Tim's Introduction to Flying Gryoplanes


Gyroplane CFI
Oct 30, 2003
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
I have been corresponding with Tim about gyroplanes for more than a year. He asks good, thoughtful questions and thinks about the answers. Sometimes life and the weather get in the way of flying. He is an experienced (150 hour) Sport Pilot and has built and flown his own fixed wing aircraft. His most recent experience is flying an Ercoupe. He also has a tail wheel endorsement. Our last flight was canceled for rain January 4, 2017; these things take time when there is distance and life involved.

Tim doesn’t like flying trikes because he doesn’t like the feeling of swinging around under the wing. He also wants to be able to fly comfortably in strong winds.

He is an engineer that studied at Cal Poly long ago and has not been back to the area since. He thinks like an engineer and wants simple engineering answers to things.

My mission was to help him to understand how much fun gyroplanes can be and still check off the boxes from his engineering perspective. How do you quantify fun?

He wanted to experience fast, high, and windy. He wanted to learn how to fly, take off and land in a day.

I understood and accepted the challenge and the weather sort of cooperated.

Tim had quite a list of questions and patiently listened as I did my best to answer and brief for our flight up the beach to San Luis Obispo.

The fog lifted over Santa Maria (SMX) so we got a weather briefing and prepared for flight. I walked out to the runway and it appeared to me it was not a good day for a flight up the beach (fog along the shoreline) so on to plan B to reverse the route and fly over Santa Maria to the Twitchell Reservoir up the Huasna Valley and drop into the Edna Valley from the South East.

Tim did not want to do the radio calls so I asked for a right cross wind departure to the North East. I gave Tim the controls at 500 feet above the ground and told him to head north east and keep climbing to 2,500 feet. With very little coaching Tim was flying well and it was time to talk about wires. There is a single wire strung between two black poles where the Huasna River meets the Twitchell Reservoir. I am often not able to find it myself and it is a great instructional tool about the dangers of wires to low flying aircraft. This time I did find the pole on the east side of the ridge and it was an eye opener for Tim. Neither of us could see the wire nor find the pole on the west ridge.

Once in the Valley I demonstrated steep turns, slow light and a power off vertical descent and gave the controls back to Tim telling him: “Do whatever you want, just don’t hit the mountains.” To my surprise Tim initiated a steep turn and performed this “advanced maneuver” to practical test standards.

We wandered up the Huasna Valley and I showed Tim the dinosaurs.

I was planning to fly over Lake Lopez but I picked the wrong canyon. I initiated lost procedures and found a different way to reach the Edna Valley calling the San Luis Obispo tower (SBP) from ten miles to the South East descending through 1,600 feet. We were to make a straight in and report four miles.

It took Tim a while to get the airport in sight and he made a very nice approach. I took the controls and set her down gently in some minor turbulence.

As we ate lunch we watched the wind sock become fully erect (15kts) and become twitchy. We were entertained by pilots trying to manage the winds on landing with no real problems and only a few bounced landings.

During the preflight inspection I discovered that the fuel I ordered had not been delivered so I repeated my request and it was quickly attended to. With the uncertain weather I wanted to land at SMX with at least an hour of fuel on board. It is possible for all the coastal airports to go IFR very quickly and Taft is about 52 nautical miles from SMX and 59 nautical miles from SBP.

I checked ATIS and the wind was 250 degrees at 17kts gusting to 22kts so I felt Tim’s desire to find out how a gyroplane handles winds and turbulence would be fulfilled on our takeoff from runway 29.

I love it when I hear; “Gyroplane 142 Mike Golf, left downwind departure approved, early turn out approved, runway two niner clear for takeoff.” We were off with a very sort run and encountered some sink on the lee side of the hills as I gave Tim the controls.

Most low time gyroplane pilots over control in turbulence. Tim did well with a little coaching as we made our way back to SMX. I had him do a turn around point and felt he was ready to try landings and takeoffs.

It didn’t take long for Tim to be doing some nice landings and takeoffs despite having to dodge the water bombers.

Tim had so much fun that he is going to be at the August Popular Rotorcraft Convention in Mentone, Indiana to fly various gyroplanes to see what he would like to build.

It was a lovely way to spend the day.


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