What did you/do you do for a living to fly gyroplanes?

I still have Bensen's prize list from early 70s. Factory finished kits $1765 plus $1195 for a McCulloch engine.


  • What did you/do you do for a living to fly gyroplanes?
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I still have Bensen's prize list from early 70s. Factory finished kits $1765 plus $1195 for a McCulloch engine.
Yea prices went up since then just a touch 😁
I remember thinking (back when that price list was current) how outrageously overpriced Bensen's products were. Many others thought so at the time as well.

E.g. Stanzee undercut Bensen's $400 price for metal rotor blades by selling theirs for $299.

Quite a different time, for sure.
"The details of my life are quite inconsequential... very well, where do I begin? My father was a relentlessly self-improving boulangerie owner from Belgium with low-grade narcolepsy and a penchant for buggery. My mother was a fifteen-year-old French prostitute named Chloe with webbed feet." (Dr. Evil to his therapist. International Man of Mystery, (1997))

Vance: this is loosely (very loosely) classed as humDon’t forget your unknown brother who becomes your greatest nemesis.

I remember thinking (back when that price list was current) how outrageously overpriced Bensen's products were. Many others thought so at the time as well.

E.g. Stanzee undercut Bensen's $400 price for metal rotor blades by selling theirs for $299.

Quite a different time, for sure.
Those were good blades. Chuck bought a bunch of parts in Sebring in 1986. This included a unbuilt B8M with a 72 MAC and brand new still in the box Stanzee Blades.

Dad, Davie, and Chuck would fly that machine every Sunday. We had a hell of a time get it started, but it never quit on them. We used hot fuel it and they would switch pilots. I wanted to learn to fly in it. Chuck ended up selling it to our friend Richard Masker. He dinged one of the blades on the runway doing S turns. We searched for another good blade had tons of leads but never found one. Richard sold it to a guy who used to come to the fly-ins without and tell us all about the flights he had in it, but never brought it around or flew it around us. Richard built the first production Dominator and the rest is history.
To give hope to younger members of the community it is possible to own a machine!

Like Bobby I went with Aviomania secured it for less than 100k. I started training 10 years ago with Craig McPherson after I researched gyros at work one afternoon. Got hooked after my first flight.

Around 2019 I found Aviomania and committed to getting a single seater. Lots of work later and there is a gyro 🙂

Like many others hard work and persistence were key here. I work in ad tech as a Software Engineer/Solutions Architect and kept with the same company for 10 years which opened up some possibilities for me getting into aviation (assistance with giving me vacation for training, etc.)

Just don't give up and set your expectations right. There are plenty of cheap gyros out there just don't go too cheap! When you think about gyros in the range of 20-30k they are generally very reliable single seaters and the cost is comparable to a regular vehicle. Very achievable.

Lastly another way to find affordable gyros is to make friends in the community. You never know what abandoned project or aircraft you might come by.
I Mow yards for a living.

It is simple work, not glamorous, and it is definitely not something most people would consider a career... But I make ok money doing it and been doing it since I was 21 / 22 years old ( I am about to be 52 this summer )

And although I could probably find a way to buy a 100 thousand dollar gyro, I wouldn't.

And for what it's worth... A gyro is a gyro. Some designs are a little faster than others, some designs are inherently " Safer " than others, But all gyros more or less fly the same and do the same things.

Getting into gyros does not need to be very expensive.

For me, I got into gyros by seeing one in person at a airshow and being invited to another airport to see gyros flying. After seeing gyros buzzing around and meeting the people flying them I knew I wanted one. I was given a lead on a used scratch built single seat gyro that was more or less a drop keel Bensen powered with a direct drive Subaru EA81 car engine. Gyro was complete minus rotor blades for $3500. Bought it, and then bought a new set of blades ( was around $1500 at the time ) and had me a gyro for about $5000 out of pocket. This was back in 2001. I suppose with inflation and so on that might be equal to having spent 10 grand today.

Ten grand today isn't a ton of money in the grand scheme of things. Most new street motorcycles, even the cheapest ones run over 10 grand... You will spend well over 10 grand to buy a aluminum jon boat with a basic trailer and a tiny underpowered outboard engine.... A new decent mountain bicycle or road bicycle can run you 5-10 grand... a new 4 seat golf cart is well over 10 grand... Heck you will spend close to 10 grand to take a family of 4 to disney world for a few days...

My point being, is in the world of having some sort of toy / hobby... To spend 10 grand to purchase said toy... That is really cheap these days. Especially considering there are people that spend 40-50 grand on a new Harley Davidson, or spend 300 grand on a new Ski boat / bass boat, and drive around in a new 100 plus thousand dollar pick up truck and so on...

Thanks to the internet and all the various places to list things for sale, I see decent deals on gyros regularly for well under 10 grand. I still see some gyros that a person could buy today for well under 10 grand, ready to go.

The biggest hurdle to gyros is learning to fly them. There are just not a ton of instructors out there and the price for instruction is semi expensive. When I got into gyros in 2001, instruction was around $120 a hour. From what I am hearing its at least double that today... Plus in most cases, you will need to travel to the instructor. I could easily see a average joe person spending 3-5 grand in getting lessons, if not more.

But even if you blew 5 grand on lessons and blew 10 grand into buying a decent single seat gyro, 15 grand still isn't so much money that it should keep most people away from it.

If you don't have a gyro and your reading this, ask yourself if you couldn't find a way to come up with 15 grand....

I understand when you see all these euro style gyros going for 80-100+ thousand dollars it might seem like you could never afford to own and fly a gyro unless your " Rich "... But I can assure you, you will have just as much if not MORE fun flying a little single seat aircommand or Dominator as you would flying a MTO or AR1.
One of the BIGGEST hurdles today is finding a CFI WITH a gyro to train you in AND THEN the experience & knowledge too SAFELY TRANSITION you into YOUR OWN single place model!

The biggest issue putting most gyro CFI's OUT of business is the utterly ridiculous price of INSURANCE - to allow them to train others in their 2-place machine!
Several CFI's ..."self-insure" ...and so far have not risked all they own!
Cautious/ risk adverse CFI's no longer keep insurance or offer training in their machines - they WILL train you WHEN you decide (after a few intro -flights) ...which machine you want and go buy/build it - get insurance THEN you can continue training in your $100-200K machine!

The BEST insurance (against bent metal & machines) is plenty of sound training and lots of practice and NOT push your flight envelope - until you rack up plenty of plain-flying time!
Bought a used Bensen from a guy name Leo Boatright in Apple Valley,CA circa 1990. Total cost - $1000 including a trailer, relatively new blades, a Bensen VHS short film on how to fly it (no audio instruction in the film) and VW direct drive power. I rebuilt the machine only to find the stock VW wouldn't perform well at El Mirage on a warm day. I then got a Mac 72 for a few hundred more. Taught myself to fly it referring to the video. Flew it for a few years. Seized the Mac in air, dead sticked it and that was it. I moved back to planes. I was an Engineer in Military systems and Commercial Aerospace working my way up the management ladder.
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Readers Digest version for those of you who remember it...

Always loved aircraft, flew RC from the age of 12.
worked as a full time musician and had a landscape construction company.
Designed and built a RC gyro in 1995.
Started an EPP foamy slope glider biz. in about 96 which snow balled into a UAV company doing
Special projects for govt. labs. and SOCOM.
Did 10 take offs and landings in a Bensen Glider about 5 years ago.
Bit the bullet 2 years ago and bought a $6k AC with trailer and low hour 503.
Started training last fall with any instructor I can catch up with!
Now finishing the AC R&R and hopefully going to Bensen Days...

War and Peace version below:

1979 I moved out on my own before I graduated high school, got a string of crap jobs until I worked at precision sheet metal shop,
and I was trying to be a full time musician the whole time. Within the first year I was in 2 bands, going to college part time and working.
realized 8 to 5 employment would never work and started a landscaping company which is a job I did in high school.
That worked out well for the next 20 years and I installed hundreds of yards and irrigation systems all over the Phx. area.
(Did some maintenance too Ron!) I actually like mowing grass.....sometimes...
During the early 80's I was a full time musician with a part time landscaping biz. I also dabbled in carving waxes for a custom jeweler, custom metal fab and remodeling kitchens.

Early history: When I was a kid, I loved anything that flew. I would get up Saturday mornings for cartoons and steal the styro egg carton to cut the top off and make little biplane gliders while the cartoons played.
I built balsa models, plastic models and made my own kites from spinnaker scraps given to me at the Schock sailboat company in Newport Beach.
My father dragged me into sailing and racing Lido 14's in the Az Yacht Club (No yachts there!)
I never thought I would be in the aviation field from building models. I got my first RC plane on layaway from Hobby Lobby when I was 12.
It was a 40 sized trainer, but I ended up teaching myself to fly with a 2 channel glider and pretty much stayed in sailplanes....
Also built a hang glider when I was 13 but never flew it more than about 10ft. high down embankments in a large construction site...

Fast forward mid 90's. With landscaping as a primary biz. I dabbled with an occasional RC glider, then decided to try building a RC gyro.
I had always like them and wanted to build a Benson type, or AC, but a teeter bar tractor RC model was in my $$ range, so I built a balsa fuselage, designed a delta 3 rotor head (Fixed) and put winglets and a tail on it. I calculated CG by defining the lateral line across the disk that was 30% of the disk area back from the LE of the disk edge. (This also made it hang at about 17 degrees!)
It was ,28 powered. it flew great, like a trainer, it could loop and even rudder roll.

I then discovered EPP foam and heard about making foam and tape slope gliders for full contact combat.
When I saw the foam I got the idea for bending it on to the spar with contact cement to build a Corsair wing and decided that a small kit business would be a good way to write off my airplane vice, radios, newfangled internet stuff etc.
I was the third EPP RC MFG. Bowman's hobbies was the first, he discovered the foam at his job.
Dave Sanders was second with Dave's Aircraft Works and I came in third. Jerry Teisen was already outselling everyone with the flying wing "Zagi" but it was styrofoam, he didn't offer EPP for a couple of years.
Anyway, I made series of warbird kits then discovered a French folded foam delta wing called a "Pibros" by "Marcel Guwang".
I had always been into flying wings and heavily studied the Horten's and Jack Northrop's designs.
This little delta with extremely low wing loading had very interesting flight characteristics, so I thought the design could benefit from developing an actual airfoil for it and optimizing it.
It resulted in a series of planes (One was an Avro Vulcan slope glider) that flew very well. I had a couple of emails from Marcel who was pleased that someone took interest in his little fan fold plane. (it was really genius as to how simple it was).
My little tax write off biz. was netting serious $$ per hour, but with a very narrow market.
The larger deltas got some interest from people at a national lab and after coming in on time and under budget for a few projects, I got entrenched in special DOD projects building custom airplanes and launching systems for various groups.
This also snowballed into doing threat assessment for a couple groups and being the lead contractor for 2 AFRL Commanders Challenges.
My most recent outside project was being an external pilot for a program at WSMR. I really love being on that range.
Most of it won't be discussed on a public forum, but I have spent a lot of time on bombing ranges and unofficial sites..
The last gig morphed into me designing and building a series of 25lb "Loitering Munitions" that were a copy of enemy aircraft.
They needed to learn how to acquire them and shoot them down. I was given a photo of one and 3 weeks later I had a working prototype.
I then built about 10 more, then the company I was working with stole the design and has produced hundreds of them and scaled them up and produced hundreds more. I had NDAs and told them they could go around me for 2% of the contract and I would include project management for that too. They went around anyway. Unfortunately, the UAV industry is swimming with sharks who make outrageous claims about their product, rob you blind and never deliver....

2 years ago I "Bit the bullet". I found an AC with a low hour 503 and trailer for $6k.
It came with helmet, radios more instrumentation than needed etc.
The trailer was a tow dolly I sold for $600.
I could not find nearby instructors, so I decided to take it where I could get it.
I did my first couple hours with Peter at KBFFI last fall, then on a road trip, I got a couple hours in with Ron Menzie and then on the way back, bought a Dominator package from Dave Seace and had an hour or 2 with him in a 2 seat Dominator. (Greg S's)
Once you fly the Dominator, the Eurotubs suddenly feel like driving a bus......
I had great experiences with all the instructors. I got a couple more hours in with Peter out of his home port at Pacoima.
It was busy, and the radio was busy too, not my idea of fun, but it was good instruction.

I am in process of getting the AC ready for prime time and also assessing the Dominator to get ready to finish it.
There are plenty of low cost single seaters that show up, I have seen around 4 to 5 great deals a year and I am not looking very hard.
The difficult part is finding instruction and the local support came from active groups is very isolated now, so you have to go fishing for info.
This is a good place to find it...
What a pleasure reading these accounts. Our world is diverse... and dynamic. To progress in the gyro world is definitely getting easier, but in earlier days, took a very determine effort to penetrate, get anywhere in it.

It took that fascination with what we saw, what entranced us about this particular sport. That drive within that drew us inexorably forward, despite the odds. And odds there most certainly were. Where to learn, where to find a machine. None could be bought ready made...new.

There were Instructors, hen's teeth, rocking horse poo. Few and very far between. Then there were those who flew these marvellous contraptions, went on about how amazing it was. A perhaps more moving encapsulation of how it feels...to me... words by a pilot, who like my father was a spitfire pilot in the Second World War. https://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/highflig.htm

Once moved to try, you then found someone who knew a bit about it, and then tried to find a way forward. Some bought a machine, some built their own, found someone to show the way.

It's easier now, a lot more structured these days, the way forward much clearer. but to leave the ground in a machine piloted by yourself is a truly unique and very special delight, one that will join you to those who have... 'slipped the surly bonds of earth'.
Funny how many gyro pilots flew R/C. I started 45 years ago and it seems like the hobby has been in a decline for many years.
Planes and 600 size (130 cm rotor) helicopter with a 4 HP electric motor.
My desire to fly started as a teenager. In my twenties I joined the Army to have a chance to enter warrant officer flight training. Unfortunately, i did not get a seat prior to age thirty due to congressional cuts in military funding.

In my thirties as a public school teacher and coach I learned how to fly ultralight aircrafts and purchased a Quicksilver MXL for $5k from my instructor. I sold it after 9-11 as my Army Reserve unit prepared for deployment to Iraq. While training at Ft. Dix, NJ I found a Weedhopper ultralight in Pemberton, NJ that I purchased for $4k. After my deployment to Iraq, I trailered it back to Texas. After a year or so, I went back on active duty with the Army Reserve and I sold it while going through a divorce. After finding out how much more money I had being single, I purchased a buddies Aerolite 103 for $6k that I flew until I met my wife Danita. I sold it so we could have a nice honeymoon with a plan to purchase my first gyroplane in a couple of years.

As a Major in the Army and after my first two flights with Steve McGowan I was able to purchase a CLT Air Command for $10k. It was under powered with an MZ 202 and the rotors were only 23 feet. I sold the MZ 202 and purchased a rebuilt Rotax 582 from Scott Essex, replaced the mast and purchased a set of 24 ft. Dragon Wing Cruisers from Ernie Boyette. The folks at the Peach State Rotorcraft Club helped make all the needed adjustments to make it safe. I flew it a couple of years when Danita decided it was time for me to share the air with her in a two place machine. So I regrettably sold the Air Command and ordered a Tangogyro for Alex Vagner. I used the funds for the Air Command along with a loan from my Army Thrift Savings Account to purchase the Tangogyro for $44k as a LTC in the Army.

I have always had my I on Aviomania Gyroplanes and after my friend Bobby Ward built his single, Nicolas Karolides posted that he needed a North American Agent for his line of Aviomania Gyroplanes. So I decides to sell my Tangogyro and ordered an Aviomania Genesis Duo a.nd am now the Aviomania North American Agent!

I retired from the Army at age 60 in 2018 and returned to teaching and coaching here in Texas until last summer. I am now 65 and drawing Social Security along with my military retirement. Just for fun and a little extra cash, I started umpiring high school girls softball last month.
I was lucky to get into gyros in the late 80's when you could build a single place Bensen with a Rotax 503 for 6 grand or so. I flew that for a couple years and purchased an Aero Resources Super J-2 from a guy up in Northern Wisconsin with a ton of spares for, believe it or not... $9k! I used that to get my Rotorcraft Commercial Gyroplane add-on and then my CFI in Gyroplanes. After that I built my two-place Air Command Tandem trainer with the Arrow 120HP engine for about 12-14K (I don't remember the exact dollar amount but it was in that ball park) and used that to train many people up until the year 2000 under the 5209 exemption. I haven't had my own ship in quite a number of years, but I keep my Certs active. I've been in IT for 45 years and am now at the top of the IT food chain, Chief Information Officer. Hopefully will get to retire in January next year.
To adress RogerB's question... Flying was not a childhood dream, the idea built in slowly for me.
Have been a police officer since '89, meaning decent income but not to afford all my dreams.

The other constant in my life was the 'out of the ordinary' hobby trend :
- During the 80's, I was playing gridiron football when all my friends had only soccer on their mind but hey... We're in Belgium, right !
- Mid-90's, when others took on martial arts, I got involved into medieval armoured combat. Easy to do in Europe.
- By the turn of the 2000's, I was ready to upgrade and support my own troupe of jousters, touring tournaments world wide.
(That part was a serious money drain and not much was accomplished on the side... Even house renovation had to wait !!!)

During a U.S. trip (driving between California and Nevada), I remember being flown over by some weird flying chairs, that I investigated with distant interest : just out of curiosity. If I ever was to fly, it would be an exotic bird... not some wing stuff !!!
In 2010, upon collecting a jousting lances order, I discovered 2 brand new GuepardAX02 under construction, in the workshop of my woodturner.
It triggered interest and more research about achieving instruction when my equestrian-stunt days would be over.

2015 was the right moment. Godases Volantes club in Arras was the right place.
Gyro schooling completed, I was also able to rent a MTO and then a Calidus until in 2022 I was finally ready :
armours sold, equestrian equipment stored... Budget was then available for a used Calidus of my own.

Still on Police force, still underpaid for my noticable talents... but happily flying everytime weather allows !
Having spent the last couple of years writing this very topic for the next book, here’s an extremely condensed version!

Mid 1980s, I was working 60+ hours a week, hand-printing 600,000 British Airways staff badges. All that overtime would come in very handy.

1990, Bored with driving fixed-wings once a month, I took a trial flight in an R22 – loved the manoeuvrability – couldn’t afford the lessons. 3 Months later I saw Ken Wallis flying Little Nellie, and life was never the same again!

1992, Eventually acquired a Cricket airframe, with no idea what to do with it (no Internet, all word of mouth and pigeon post), so another year before I finally tracked down some veteran gyronauts with a gyro-glider, 200 miles away in Cornwall. One flight was all it took: bringing two inert planks to life on the wind spoke to me like nothing else ever has.

I gave up my job, took my airframe and moved to Cornwall, where Delta-J was hatched over the next 14 months, and Chris Julian and Tony Philpotts taught me everything about rotor handling on the glider.

The authorities were nervous (me being about 35 pounds lighter and considerably more female than any previous British gyronaut), so another 10 months were wasted trying to get Delta-J legal.

1995, I learned to fly my new Cricket and finally got my licence – 5 years in total and worth every minute.

Delta-J will be 30 years old on May 29th.

Waking the rotor blades will never get old!