Why don’t they make safer gyroplanes?

Vance

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As some of you know part of my preflight is to look at the latest aircraft accidents so I can learn from others mistakes.

Last night I was talking to a potential client who flies a Beechcraft Bonanza A36. He was worried about all the behind the power curve takeoff accidents in gyroplanes he had seen on YouTube and wanted to know why they had not made safer gyroplanes.

This morning listed in the FAA preliminary accident reports there was a fatal in a Bonanza A36 in Bentonville, Arkansas (BVT) so I did a little more research and found this article.

http://5newsonline.com

I don’t like flying into airports like Bentonville that don’t have a parallel taxiway because I am not comfortable back taxiing.

Based on the article the Bonanza pilot may have rotated early because of a landing aircraft and lost control of the aircraft. I didn’t find Vr for a Bonanza but Vs is 59kts. In other words the aircraft is not controllable flying at less than 59kts straight and level.

It helps me to appreciate the low takeoff speed of a gyroplane and how it is always controllable.

It is true that some gyroplane pilots have controlled flight at slow indicated airspeed into the ground. The Bonanza pilot didn’t have that option and apparently lost control of the aircraft trying to make a premature takeoff.

I am grateful to Juan de la Cierva for creating an aircraft that won’t stall or spin.

I don’t recall a recent flight where I have not been grateful for this particular quality.

Just yesterday we caught some lift over the ridge into the Edna Valley and slowed to 20kts just basking in the magic of the moment and wanting it to last longer.

I feel a better question might have been why don’t they make safer pilots?
 

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Boots

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"why don’t they make safer pilots?"
Yep , that is a better question .
 

phantom

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It is very difficult to make safer pilots because more than 90% of them are human and humans make mistakes.
Norm
 

M._Springer

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I believe one reason there so many gyro accidents

I believe one reason there so many gyro accidents

especially in the big new machines coming out of Europe is that the instructors for those gyros are not versed in rotor management and so the student doesn't learn anything about rotor management. It's easy to see that by the way the new machines will make a short take off run with the blades sailing every which way , jump up to 20 to 30 feet AGL while turning to the right then crash and burn.
Some vital information is being left out of the poor students instruction.
Marion
 

ultracruiser41

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Rotor management.....that's the key. I think it's one of the most important items to master when learning to fly gyros.
 

Cammie Patch

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I think overall the manufacturers/dealers of the new generation European machines are doing a good job. I definitely see a shift toward more standardized instruction, CFI accreditation, and better POHs/maintenance manual availability.

It would be difficult to quantify the number of accidents per aircraft or flight hours for each type. I would love to see this info.

But, I did download the entire accident database from the NTSBs website from 1968 to the present. From that I was able to get a pretty good picture of the safety of the new european models vs. the older generation gyroplanes.

It blew my mind.

Overall, the chances of having a fatality in a gyroplane accident is 35%. THIRTY-FIVE PERCENT!!!! That is atrocious. Now, if you separate the European models from everyone else, that rate falls to 9%, which is about the best in aviation. In fact, in the USA there has only been one fatal accident in a New Generation European model, and that was a wire strike over a river, the vintage hardly even matters.

Take a look at the fatality rate of some of the popular older generation models. This represents an occupants likelihood of dying if they have an accident. This is for any type that had five or more reported accidents:

Sparrowhawk 22%
RAF 2000 29%
Dominator 31%
Barnett 33%
Bensen 36%
Sport Copter 58%
Air Command 59%

All European new generation models combined: 9%

AutoGyro alone has well over 100 aircraft flying in the USA, and yet they have had ZERO fatalities. TBH, I've only heard of two accidents that had serious injuries, and ironically it was the same aircraft that crashed twice.

My being a dealer for AutoGyro may make it look like I'm biased, but the truth is, I chose AutoGyro because of this data and other characteristics like this.

I've been actively instructing in AutoGyros for about 2.5 years now, and I have never had an accident, nor have any of my students had any accidents. Actually in my 16 years of instructing pilots, none of my students (or myself) have ever had any accidents. I just teach the POH, good ADM, and use other accidents as examples.
 

Vance

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Overall, the chances of having a fatality in a gyroplane accident is 35%. THIRTY-FIVE PERCENT!!!! That is atrocious. Now, if you separate the European models from everyone else, that rate falls to 9%, which is about the best in aviation. In fact, in the USA there has only been one fatal accident in a New Generation European model, and that was a wire strike over a river, the vintage hardly even matters.

Take a look at the fatality rate of some of the popular older generation models. This represents an occupants likelihood of dying if they have an accident. This is for any type that had five or more reported accidents:

Sparrowhawk 22%
RAF 2000 29%
Dominator 31%
Barnett 33%
Bensen 36%
Sport Copter 58%
Air Command 59%

All European new generation models combined: 9%
I feel there is not much value in computing the likelihood of death in a reported accident because in my opinion accidents are not consistently reported.

It is hard not to report an accident that involves a fatality.

As the dollar value of the aircraft rises I feel the likelihood of reporting an accident also rises and still there are many accidents that go unreported.
 

EI-GYRO

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Those stats are absolute garbage.

The percentages relate only to reported accidents.

The serious/fatal ones are the only ones that got reported on older generation machines.
Most rollovers, etc, went unreported. Hence, a high percentage of REPORTED accidents were fatals.

In NewGen clones, almost all accidents are reported, if only to claim on the insurance.
The percentage of these accidents which are fatal, is, not surprisingly, low.

I am not saying the newer designs are not safer. They darn well should be.

I am saying the stats you are using paint a very distorted picture.

If you don't understand rotor management, you will have rotor management accidents.
If you don't understand the power curve, you will have slow flight accidents.

Is the problem with the machine, or with the folks who won't take the time to learn and understand a central feature of the machine they want to fly?

Some things are not simple, no matter how hard you try to idiot-proof them.
 

M._Springer

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Cammie, I still believe something is being left out

Cammie, I still believe something is being left out

knoof students instruction in the new Euro gyros. In video after video it is a European gyro that makes the short take off run , jumps up with rotors flapping and crashes and burns. If the student had been taught to watch his rotors he could learn a lot about what they are doing. I think new students have their eyes inside on instruments instead of looking outside occasionally.

Comparing todays new machines accident rate with the accident rate of the older gyros and going back into the early 60's isn't fair. The 'older generation' of gyro pilots of which I am one, had to teach themselves to fly the gyro. There were no two place gyro trainers or gyro CFIs back then. It is no wonder that would- be gyro pilots died trying to teach themselves to fly the gyro.

The small light gyro is very maneuverable and frisky and it required much self discipline to read and follow every instruction in the manual to learn to fly the gyro safely. But flying the small gyro safely could be done. Many would be- gyro pilots lacked the discipline to follow the written instructions and paid dearly for it.

Getting a pilots certificate in gyros was darn near impossible in those days.
For every gyro pilot certificate I obtained I had to wait for the FAA to find someone, have him take gyro flight instruction , then take all the written and flight tests which I had already done so he could give me a flight test.

It was nerve wracking for me to have a person who had much less time in gyros than I did give me a check ride. The FAA inspector who gave me my CFI check ride barely had enough gyro time to do my check ride. He wanted to fly the 18A back to the field after the check ride was finished. He bounced the landing so badly that I was embarrassed.
The 18A makes really soft landings when handled properly so he was really heavy handed to mess the landing up like he did.

An FAA inspector giving me a check ride in the McCulloch J2 told me "when we come back to the field I want you to be along side the runway at 1000 AGL, pick your spot to land, pull the throttle to idle and don't touch the throttle again until we have landed.
No problem. He was asking for a standard landing in the J2 but he had only given two J2 rides before me and he had both applicants do airliner type approaches . That means he had them drag it in for about 5 miles then land it. So he was really unprepared for the usual J2 landing.

Back at the airport I got to 1000 ft. alongside the runway, fiured to land just past the numbers so I pulled the throttle to idle, put the nose down to about 45 degrees and all was coming along nicely when the inspector panicked and he screamed, " What are you doing ?" and he rammed the throttle wide open.

Well with the nose pointed toward the ground and the throttle wide open the airspeed climbed rapidly so I pulled the throttle back to idle and raised the nose to bleed off some of the extra airspeed he had caused us to gain.

I figured with his ramming the throttle wide open as he did we would land just a bit further down the runway but no problem as it was a 4200 ft. runway. When he realized I planned to continue the landing he started screaming again. " Go around Go around, YOU WILL NEVER MAKE IT".

I ignored him, held onto the throttle very tightly lest he try to push it open agin and I landed the J2 with over 4000 ft' of runway ahead of us. He was too embaraassed to say anything at all...but I did pass the check ride.

All this to say that things were a lot different re gyros then and now but still I believe students in the big heavies are not learning enough or anything at all about rotor management.
Marion
 
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Cammie Patch

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knoof students instruction in the new Euro gyros. In video after video it is a European gyro that makes the short take off run , jumps up with rotors flapping and crashes and burns. If the student had been taught to watch his rotors he could learn a lot about what they are doing. I think new students have their eyes inside on instruments instead of looking outside occasionally.
I hear what you are saying, but I really don't see students looking inside on takeoff.

Comparing todays new machines accident rate with the accident rate of the older gyros and going back into the early 60's isn't fair. The 'older generation' of gyro pilots of which I am one, had to teach themselves to fly the gyro. There were no two place gyro trainers or gyro CFIs back then. It is no wonder that would- be gyro pilots died trying to teach themselves to fly the gyro.
There are a few stats that I wanted to try to get from the NTSB data. The biggest is the accident rate or maybe fatality rate in a graph through the years to reveal if it is increasing or decreasing. I think that due to the reasons you list, and the safer machines, it would be decreasing.

The small light gyro is very maneuverable and frisky and it required much self discipline to read and follow every instruction in the manual to learn to fly the gyro safely. But flying the small gyro safely could be done. Many would be- gyro pilots lacked the discipline to follow the written instructions and paid dearly for it.
Yes. People who want to fly gyros tend to be a little.... different.Non-conformist maybe?

Getting a pilots certificate in gyros was darn near impossible in those days.
For every gyro pilot certificate I obtained I had to wait for the FAA to find someone, have him take gyro flight instruction , then take all the written and flight tests which I had already done so he could give me a flight test.
I am so grateful for the sport pilot add-on rating. My nearest DPE is 1200 miles away.

It was nerve wracking for me to have a person who had much less time in gyros than I did give me a check ride. The FAA inspector who gave me my CFI check ride barely had enough gyro time to do my check ride. He wanted to fly the 18A back to the field after the check ride was finished. He bounced the landing so badly that I was embarrassed.
The 18A makes really soft landings when handled properly so he was really heavy handed to mess the landing up like he did. Interestingly the 18A has a very low fatality rating.

An FAA inspector giving me a check ride in the McCulloch J2 told me "when we come back to the field I want you to be along side the runway at 1000 AGL, pick your spot to land, pull the throttle to idle and don't touch the throttle again until we have landed.
No problem. He was asking for a standard landing in the J2 but he had only given two J2 rides before me and he had both applicants do airliner type approaches . That means he had them drag it in for about 5 miles then land it. So he was really unprepared for the usual J2 landing.

Back at the airport I got to 1000 ft. alongside the runway, fiured to land just past the numbers so I pulled the throttle to idle, put the nose down to about 45 degrees and all was coming along nicely when the inspector panicked and he screamed, " What are you doing ?" and he rammed the throttle wide open.

Well with the nose pointed toward the ground and the throttle wide open the airspeed climbed rapidly so I pulled the throttle back to idle and raised the nose to bleed off some of the extra airspeed he had caused us to gain.

I figured with his ramming the throttle wide open as he did we would land just a bit further down the runway but no problem as it was a 4200 ft. runway. When he realized I planned to continue the landing he started screaming again. " Go around Go around, YOU WILL NEVER MAKE IT".

I ignored him, held onto the throttle very tightly lest he try to push it open agin and I landed the J2 with over 4000 ft' of runway ahead of us. He was too embaraassed to say anything at all...but I did pass the check ride. Ha I would never let him forget that one. Did you give him the look?

All this to say that things were a lot different re gyros then and now but still I believe students in the big heavies are not learning enough or anything at all about rotor management.


Marion
I keep hearing the phrase "rotor management". Maybe it would be easier to discuss specifics. I teach "energy management" which keeps pilots out of trouble for the most part. I know helicopter CFIs talk about "buckets" of energy, in other words don't empty your airspeed bucket and your altitude bucket at the same time. I like that way of thinking. I teach to stay in ground effect until Vy is reached, and demonstrate getting behind the power curve in slow flight. I teach students to keep the stick into the wind while on the ground, spinning or not, and to taxi very slow if the rotors are slow, maybe even stop if its windy. I tell students to treat the aircraft like its the most unstable aircraft out there while they are taxiing. I don't teach them to "balance on the mains" back and forth down the runway or taxiway, because I think that spending the time doing touch and goes is much more beneficial, and less likely to overheat the engine.

So, what are the ways a gyro pilot can get into trouble with the rotors? Let's start a list.
 

Vance

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I feel this is a good example of poor rotor management.

I feel this is a good example of poor rotor management.

I keep hearing the phrase "rotor management". Maybe it would be easier to discuss specifics. I teach "energy management" which keeps pilots out of trouble for the most part. I know helicopter CFIs talk about "buckets" of energy, in other words don't empty your airspeed bucket and your altitude bucket at the same time. I like that way of thinking. I teach to stay in ground effect until Vy is reached, and demonstrate getting behind the power curve in slow flight. I teach students to keep the stick into the wind while on the ground, spinning or not, and to taxi very slow if the rotors are slow, maybe even stop if its windy. I tell students to treat the aircraft like its the most unstable aircraft out there while they are taxiing. I don't teach them to "balance on the mains" back and forth down the runway or taxiway, because I think that spending the time doing touch and goes is much more beneficial, and less likely to overheat the engine.

So, what are the ways a gyro pilot can get into trouble with the rotors? Let's start a list.
This accident in a Calidus in Crozet, Va 2/4/2015 comes to mind Cammie.

After departing from the airport where the pilot kept the gyroplane, he flew to his family farm and landed without incident on a 1,500-foot-long grass polo field. Later on, during an attempted takeoff from the same field, when the gyroplane was traveling at 25 to 30 knots and was about 150 feet into the takeoff roll, the gyroplane rose to a balanced position on its main wheels, but then began to bounce up and down violently. The pilot then lost control of the gyroplane and it rolled over on its left side about 300 feet into the takeoff roll. The pilot advised that there was nothing mechanically wrong with the gyroplane. He further advised that it was "pilot error" and that he had "over advanced" the blades by pushing the control stick too far forward and that the blades were not yet at speed (too low a rotor rpm) when he did it. The pilot was not injured, but the gyroplane incurred damage to the rotor blades, the pusher propeller, the horizontal stabilizer, the vertical stabilizer, the rudder, the engine cowling, and the wheel pants.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
• The pilot's improper control inputs which resulted in a loss of control and rollover during the takeoff roll.
 

Vance

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A different kind of poor rotor management.

A different kind of poor rotor management.



So, what are the ways a gyro pilot can get into trouble with the rotors? Let's start a list.
This MTO Sport accident 01/16/2014 in Spring Texas also comes to mind.

It is a different kind of rotor mismanagement.

The pilot stated that, as he approached the runway, the tower controller reported that the wind was 210 degrees at 11 knots, gusting to 19 knots. He performed a go-around due to the wind gusts blowing the gyroplane off course. He was then cleared to land on the parallel runway. The pilot reported that a quartering crosswind existed as he flew the approach; however, he landed the gyroplane without incident. As the pilot was reaching forward to change the pneumatic mode selector button from the “flight” to the “brake” position, a strong westerly wind gust lifted the gyroplane. The right wheel came off the ground, which caused the main rotor blade to strike the runway. The pilot attempted to straighten the gyroplane, but it veered off the runway and rolled onto its right side, which resulted in substantial damage to the empennage and main rotor. The pilot reported no preaccident mechanical malfunctions or failures with the gyroplane that would have precluded normal operation. The calculated crosswind component of 10 knots was below the allowable maximum landing crosswind component of 20 knots. The gyroplane’s flight manual states that, after landing, “use lateral control into wind to maintain rotor disc in level flight. Adjust lateral control input as rotor speed decays” before changing the pneumatic mode selector to the “brake” position.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot’s failure to maintain the gyroplane’s rotor control during the landing roll in gusting crosswind conditions.
 

loftus

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I keep hearing the phrase "rotor management". Maybe it would be easier to discuss specifics. I teach "energy management" which keeps pilots out of trouble for the most part. I know helicopter CFIs talk about "buckets" of energy, in other words don't empty your airspeed bucket and your altitude bucket at the same time. I like that way of thinking. I teach to stay in ground effect until Vy is reached, and demonstrate getting behind the power curve in slow flight. I teach students to keep the stick into the wind while on the ground, spinning or not, and to taxi very slow if the rotors are slow, maybe even stop if its windy. I tell students to treat the aircraft like its the most unstable aircraft out there while they are taxiing. I don't teach them to "balance on the mains" back and forth down the runway or taxiway, because I think that spending the time doing touch and goes is much more beneficial, and less likely to overheat the engine.

So, what are the ways a gyro pilot can get into trouble with the rotors? Let's start a list.
I don't see balancing on the mains and other forms of ground rotor management and touch-and-goes to be mutually exclusive. Teach them all. Every possible exercise is valuable. Still the most valuable exercise for me on the ground was taxiing while learning how rotor speed, stick position or rotor angle, and aircraft speed relate. No reason why students can't have instruction that incorporates old school approaches as well as 'Eurogyro' teaching.
 

M._Springer

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Well Cammie, I can give you an example of someone who

Well Cammie, I can give you an example of someone who

liked to fly over a canyon below the mountain tops on either side of her,
That person is you. You said you flew at 100 mph so if the engine should quit all you would have to do is pull the stick back and climb up above the mountain top and find a place to land,
I said to myself, oh my god! She doesn't know much about rotors or how fast they slow down with full back stick and no engine and how fast the gyro drops toward the ground. She could get killed doing that!

To his credit, Desmon flew at that speed, shut his engine down and pulled the stick full back. He is an experienced gyro pilot. He said he only gained about 50 feet altitude when the rotors slowed and the gyro started down. I was hoping you would read his post an learn from it.

Re balancing on the mains, I don't have time in the Euro gyros so know nothing about the take off. I do know and understand very well the value of balancing on the mains for the small gyro.

When done correctly balancing teaches the student how to get the gyro in a take off attitude, how to add just a little power and fly just two or three feet off the ground, how to reduce power and land the gyro. This is done several times till the student is very comfortable with the controls and begins to feel what the gyro is doing.

As he feels more comfortable he takes off the ground and climbs maybe a foot or so higher and flys a bit further before landing. The practice teaches the student take off and landing at a very low level height and as he progresses he will learn to climb higher, fly further and land. He will know the sensitivity of the machine and know that he has he has to be gentle on the controls. There is more to balancing than this small bit but it is very useful in the small gyro.

RE your question about how one could get hurt not knowing about rotors...A new gyro CFI called me many years ago and asked how he could get hurt in the small gyro. He had had all his flight instruction in an Air& Space 18A but planned to teach in the students small two place gyro. I told him if he had to ask that question then he needed more flight instruction.
There are many more things more to know about gyro rotors than what the tach says!
Marion
 

Cammie Patch

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liked to fly over a canyon below the mountain tops on either side of her,
That person is you. You said you flew at 100 mph so if the engine should quit all you would have to do is pull the stick back and climb up above the mountain top and find a place to land, I don't understand what you are saying. There were no mountains to climb over. I was flying even (most of the flight) with the plateaus on the sides of the canyon. I was pretty close to the edges. I easily could have turned to the side converted the energy I had invested in airspeed into glide, and landed.
I said to myself, oh my god! She doesn't know much about rotors or how fast they slow down with full back stick and no engine and how fast the gyro drops toward the ground. She could get killed doing that!Why would I be full stick back? I would do the first thing on pretty much every emergency engine out checklist, which is pitch for best glide. I'm certainly not thinking about rotors or rotor speed at this point, because I know that at 1G and 55kts, my rotor speed at a given DA will be a constant. All i have to do is manage my airspeed and go where I planned on going.

To his credit, Desmon flew at that speed, shut his engine down and pulled the stick full back. He is an experienced gyro pilot. He said he only gained about 50 feet altitude when the rotors slowed and the gyro started down. I was hoping you would read his post an learn from it. Again, I would not go full stick back, that makes no sense. Pitch for best glide. If I lost the engine, pitched for best glide, made a 45 degree turn towards the plateau, I would have had a fine place to land. I teach emergency procedures all the time and I have a very good feel for how far I can go. I don't know what you mean by "climb up above a mountain top", there was no terrain to climb over, as I was for the most part, staying level with the terrain. There were times on that flight where I didn't have a good place to go, but for the most part I did.
For the times when i was over the middle of the canyon, I still felt comfortable with the fact that the river was shallow enough to land in safely. Not preferred, though.


Re balancing on the mains, I don't have time in the Euro gyros so know nothing about the take off. I do know and understand very well the value of balancing on the mains for the small gyro.

When done correctly balancing teaches the student how to get the gyro in a take off attitude, how to add just a little power and fly just two or three feet off the ground, how to reduce power and land the gyro. This is done several times till the student is very comfortable with the controls and begins to feel what the gyro is doing.

As he feels more comfortable he takes off the ground and climbs maybe a foot or so higher and flys a bit further before landing. The practice teaches the student take off and landing at a very low level height and as he progresses he will learn to climb higher, fly further and land. He will know the sensitivity of the machine and know that he has he has to be gentle on the controls. There is more to balancing than this small bit but it is very useful in the small gyro.

RE your question about how one could get hurt not knowing about rotors...A new gyro CFI called me many years ago and asked how he could get hurt in the small gyro. He had had all his flight instruction in an Air& Space 18A but planned to teach in the students small two place gyro. I told him if he had to ask that question then he needed more flight instruction.
There are many more things more to know about gyro rotors than what the tach says!
Marion
e333333333333
 

BEN S

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Cammie, best as I can see your results arent the problem...it was the question.
If I wanted to compare motorcycle accident stats and chose full dress tourers like the current crop of 30K Harleys and compared that to dirt bikes 250 cc and up....which would have more accidents? How about reported accidents? Fatalities?
Someone might get the impression a dirt bike is way safer and has less accidents than a full dress Harley....couldnt be further from the truth! Which has more fatals? Different story again.
Single seat gyros arent flown the same way as big dreadnaughts.....
Curious, how much time and which type of single do you prefer to fly?
 

BEN S

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Marion, wonderful posts...all of them!
Wish I could join you for kbff.....its a bit far of a trip from Guam though!
 

M._Springer

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Ben, Thank you for the kind words re my posts.

Ben, Thank you for the kind words re my posts.

I too wish you could be here for the KBFF. Its always good to see you.
Marion
 

Vance

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Training. Not the gyroplane.

Training. Not the gyroplane.

Originally Posted by M._Springer View Post
I don't have time in the Euro gyros ....
Marion

Yet you feel qualified to criticise them?
I missed where Marion was critical of “Euro Gyros.”

It appeared to me she was critical of the training based on what she has seen and her analysis of “Euro Gyro” accidents.

I feel she is well qualified to make that critique Timothy.

Marion has many hours in gyroplanes as a CFI.
 
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