Short fields, grass/gravel fields, backcountry flying

MonkeyClaw

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Hey all! I'm in the process of getting my order ready for an AR-1 (Hi Abid!) and would like some opinions. I live in Northern AZ (Sedona) and like the idea of visiting some 'backcountry' strips. Nothing too crazy - I'm talking real, established strips (88AZ, 24AZ, AZ66) to visit and camp. For this reason, I'm thinking of getting bigger tires with the associated bigger fairings, etc.

I'm wondering if many people do this type of flying? I don't see the gyro as a true STOL-type of vehicle like you see with cubs and tundra tires landing in crazy places, but I'd like to think it would be good for the places mentioned above? I'd love to hear opinions!
 

fara

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Hey all! I'm in the process of getting my order ready for an AR-1 (Hi Abid!) and would like some opinions. I live in Northern AZ (Sedona) and like the idea of visiting some 'backcountry' strips. Nothing too crazy - I'm talking real, established strips (88AZ, 24AZ, AZ66) to visit and camp. For this reason, I'm thinking of getting bigger tires with the associated bigger fairings, etc.

I'm wondering if many people do this type of flying? I don't see the gyro as a true STOL-type of vehicle like you see with cubs and tundra tires landing in crazy places, but I'd like to think it would be good for the places mentioned above? I'd love to hear opinions!

Gyroplanes can be STOL in the right hands with light payload though nothing like the competition STOL airplanes that are purpose built with engines that in normal use would blow up.
Landing should not be a problem at all and gyroplanes can do that better than any STOL airplane in the right hands.
Takeoff is likely where the real issues occur.
I have done my fair share of landing off airports but in trikes. Mostly landing on sand bars 7 to 9 miles into the bay/water on beaches and some other places that shall remain unnamed. Trikes are though much more physical and many times requiring quick reflexes. Although I have not tried those with AR-1 but I think it is likely that they would succeed. I would use Turf glide type of tires for the beach landings though with no wheel pants. Wheel pants will simply break off at some point.
Looking at pictures of your listed airstrips only AZ66 seems a bit questionable to me. Seems like no one gives a crap about the strip there
 
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DavePA11

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Really need independent brakes so wouldn’t recommend it on the AR-1 unless the air strip is flat with no side slopes. Landing usually isn’t the problem, but take off on sloped surfaces can be challenging in a gyro since they are top heavy. Just be careful with hitting bumps causing flap so need a high rrpm when starting takeoff roll. Watch out for any hidden holes where your front wheel can get buried in… If you land in tight space, it is possible to take off then do 180 and continue to climb in opposite direction or at least in the SC 912. Not sure the AR-1 would be nimble enough for that maneuver. I would not recommend landing on a beach or sand with a gyro without independent brakes and large tires unless sand is hard packet and you have walked it before, The fellow from down under can probably give you some good pointers…

Doesn’t the AR-1 have fiberglass around the springs? What do you do with those when the wheel pants are removed? Aren’t they attached to the wheel pants?
 

fara

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Really need independent brakes so wouldn’t recommend it on the AR-1 unless the air strip is flat with no side slopes. Landing usually isn’t the problem, but take off on sloped surfaces can be challenging in a gyro since they are top heavy. Just be careful with hitting bumps causing flap so need a high rrpm when starting takeoff roll. Watch out for any hidden holes where your front wheel can get buried in… If you land in tight space, it is possible to take off then do 180 and continue to climb in opposite direction or at least in the SC 912. Not sure the AR-1 would be nimble enough for that maneuver. I would not recommend landing on a beach or sand with a gyro without independent brakes and large tires unless sand is hard packet and you have walked it before, The fellow from down under can probably give you some good pointers…

Doesn’t the AR-1 have fiberglass around the springs? What do you do with those when the wheel pants are removed? Aren’t they attached to the wheel pants?

Trikes are also high CG. You got to know what you are doing there or you will tip over but I did that on trikes dozens of times. If you are a rookie, you have to develop the skills before doing it for sure.
Why do you need independent brakes. No trike I know of ever had independent brakes and certainly found no problems there. Its a taxi tight turn thing. You should be touching down at zero to 5 mph forward speed on a gyro in such a situation. What do you need "any" brakes for. Stop at 6 inches and drop it. Its a gyro. It does not stall. On a landing if you are rolling 50 feet, you are flying an airplane that looks like a gyro. Only time I use any brakes is for pre-rotation hold and during taxi on or off the runway. The right thing for new pilots or even pilots who have not encountered rough fields would be to come to a stop on landing and let rotors slow down to a stop before taxing on rough field.

If one can do a 180 in a darn trike with a big wing from a 800 foot runway, AR-1 is plenty nimble enough to do that 180. Whether the pilot is, is another story. I know one pilot who wasn't in Washington and I know the result. You can climb out at 45 in an AR-1 properly and you can make a fairly short turn at that speed. There are machine limits and then there are personal limits. We got to develop the skills and judgment to know what we can accomplish in a given machine. However, I don't think the places he is talking about here are that short.

I would say try not to go from a zero to a hero in a short time. That won't happen. If you can't do it at a regular airport, you can't do it for sure off the beaten path.

wheel pants are separate
 
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DavePA11

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Hi Fara - I tried to fly into strips with the Sportcopter M912 in the same places I use to take my Cub in NE. The strips that were flat and somewhat groomed were fine for the gyro. However, the strips were you had to take off with side slopes were very challenging with the gyro since with the limited span between front and rear tires it wanted to point down hill. I don’t think a gryo or trike without differential brakes would be able to steer on these side slopes on takeoff once front tire is unloaded. I had almost full right brake taking off one side slope and the gyro kept slipping down the hill. I assume with larger tires would have helped, but after that experience I decided to stay with bush tail wheel planes for off airport.

Gyros are fine as I said if the surface is flat and groomed, and assume many are in mid-west. Not typical for many of the places where we flew with the Cubs in the NE.

Landed up hill once on grass hill in morning, but the grass had mildew on it and the gyro slid all the way down to the bottom of the hill with full brakes on. I think the wider wheel separation and bigger bush tires are needed when landing and taking off on sloped surfaces with a gyro. Your first up hill landing will have a different sight picture so make sure you keep the nose up.

Started to take off on grass strip once (mentioned this before) and found out a pickup truck drove across the strip twice so put tire impressions evenly space across the run way. This started a flap and luckily I pulled power and put on rotor brake in time, but I am sure the outcome would have been different in tandem gyro with smaller clearance between rotor and tail… Flaps can be very violent and will pull stick from your grip.

If one of the gyro tires hits a patch of soft dirt and the other doesn’t on take off (like on a beach) and the front tire is unloaded you will need differential brakes to help steer. I think in this scenario you have a good chance to tip over in gyro without independent brakes.

Flat surfaces are fine so have fun. I suspect the airports monkey crew listed are probably flat since they are designated as airports and the places I was landing were not. Just need enough distance to take off with current density altitude and clear any obstacles safely.

Dave
 

Burrengyro

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Hi MonkeyClaw,
Have a look at the thread on "Back Country Gyro Ops. Equipment, mods, techniques" back in Fed 2021. There are some great contributions on rough field equipment and some great photos from Jungleman Pete. Best regards, John H.
 

MonkeyClaw

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Thanks for the replies! I don't have any plans to land on a beach or unimproved fields, however it's always good to know. I'll take a look at the old thread also. The top-heavy nature of gyros makes me leery of soft or chunky surfaces.
 

Tyger

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Can someone explain why folks keep saying gyros are "top heavy"? I don't feel that mine is, really, especially not with full fuel.
 

WaspAir

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However, the strips were you had to take off with side slopes were very challenging with the gyro since with the limited span between front and rear tires it wanted to point down hill
Slope? Hill? Our Florida friends don't encounter such things. The steepest slope they ever see is where one highway climbs over another to form an overpass. Ski-jumping isn't too popular there, and fear of heights isn't much of a problem.
 

DavePA11

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Can someone explain why folks keep saying gyros are "top heavy"? I don't feel that mine is, really, especially not with full fuel.
Take a gyro on a side of a hill sometime.... compared to fixed wing... The ones I was landing on were way more than any road/highway. Maybe due to shorter single vs tandem wheel base or force of the rotor spinning? I definitely felt top heavy in the Sport Copter on these side slopes.

Anyway, with all these accidents in gryos I don't believe its a good backcountry solution unless its a groomed air strip or the gyro is better equipped for it. People are having hard enough time just taking off and landing on normal paved runways without getting into an accident. There are many more variables when flying off airport - slopes, holes, bumps, obstacles, density altitude in mountains, trees, sticks, rocks, soft sand, etc...
 
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fara

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Hi Fara - I tried to fly into strips with the Sportcopter M912 in the same places I use to take my Cub in NE. The strips that were flat and somewhat groomed were fine for the gyro. However, the strips were you had to take off with side slopes were very challenging with the gyro since with the limited span between front and rear tires it wanted to point down hill. I don’t think a gryo or trike without differential brakes would be able to steer on these side slopes on takeoff once front tire is unloaded. I had almost full right brake taking off one side slope and the gyro kept slipping down the hill. I assume with larger tires would have helped, but after that experience I decided to stay with bush tail wheel planes for off airport.

Dave:
I have landed on beaches on sand bars here and they are all almost slanted (generally towards the water). Obviously there are limits to how slanted they can be when you land and takeoff but assuming we are talking about a reasonable amount of slant, when your front wheel is up, you don't steer with brakes. You steer with the wing which in gyroplanes case would be the rotor disc. You are already partially flying, put your stick to oppose going the way you do not want to go. It takes time, experience and practice that should be done on standard airports starting in calm winds with these techniques before you go out trying them in the bush fields with crosswinds. You have to get very comfortable doing wheelies in the gyro or trike and going to one side of the center line and then coming back and going the other side of center line, all the while managing the wing (trike) or rotor (gyro). You practice that going down the 1 mile runway keeping front wheel up, back and forth. When you are becoming fairly good at it try your luck on slightly slanted runway, making your way up to more slanted ones (within limits) in baby steps. Different technique then taildraggers because they are different machines.


Gyros are fine as I said if the surface is flat and groomed, and assume many are in mid-west. Not typical for many of the places where we flew with the Cubs in the NE.

Landed up hill once on grass hill in morning, but the grass had mildew on it and the gyro slid all the way down to the bottom of the hill with full brakes on. I think the wider wheel separation and bigger bush tires are needed when landing and taking off on sloped surfaces with a gyro. Your first up hill landing will have a different sight picture so make sure you keep the nose up.

Well I hope your grass had dew not mildew. On wet grass never lock up the brakes. Pump them constantly. Takes experience and practice. Been there done that at Paradise city Sun and Fun sliding down on landing in wet dew grass on early mornings in trikes, all the way to the end of the runway and trikes land at a much faster speed than gyroplanes. Gyroplane landing on dew on grass should be much less drama.

Started to take off on grass strip once (mentioned this before) and found out a pickup truck drove across the strip twice so put tire impressions evenly space across the run way. This started a flap and luckily I pulled power and put on rotor brake in time, but I am sure the outcome would have been different in tandem gyro with smaller clearance between rotor and tail… Flaps can be very violent and will pull stick from your grip.

Well where the heck are you flying with pickup trucks driving across strips as an aircraft starts to move forward. Try and stay clear of rednecks buddy. I am guessing your rotor RPM was low? We should not have even moved one foot forward on that runway till we were 180 to 240 rotor RPM. All this stuff about at 100 rotor RPM pull stick back and move forward. Good luck with that. Flap awaits most likely, you have no wing yet. I line up. I hold brake like my life depends on it and I pre-rotate and don't move forward till I am at least 180 rotor RPM or more.


If one of the gyro tires hits a patch of soft dirt and the other doesn’t on take off (like on a beach) and the front tire is unloaded you will need differential brakes to help steer. I think in this scenario you have a good chance to tip over in gyro without independent brakes.
You are definitely an airplane pilot and that too a taildragger one. I am flying a J3 Cub recently. Its brakes suck arse to begin with but whatever one gets used to one likes. No you steer with your wing when you are already half flying in something like a trike or a gyro. In both these cases the wing is not "fixed" to the fuselage. The lift vector redirection then can pull the fuselage barely on the ground to the side you want. Has to be practiced first. Greg Spicola that I know you have trained a certain number of hours with does this show off maneuver where he will land and at touchdown he will would be landing/touching on one main wheel turning with the rotor disc off the runway into the taxiway as the other main wheel settles down. Well that basically is an application of this technique as well but I never feel that its necessary except for showing off but it is a great technique of slanted runways or coming back to center line while flaring. Me and Larry did those in trikes as well. Main point is that the skill is an important tool in the arsenal of a pilot wanting to do these kinds of runways. Its not for rookies but it is an advanced technique that becomes easier as you develop your toolbox with the right instructor for the type of flying you want to do.
Larry kind of describes these concepts in the "beginning" of this video for the trike (up to 3:08) but the concept applies to gyroplanes too. I hate to do instruction via videos or on the internet but it seems like there are a lot of people including high time airplane pilots who are just not thinking through the very basic fundamentals sometimes even on their airplanes, basically flying by rote and in case you are wondering Dave I am not talking about you :). I have seen plenty of airplane pilots come to take some flights or instruction in gyroplanes and I can tell they are sloppy in their airplanes as well and have basics wrong. Certainly talk to your instructor. After your initial license, its always a good idea in a year and after having a 100 or so hours to go back and take more instruction to learn some new techniques and see if you have developed some bad habits. Students are always amazing me at what they come up with all on their own (and not always in a good way)


Flat surfaces are fine so have fun. I suspect the airports monkey crew listed are probably flat since they are designated as airports and the places I was landing were not. Just need enough distance to take off with current density altitude and clear any obstacles safely.

Dave
 
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fara

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Take a gyro on a side of a hill sometime.... compared to fixed wing... The ones I was landing on were way more than any road/highway. Maybe due to shorter single vs tandem wheel base or force of the rotor spinning? I definitely felt top heavy in the Sport Copter on these side slopes.

Anyway, with all these accidents in gryos I don't believe its a good backcountry solution unless its a groomed air strip or the gyro is better equipped for it. People are having hard enough time just taking off and landing on normal paved runways without getting into an accident. There are many more variables when flying off airport - slopes, holes, bumps, obstacles, density altitude in mountains, trees, sticks, rocks, soft sand, etc...

Vortex you are sitting almost a foot higher than most production modern gyroplanes. I am sure that enhances the feeling of tipping over.

People are having hard enough time just taking off on normal paved runways ... may be a little exaggeration but I take your point. But is that the gyroplane or the pilot?

For sure anyone who thinks they are about to learn to fly a new kind of machine and in 25 - 40 hours they will get a Sport gyroplane rating and that means that they can go land in the bush are completely fooling themselves. You could not do that in any airplane either. Those types of flying styles requires deliberate training and practice of certain techniques in good places first and then taking baby steps to getting to those places. No one can do that in their first year of flying in "any" aircraft.
 

GyrOZprey

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Have you taken a look at the TAG ...Titanium Explorer option???? ..... they are designed for rugged outback Australian conditions & rocky/ sandy /rough strips .... they sell the Kelpie model with large tires & mud-scrapers option (or wheel-pants) ...Their 912ULS with the simple Steve Paulet upgrade to give fuel-sipping turbo power in the 135-145 HP range has proven incredibly durable & popular ...we have one of those machines near Dallas & they owner absolutely RAVEs about the 915 power range without the expense (same price as 914) AND awful computer complexity of the heavy 915 beast!
We are eagerly anticipating ...a couple of our US based, experienced Rotax IM's being trained to fit & ture these simple kits ...early 2022!
Contact Britta Penca ([email protected]) in San Manuel ...for a demo flight in a TAG ( it does have the 914 ...but will give you first hand experience of our beautiful gyros!
 

DavePA11

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Vortex you are sitting almost a foot higher than most production modern gyroplanes. I am sure that enhances the feeling of tipping over.
This might have enhanced the feeling of being "top heavy".

The slopes I have been mentioning are much more than what you would typically find on a beach. In my experience flying off airport with SC M912 the airstrips with flat surfaces are fine, but everything else bush planes are much better for this use case. In New England, many of the air strips I flew into with my Cub would not be possible for a gyrocopter to take off (I tried many...).

Found a photo of one of the strips I landed where I had a lot of problems sliding down slope trying to take off in the SC M912. Its hard to see the slope angle, but drew some lines. Its much steeper in person than it looks in the photo. What do you think the angle is? 15-20 degrees? The plane is angled to land flat with the surface. Flew into this strip all the time in my Cub and no issue at all, but very challenging in the gyro due to side slope. Actually, I wasn't able to take off where the Cubs took off. I had to go all the way down the hill to a flatter spot next to the tree line to take off, but now didn't have enough runway to clear the tree tops so did 180 just before tree tops.

Also, when I tried to taxi up the slope to park the gryo the gyro fell back on its tail wheel with front nose sticking up in the air. Talk about a pain in the arse. I had to shut down, and figure out how to get out without the gryo rolling down the hill without me in it since needed to hold brakes to keep it from rolling back. The SC M912 didn't have a parking brake lock. I got a whole round of applause once I figured out how to park the gryo on a typical off-airport strip we flew into by my SuperCub friends. :) It was comical.
Slope.jpg

So off airport operations with a gyro is possible, but not ideal for backcountry IMO. Like any aircraft, you have to fly it within its capabilities. Given this I'm still interesting in getting an M22 and modifying it for off airport operations. :) BTW - I sold my SC M912 since it was too slow to get to my off-airports spots I enjoyed flying too, and unfortunately was not able to go into many of the strips I flew too... No fun to circle the air strip while all the other bush planes have landed... The tandem gyros are much faster so can address the first issue. I'm out in Colorado now and everything is flat so that addresses the second issue. :)
 
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DavePA11

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Well where the heck are you flying with pickup trucks driving across strips as an aircraft starts to move forward. Try and stay clear of rednecks buddy. I am guessing your rotor RPM was low? We should not have even moved one foot forward on that runway till we were 180 to 240 rotor RPM. All this stuff about at 100 rotor RPM pull stick back and move forward. Good luck with that. Flap awaits most likely, you have no wing yet. I line up. I hold brake like my life depends on it and I pre-rotate and don't move forward till I am at least 180 rotor RPM or more.

This was at a private airstrip with grass runway which you know of in MA. It happened a while ago, but I did spin up rotor to 200 rpm before take-off roll. However, I did slow down when I saw the deep impressions across the runway (couldn't stop in time) and I suspect the rpms dropped enough to start a flap...

My point is off airport strips will have all kinds of surface issues which are not ideal for a gyrocopter, but are fine for bush planes. This scenario is a complete non-issue for a bush plane. It would just roll over them and keep going...

I agree with all the information you mentioned above too...
 

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Rowdyflyer1903!

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I believe on of the larger issues is the nose wheel. How much of an impact can, for example, a Dominator style machine endure before it turns into a Yard Dart and spikes the ground. In landing this is serious, during take off speeds, it can be un survivable. I believe if I wanted to equip a Gyroplane for less than groomed non topped runways, a skid plate or perhaps a purpose built composite fairing which could lift the fuselage and skim the surface in case of a nose gear collapse Would be in order. Something has to be in-place to extend the duration of impact. This is the key. Sudden stops kill.

Any nose gear aircraft being fixed wing or sling wing will be at a disadvantage to that of conventional landing gear With the training wheel in front a nose geared aircraft is at more risk. Even at touch down a burst of power will send the super cub skyward. Where as a Gyroplane pilot has much todo before this happens. Propeller clearance is also an issue With pusher style nose gear machines.

Bigger fat tires, long throw suspension, independent brakes, a robust dependable pre-rotation and one tough nose gear plus experience can go a long way to achieving safer off field landings and departures. Uphill landing and down hill departures regardless of the wind is what Bush pilots recommend within intelligent limits.

I do wish more tractor style taildragger Gyroplanes were available for exploring. Two out of the three fixed wing birds which I have owned were conventional gear. Many times I flew home loaded with camping gear and cow shit splattered on my horizontal. With little argument landing a taildragger requires an additional skill set and mind Set.

Fly formation with a super cub and let he/she be the landing dummy. If he/she is not successful, fly and go for help.
 

Vance

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Before I takeoff off airport in The Predator I walk the runway.

Her nose is in the air before she reaches 20kts so I don’t need a lot of runway with no holes.

The landing is near zero roll so it would take a large obstruction to disrupt the landing.

If I was going to operate off airport most of the time I would improve her suspension and install larger tires.
 

Rowdyflyer1903!

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Good point about the nose wheel being light or in the air early. Much like the proper tongue - weight of a trailer, about 10% of the total weight of the machine typically is born by the nose gear.

Your gear although extended is welded 4130 chrome moly multiple bracing. It is not suspended but certainly could take at least moderate abuse.

As discussed in this forum, Gyroplane gear is different in its weight bearing distribution than that of a tri cycle fixed wing. a Gyroplanes gear is certainly unique unto itself.

The center of effort resulting from the rotor vs the center of gravity which is born by the main gear is unique also. This perhaps goes back to the hang test but how would one know where the position of the main gear should be with out the knowledge of where the CG would is?
 

DavePA11

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I believe on of the larger issues is the nose wheel. How much of an impact can, for example, a Dominator style machine endure before it turns into a Yard Dart and spikes the ground. In landing this is serious, during take off speeds, it can be un survivable. I believe if I wanted to equip a Gyroplane for less than groomed non topped runways, a skid plate or perhaps a purpose built composite fairing which could lift the fuselage and skim the surface in case of a nose gear collapse Would be in order. Something has to be in-place to extend the duration of impact. This is the key. Sudden stops kill.
Rowdyflyer - I was landing up hill on steep incline on a grass field in NH once with my SC M912, and the front tire got pushed way into the mud. Luckily, I didn't have much forward movement on landing due to the incline, but a lot of weight push down on the front tire and lifted the back end up. I was able to get the gyro to roll back out of the mud, then spun it around 180, and took off down hill. Of course, with all the excitement of almost getting stuck I took off down hill with the rotor brake on. I landed at a near by airport to clean off all the mud. Again, another case where it would be non-issue for my Cub since it would have just rolled up the hill on the two big main tires spreading out the weight or would have just landed on the side of the hill with the Cub.

Hindsight, I should have flown up the hill (climbing) more then land as opposed to flying at the hill (descending) then landing... but there was a wood fence which I had to land before which made it difficult.
 
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