My impressions flying the AR-1

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After a lot of training in Air Gyro's Cavalon (39 hours) and MTO (13 hours), I went down to Zephyrhills and flew the prototype AR-1 a few times, training with Greg Spicola. I liked it and have placed my order but I thought I'd post my impressions of it here. (The only comparable gyro I've flown was the MTO.)

My very initial impressions, on the ground, were a bit disappointing. The wheel brake felt spongy with poor feedback and didn't seem to hold the brakes well even when applied pretty hard. The parking brake is a switch on the right side requiring two hands to use; your left hand holds the brake while the right activates the parking brake lock.

A push-pin is used to lock the cyclic; to remove it you have to hold the cyclic forward with one hand and use the other to extract the push-pin lock (which is kind of finicky) and then put it away somewhere, such as in the underseat bags. Those bags are pretty spacious though, and are easy to access while seated.

Pre-rotating takes a little while, probably just due to the heavy rotor blade, but it's not very long and Greg recommends starting it at the hold-short line to save time which makes sense. The cyclic-mounted manual engagement handle is easy to hold down.

After landing the rotor brake takes a full two minutes to bring the rotor to a stop, so you basically have to taxi it while managing the still-rotating blade.

But when flying it's just about perfect. Forward visibility is better than the MTO's because the instrument panel is lower down. In fact on the take-off roll I had the nose too high because of how different the sight picture is. But there is still plenty of room on the panel despite this. Attached is a picture of a production unit with a full-sized printout of the 10" Dynon Skyview display, radio, and intercom taped on. You can see there is plenty of room.

The control pressure on the cyclic was really light. I literally never used any trim at all, except once at the end just to verify that it had one. But the cyclic was very easy to manage at any speed, in contrast to the Cavalon or MTO which had very high pressure if you didn't get the trim just right. The AR-1 also turned very smoothly and sharply, feeling much more sporty than the MTO, although I only flew the MTO 4500' higher so it might not be a fair comparison.

Landing was also very pleasant; it definitely wanted to float much more than the MTO due to the higher inertia of the blades, though again we were much lower in altitude too. And when the MTO touches down it's quite jarring, at least on my landings, but the AR-1 had a really good suspension that made my landings feel gentle even when I flared way too high, which I tended to do.

But Abid and crew are more than willing to incorporate feedback and improve the design, and most of my concerns have either already been improved in the extant production units or they will be addressed in the future, such as for mine which I've now ordered.

The wheel brakes were already improved and are a bit easier to activate, and they are going to be adding a locking pawl to it so you can lock the brake one-handed just like with the MTO/Cavalon, making run up more streamlined. The right-side parking brake lever will remain for actual parking use. (You're not supposed to use the temporary lock long-term and this is also true of the MTO/Cavalon/etc.)

I did not like the cyclic lock push-pin so I proposed a much simpler alternative which they accepted and will use in mine, and possibly others? Not sure if they mean to standardize it or not. Basically it's a simple solution to keep the cyclic in the forward position that would be very fast to engage or disengage and does not involve anything separate like that push-pin.

I'm not aware of a fix for the rotor brake, at least not yet. Right now it's gentle enough that the gyro can be flown safely even with it engaged, and in fact another student did exactly that accidentally, on his own machine. But on the ground you have to taxi while managing the spinning rotor which is a bit of a hassle especially if the winds are blowing strongly.

But that's my only remaining concern and it's a minor one. Otherwise they've done a great job and I can't wait to get mine.





 

fara

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Thanks for the review.
The rotor brake takes longer than MTO for 2 reasons
1) The rotor system is much higher inertia than MTO. The blades are a full 35 pounds heavier than AutoGyro Gmbh. Giving us a better center line thrust and also much much higher inertia without noodle rotors even when they are slowing down
2) It is not a good idea to try and apply a lot of pressure to stop rotors quickly. That is sure to get them out of string. That in fact happened on AG-1 all the time because pilots would just pump the crap out of the air and try and stop the rotors too fast. It makes sense to apply a certain amount of brake pressure and let it slowly and smoothly come to a stop while keeping it in sling properly to keep smoother rotors for longer. If we adjust the brake to apply more pressure, we have to accept that the blades will likely get out of alignment with each other after sometime

Recently saw some Magni gyroplanes apply their rotor brakes after landing. You would be way disappointed because they take almost double that of AR-1 to come to a stop. I thought there was something wrong with them.

Although we will definitely do the temp parking brake like ELA on the side due to feedback, in no aircraft its a good idea to use a parking brake while running the engine up to do a mag check. I do not agree with that method personally as an instructor but we will do it because customers demand it and we will update the previous production released as well. We won't leave our customers who believed in us at the start behind in any minor changes like that.

I don't know if you flew the Matco wheels and brakes (5606 Milspec brake fluid or ATF) in the production model while you were here instead of the DOT 4 fluid system we had in the prototype but Matco brakes are smooth, powerful and more than adequate brake torque for the momentum produced by our gyroplane.

Here are a few pictures of the blue one with our second decal design which will be offered also to customers to select from.
 

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Hi Abid,

If rotor brake pressure started gentle but increased in pressure as the rotors slowed down, would that be fine or might that also cause eventual misalignment? If the brake just works against a brake disc then how does that cause blade misalignment?

Why don't you like using a brake lock during runup? It's what I've always done. The only reason I can think of not to do it is the concern that the lock might disengage but I think even at 3000 rpm the aircraft isn't going to rocket forward before you can stop it.

I briefly flew Scott's blue one and it did have better wheel brakes.

On mine I will be getting no manufacturer decals at all except for a small one on the nose saying "SILVERLIGHT AR-1". Like how I removed the decals from my helmet, I prefer a clean look. People will find out what it is because they'll come up and ask. Just ask Vance. :)
 
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All_In

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Thank you for the pilot report!!!
 

fara

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Hi Abid,

If rotor brake pressure started gentle but increased in pressure as the rotors slowed down, would that be fine or might that also cause eventual misalignment? If the brake just works against a brake disc then how does that cause blade misalignment?

Why don't you like using a brake lock during runup? It's what I've always done. The only reason I can think of not to do it is the concern that the lock might disengage but I think even at 3000 rpm the aircraft isn't going to rocket forward before you can stop it.

On mine I will be getting no manufacturer decals at all except for a small one on the nose saying "SILVERLIGHT AR-1". Like how I removed the decals from my helmet, I prefer a clean look. People will find out what it is because they'll come up and ask. Just ask Vance. :)
Hi:
It would indeed be possible to apply brake slowly with increasing pressure over some time co-ordinating the slowdown of rotation and increasing the brake pressure slowly with that and not get any mis-alignment. However, this is not that easy to do. In a mechanical system like ours or Sport Copters (to the best of my knowledge) or Magni, there is an over center lever type of mechanism so pilot can once move it and that pressure remains. There is no thing like a foot pedal where brake is applied by feedback with increasing pressure. Theoretically its possible to do that in the pneumatic system but in practice its next to impossible to apply pressure commensurate to what do the job. Lack of physical feedback loop is responsible for that.

Using any kind of a parking brake during runup is highly questionable and can be very dangerous. It has caused deaths in trikes due to pilot giving up thinking about braking and concentrating on engine runup and then the parking brake fails and the trike took off with control bar still locked and flew up to 100 feet, stalled and killed the pilot and hurt the instructor badly. Happened right there in LA, California actually. Its better to learn to manage the brake and do the engine run up. You should not need your hand for cyclic at this point because if you follow procedure correctly, the cyclic should still be locked with no rotor motion yet. That would be my advice. If you carefully search through airplane accidents also in the last 10 years you will come across a couple of accidents in airplanes as well where parking brake during engine run up did not end well though no one was hurt, the plane got badly damaged.
My own hanger at Zephyrhills was damaged when a GA pilot was running up the engine and relied on his parking brake on the tarmac, after chopping one of the other planes wing off he ended up against my hanger before he got the control of his brain to shut the engine down.

So I have a very strict policy of asking my students to apply brake physically while doing engine run ups. In my view, any time you are going to do engine run up you need to be prepared to control the aircraft like its going to go fast. This means you have to have the presence of mind to shut the engine down, steer the plane, cut the throttle and all or combination of the above.

One thing you need to keep in mind is emergencies happen. In these gyroplanes and most airplanes the throttle/carb circuit is hooked up such that if the throttle cable breaks or slips through the stop, the engine will go to full power. So its not a matter of 3000 RPM. Your engine runup should be to 3800 RPM when you do a mag check per Rotax but in worst case, the engine may go to full power because the cable stop failed. You need to train with that worst case in mind if possible. I did 1000+ hours of training of my students with parking brake on also. Its only after my hanger got damaged when I realized that its not such a great idea.

So you don't even want the American Ranger 1 decal on the side?
I did not realize that. Well you have 2 tone, tri-stage colors. Should still look very sharp.

By the way, we can do a paint job like this one also (see attached). Our painter did that.
 

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swilliams

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That paint Job looks great. I like the decal you used on the blue but that paint is Realy nice.
The Great thing with you Abid is the way you go out of your way to try to accomidate your customers ideas for there gyros. Can't wait to see how thing progress in the future.

Sincerely SWilliams
 
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That makes sense Abid. The brake lock isnt needed for run-up which is very quick anyway, but it is useful other times. That said, a non-rotating rotor is not flyable so nothing like the trike accident could occur, although the one like the runaway airplane could in theory. Of course we don't do run up near hangars unless testing the engine or prop but the regular parking brake works for that.

I definitely do not want any side decal. I was considering another small logo on the side fins like you have on the prototype; that's not obtrusive either, but ultimately I think I'd just prefer a nose one. I would like my hopefully nice paint job to be mostly unobscured. :)
 
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loftus

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The control pressure on the cyclic was really light. I literally never used any trim at all, except once at the end just to verify that it had one. But the cyclic was very easy to manage at any speed, in contrast to the Cavalon or MTO which had very high pressure if you didn't get the trim just right.
Kind of a no brainer that stick pressure is high if out of trim, simply because the trim is pushing the stick to where it wants to be so you are fighting the trim setting. MTO's can almost be flown using the trim switch alone, and maintaining very light stick pressure. Next time you get a chance to fly one, try it.
 
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I've done plenty of flying in an MTO and Cavalon. Stick pressures were high. For example the MTO does not have lateral trim (left/right) and turning the stick left or right required higher pressure than in the AR-1. It's not just a trim thing.
 

loftus

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I've done plenty of flying in an MTO and Cavalon. Stick pressures were high. For example the MTO does not have lateral trim (left/right) and turning the stick left or right required higher pressure than in the AR-1. It's not just a trim thing.
Hmmm.....stick pressure is just not an issue in a well set up MTO, mine is very light, but then I always fly in trim - in fact some have said it is too light compared to gyros with heavier blades like the Magni. Having only flown an Apollo, Magni and Titanium, the MTO was lighter than the Apollo and Magni, and about the same as the Titanium. Have not flown an AR-1 so can't compare. If you found stick pressures high in Autogyro machines, they were not set up right, or more likely you were flying out of trim and fighting the pressure of the pneumatic trim.
So I am not comparing the MTO to the AR-1, I'm sure the AR-1 is great, but I do think that if you've flown an MTO or Cavalon and found stick pressure to be an issue, then they were not set up right or you were not using the trim as you are supposed to and fighting the trim pressure. High stick pressure is simply not a characteristic of any of the Autogyro machines whatever else folks may find fault with.
Generally my understanding is that stick pressure (in trim) will be proportional to blade mass - smaller lighter blades will have less stick pressure than heavier larger blades. Autogyro have 3 blade options - the standard blade as in most MTO's, a lighter supposedly more 'sporty' blade, and recently added a heavier blade option.
 
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fara

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Hi Guys:
Our offset gimbal geometry is different than AutoGyro, that is why our pressures on cyclic feel a bit lighter, not because of trim.
 

loftus

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Hey Abid,
I'm sure the AR-1 is awesome, my comments are just so that we don't all of a sudden get it out there that MTO and Cavalon somehow have heavy stick pressure - it's just not the case unless of course you are fighting an opposite trim setting -- essentially that's like having someone sitting in the back and pushing the stick in the opposite direction. I have to come over to Z-Hills soon and get a ride in an AR-1
 

fara

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Hey Abid,
I'm sure the AR-1 is awesome, my comments are just so that we don't all of a sudden get it out there that MTO and Cavalon somehow have heavy stick pressure - it's just not the case unless of course you are fighting an opposite trim setting -- essentially that's like having someone sitting in the back and pushing the stick in the opposite direction. I have to come over to Z-Hills soon and get a ride in an AR-1
True. In a control system like gyroplanes use there are a few geometrical tricks one can play to change the feel of static control pressures.
We just flew Dan Johnson last week to review and write and article for EAA magazine on AR-1. I am sure a review will also be at www.bydanjohnson.com

Keep an eye out for it. Enjoy some of these aerial shots.
 

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