Prospective Cavalon Owner and Career Helicopter Pilot Needs Advice on Buying/Options

Pavegeno

Newbie
Joined
Jun 9, 2020
Messages
14
Location
Alabama
Aircraft
TH-1H Huey
Total Flight Time
6000
Hello. Life long USAF helicopter pilot here with over 5000 helicopter hours and now semi-retired but a full-time instructor at the USAF's helicopter pilot training school in Alabama. Seriously considering a Cavalon in the next 24 months when the house is paid off. Have flown many light single and twin-engine civil airplanes and find them boring. A gyro seems like a great option when a civil helicopter is out of reach due to price and maintenance costs.

The Cavalon appeals to me for the side-by-side seating and the large instrument panel supporting a nice glass cockpit. I'm used to a 90-100 knot cruise in the Huey I am currently flying so a 70-80 knot cruise in a gyro is just fine. Is that a realistic cruise speed? I like to go slow and absorb the world going by. The 4 hour range is fantastic.

A few questions for Cavalon owners from someone who has never owned an aircraft before. I will purchase an FAA certified bird and not a kit so assuming all routine and preventative maintenance must be performed by an A&P and not me.

First, what does an oil change, annual, and engine TBO typically cost? I want to have a decent per hour cost for escrow purposes so I pay as I go. (Best I can tell TBO is 1200 hours on the 915 and blades TBO is 2500 hours)

Second, can any A&P work on this or is there a gyro specific A&P requirement?

Third, I plan on the night VFR package. Any observations or experience with night flying? I currently fly night IFR/VFR in the Huey without NVGs so I am very comfortable with night flying.

Fourth, The G3X Touch suite looks amazing and I am trying to decide whether to go with a single or dual screen. Does the G3X in the Cavalon configuration come loaded with the data card allowing you to shoot GPS approaches if you get stuck in crappy weather? I know that craft is not IFR certified, but just in case, is it an option? Any suggestions here would be great. What is the subscription cost to keep the data card current?

Fifth, fixed-pitch or constant speed prop? I live near sea-level so I'm leaning towards fixed-pitch prop unless there are significant impacts on range, climb rates, etc.

Sixth, I've spoken to Ron at Ron's Gyros in Searcy. Since he is a designated FAA examiner, I can get an add-on to my Commercial Rotorcraft-Helicopter and not just the sport license. Ultimately, I'd liked to get my CFI so I can teach my son and friends to fly. Going to order the instructor package for this reason with dual controls

Seventh, what are some of the annoyances with the Cavalon, if any?

Eighth, anything else that would be helpful would be appreciated.

Thanks,

Gene
 
Last edited:

Tyger

Active Member
Joined
Nov 25, 2017
Messages
931
Location
Germantown, NY
Aircraft
Magni M16
Total Flight Time
360
I'm pretty sure you can do routine maintenance, like an oil change, yourself.
 

Tyger

Active Member
Joined
Nov 25, 2017
Messages
931
Location
Germantown, NY
Aircraft
Magni M16
Total Flight Time
360

Pavegeno

Newbie
Joined
Jun 9, 2020
Messages
14
Location
Alabama
Aircraft
TH-1H Huey
Total Flight Time
6000

Tyger

Active Member
Joined
Nov 25, 2017
Messages
931
Location
Germantown, NY
Aircraft
Magni M16
Total Flight Time
360
This is the "chapter and verse":
14 CFR § 43.3 (g) Except for holders of a sport pilot certificate, the holder of a pilot certificate issued under part 61 may perform preventive maintenance on any aircraft owned or operated by that pilot which is not used under part 121, 129, or 135 of this chapter. The holder of a sport pilot certificate may perform preventive maintenance on an aircraft owned or operated by that pilot and issued a special airworthiness certificate in the light-sport category.
 

Tyger

Active Member
Joined
Nov 25, 2017
Messages
931
Location
Germantown, NY
Aircraft
Magni M16
Total Flight Time
360
Re Rotax overhauls: can't speak to the 915 because it's pretty new, but with the 912ULS (now 2000h TBO), the overhaul cost is close enough to the price of a new engine that a lot of guys are just opting to replace the engine.

Here's an (old) article that discusses options on overhauling Rotax engines:
 

DavePA11

Active Member
Joined
Nov 16, 2015
Messages
805
Location
USA
Gene - the cost of an annual varies greatly based on the mechanics that perform the annual and what is found that needs fixing. Usually plan for $1000 to $2000 for fixed wing and similar for certified gyro. Might have better luck bring the gyro to helo mechanic for annual.

I had a real hard time finding A&P willing to have anything to do with a gyro. So check with local A&Ps to see options. Best to bring to manufacture if that is an option.

Lots of accidents with the Cavalon so get a lot of training before you go on your own. Check to see if you can get insurance on it, and get pricing with and without instructing in the Cavalon. Insurance is very expensive for gyros if you can find someone to insure it.

Good luck with your adventures. Sounds like fun.
 

All_In

Gold Supporter
Joined
Apr 21, 2008
Messages
15,204
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
9 NTSB reports on Cavalons and at lease, that number of unreported accidents are the rumors from the shops that have repaired those not reported.
We recommend more training in Cavalons, especially in crosswind landings.
The HS needs to be a little bigger as their pitch will change with power settings.

However, I've flown one to Boise Idaho, and up the snake river and back to Spanish Fork Utah, and they fly well with hard coupled nose gear you have do soft field landing and keep the nose wheel up until you can straighten the rudder/nose wheel out on crosswind landings. I would own one but for newbies really needs more training than what they are receiving now as that one model has had the majority of the accidents.
 

Pavegeno

Newbie
Joined
Jun 9, 2020
Messages
14
Location
Alabama
Aircraft
TH-1H Huey
Total Flight Time
6000
Gene - the cost of an annual varies greatly based on the mechanics that perform the annual and what is found that needs fixing. Usually plan for $1000 to $2000 for fixed wing and similar for certified gyro. Might have better luck bring the gyro to helo mechanic for annual.

I had a real hard time finding A&P willing to have anything to do with a gyro. So check with local A&Ps to see options. Best to bring to manufacture if that is an option.

Lots of accidents with the Cavalon so get a lot of training before you go on your own. Check to see if you can get insurance on it, and get pricing with and without instructing in the Cavalon. Insurance is very expensive for gyros if you can find someone to insure it.

Good luck with your adventures. Sounds like fun.
Thanks Dave. I have a buddy who runs a helo/airplane/glider repair facility and he will work on them. I'll start digging into insurance.
 

DavePA11

Active Member
Joined
Nov 16, 2015
Messages
805
Location
USA
Rotax are great engines. I didn’t have any issues with my 912, but did have to replace a fuel pump. Follow all the ADs. The Rotax certified mechanic did all my work, and he wasn’t too expensive. Parts are not cheap. For me, the gyro vibrates a lot so I replaced metal brackets, and that was it for expenses outside normal stuff like replacing tires and updating avionics. The rotor bearings need replacement at some point too.

I would review the accidents too and make sure you understand what happened with those to try to avoid it. I suspect it’s related to the hard coupled nose wheel as mentioned above. I purchased a gyro with least chance of fire since very afraid of burning with accidental impact. I think Cavalon is okay in this respect, but others can be fireballs with hard impact.

You can try to do soft field landings and make sure nose doesn’t accidentally drop on take off hitting runway, but shit happens. I had the latter happen once in Sportcopter on paved runway when first learning to fly and glad it was swivel nose wheel.

Another approach would be buy a cheaper gyro to learn, and then upgrade to the Cavalon once you have experience? Unfortunately, even minor accidents in a gyro tend to be extremely expensive to fix. Rotor strike will most likely cause mast to bend so new frame, $$$. Tipping will cause rotor strike and more... $$$$Very different from Helo since do not believe these accident scenarios are possible in a helicopter, but I only have couple hours with instructor in a R-22. Gyros are very different from helos so will take time to learn new muscle memory.

I saw a Cavalon take off and turn into the wind too soon, and scrapped bottom of right horizontal stabilizer tip. So if buying a used one check the bottoms of the tail.
 

Tyger

Active Member
Joined
Nov 25, 2017
Messages
931
Location
Germantown, NY
Aircraft
Magni M16
Total Flight Time
360
As Jeff Tipton pointed out, above, you have a lot more ability to do your own work on an aircraft with an Experimental certificate, even if you are not the original builder. Many A&Ps are indeed chary of working on gyros.
Taking one of the official Rotax maintenance courses is very useful, if you fly with a Rotax engine, especially on an experimental. Rotaxes are pretty different from "ordinary" aircraft engines, and it may be hard to find a Rotax-trained A&P nearby; they seem more plentiful in some parts of the US than others.
 
Last edited:

DavePA11

Active Member
Joined
Nov 16, 2015
Messages
805
Location
USA
A good friend of mine is an A&P and IA, and I couldn't convince him to take the Rotax training to work on my gyro. He felt there was too much risk, and stuck with certified/experimental airplanes. I had more luck with A&Ps that worked on helicopters since they felt more familiar with rotor aircraft, but none of the A&Ps working on Helicopters had any experience with Rotax engines. Thus, I took the Sportcopter to certified Rotax shop for engine annual, and helo A&P for annual on the aircraft after Rotax finished with the engine. The Rotax A&P wouldn't do the annual on the gyro. This seemed to work fine. Got the best of both worlds, but did have more down time in both shops and probably a bit more expensive approach.

Gene might have better luck with the helicopter mechanics he has worked with in the past.
 

JEFF TIPTON

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 17, 2007
Messages
2,945
Location
DICKSON, TN
Aircraft
Grumman AA5
Total Flight Time
1350
If the A&P is familiar with motorcycle technology from the eighties, they should have no problem picking up the nuances of the 912 series.

The 914 and 915 really need the school.
 

Steve_UK

Active Member
Joined
Oct 15, 2010
Messages
3,705
Location
UK
Aircraft
I'm not a pilot but have been lucky enough to fly in Mi-24 Hind, Mi-2, Mi-17, Lynx HAS3, Gliders, GA
Hi Gene,

Cavalon sales are now approaching ship #500 - the most recent I've found to date is ship #470 that was newly registered in Poland in June 2020.


It's the best selling SxS followed by the Magni M24 then the Xenon/Zen1/Tercel family.
 

Tyger

Active Member
Joined
Nov 25, 2017
Messages
931
Location
Germantown, NY
Aircraft
Magni M16
Total Flight Time
360
Dave, did you have a Rotax mech you liked in/near MA/CT?
 

Greg Vos

Active Member
Joined
May 26, 2019
Messages
347
Location
Cape Town
Aircraft
R44/22 H269/300 MD 500 Magni (all); Xenon RST; DTA; ELA; MTO
Total Flight Time
Stoped counting at 3000
Hi Gene,

Cavalon sales are now approaching ship #500 - the most recent I've found to date is ship #470 that was newly registered in Poland in June 2020.


It's the best selling SxS followed by the Magni M24 then the Xenon/Zen1/Tercel family.
Having flown them all and being instructor rated on all, I like the simple maintenance on the M24 and the Zen / xenon, the view from the Xenon and it’s bigger cabin for me makes it a winner For me.

I find the Cavalon a bit cozy,.. as I do the M24, the Cavalon is similar in construction to the Polish ships so it’s proven that a Monocok construction is safe. I don’t like the pre rotator maintenance or service on the Cavelon I don’t like the cables on the controls... Magni and Xenon / Argo / Trendak offer pull push rods and we all know they are bullet proof.

I don’t like the over engine rads we see on the Auto Gyro models while I have no evidence that they are problematic, the 915 still needs to prove its provenance ..

I have flown a 915 gyros and that extra power is very welcome 😁 but .... before I put my cash there let’s see a few high hour 915’s and let them prove provinence?
As a helicopter pilot myself I find the view through the feet of the Polish gyros very welcome, if I may add please fly them all before you purchase.


The best resale ( if it’s a factor) will be the M24 IMO
The polish machines are like Lexus ...fantastic but no resale value .... but I I never purchase anything for its resale value, rather just it’s value
 
Top