smooth and progressive like someone with much more gyroplane experience and he continued to improve as the flight progressed.

There was inbound opposite direction traffic so air traffic control (atc) asked us to fly a heading of 260 degrees. Mike has eagle eyes and was able to read my vertical card compass from the back seat and followed atc’s directions. This had us flying toward restricted air space and I was relieved when I heard “Gyroplane Two Mike Golf, resume own navigation.”

We headed north over Nipomo and Mike wanted to feel what faster felt like so he slowly ran her up to 75kts.

The Edna Valley had some low overcast and Mike being a helicopter pilot wanted to duck under it. I suggested we go around it.

Visibility was five miles in mist. When I reported four miles; atc replied there was a twin Cessna behind me and to remain south of the approach corridor. The twin Cessna reported negative contact with the gyroplane.

Mike began his descent three miles out and I made him aware of the vineyards and what a poor place they were for an emergency landing.

As we neared the runway I took the controls for the landing and began my descent over the numbers and touched down at the taxiway.

We parked between a couple of military helicopters that were being used to fight fires and had a nice de-brief over lunch.

I asked Mike about each aspect of the flight. We talked about my decision to go around the clouds instead of under them and I reminded him that gyroplanes have the same minimum altitude rules as airplanes (five hundred feet above people and property and a thousand feet over densely populated areas) unlike helicopters that don’t have a minimum altitude.

Mike wondered aloud about my steep approach and landing midfield.

Mikes was not used to a gyroplanes steep descent and his training in airliners has him touching down as soon as practical to not waste runway.

Mike really wanted to fly along the shoreline but we decided learning to land and takeoff in a gyroplane was our priority so we headed to my Nipomo practice area.

I demonstrated turns around a point and S turns over a road and Mike flew them to practical test standards with very little input from me. The winds had Mike making constant throttle adjustments and he got smoother with very little practice.

We headed back to the airport and I demonstrated a landing from a right down wind, flew a left pattern, demonstrated a landing from a left down wind and as soon as we lifted off I gave Mike the controls.

I talked Mike though his first landing and it was as nice as could be.

After his second landing I asked him if he was ready to try a takeoff and got an enthusiastic yes. That didn’t go quite as well because it is basically the opposite of what he is used to. He takes off by the numbers and a gyroplane tells you what it wants and flies when she is ready.

His second takeoff was worse as he tried to manage wheel balancing but not enough for me to intervene beyond saying “nose down, full power, and nose down”.

His takeoffs continued to improve and most of his landings were great as he worked on his sight picture and timing. Much of his 15,000 hours has been in aircraft where the pilot is 65 feet in the air with the wheels on the ground.

After 1.3 hours it was time for fuel and a de-brief.

We flew a third mission with four landings and traffic made it difficult to make much progress. Mike’s last landing and takeoff were as good as it gets.

I demonstrated a power off landing and Mike remarked about how critical the timing for an engine at idle landing is.

I asked ATC for a taxi to fuel.

We had flown a total of 2.9 hours; just short of the required minimums but we still have a lot to do.

At self-serve we pulled up behind a pilot fueling a Cessna 150 with a local flight instructor looking on. Mike at one time had given instruction in a similar Cessna 150.

I could see he was worried about slowing us up and at the same time wanted to do everything correctly as his flight instructor who was about to sign him off looked on quietly giving him tips about managing the ladders and acknowledged our presence.

He and his flight instructor came over to apologize for the delay. He had been working on getting his pilot’s license since 1976 and is just about to take his check ride. It was fun to share his excitement and his flight instructor joined in. I felt that the three CFIs had a deeper understanding of his accomplishment than most people would

Mike had a long drive ahead so we reviewed the video, debriefed and filled out his impressive log book. I am proud to have my signature there.

We discussed at length what proficiency he would need to demonstrate to a designated pilot examiner to get his Commercial Pilot, Rotorcraft-Gyroplane rating. We were just a little short of the minimum time required and still had work to do.

Mike wanted a picture in The Predator and I tried taking it in the hanger; I could not get far enough back to get The Predator in the picture so I pushing her outside for a better shot. As you can see from the picture it was dark when we finished up.

On parting we agreed it was a day well spent.


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