RAF 2000 for sale

Hi All - Can somebody provide any thoughts on the current day RAF 2000 kits that utilize the rotor "stabilator" system.
Hi Tom,

You'll find some very knowledgeable people here. You can search for comments by Doug Riley, Chuck Beaty (deceased, but his comments can still be found), Jean Claude DeBreyer, Mike Goodrich, Vance Breese and others. I think they have a really good handle on stability and control.

I believe one of the revealing things about the effectiveness of any engineering solution is whether something is copied by others....... or not. Adequately sized vertical and horizontal stabilizers, relatively wide main landing gear, good nose gear geometry, adequately sized control system connections, etc.

Magni, Silverlight, ELA, MTO, TAG, Gyro Technic, Aviomania, and most others adopt many of the features listed above. None of them have installed the "Rotor Stabilator" on their products.

The Rotor Stabilator will slow down rotor response to inputs. It will serve to trim out control stick forces. It will not stabilize the airframe.

Jim
 
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A "stabilator" on any other aircraft means a combination of a horizontal stabilizer and an elevator, as in the single "all-flying" T-tail I have on one of my gliders. It provides both pitch stability and control.

The RAF device misleadingly uses that word, but does not provide those functions. It is only a pitch trimmer.

As a personal choice, I will not fly in an RAF without a properly fitted horizontal tail surface.
 
Gary Brewer put a large horizontal stabilizer on his RAF. The results were a transformation of the gyro from an unstable hands on the stick at all times, to a pitch stable machine. He would take off the stab so his students could see the difference. They all, if I remember correctly, opted to install the stab when taking their lessons. The change this made to the machine was impressive. Gary was distanced by the RAF factory for pushing this change.
 
Thank you gents for clarifying. There is absolutely no way in my opinion to fly the RAF without the HS modification - seems to be a no brainer. As I recall, the Sparrowhawk was designed off the RAF with various improvements - too bad that craft is no longer manufactured. It does appear that with appropriate modifications, the RAF can be a reliable aircraft. I did read the article from Gary Brewer and the difference the HS made. It does seem odd that RAF has never incorporated this modification. I suspect that to do so might cause a liability issue for them. Since the RAFs are made in South Africa and used in a number of commercial arial spraying operations and assuming a good quantity of RAFs are registered in South Africa, I went to the South Africa Civil Aviation Authority website to investigate the accident history of the RAF in that Country.

I looked at January 2018 through April 2023 all aircraft incidents [both classified as accidents and occurrences] and found the following:

March 2018 - RAF had instrument failure just after take off and hard landing [no fatality].
April 2019 - RAF ran out of gas [no fatality]
Dec 2021 - RAF tried to rotate before reaching designated rotation speed of 55 mph [multiple injuries, not fatality].
Feb 2022 - RAF attempted landing in crosswind conditions exceeding AC documented limitations [no fatality or injuries].
May 2022 - RAF experienced a rotor strike on the prop while under power in flight [fatality].

This is by no means scientific and without knowing things such as how many RAFs are flying in South Africa over the time period, can't really determine an accident rate. But that being said, only five reported incidents over five years with one fatality does not seem like a problem aircraft. Only one incident [rotor strike] might be attributed to a system failure issue but I was unable to locate the "final report" to conclude on that one. Unclear the cause of the instrument electrical failure incident. Everything else is typical pilot error.

Not clear if any of these RAFs had mods [such as HS]. Obviously there is robust debate about these aircraft, design flaws, etc., but frankly I was expecting the South African data to reveal something other than what has been documented based on what you read about this gyro in the States. I am not a gyro expert nor do I have the technical expertise to opine on the design of the RAF; certainly center thrust designs seem to be the "standard" that is trying to be achieved in modern gyros. I can't imagine the weather in South Africa is any different than anywhere else and the RAF is subject to the same issues any pilot faces regarding weather conditions and safe flying. The only thing I note different in South Africa is RAF recommends 40 to 45 hours of flight training [unclear if this is a combo of dual and solo] in the aircraft you are building/purchasing.

In my case, should I elect to go the new build RAF kit, it would only make sense to be trained in the RAF and not try to transition to the aircraft after solo in something else. Of course it goes without saying that during the build process any of the recommended safety mods that have evolved over the years would be incorporated.

Big question, would a CFI conduct training in a modified RAF? No point in purchasing one if you can't find a CFI to instruct. To be clear, I am looking at everything on the market and certainly have not come to a decision other than I want to train in whatever gyro I purchase and not transition from one make/model to another.

Oh well, we will see what comes out of this over the next few months. I certainly appreciate a forum such as this to help guide one down the gyro path.
 
Thank you gents for clarifying. There is absolutely no way in my opinion to fly the RAF without the HS modification - seems to be a no brainer. As I recall, the Sparrowhawk was designed off the RAF with various improvements - too bad that craft is no longer manufactured. It does appear that with appropriate modifications, the RAF can be a reliable aircraft. I did read the article from Gary Brewer and the difference the HS made. It does seem odd that RAF has never incorporated this modification. I suspect that to do so might cause a liability issue for them. Since the RAFs are made in South Africa and used in a number of commercial arial spraying operations and assuming a good quantity of RAFs are registered in South Africa, I went to the South Africa Civil Aviation Authority website to investigate the accident history of the RAF in that Country.

I looked at January 2018 through April 2023 all aircraft incidents [both classified as accidents and occurrences] and found the following:

March 2018 - RAF had instrument failure just after take off and hard landing [no fatality].
April 2019 - RAF ran out of gas [no fatality]
Dec 2021 - RAF tried to rotate before reaching designated rotation speed of 55 mph [multiple injuries, not fatality].
Feb 2022 - RAF attempted landing in crosswind conditions exceeding AC documented limitations [no fatality or injuries].
May 2022 - RAF experienced a rotor strike on the prop while under power in flight [fatality].

This is by no means scientific and without knowing things such as how many RAFs are flying in South Africa over the time period, can't really determine an accident rate. But that being said, only five reported incidents over five years with one fatality does not seem like a problem aircraft. Only one incident [rotor strike] might be attributed to a system failure issue but I was unable to locate the "final report" to conclude on that one. Unclear the cause of the instrument electrical failure incident. Everything else is typical pilot error.

Not clear if any of these RAFs had mods [such as HS]. Obviously there is robust debate about these aircraft, design flaws, etc., but frankly I was expecting the South African data to reveal something other than what has been documented based on what you read about this gyro in the States. I am not a gyro expert nor do I have the technical expertise to opine on the design of the RAF; certainly center thrust designs seem to be the "standard" that is trying to be achieved in modern gyros. I can't imagine the weather in South Africa is any different than anywhere else and the RAF is subject to the same issues any pilot faces regarding weather conditions and safe flying. The only thing I note different in South Africa is RAF recommends 40 to 45 hours of flight training [unclear if this is a combo of dual and solo] in the aircraft you are building/purchasing.

In my case, should I elect to go the new build RAF kit, it would only make sense to be trained in the RAF and not try to transition to the aircraft after solo in something else. Of course it goes without saying that during the build process any of the recommended safety mods that have evolved over the years would be incorporated.

Big question, would a CFI conduct training in a modified RAF? No point in purchasing one if you can't find a CFI to instruct. To be clear, I am looking at everything on the market and certainly have not come to a decision other than I want to train in whatever gyro I purchase and not transition from one make/model to another.

Oh well, we will see what comes out of this over the next few months. I certainly appreciate a forum such as this to help guide one down the gyro path.
If you brought your legally registered RAF 2000, AAI modified RAF or SparrowHawk to Santa Maria, California and a mechanic I know well pronounced her airworthy I would be happy to train you in your gyroplane.

The airworthiness inspection would likely cost you between $500 and $1,000.

Seven RAF/Sparrow Hawks have come to Santa Maria and all needed work to be airworthy.

Some had problems that could have killed us and all had been declared airworthy by an airframe and power plant mechanic during an annual condition inspection.

Usually I can find hangar space to store your aircraft for around $150 a month.

I have lower wind limits for training in an RAF which may limit our training time; 6kts in the beginning and 10kts as you gain experience.

I have found learners have difficulty separating control inputs from the effects of the wind.

Today November 11 at 12:51 the wind is 290 degrees at 14kts at SMX.

That is too windy for me to train you in an RAF 2000 and the wind is expected to continue into the evening.

It did not get too windy today until 10:00 and sunrise is 6:30 so we could have flown a couple of missions.

The National Weather Service is predicting the winds to be too high after 10:00 until Saturday.

Until I fly with you I have no way to guess how many hours of dual instruction it will take for you to meet the practical test standards.

If you give me a call at (805)680-9523 we can discuss you experience and goals and I can give you a rough estimate of the dual required to meet the standards.

The sport pilot practical test standards may be found here: https://www.faa.gov/sites/faa.gov/files/training_testing/testing/test_standards/faa-s-8081-29.pdf

Just scroll down to Sport Pilot Gyroplane.

If you are a primary learner (no other aviation certificates “license”) it will save a lot of time if you study and pass the knowledge test first.

If you have a pilot certificate (license) no knowledge test is required.

There is still a pre-solo test.

For Sport Pilot Gyroplane the maximum takeoff weight of your gyroplane must be no more than 1,320 pounds.

If the maximum takeoff weight is over 1,320 pounds you will need to get a private pilot, rotorcraft, gyroplane rating to fly your gyroplane that is more involved.

I encourage you to read the FAA publication “The Rotorcraft Flying Handbook” before you began your training for an FAA certificate so you will be able to ask better questions and speak the same language as your instructor.
 

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If you have a pilot certificate (license) no knowledge test is required.
One tiny detail: that's true if your existing certificate is for powered aircraft of some sort. Glider or balloon only pilots still need to take the knowledge exam. FAR 61.63(b)(4)
 
Hi Vance - Thank you for your kind response and additional information. I appreciate that you did not default to the "RAFs are dangerous" position from the get go. I started flying weight shift trike back in 2012-2014 and really enjoyed rebuilding trikes with five builds under my belt. My trike world was cut short due to numerous moves around the Country with my government job and I had to hang it up. I liked the simplicity of a trike, however it was always the crack of dawn flying and never much opportunity to fly outside of the early morning hours. WST is also more physically demanding and as I have gotten older, that is less appealing, hence why I am looking at the move to gyros and not resuming WST. I appreciate the offer to fly with you in Santa Maria and look forward to chatting with you on the phone. I have no dog in the fight when it comes to RAFs or any other gyro. Like many of us, I don't have $100K plus to go spend on an aircraft and many of the euro built gyros and gyros in general approach or easily exceed that price point. The current RAF kit is about $40K USD complete (including 2.2 FI Subie engine) excluding shipping from South Africa...good price but meaningless if it is not a sound aircraft. I am looking at the Aviomania and GyroTechnic products as well.

One thing I try to consider is the longevity of the manufacturer and parts availability down-the-road. What struck me about the RAF is they have been in business for many years [I believe the RAF 2000 has been around since 1989] and I view that as a good thing.
 
Hi Vance - Thank you for your kind response and additional information. I appreciate that you did not default to the "RAFs are dangerous" position from the get go. I started flying weight shift trike back in 2012-2014 and really enjoyed rebuilding trikes with five builds under my belt. My trike world was cut short due to numerous moves around the Country with my government job and I had to hang it up. I liked the simplicity of a trike, however it was always the crack of dawn flying and never much opportunity to fly outside of the early morning hours. WST is also more physically demanding and as I have gotten older, that is less appealing, hence why I am looking at the move to gyros and not resuming WST. I appreciate the offer to fly with you in Santa Maria and look forward to chatting with you on the phone. I have no dog in the fight when it comes to RAFs or any other gyro. Like many of us, I don't have $100K plus to go spend on an aircraft and many of the euro built gyros and gyros in general approach or easily exceed that price point. The current RAF kit is about $40K USD complete (including 2.2 FI Subie engine) excluding shipping from South Africa...good price but meaningless if it is not a sound aircraft. I am looking at the Aviomania and GyroTechnic products as well.

One thing I try to consider is the longevity of the manufacturer and parts availability down-the-road. What struck me about the RAF is they have been in business for many years [I believe the RAF 2000 has been around since 1989] and I view that as a good thing.
Another consideration on the RAF. If you are located in Colorado you would be under powered with the Soob 2.2. The later RAFs had the 2.5 soob.

What ever you decide to purchase take into consideration the altitude you will be flying from and the type of aircraft. Make sure the engine hp will be up to the task.
 
Thank you GyroChuck for the observation. I agree 100% and did note the RAF is available with the 2.5 FI. Your point is well considered as many of the two stroke powered gyros just won't be appropriate for our altitude. I've only been researching options that include a 4-stroke with sufficient horsepower.
 
Chuck has a good point.

The City of Colorado Springs Municipal Airport (KCOS) is at 6,187 feet mean sea level and the density altitude can easily reach 9,000 in the summer. In my opinion based on my experience an RAF with a 2.2 or a 2.5 Subaru engine would not have satisfactory performance at those altitudes.

In my opinion the American Ranger with a 912 would have marginal performance at 9,000 feet density altitude.

You will need ADSB out to fly out of KCOS because it is a class C airport.

Your pilot certificate for sport pilot weight shift control will allow you to skip the knowledge test on your path to getting your sport pilot gyroplane certificate.
 
When I began gyro training in UK, under LASORS the existing legislation at the time dictated that the first 15 hours of gyro training had to be in a two seater before being allowed to begin training on a single seat. My financial situation at the time was not great and the single seat was half the price to train and fly, so that was where I was heading next.

The two seater I was being trained on was an RAF 2000 without a horizontal stabiliser. I t was quite pitch sensitive but as I had no other gyro types to compare it with, other than fixed wing aircraft I had flown, I proceeded to quite happily learn it's various foibles, and the very different techniques to fixed wing flying required, particularly for the take off, along with learning essential rotor management skills. Although I found it pitch sensitive, I enjoyed flying it, though I did find it very cramped., and with a very upright seat position I did not like.

When I then switched to the Bensen, I realised how much more pitch sensitive the Bensen was than the 2000 I had just come from, and could then appreciate how essential it was for my instructor to see that I could wheel balance for long stretches of runway, without rocking back an forth from nose wheel to tailwheel as I learned how not to over control, before taking to the air for hops and then the circuit.

I have not flown any RAF 2000 with the horizontal stab, but have friends who had converted theirs, and reported increased longitudinal stability, along with one or two little flight characteristic changes, that some liked and other didn't, but no real gripes. The addition of the Horizontal stab would have to be considered as an improvement in stability/safety.
 
Thanks Resasi for the information and glad you had a positive experience with the RAF. I had occasion today to correspond with Eben Mocke from RAF in South Africa. He was very helpful in providing details on the kit build process, quality of documentation, etc. I also learned the RAF 2000 is the only gyro certified for commercial operations in South Africa by the SACAA...says something since a good portion of the global gyro manufacturers are represented in SA as well but yet to receive certification (at least for commercial operations). As I understand it, RAFs are frequently used for farm crop spraying work.

RAF in South Africa has a large operation in addition to hosting a flight school, they of course have manufacturing operations, service/repair and a commercial agricultural division. Seems like a pretty squared away group of companies; pretty much an extended family run business. They have successfully operated for 16+ years, so they must be doing something right as tough as the light sport business is.

We spoke about the HS issue and he did share with me some printed documentation about why they patented the "stabilator" system and decided against the use of a HS. It was clear to me they have given this HS debate a lot of consideration and based on their testing, analysis and design considerations, they elected to approach this from a different solution; certainly their choice how they want to design their aircraft and they have remained in business for many years, so I don't pass any judgement one way or the other. I can't speak to the prior owner/founder of RAF when it was a Canadian company, however RAF South Africa has a compelling business model and they offer a wide array of services to their customers. As I previously posted, the safety record of the RAF in South Africa does not seem to support this idea that RAFs fall out of the sky on a regular basis. RAF South Africa makes it pretty clear the addition of a HS on the RAF is not part of the build design - the stabilator is. Since in the US this all falls under experimental you of course are free to do whatever you want to the experimental aircraft, however in South African certified RAFs, it appears the addition of a HS would be contrary to the build design of the aircraft and maybe (just my guess) that adding one would be an unapproved modification for the type certification, at least in South Africa.

There is also a very interesting article published by GyroGreg titled Gyroplane Stability Misconceptions...really good read and does clear up (at least for me) the nuts and bolts of flight dynamics, aircraft stability, etc. While I believe he advocates a HS on the RAF, he also acknowledges they chose to approach the stability issue from an outside-the-box perspective (stabilator) and that is ok.

I've concluded at the end of the day the RAF is worth consideration. The consistent theme is training, training, training.
 
RAF SA did not develop the Stabilator. Duane Hunn CFI from Michigan developed it and was the first to have on his RAF gyro. RAF Canada liked the idea and adopted it. At least that is what Duane told me.
 
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A good business model and a good aircraft design are wholly independent issues in aviation. There have been brilliant designs by companies that utterly failed, and badly flawed designs by companies that prospered. Do not assume one based on the other.

There is a long tragic history of RAF disasters in North America. In Canadian hands, the company dogmatically rejected all suggestions of any need for design improvements, and the motives did not appear to be validly engineering-based.

Required relentless training is a half-assed solution to engineering errors or laziness, shifting the burden to the trainee. With enough diligence, a good pilot can learn to fly a proverbial death trap, but it leaves little margin for occasional human weakness or error.
 
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A good business model and a good aircraft design are wholly independent issues in aviation.
Even at the operator level, this is not arcane knowledge. An aircraft is, or is not, statically stable. A statically stable aircraft is, or is not, dynamically stable. A few easily conducted tests can determine the stability characteristics.

One of the most easily understood concepts is that force times arm equals moment and that without an arm (CG/thrustline offset) there can be no overturning moment caused by force (engine thrust).

I have owned and flown many RAF 2000 gyros. They simply are not and cannot be pitch stable. The instability can be masked to some extent by the rotor trim device currently in vogue or even an adequately sized H stab. The H stab can be placed far enough aft and can be of a size that the inherent instability of the design can become an academic point rather than a killer. This is in many cases an acceptable solution.

I don't want to be misunderstood. I admire the ingenuity of Duane's trim device. The first time I flew an RAF 2000 so equipped it was very pleasant. It damped the pilot inputs to the control system and made it more difficult to get out of phase with any oscillation. The faster you fly the more the trim device resists movement of the stick and rotor. At low speeds and high-power settings it has almost no effect.

It simply does not enhance stability in any way.

Jim
 
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Even at the operator level, this is not arcane knowledge. An aircraft is, or is not, statically stable. A statically stable aircraft is, or is not, dynamically stable. A few easily conducted tests can determine the stability characteristics.

One of the most easily understood concepts is that force times arm equals moment and that without an arm (CG/thrustline offset) there can be no overturning moment caused by force (engine thrust).

I have owned and flown many RAF 2000 gyros. They simply are not and cannot be pitch stable. The instability can be masked to some extent by the rotor trim device currently in vogue or even an adequately sized H stab. The H stab can be placed far enough aft and can be of a size that the inherent instability of the design can become an academic point rather than a killer. This is in many cases an acceptable solution.

I don't want to be misunderstood. I admire the ingenuity of Duane's trim device. The first time I flew an RAF 2000 so equipped it was very pleasant. It damped the pilot inputs to the control system and made it more difficult to get out of phase with any oscillation. The faster you fly the more the trim device resists movement of the stick and rotor. At low speeds and high-power settings it has almost no effect.

It simply does not enhance stability in any way.

Jim
Looking at that "Stabilator" and how it functions makes it become evident that it basically replaces the spring on the rotor head trim mechanism with a flying surface. or an "Air Spring". This may set up a slight amount of stability due to the static margin of forces fighting each other, cancelling phased control inputs and the wake of drag it creates in the air stream, but there is no way it could come close to a full size HS.........
It is a trim device, not a stability device, this should be evident by the number of RAFs in the US with both HSs and stabilators.
 
Have a friend who had a standard RAF and he once told me that it would develop a strange pitch issue like being on a roller coaster. Ended up lunching it in a cross wind landing so bought a MTO
 
As always, the feedback is great and I especially appreciate Jim's view...either something is or it is not. Mayfield, appreciate your observations as well. This is certainly a learning topic for me. As I have previously stated, if I were to go with a RAF I'm not at all opposed to making modifications during the build. My only concern would be what mods do you do that make up a complete package...I've seen everything posted from adding just the HS, adding the HS and extending the keel and angle, both the previous mods and lowering the engine. I believe Mr. Beatty (?) came up with the HS solution and I'm assuming he worked out the size required based on his older posts in this forum, but not sure the same effort has gone into the other mentioned mods. I guess this is the nature of something being classified as experimental and why the Sparrowhawk came into existence to "address" these issues with the RAF. Coming from the trike world where a significant number of trikes are certified SLSA or kits based on the certified aircraft and classified as ELSA it is easier to "shop" for a trike and not have to focus so much on is the aircraft designed properly. Too bad that gyros did not get included in the original LSA/Sport Pilot origins...the inclusion of trikes had and continues to have a positive impact in the trike world.
 
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