Ultralight Gyroplane Limitations

Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
16,209
Location
Nipomo,California
Aircraft
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
I regularly get calls from people who have listened to sellers who misrepresent aircraft as being an ultralight who have consulted friends that have told them that there are plenty of “fat” ultralight and don’t worry about the restrictions. They have often built up justifications based on what they have heard from friends, at gyroplane events or read on the internet.

I hate to hear the disappointment in a caller’s voice when I explain that the ultralight they purchased is not in fact an ultralight and not legal to fly and I cannot teach them to fly in an illegal aircraft.

They have been drawn to ultralight gyroplanes by the low price and no need to have a license to fly it. The seeming lack of regulation holds an allure for them.

To avoid such calls I feel I should start with the Federal Aviation Regulations so we are grounded in reality rather than opinion.

§ 103.1 Applicability.

This part prescribes rules governing the operation of ultralight vehicles in the United States. For the purposes of this part, an ultralight vehicle is a vehicle that:

(a) Is used or intended to be used for manned operation in the air by a single occupant;

(b) Is used or intended to be used for recreation or sport purposes only;

(c) Does not have any U.S. or foreign airworthiness certificate; and

(d) If unpowered, weighs less than 155 pounds; or

(e) If powered:

(1) Weighs less than 254 pounds empty weight, excluding floats and safety devices which are intended for deployment in a potentially catastrophic situation;

(2) Has a fuel capacity not exceeding 5 U.S. gallons;

(3) Is not capable of more than 55 knots calibrated airspeed at full power in level flight; and

(4) Has a power-off stall speed which does not exceed 24 knots calibrated airspeed.

Starting at (1) it is not easy to build a gyroplane that weighs less than 255 pounds. It may be a fun challenge and there is a lot to be learned. It does tend to limit engine choices.

(2) Most suitable engines are two strokes and typically burn 5 to 6 gallons per hour. The five gallon limitation severely limits range.

(3) This limitation further limits range. Running out of gas while flying creates a world of hazards. I would like to have at least a 15 minute reserve (1.25 gallons) leaving 3 ¾ of fuel for flying.

At 5 gallons per hour that is forty five minutes of flying time or a range of 41 nautical miles at maximum speed. With a 15kt head wind that becomes 26 nautical miles at maximum speed.

§ 103.17 – Operations in certain airspace.

[Amdt. 103-17, 56 FR 65662, Dec. 17, 1991]

No person may operate an ultralight vehicle within Class A, Class B, Class C, or Class D airspace or within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport unless that person has prior authorization from the ATC facility having jurisdiction over that airspace.

You can probably get permission if you are not too loud and have a working radio that you use properly and do whatever the airport manager requests. This permission can be revoked for any reason if you annoy the wrong person.

Many people want to fly an aircraft out or their back yard and the FAA does not prohibit this. Neighbors do and there are many local ordinances governing off airport opperations.

Some have told me that they want to fly ultralights to save paper work and reduce government oversight. It appears to me there is more paperwork and government oversight flying an ultralight gyroplane legally.

§ 103.3 Inspection requirements.

(a)
Any person operating an ultralight vehicle under this part shall, upon request, allow the Administrator, or his designee, to inspect the vehicle to determine the applicability of this part.

(b) The pilot or operator of an ultralight vehicle must, upon request of the Administrator, furnish satisfactory evidence that the vehicle is subject only to the provisions of this part.

The story that there are lots of “fat” ultralights sort of runs into this regulation. It used to be that there was no place for fat ultralights so the FAA did not make this an enforcement priority. Now there is light sport, the FAA in general and some Flight Standard District Offices (FSDO) in particular have increased their focus on eliminating fat ultralights and fast ultralights.

I have been told that learning to fly an ultralight is cheaper because there are no minimum hours of instruction time and no certificate required.

It is my observation that few people with no aviation experience learn to fly gyroplanes safely in the minimum hours for Light Sport (15 hours of dual and 5 hours of solo). It is my observation that ultralights are generally more difficult to fly well so I don’t know why it would take less time or cost less to learn to fly an ultralight safely.

I spent a lot of time yesterday calling around to find a CFI who would teach someone to fly an ultralight gyroplane. Both flight instructors I found said they taught them to fly in their two place trainers before they soloed them in their single place ultralight. This means you need to get your ultralight to wherever you get your training and stay there while you learn.

This is the same thing I do for any single place gyroplane.

This doesn’t sound like cheaper or easier to learn to fly safely to me.

The two flight instructors I found that would teach someone to fly an ultralight are:
Brent Drake in Shelbyville, IN (317)364-0289 and
Steve McGowan in Macon, GA (478)461-1451

I am sure there are more, these are just the ones I know.

Many people have taught themselves to fly by the Bensen method and many have perished because they were not patient enough. It is a slow process that takes more self-discipline than I have.

Every time someone crashes an ultralight gyroplane it just adds to the impression that gyroplanes are dangerous. More oppressive regulations may come from that impression. I love the freedom we have and do not want to abuse it and lose it.
 

Attachments

Jazzenjohn

Gold Supporter
Joined
Oct 9, 2004
Messages
2,827
Location
Milan Mich.
Aircraft
Gyrobee, My design
Total Flight Time
350
Every time someone crashes an ultralight gyroplane it just adds to the impression that gyroplanes are dangerous. More oppressive regulations may come from that impression. I love the freedom we have and do not want to abuse it and lose it.
Can you point out several recent examples of ultralight gyros crashing and making other Gyroplanes look bad because I'm not aware of any? I can't recall any fatalities in an ultralight gyro for many many years. The GyroBee in particular seems to have a very respectable safety record.

"Some have told me that they want to fly ultralights to save paper work and reduce government oversight. It appears to me there is more paperwork and government oversight flying an ultralight gyroplane legally."
What exactly is the additional paperwork and additional oversight Vance?

Your point of ultralight gyros having very limited range is a valid one. There are many gyro pilots who just fly around the patch and it isn't an issue for them. That issue is one of the reasons I have focused on the HKS engine as a suitable powerplant for an ultralight.
 

Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
16,209
Location
Nipomo,California
Aircraft
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
Can you point out several recent examples of ultralight gyros crashing and making other Gyroplanes look bad because I'm not aware of any? I can't recall any fatalities in an ultralight gyro for many many years. The GyroBee in particular seems to have a very respectable safety record.

"Some have told me that they want to fly ultralights to save paper work and reduce government oversight. It appears to me there is more paperwork and government oversight flying an ultralight gyroplane legally."
What exactly is the additional paperwork and additional oversight Vance?

Your point of ultralight gyros having very limited range is a valid one. There are many gyro pilots who just fly around the patch and it isn't an issue for them. That issue is one of the reasons I have focused on the HKS engine as a suitable powerplant for an ultralight.
The NTSB often does not report ultralight accidents as it is considered a vehicle rather than an aircraft.

I personally know of several unregistered gyroplanes that have tipped over in the last 18 months. The impression it leaves on everyone at the airport is that gyroplanes are dangerous. The Fatal Sport Copter Vortex in Wisconsin 9/19/2019 was an unrated pilot. I am not saying ultralights are particularly dangerous; I am saying that just because self-training in an ultralight is legal does not make self-training a good aviation decision.

103.17 is nothing I need to do in my Experimental Amateur Built (EAB) gyroplane. If I was flying around here I would need to get written permission from 6 airports to operate there. In my EAB gyroplane I do not need to do paperwork to fly into any public use airport.

Flying an ultralight I can be barred from an airport just because someone complained about me or the manager doesn’t like me. In my EAB gyroplane I have to do something pretty bad to get banned. In my opinion undefined oversight is much more onerous than having a rule book.

I wrote this because so many people imagine an ultralight is some magical escape from government oversight without thinking about the limitations.

Many people feel that the unregulated nature of ultralights means that no one is watching because that is the way it was in the old days.

Some of the FSDOs around me have raised their level of oversight in an effort to eliminate fat and fast ultralights.

I have talked to many people who have purchased a legacy ultralight only to find that I can not train them at my airport because it does not meet the limitations of part 103 and all my ratings are at stake if I fly an illegal aircraft.
 

Jazzenjohn

Gold Supporter
Joined
Oct 9, 2004
Messages
2,827
Location
Milan Mich.
Aircraft
Gyrobee, My design
Total Flight Time
350
I personally know of several unregistered gyroplanes that have tipped over in the last 18 months. The impression it leaves on everyone at the airport is that gyroplanes are dangerous. The Fatal Sport Copter Vortex in Wisconsin 9/19/2019 was an unrated pilot. I am not saying ultralights are particularly dangerous; I am saying that just because self-training in an ultralight is legal does not make self-training a good aviation decision.
I know of several 2 seat N-numbered gyros that have tipped over and several fatalities with them, more 2 seaters than ultralights. Does that mean we should get rid of 2 seat N-numbered gyros? The problem is with the Individual Pilots, just as in your example. The Vortex is NOT an ultralight. The fault was NOT ultralights because in the right hands that wouldn't have happened. The fault is the Individuals that make bad decisions that reflect poorly on others.

I believe you could train those individuals that bought ultralights and sought lessons from you and wanted to learn to fly, but it was your choice not to train them. You are absolutely within your rights to refuse to train them, but I don't believe you would risk all your ratings by training them in your 2 seat gyro just like any Sport pilot student. You could have had the opportunity to council them on what it would take to get their U/L gyros legal and perhaps you might also have convinced them to get a SP license anyway. How many of those U/L flyers Gave Up trying to get training because they Couldn't get training?

You seem to argue simultaniously that they won't get training, but also that they ask you for training and you refuse, and also add that there are only 2 instructors in all the U.S that will train them? How is it illegal for you to train them but not those 2 instructors you mentioned in the PRA Facebook post? Why would it be illegal for you but not them? Do you believe the FAA saying right in the part 103 regs that, while not specifically regulating training it is strongly encouraged, would yank the licenses of instructors willing to train people to make them safer?

I believe you will reply that people with ultralights have completely unrealistic expectations on how much training they need and are unwilling to commit to what you believe is the minimum necessary to be safe and that is your reason for refusing to train them. I wouldn't disagree at all, but I ask, is that not also true with many other student pilots that believe they only need the minimum training/hours too?
 

DavePA11

Active Member
Joined
Nov 16, 2015
Messages
500
Location
Northborough
I agree with Vance to get some training before flying ultralight gyros or any ultralight aircraft. I have witnessed many accidents of pilots trying to fly their new ultralights, but crashing them just doing crow hops. Much of the accidents I witness could have been avoided if the pilot spent some additional money to get some training before trying to fly it. None were reported.

Unfortunately, several of the ultralight pilots that I gave advice too about taking some training didn’t do it and ended up crashing. It costs more money to rebuild than to get some training. Ultralights are often a way to get into flying with spending little money, but skimping on training and maintenance to save money causes many of the accidents that I have seen especially with two stroke engines.
 

Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
16,209
Location
Nipomo,California
Aircraft
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
I know of several 2 seat N-numbered gyros that have tipped over and several fatalities with them, more 2 seaters than ultralights. Does that mean we should get rid of 2 seat N-numbered gyros? The problem is with the Individual Pilots, just as in your example. The Vortex is NOT an ultralight. The fault was NOT ultralights because in the right hands that wouldn't have happened. The fault is the Individuals that make bad decisions that reflect poorly on others.

I believe you could train those individuals that bought ultralights and sought lessons from you and wanted to learn to fly, but it was your choice not to train them. You are absolutely within your rights to refuse to train them, but I don't believe you would risk all your ratings by training them in your 2 seat gyro just like any Sport pilot student. You could have had the opportunity to council them on what it would take to get their U/L gyros legal and perhaps you might also have convinced them to get a SP license anyway. How many of those U/L flyers Gave Up trying to get training because they Couldn't get training?

You seem to argue simultaniously that they won't get training, but also that they ask you for training and you refuse, and also add that there are only 2 instructors in all the U.S that will train them? How is it illegal for you to train them but not those 2 instructors you mentioned in the PRA Facebook post? Why would it be illegal for you but not them? Do you believe the FAA saying right in the part 103 regs that, while not specifically regulating training it is strongly encouraged, would yank the licenses of instructors willing to train people to make them safer?

I believe you will reply that people with ultralights have completely unrealistic expectations on how much training they need and are unwilling to commit to what you believe is the minimum necessary to be safe and that is your reason for refusing to train them. I wouldn't disagree at all, but I ask, is that not also true with many other student pilots that believe they only need the minimum training/hours too?
Good morning John,

I feel you are reading things into my post that aren’t there.

I am not opposed to ultralights that meet the limitations of part 103.

The way I interpret the FARs I cannot fly a gyroplane that is not airworthy as a commercial pilot or a flight instructor.

A gyroplane that exceeds the limitations of part 103 is not considered airworthy by the FAA.

A part 103 gyroplane is considered a vehicle and I can fly it without putting my ratings at risk.

If I don’t fly their gyroplane I feel I am not able to transition them into it safely.

I will still give them whatever training they want in The Predator.

I regularly train people who have a single place gyroplane including ultralights and transition them into their aircraft and if I get my way; observe their first flight as part of the transition.

Some are coming from a long distance so getting the aircraft to Santa Maria is not always practical.

I have a syllabus specifically for people who are not going to get a rating and I focus on landings, emergency landings and takeoffs.

I include the National Airspace System so they don’t get into trouble and make sure they understand the privileges and limitations. I also include radio communications in the hopes they will use a radio at a non-towered field and weather.

I have a working relationship with a designated pilot examiner who will sign them off for Sport Pilot, Gyroplane in their single seat aircraft if it is N numbered.

I feel many who want to self-train may have an unrealistic expectation of what is involved in aviation.

I admire what you have done with your aircraft John and your approach to problems is an inspiration to me.
 

C. Beaty

Gold Supporter
Joined
Apr 16, 2004
Messages
9,870
Location
Florida
My partner and I, Bob Carbonell, learned to fly gyros via the Bensen flight training manual; fly on the end of a rope, then install the engine and start with crow hops.

Bob, who later went to law school, was a stickler for following the book; he would look at his watch and say; “time for a break, Bensen says a ½ hour session is best for learning.”

This was in the late 1960s; Florida had nearly been paved over for WW2 training airfields and most were idle and overgrown with weeds so there were many places where a gyro could be flown as a glider.

A good thing too; I’m not sure I could have taken the idiotic chatter of some CFIs. We both learned to fly, never so much as scratching a finger.

And before the CFIs have a conniption fit, there were no gyro CFIs in the 1960s, the standard student pilot licensing procedure was to have a FW CFI observe the gyro student pilot fly down the runway and sign his student permit.

Bob died before his time; too much puerco asado (Cuban pork roast).
 
Last edited:

Welder

Newbie
Joined
Aug 11, 2019
Messages
84
Location
Grand Rivers, Ky
Thats what I'm talking about. Personal responsibility.

I would like to get my hands on a copy of that Bensen manual.

I don't know you Mr. Beaty, but I like your style.

That is how I will learn to fly a gyro, If it is good enough for you, Mr. Beaty, then its good enough for me.

CFI's are Conflicted. Personalities may conflict with the way the training is conducted. Human Nature. Better conducted by book, no conflicts. Just my two little pennies.

Ben Lane
Grand Rivers, Ky.
 
Last edited:

C. Beaty

Gold Supporter
Joined
Apr 16, 2004
Messages
9,870
Location
Florida
Ben, it just so happens that I have a copy of the Bensen flight manual. I'd like to scan and post it on line but I’m using Linux and my scanner won’t work with that OS. I have W-7 on another HD that the scanner works on but my W-7 crashes all the time.

I just have the powered flight manual. I have no idea what ever became of my gyroglider manual.
Woops! Stumbled across the gyro glider flight manual also!


I’ll lend you my copy of the flight manual if you’ll promise faithfully to scan it and return to me.
 
Last edited:

WaspAir

Supreme Allied Gyro CFI
Joined
Oct 21, 2006
Messages
4,672
Location
Colorado front range
Aircraft
Bell 47G-3B-1 / A&S 18A / Phoebus C, etc.
Total Flight Time
stopped caring at 1000
CFI's are Conflicted. Personalities may conflict with the way the training is conducted. Human Nature. Better conducted by book, no conflicts. Just my two little pennies.
Funny thing about books. I've never, ever, had a book notice a potentially dangerous error that my student was making while blissfully unaware he was making it. I've also never watched a book timely intervene on the controls when things were getting a bit hairy for a student. If books are able to evaluate and critique a performance and succinctly suggest how to improve, they sure are awfully tight lipped about it.. Must be something about not having conflicts.
 

Jazzenjohn

Gold Supporter
Joined
Oct 9, 2004
Messages
2,827
Location
Milan Mich.
Aircraft
Gyrobee, My design
Total Flight Time
350
Vance, I read your statement as you wouldn't train Any U/L pilots, instead of reading it as you won't train any people that have non compliant part 103 gyros, My mistake.
Your insistence on inspecting and flying your students craft is above and beyond my experience with instructors. That coupled with your own syllabus for those not seeking a rating sets a high bar for other instructors!

@ Welder. Look around, There are no instructors I'm aware of that got rich from instructing. There might be a few that do it for a tax break to help pay for their hobby, but If they have money, they got it from somewhere else. Most lose money or barely break even, but do it out of a sense of responsibility or see a need for instructors and fill it. If it was such a profitable enterprise there would be tons of them, but there isn't.
There was a guy on the forum years ago named Bob. He thought the same as you and even wrote much like you. At first he insisted he was super smart and a quick learner. He built a gyro that no experienced gyronaut ever looked at. He flipped it over on his first try. The cost of the blades and prop would have paid for much of the training he needed. He rebuilt and then insisted he learned from his mistakes and would be successful on his next try. He dumped it again and came to the conclusion that since he "paid" for his training by crunching up 2 sets of blades and he couldn't afford to pay for training again. His last posts were about how he wanted someone to tell him how to make blades out of wood and how to carve a prop out of a 2 x 4. Are you Actually interested in learning to fly gyros? Or is your ego involved and you want to prove to all those people who tell you to get training they are wrong?
 

DavePA11

Active Member
Joined
Nov 16, 2015
Messages
500
Location
Northborough
There were no CFIs in the 60s, but there are today. At least get information verbally from experienced pilots on how to fly the specific UL gyro. I spent a lot of time asking experience Vortex pilots what to expect for my first flight in the SC Vortex. Really helped. Chris Lord spent a lot of time with me on what to expect flying the Vortex compared to 2 seat trainers. He was great. Even let me solo his gyro to get the feel of flying closer to single seat gyro. What a difference with just one person compared to two.

It is certainly possible to learn to fly on your own, and with ultralights it’s up to the pilot. I learned through experience there are some ultralight pilots that won’t take any advice since they know everything. So have to just let them learn the hard way with the pocket book.

I have seen so many ultralight accidents doing crow hops, but guess that is often the way it’s done. I personally think it’s better to learn away from the ground, and up in the air if possible.

If I were a CFI, I wouldn’t risk my credentials on training some of these people I have encountered in the past since it was very evident they would get themselves in a bad situation flying and the instructors will be blamed...There was a CFI that bought a ultralight (never flew UL before), and he didn’t feel needed any training either and crashed doing crow hops...
 

Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
16,209
Location
Nipomo,California
Aircraft
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
Vance, I read your statement as you wouldn't train Any U/L pilots, instead of reading it as you won't train any people that have non compliant part 103 gyros, My mistake.
Your insistence on inspecting and flying your students craft is above and beyond my experience with instructors. That coupled with your own syllabus for those not seeking a rating sets a high bar for other instructors!
You are still not quite there John. I have and will train people with non compliant part 103 gyroplanes.
I can't legally fly a non-compliant part 103 gyroplane to find out how she flies so I can only guess how to transition the client into it. They can't fly it at the Santa Maria Public airport so I can’t watch and debrief.

What I have done in the past is to brief and debrief on the telephone.

If they are a certificated pilot of any kind all their ratings are at risk.
 

Jazzenjohn

Gold Supporter
Joined
Oct 9, 2004
Messages
2,827
Location
Milan Mich.
Aircraft
Gyrobee, My design
Total Flight Time
350
I have talked to many people who have purchased a legacy ultralight only to find that I can not train them at my airport because it does not meet the limitations of part 103 and all my ratings are at stake if I fly an illegal aircraft.
You can and do train Ultralight pilots, but you cannot test fly their aircraft nor recommend they fly it themselves if it is not in compliance. Is that correct now Vance?
 

Vance

Gyroplane CFI
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
16,209
Location
Nipomo,California
Aircraft
Givens Predator
Total Flight Time
2400+ in rotorcraft
You can and do train Ultralight pilots, but you cannot test fly their aircraft nor recommend they fly it themselves if it is not in compliance. Is that correct now Vance?
That is perfect John!
 

Welder

Newbie
Joined
Aug 11, 2019
Messages
84
Location
Grand Rivers, Ky
Wow Mr. Beaty

Now thats an offer I can't refuse. I will send you a private message including my contact info.

In turn, I will try to post them here on this form as well as the other one for all to enjoy.

I will care for the manuals, due respect for the author you know, I am old enough to know to respect my elders.

I didn't mean to stir up trouble, and want all prospective pilots to receive training.

My specific problem, that the Professional Road Racer pointed out, is the specific aircraft that I am going to build has just been designed!

To my knowledge, zero copies have been built. This California joker is all over me, stepping on JonSu's thread. Really?

Some folks just can't get a grip. (weak forearms)
 

Jazzenjohn

Gold Supporter
Joined
Oct 9, 2004
Messages
2,827
Location
Milan Mich.
Aircraft
Gyrobee, My design
Total Flight Time
350
You are under the ultralight gyroplane limitations thread not the JonSu thread Welder, and this thread was started by Vance himself. I don't think he's out of bounds or off topic to be writing his posts here, in fact, I suspect he started this thread because he Didn't want to be off topic or take over JonSu's thread. I understand you don't agree, but the world is a better and more interesting place for it having different opinions.
The Bensen training manual is valuable on its own. As I read it, It is more than just a training manual, it is also a testing protocol for the gyro itself. After you built the gyro, you needed to see if it was built correctly and was structurally sound as well as learning to control it. Following the protocol, or at least an abbreviated portion of it would be a reasonable testing protocol for any newly built gyro, even for an already trained gyro pilot.
I still believe dual training is the only sensible course of action by cost/ benefit, by risk/reward, and by self preservation.
 
Top