What is aerobatic flight in a gyroplane?


Gyroplane CFI
At any of the airshows I have flown a passenger is not allowed during the wavered airspace.

I used to have a discussion about the definition of aerobatic with the FAA representative at every air show I flew. Typically there were two FAA reps watching the performance to make certain the rules weren’t broken.

One day at my request a representative from the local FSDO pulled out a very large very thick book about everything he needed to know to be in charge of an airshow. As I understood him I could fly my routine without wavered airspace as long as I did not exceed ninety degrees pitch or roll.

I have asked about taking a passenger and none of the airshows I have flown allow a passenger during waivered airspace although all allowed aggressive flight after the waiver expired.

I don't do loops or barrel rolls in The Predator because I have a low fear threshold.

Barrel rolls in particular were done by many pilots of gyroplanes with a two blade teeter rotor. I have heard of several pilots doing loops with a two blade teeter rotor.

I have never exceeded 2.2Gs or dropped below .6Gs when I was flying with a G meter in an air show.



Senior Member
Just to get you started;

91.13 Careless or reckless operation.

(a) Aircraft operations for the purpose of air navigation. No person may operate an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.

(b) Aircraft operations other than for the purpose of air navigation. No person may operate an aircraft, other than for the purpose of air navigation, on any part of the surface of an airport used by aircraft for air commerce (including areas used by those aircraft for receiving or discharging persons or cargo), in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.

91.119 Minimum safe altitudes: General.

Except when necessary for takeoff or landing, no person may operate an aircraft below the following altitudes:

(a) Anywhere. An altitude allowing, if a power unit fails, an emergency landing without undue hazard to persons or property on the surface.

(b) Over congested areas. Over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open air assembly of persons, an altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet of the aircraft.

(c) Over other than congested areas. An altitude of 500 feet above the surface, except over open water or sparsely populated areas. In those cases, the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure.

(d) Helicopters, powered parachutes, and weight-shift-control aircraft. If the operation is conducted without hazard to persons or property on the surface—

(1) A helicopter may be operated at less than the minimums prescribed in paragraph (b) or (c) of this section, provided each person operating the helicopter complies with any routes or altitudes specifically prescribed for helicopters by the FAA; and

(2) A powered parachute or weight-shift-control aircraft may be operated at less than the minimums prescribed in paragraph (c) of this section.

91.303 Aerobatic flight.

No person may operate an aircraft in aerobatic flight—

(a) Over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement;

(b) Over an open air assembly of persons;

(c) Within the lateral boundaries of the surface areas of Class B, Class C, Class D, or Class E airspace designated for an airport;

(d) Within 4 nautical miles of the center line of any Federal airway;

(e) Below an altitude of 1,500 feet above the surface; or

(f) When flight visibility is less than 3 statute miles.

For the purposes of this section, aerobatic flight means an intentional maneuver involving an abrupt change in an aircraft's attitude, an abnormal attitude, or abnormal acceleration, not necessary for normal flight.

91.307 Parachutes and parachuting.

(a) No pilot of a civil aircraft may allow a parachute that is available for emergency use to be carried in that aircraft unless it is an approved type and has been packed by a certificated and appropriately rated parachute rigger—

(1) Within the preceding 180 days, if its canopy, shrouds, and harness are composed exclusively of nylon, rayon, or other similar synthetic fiber or materials that are substantially resistant to damage from mold, mildew, or other fungi and other rotting agents propagated in a moist environment; or

(2) Within the preceding 60 days, if any part of the parachute is composed of silk, pongee, or other natural fiber or materials not specified in paragraph (a)(1) of this section.

(b) Except in an emergency, no pilot in command may allow, and no person may conduct, a parachute operation from an aircraft within the United States except in accordance with part 105 of this chapter.

(c) Unless each occupant of the aircraft is wearing an approved parachute, no pilot of a civil aircraft carrying any person (other than a crewmember) may execute any intentional maneuver that exceeds—

(1) A bank of 60 degrees relative to the horizon; or

(2) A nose-up or nose-down attitude of 30 degrees relative to the horizon.

(d) Paragraph (c) of this section does not apply to—

(1) Flight tests for pilot certification or rating; or

(2) Spins and other flight maneuvers required by the regulations for any certificate or rating when given by—

(i) A certificated flight instructor; or

(ii) An airline transport pilot instructing in accordance with §61.67 of this chapter.

(e) For the purposes of this section, approved parachute means—

(1) A parachute manufactured under a type certificate or a technical standard order (C-23 series); or

(2) A personnel-carrying military parachute identified by an NAF, AAF, or AN drawing number, an AAF order number, or any other military designation or specification number.


Supreme Allied Gyro CFI
Vance, I have always understood that what was waivered about waivered airspace for an airshow was 91.303 (usually parts c, d, and e are the pertinent ones; respecting the crowd line prevents violating b). From the definition in that same section, pitch or bank of near 90 degrees is clearly aerobatic. There is never a necessity of such attitudes for normal flight. Gyro pilots often like to have fun with yanking and banking, but being popular with pilots is not the same thing as "necessary for normal flight". If I flew at 80 degrees of pitch or bank over an airport, or over a crowd, or below 1500 AGL, I would expect to get busted by any passing FAA Inspector. Your narrow g-load range might prevent the "abnormal acceleration" part from applying, but "abnormal attitude" would be one to worry about.


Gyroplane CFI
I have flown in 17 airshows (32 shows) under the jurisdiction of three different FSDOs.

I would sometimes go over my routine with the FAA representative and it was always approved. Often on the second day the hard deck (if I had one) would be lowered.

I don't know the name of the big book on Airshows the person in charge of that airshow pulled out. It was an FAA publication and clearly read aerobatic flight for rotorcraft was more than ninety degrees pitch or roll for a rotorcraft.

He told the airboss that I could fly my routine in the non-wavered time of the airshow. He had seen my routine the day before.

It is possible he was wrong so there is no point in a debate. I have not been able to find the book he referenced. It may be an internal memo for the FAA. I thought it was very nice of him to take the time to address my concerns.

From the pictures it appears to me that I had more than 30 degrees of pitch and more than sixty degrees of bank.

I do not fly with a parachute and I do not have an ACE card for low level aerobatics.

If you decide to fly an airshow in a gyroplane be certain your paperwork is in order. I was bounced once because an A&P mechanic with inspection authority wrote down the wrong year in my engine log book. It was obviously a mistake but they stood fast. It was resolved before the show because the A&P came to the show. It is not unusual for the FAA to be confused about exactly what is required because many of the aircraft they are dealing with at an airshow are experimental exhibition. In my experience experimental amateur built regulations are not well understood and more than once I had to reference the FAR.

A valid registration, airworthiness certificate, weight and balance, operating limitations for an experimental amateur build gyroplane, aircraft log books, current transponder certification (even though it is off during the show) and a pilots operating handbook are all required. The instruments must be properly color coded. The controls and switches must be properly labeled.

Most people at an airshow have not seen a gyroplane fly so I don't have to do much to be a hit.

The maneuver people appear to like the best is a 360 degree engine at idle landing started from slow flight.

I recommend flying an air show in a gyroplane. I learned a lot about ground reference maneuvers and safety.

Doug Riley

Platinum Member
Vance, it's true that loops became a part of Johnny Miller's airshow routine in his ailerons-and-elevators Pitcairn back in the 30's. He was adamant that such maneuvers should NOT be done in direct-cyclic gyros (the type we all fly now). Johnny was a degreed engineer and knew of what he spoke.

A few people do them anyway, including Jim Vanek and the late Carl Hinshaw.

This doesn't prove that these maneuvers are "safe," however -- if "safe" means having a decent plan B if you fall out of an inverted maneuver. Plan B is to hit the silk -- if you have a chute and enough altitude.

There was a scattering of fatal crashes in the 70's that MAY have been failed attempts at pos-G inverted flight. They may also simply have been PPO's or torque-overs, with the inversion entirely uncommanded. We don't know.

Your fear threshold is well-located, Vance.


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