What is it about Gyros, and is there anything we can do about it?

TyroGyro

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Following on from safety discussions, and the seemingly intractable problem of continued, senseless, fatal accidents.

Why does this happen? What is it about the gyro that seemingly attracts the lawless and the reckless, disproportionately compared to other aircraft?

Do they think it is merely a flying car that anyone can jump in and take-off in? [for most of its history the gyro has been touted as a kind of (or future) flying car, or "aerial motorbike"]
Is it because it is, objectively, safe(r) than other aircraft, do some owners think that means "easy", "forgiving", or even practically "invulnerable"?
Is it because it's small, and can be trailered in and out of a field, perhaps surreptitiously?
Is it because it's relatively expensive, do some owners think they're already one of life's "winners", and are done with "school"?
Is it because its "cuteness" is so overpowering of common-sense and the instinct for self-preservation?
Is it because it's such a niche pursuit, there are not enough mentors to go around, to flag a "sanity check" with owners?
Is it because instructors are often hundreds of miles away, some owners think they'll DIY just a little, at least to begin with?

Is there anything we can do about it, seriously? Or just shrug, and say "gyros will always have a bad reputation because of such people"?

Does it even matter? In perspective, it's "only" about 115 lives lost over 20 years, mostly avoidably, with maybe 5000 pilots worldwide "safely" enjoying the sport today in factory-built machines...

And, as long as the majority take note of the obvious "mistakes" of the reckless and lawless small minority who are no longer around, it's "Blue Skies" for gyros, for the vast majority?

Is that, realistically, the best we can hope for?
 
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schmoe90

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A couple of accidents I've been aware of near me were low time pilots in new (to them) machines. I think with a fixed wing, if you learn to fly in a Cessna 172, chances are you'll be OK in a Kitfox. With gyroplanes, if you learn to fly in a Cavalon, you'll probably have... issues... in a Sportcopter Vortex.
 

WaspAir

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In the U.S., over the long term, the gyro realm has lacked a safety culture or notions of professionalism in piloting, while tolerating anti-authority attitudes and behavior coupled with unqualified designers. I have seen improvement in recent years but more would certainly be welcome.
 

DavePA11

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Training in gyro model different than what you transition into to solo and own I suspect is a contributor as Schmoe mentioned. Engine performance differences have more impact with gyros than they do with other aircraft. Also have seen a lot of trial by error is gyro designs rather than modeling. Interested in seeing how the new Niki gyro design works out.
 

j4flyer

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Take a look at the powered paraglider movement. They are experiencing a similar issue as the Gyro clan. A lot of their pilots are self training (there is a Facebook page for self trainers). There are few instructors and few self regulating schools. There are accidents each weekend involving a Powered Paraglider. A lot of these accidents involve equipment loss and minor injury. They don’t come to the attention of anyone other than Tic Tok posters. The victims pack up what parts survive and move on. The more you study this movement the more aligned you find the pilots with gyro pilots. Studying this group might shine a light on our issues as well.
 

loftus

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Take a look at the powered paraglider movement. They are experiencing a similar issue as the Gyro clan. A lot of their pilots are self training (there is a Facebook page for self trainers). There are few instructors and few self regulating schools. There are accidents each weekend involving a Powered Paraglider. A lot of these accidents involve equipment loss and minor injury. They don’t come to the attention of anyone other than Tic Tok posters. The victims pack up what parts survive and move on. The more you study this movement the more aligned you find the pilots with gyro pilots. Studying this group might shine a light on our issues as well.
I think there's a tendency to think that more gyro pilots fit this profile than is really the case. This may have been the case in the past with most gyros being homebuilt, single place etc, but probably not the case today with expensive factory kits and/or built gyros being the majority of gyros out there.
I think we have to accept that there are inherent characteristics and abilities of gyros that can bite you. Not to mention engine issues common to all aircraft, there are things about gyros that get people in trouble. The inherent characteristics of a rotor and the potential to mismanage it, often inadvertently, is of course the primary characteristic. In FW, it's mostly about avoiding getting too slow, a fairly simple caveat to follow, usually with good warning, and maybe more recoverable than rotor mismanagement issues. Also every FW flight test, BFR etc is largely about stall recovery etc.
Rotor management is more complex for the pilot and there are more situational events to make a mistake than a FW. Rotor failure of some kind, often related to maintenance also appears to be a more common event than a wing failure in a fixed wing. The characteristics of gyros for use on shorter and/or less ideal runways for takeoff and landing, low level flight etc are all attractions of gyros, but also more of an invitation for trouble. Things like negative g issues etc, etc all make gyros inherently more likely to get one in trouble if one's attention lapses etc. Even the ability to autorotate and do short landings might encourage gyro pilots to be more tolerant of engine reliability issues for example. I've seen folks on this forum tolerate multiple engine outs due to poor engine manufacturer issues, and land off field multiple times with engine issues just because they are more comfortable landing off field. I would have returned the engine to get my money back a lot quicker. Unfortunately not all of the off field landings in gyros end safely. I do think we have to admit that with all their fun and advantages, gyros are inherently more dangerous with poor ADM and require additional attention to detail, possibly more skill, than when flying FW aircraft.
 
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Abid

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Take a look at the powered paraglider movement. They are experiencing a similar issue as the Gyro clan. A lot of their pilots are self training (there is a Facebook page for self trainers). There are few instructors and few self regulating schools. There are accidents each weekend involving a Powered Paraglider. A lot of these accidents involve equipment loss and minor injury. They don’t come to the attention of anyone other than Tic Tok posters. The victims pack up what parts survive and move on. The more you study this movement the more aligned you find the pilots with gyro pilots. Studying this group might shine a light on our issues as well.

Nah. Gyroplane pilots today are not like that anymore. Well at least not in those numbers. There is a leftover legacy of self training but most new pilots recognize they need training.
I think its more the case where gyroplane training requires time off and travel. I have seen even retired folks have schedules that would put a working younger guy to shame. Why, I don't know. So the training ends up getting rushed. This does not happen in fixed wings because training is local. Also gyroplane instructors and flight schools are less professional than fixed wing schools at least in the US. I am sorry to say that. Gyroplane instruction is at the lowest level between fixed wings, trikes and gyroplanes. Safety, emergency procedures, recovery, ground briefings, actual time in the seat before solo or sign-off .. they all lag behind when you compare overall to other categories. Pilots are signed off too quick sometimes. Instructors add-on is sometimes too quick imo. I had 100 hours imposed on myself of flying gyroplane as PIC before I went back for instructor check ride. I could have added on way earlier on my previous SP-CFI with 3000+ hours but that did not make good sense to me. There is also an associated macho and anti-authority culture in gyroplanes that still lingers that is for the most part gone in trikes and certainly gone in airplanes (few exceptions excluded). Gyroplanes also fly lower and sometimes too low, they do more takeoffs and landings in one hour than say a fixed wing guy who is a pilot, would ever do because they loiter around the area more. Gyroplane pilots like most sport pilots tend to get the older generations of mature age. The insurance companies that have all the stats and are in it to make profit have made a determination in the last 10 years that regardless of category of aircraft if you are 75 years old, you are not getting new insurance. If you are 70 you can't get retractable gear plane insurance and certainly not amphibian insurance. So if they are saying that its because they are seeing where their losses are and they need to reduce risk. All these things add up and contribute
 
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loftus

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Nah. Gyroplane pilots today are not like that anymore. Well at least not in those numbers. There is a leftover legacy of self training but most new pilots recognize they need training.
I think its more the case where gyroplane training requires time off and travel. I have seen even retired folks have schedules that would put a working younger guy to shame. Why, I don't know. So the training ends up getting rushed. This does not happen in fixed wings because training is local. Also gyroplane instructors and flight schools are less professional than fixed wing schools at least in the US. I am sorry to say that. Gyroplane instruction is at the lowest level between fixed wings, trikes and gyroplanes. Safety, emergency procedures, recovery, ground briefings, actual time in the seat before solo or sign-off .. they all lag behind when you compare overall to other categories. Pilots are signed off too quick sometimes. Instructors add-on is sometimes too quick imo. I had 100 hours imposed on myself of flying gyroplane as PIC before I went back for instructor check ride. I could have added on way earlier on my previous SP-CFI with 3000+ hours but that did not make good sense to me. There is also an associated macho and anti-authority culture in gyroplanes that still lingers that is for the most part gone in trikes and certainly gone in airplanes (few exceptions excluded). Gyroplanes also fly lower and sometimes too low, they doo more takeoffs and landings in one hour than say a fixed wing guy who is a pilot would ever do because they loiter around the area more. Gyroplane pilots like most sport pilots tend to get the older generations of mature age. The insurance companies that have all the stats and are in it to make profit have made a determination in the last 10 years that regardless of category of aircraft if you are 75 years old, you are not getting new insurance. If you are 70 you can't get retractable gear plane insurance and certainly not amphibian insurance. So if they are saying that its because they are seeing where their losses are and they need to reduce risk. All these things add up and contribute
Agree with all of the above; but I think gyros do have more inbuilt characteristics that is part of their attraction, that also make it more likely they can bite you if you are not paying attention.
 

Abid

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I think there's a tendency to think that more gyro pilots fit this profile than is really the case. This may have been the case in the past with most gyros being homebuilt, single place etc, but probably not the case today with expensive factory kits and/or built gyros being the majority of gyros out there.
I think we have to accept that there are inherent characteristics and abilities of gyros that can bite you. Not to mention engine issues common to all aircraft, there are things about gyros that get people in trouble. The inherent characteristics of a rotor and the potential to mismanage it, often inadvertently, is of course the primary characteristic. In FW, it's mostly about avoiding getting too slow, a fairly simple caveat to follow, usually with good warning, and maybe more recoverable than rotor mismanagement issues. Also every FW flight test, BFR etc is largely about stall recovery etc.
Rotor management is more complex for the pilot and there are more situational events to make a mistake than a FW. Rotor failure of some kind, often related to maintenance also appears to be a more common event than a wing failure in a fixed wing. The characteristics of gyros for use on shorter and/or less ideal runways for takeoff and landing, low level flight etc are all attractions of gyros, but also more of an invitation for trouble. Things like negative g issues etc, etc all make gyros inherently more likely to get one in trouble if one's attention lapses etc. Even the ability to autorotate and do short landings might encourage gyro pilots to be more tolerant of engine reliability issues for example. I've seen folks on this forum tolerate multiple engine outs due to poor engine manufacturer issues, and land off field multiple times with engine issues just because they are more comfortable landing off field. I would have returned the engine to get my money back a lot quicker. Unfortunately not all of the off field landings in gyros end safely. I do think we have to admit that with all their fun and advantages, gyros are inherently more dangerous with poor ADM and require additional attention to detail, possibly more skill, than when flying FW aircraft.

I think the basic rotor management is fairly simple but not taught as such and because its not taught and not covered properly and enough in emergency procedures as such, many new to gyroplane pilots are left to believe that its a feel thing by magic that they will get in 300+ hours. They usually don't make it to 300+ hours before flapping the rotor. This is a failure of instruction.
Rotor management if we want to call it that, in the air results is disaster and usually result of abrupt control movements of a low or ill trained for the task pilot. Also instability mainly due to the tail effectiveness being low as gyroplane tails simply do not have the lever arm airplane tails do. This physical limitation and requirements like from ASRA that tail height be such that rotor at rest while stick back and then touching the flapping stop cannot touch the tail renders this problem even more acute. As gyroplanes go faster cruising at 75 to 90 knots the CP moves closer to CG and static margin is reduced and combined with abrupt inputs it increases chances of mishaps. On FB I asked an Australian pilot or CFI about why is this requirement there. Obviously I know why. Its the notion that it prevents people from chopping their tails if they start pre-rotating and pull stick back right away or something similar and start moving. Its a leftover from older design era where pre-rotators couldn't reach past 100 or so rotor RPM. Such prescriptive things in design standards never make sense at some point. The response I got from this guy was entertaining and worth my trolling. He blew the heck up :).
 

j4flyer

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Guys you’re looking at my post in just today’s climate. I’m suggesting you look at the Paragilder movement vs Gyroplane movement historically. You should see the comparison very easily. Yes, there are gyro instructors but, they are few and distant for most. This parallels the Paraglider movement. There are still Gyro pilots trying self instruction. You see the evidence in the ads for gyro parts. Gyro accidents usually come down to one thing, instruction or lack there of. This instruction could be primary or recurrent. How many Gyro pilots have received recurrent training ? I’ll bet it’s a small amount. This too parallels the paraglider movement. There are a lot of things to be gleaned by reading and watching what is going on with other avenues of aviation.
 

DavePA11

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I had to look up what ADM meant in the link. Great article! Thanks for posting.

Aeronautical decision-making (ADM) is decision-making in a unique environment—aviation. It is a systematic approach to the mental process used by pilots to consistently determine the best course of action in response to a given set of circumstances. It is what a pilot intends to do based on the latest information he or she has.

1647283790184.png

What would this look like for gyros?
1647283891640.png

I fell into this one while flying back country in fixed wing with incident that literally took 3 seconds due to un-forecasted wind gusts. $35K later and over a year being fixed I'm back flying, but still somewhat spooked by this event given it happened so fast.
1647284058770.png
 
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Andino

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if you learn to fly in a Cavalon, you'll probably have... issues... in a Sportcopter Vortex.
Hello, but wouldn't it be more difficult the other way around? That is to say, going from Vortex differential braking and free castering nosewheel to Cavalon nosewheel linked pedals? (At least it would be for me.)
 

Vance

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I don’t have as expansive view as TyroGyro.

I look at the gyroplane accidents in the USA both non fatal and fatal.

I study every gyroplane accident that the NTSB does a report on and know enough gyroplane enthusiasts that I can usually get more detail from friends.

As a flight instructor I feel understanding the accidents helps me understand what I need to emphasize.

I have learned enough about gyroplanes to talk for a very long time.

People are likely to forget much of what I teach them so my hope is to have them remember the important things that will keep them from having to learn the hard way.

Under FAA guidance a CFI can give a proficiency check ride for an add-on rating.

As an examiner it is my job to identify the applicant’s weakness and see they are addressed before they are issued a certificate.

I feel I am not trained to be an examiner and have had to seek out the information on how a proficiency check ride should be conducted.

I have given flight reviews to pilots who in my opinion had gaps in their skill set.

Some of the stories that accident pilots tell the NTSB demonstrate some large gaps in their knowledge.

The examiner is the gatekeeper to see that only proficient pilots get pilot certificates.

If there was something I would change to improve safety of gyroplanes; it would be to require a designated pilot examiner who is trained to do a proper job based on all that has been learned through the years.

I feel an examiner should be closely supervised by people who are on top of what is happening in gyroplanes and won’t let the standards slip.

I am aware of CFIs who don’t use a check list in the proficiency check ride.

No one wants to fail an applicant and there is a lot of pressure on CFIs to pass their friend’s clients.
 

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Andino

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What would this look like for gyros?
View attachment 1154303
It looks rather similar to me, but autogyros are probably more often than airplanes pranged in ground events (taxi, T/O, landing, taxi). The flat-disc prerotation is especially snaggy for FW pilots in transition, who are tempted to "rotate" with low rotor RPM.
 

Abid

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I had to look up what ADM meant in the link. Great article! Thanks for posting.

Aeronautical decision-making (ADM) is decision-making in a unique environment—aviation. It is a systematic approach to the mental process used by pilots to consistently determine the best course of action in response to a given set of circumstances. It is what a pilot intends to do based on the latest information he or she has.

View attachment 1154302

What would this look like for gyros?
View attachment 1154303

I fell into this one while flying back country in fixed wing with incident that literally took 3 seconds due to un-forecasted wind gusts. $35K later and over a year being fixed I'm back flying, but still somewhat spooked by this event given it happened so fast.
View attachment 1154304

My somewhat educated guess going by memory looking at data LAMA had gathered to present to FAA and later looking at the accident reports is that the sort of a bar graph you asked about would look pretty much the same for gyroplanes as it does for General Aviation.
 

Philbennett

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Here is a view from the UK. The gyroplane is an oddity in most mature aviation countries that is very often marketed in a way to try and make it stand out and sell. We will all have lost count the number of times the following lines have been shot:-

  1. Can fly in high winds
  2. Can take off in very short distances....
Of course item 1 may indeed make item 2 valid but you need experience to understand the context. Doug posted something in another thread about handling qualities and used a term like "the occasional user" - and that hits the nail square on the head. The inexperienced, the lack of general air mindedness and the marketing sets up the big snag not only in specific areas of the flight but more generally because the take off isn't line up, open the throttle. It requires application, that takes time and to points others have made people in 2022 seem time poor.

The other element that hurts is the lack of wide spread adoption and interest.

If I own a fixed wing or helicopter school not only do I have a greater number of students with no desire to do anything other than fly for themselves but I also have the opportunity to have a core of students who wish to be professional pilots, that not only supports my school commercially but it forces me to raise my game because these students are inevitably going to challenge the thinking more. You don't have that in gyroplane. That creates several snags.

Income streams are far more reliant upon a customer serving type model [I'll use the UK as example where I know what I speak of is factually correct] so for example examiners become popular with some instructors because there is friendship. Critic of any manufacturer and the handling qualities of their aircraft in the UK is limited because we only have 2 possibilities [Magni and AutoGyro] and many schools are aligned to one of them. Further even in a situation of instructor training you see attendees of such course who haven't even gone solo in their own private pilot course! Its insanity.
 

Andino

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One thing I have seen about autogyro accidents is that passengers are often taken aloft by very low time (<100 hours) pilots. Whilst legal, it is too often unwise. Also, many incidents derive from poor maintenance, which seems more prevalent in the autogryo crowd. The 2021 Thomas Kiggen crash of the Cavalon on AutoGyro's home field was a shocking example. So, on that point, I'd add to the "Five Hazardous Attitudes" a sixth one: Cheapness: "Why pay extra?"
 
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