(Part 2) Flight of Two in Class C Airspace


PRA member since 1973
Published with Photos In the November Issue of Western Rotorcraft

On Page(s) 4-5 & 6

LINK> http://www.pra38.org/Western_Rotorcraft__NOV_2013.pdf

Flight of 2 in Class C Airspace. By Mark S. Shook

Since the dawn of time, man has dreamed of flying like the birds. Soaring high above his home turf to survey all that the eye can behold. As gyro pilots, we get the chance to do that very thing. Except when the laws of man get in our way. My friend Thomas Fernadez has a great light open frame Gyrobee. With it's recently upgraded Rotax 582 engine, it propels its light frame skyward in an amazing way considering the density altitude we encounter in the Pikes Peak Region. Though it forgoes the comfort of an enclosed cabin, it has everything necessary for a single occupant to fly, except the electronics the rules require for flight in the class C airspace that covers most of the city of Colorado Springs.

Thomas has flown in many places around the western part of the US, but for lack of a transponder, until today, he has not seen from his aircraft parts of his home city. So this fine summer morn, with my co-pilot Todd Rieck along for his excellent company and an extra set of eyes, we taxi Xenon copter 9MB over to meet Thomas at Larry &Toni Wrights home/hangar for our pre flight briefing.

Whenever you are planning a flight of two, a thorough two way discussion needs to take place between the 2 pilots involved. As we arrive, Thomas is just finishing the pre flight of his aircraft. Thomas has some good pre flight questions as we verbally plan the route, discuss the radio frequencies needed in order of use, expected altitudes, discuss what to expect, and what to do if.... if we loose sight of each other, if we loose radio contact, etc.

After a thorough brief with lots of questions, we strap in, start our engines, and tune the Meadow Lake Airport AWOS to hear the weather, winds and temperature, and computer calculated Density Altitude (D/A) broadcast on a continuous loop. Wind is light, but the D/A is reported at 9 thousand one hundred, and its only just after 9am. We taxi for runway 15.

Climbing out in the clear morning air, we easily spot each other , rendezvous as discussed and switch to COS approach frequency. I do the talking and squawking for the flight . ..."Good morning Springs approach, Experimental Gyrocopter 719Mike Bravo is a flight of 2 for sightseeing over the city with information Kilo." COS assigns me a transponder code 4434, and instructs us to proceed westbound as requested, maintain at or below eight thousand (MSL)."

It's easy to see Thomas with that bright florescent lime green tail reflecting the morning sun. Thomas reports he has the yellow Xenon in sight as we cross the metro area at about 1200 AGL. Ahead and to our right are the silver spires of the USAF academy cadet chapel, to our left the maze of radio towers, lights flashing above us at 10 thousand feet on top of Cheyenne mountain. And dead ahead, Pikes Peak towering above at a majestic 14, 110 MSL. Just below and to the right of the peak is the colorful Garden of the Gods, a city park given over 100 years ago by its former owners as a gift to the residents of the city on the condition it would remain open and free of charge to the public. The park is made up of thin rock formations, with narrow roads and many hiking and horseback riding trails.

We circle in a wide arc taking in the park and a few photos before exiting the 2 360s west again for Manitou Springs. As we fly over the city, ATC (air traffic control) lets us fly on the west side un disturbed, as they are busy with mid morning airline and military traffic to our east arriving and departing the Springs Airport. With its 2 mile long runways COS is a joint use facility sharing the runways and taxiways with Peterson Field AFB. Soon we are reporting over the world famous Broadmoor Hotel for our turn east bound pointed right at the busy airport. ATC has us climb to 8500 MSL (about 2300 AGL) and cross mid field right over the busy airport. What a sight.

A dozen C-130s are on the ramp below us as we pass overhead. To our right, airliners from several carriers are parked at various gates, and a few more are moving along the ribbons of concrete, to and from the runway and terminal building. Thomas is staying close and following us as we make the heading and altitude changes required. I have Todd keep Thomas in sight as I deal with ATC and the radio.
As we pass east of the large airport we are told to "resume our own navigation and report Meadow Lake Airport in sight". When we do, we are told ..."change to advisory frequency is approved, squawk VFR .

After landing back at our home airport, we taxi back to the Wrights hangar for an after flight de brief with Thomas. What a great flight. Thomas expressed the same and thanked us for helping him do something he had wanted to do for a long time. We shared our impressions, and several , .."did you see that".. moments. By having the transponder equipped aircraft and an experienced second pilot in his flight of two, Thomas did something he had not felt comfortable doing alone.

I learned something I had not considered before: Even a pilot of a single seat aircraft can take advantage of something 2 and 4 place airplane pilots do all the time. Flying a new route or to a new airport with a buddy. I guess that's just another good reason to join a PRA chapter. M

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Tim Chick
Excellent flight report. Mark, are you able to comfortably fly the xenon slow enough for Thomas to keep up?


PRA member since 1973
Excellent flight report. Mark, are you able to comfortably fly the xenon slow enough for Thomas to keep up?
Yes Tim. My Xenon has an electric trim which helps trim the stick pressure while holding back stick. Thomas didn't have any trouble keeping up with me. My normal cruise speed is between 75 to 80 knots. For this flight I reduced power a bit and trimmed it to hold 60 knots.

I have flown a similar flight in the many airplanes I have owned over the years. The difference is in the gyro copter, you see things in detail that you miss flying a fixed-wing around. If you notice in one of the photos (below) taken at Garden of the Gods, if you look carefully, you can see people walking on the walking path in that city park. I saw that as we were flying.