Wisconsin - Sport Copter Vortex - Fatal - N634SC

GyrOZprey

Aussie in Kansas.
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This accident scenario...is way too familiar...& I also thought of the chap in a SC in 2013... the one Kevin mentioned ...when the student (IIRC...was not signed off to solo flight either)...was doing taxi-with rotor exercises & got unexpected altitude close to end off runway ...and blasted off mushing around the pattern behind the power curve until it lost flyable power & came down hard!

We need to compile an accident case handbook ...to hand out to those scofflaws who get that great barn-find deal / estate sale gyros ...get a few hours with a CFI ...& think they can fly THEIR gyro! .....might save a life or add some caution to those with the "deadly attitudes"!
 

Kevin_Richey

Yamaha gyro...Oregon, USA
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That particular accident "pilot" actually had purchased his Vortex from an estate, where the previous owner had passed away from old age, after flying that gyro safely for many, many years.

He then let the gyro sit for many years @ his home B/4 finally deciding to learn to fly. He took Cessna 172 lessons until he felt ready to get gyro training. I tell people that tricycle gear airplane training is almost useless for learning to fly a gyroplane, other than getting comfortable in the airport environment. The control yoke, the lack of visibility outside from the cockpit, the dash mounted throttle knob that moves in the opposite direction that a gyroplane's throttle does, & the lack of very much needed rudder pedal action don't help @ all.

He then went to Airgyro in Utah for training. Took a week off from his job as a millwright. When he got back home, he rang me up, complaining that Michael Burton seemed too laid back, not training him more than an hour in the AM, and another in the PM, each day, in spite of the fact he had let MB know he only had a week to get his rating! I never met him in person, only having a couple of phone calls w/ him.

He then got ONE hour dual training w/ Jim Vanek, of Sport Copter. Neither CFI signed him off for solo work. He let his impatience get the better than him & he went out to the airport to start runways flights (not just taxying around!) One competent gyroplane pilot that was friends w/ him observed & was filming his first two runway flights. He related to me later that they were very poor landings. On the third RW flight, the guy tried to land, but apparently felt he needed to go around, since he was out of paved runway at that point.

On downwind, the expert witness mentioned in the NTSB report heard the high-rpms of the Rotax 582 engine flying by, exiting his hangar to see what was the cause of the noise. He observed the extreme nose-high attitude of the gyroplane, as it was descending(!), and was alarmed, as mentioned in the report. The witness is a very experienced helicopter, gyroplane, & airplane pilot.

The gyro disappeared into some tall fir trees near the south end of the airport, where it hit hard. The fellow filming had stopped doing so because the gyro was too far away (about a mile) to see it in his viewfinder. He reported that he heard a loud "Whack", and the gyro rapidly descending vertically out of sight into that tree area. Shortly after, black smoke rose up.

Other witnesses & the filming fellow drove over to see if they could help. The gyro was on fire, as well as the grassy area around. It was an extremely hot, summer day. The pilot was also on fire, and had been thrown about 15' away out of the seat. I never viewed the video taken, which also included the crash scene w/ everything still on fire. They attempted to put out the fire on the fellow, and could tell he was already gone.

The over-eager pilot had a wife & 8 children. I never saw the video. Didn't wish to. The person filming the video seemed to brag to me that he had promised the NTSB that he would not show the video to anyone other than them. A couple of weeks later he called me up, asking if I wanted to view it...
 

WaspAir

Supreme Allied Gyro CFI
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I should point out that taking off & landing deliberately in downwind conditions was not taught to me by any CFIs I had training with.
There's good reason for that.
Except for balloons, where every landing is downwind by necessity, I teach downwind landing only for those fields that have a significant slope in the runway direction., where the effect of the tailwind and the slope counter each other. In any other condition, it seems just silly to me. A great advantage of rotorcraft is that so much of one's speed can be dissipated before contacting the ground (as Sikorsky said, stop and then land, instead of land and then stop). Why would one intentionally give that away?

I expect students to have two things always in mind: (1) where will I land if all goes quiet, and (2) what direction is the wind there?
 

Cammie Patch

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If this was a Rotax 582, I would like to know if it had warmed up enough before take off. It sure sounds like a cold seizure, where the cylinder hasn't heated up as fast as the piston, which expands and seizes. Will be easy to see if someone looks at the pistons.
It's not only aircraft handling that is important in flying, but getting an understanding of the mechanical aspect is very important too. When I fly a new type of aircraft I will first go read the accident reports, they reveal the weak areas.
 

DavePA11

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Expect many accidents are never reported especially with aircrafts using 2-stroke engines. I did the same thing prior to buying my SC gyro since I felt it was very safe gyro to fly. I would be interested to hear from manufactures on their thoughts on using bladder fuel tanks.
 

GyroCFI

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I always taught downwind landings to EVERY student, as well as climbing to a safe altitude and distance that if a downwind landing was necessary then there was a high degree of probably that they would make it. I pulled the power quite a few times on students both near the airport and while in the practice area to make sure that they could not only make a good landing at the airport, but know the direction of the wind at all times so they could stack the odds in their favor if an off-airport landing was necessary. In central Illinois every field has waterways that can make a nice landing spot so we used those frequently. I let the student get within a few feet of the ground before throttling up just to make sure they knew they could make it if necessary....
 

Vance

Gyroplane CFI
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Nipomo,California
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I feel performing a downwind landing in a gyroplane is a useful skill.

In my opinion a successful downwind landing is about airspeed rather than ground speed and it looks very different than a landing into the wind.

I have seen people get confused by the different sight picture and surprised when the gyroplane tries to swap ends with negative air speed.

A power off downwind landing can be challenging.
 

j4flyer

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Woodland, Ca
I know of two engine out downwind fatalities. Even experts can fall victim. There is a YouTube video of Commander Wallis’ accident while doing a downwind landing. To clarify, two different machines. One was a two place during a demo ride, both killed. Another a single place, one lost.
 

WaspAir

Supreme Allied Gyro CFI
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In my view, if you don't have enough altitude to reach the intended field and turn into the wind, then the field is not in gliding range.

The shape and location of the zone of potential landing sites beneath you is determined by the winds.
 

PW_Plack

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In my view, if you don't have enough altitude to reach the intended field and turn into the wind, then the field is not in gliding range.

If I find myself actually forced to glide to reach an airport or other survivable LZ, and it's going to be close, I'll sacrifice that rule for the extra margin in glide distance, even if it means I'll have my hands full for a few seconds once I touch down. Risking a tip-over on the runway may be the more acceptable risk in some cases.
 

thomasant

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Sometimes, a field that seems initially okay for landing may be too far to make in the actual glide depending on the wind speed and direction, and it is possible to stretch the glide by increasing the A/S. Sometimes it is the other way around, and the float period is too long. This can result in a premature flare and a hard landing. D/W landings are challenging due to the increased G/S for the indicated A/S. The only way is to practice these skills regularly. I feel that newbies get airborne unintentionally and then have trouble putting it down safely. Mostly, they go way behind the power curve and crash.
 

WaspAir

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D/W landings are challenging due to the increased G/S for the indicated A/S. The only way is to practice these skills regularly.
Not the only way. The other way is to turn around and land into the wind. It's much safer and easier.

I'm surprised at all the enthusiasm I see here for landing downwind. Maybe it is philosophically connected to our disagreements about crosswind landings on other threads. As I have said elsewhere, I don't do conventional x-wind landings at all; I just turn into the wind, eliminating the cross-wind component, believing that landing into wind is simple, effective, and safe. From that point of view, I believe in treating downwind like a 180 degree crosswind. I turn around and land into it. Do you guys really practice with quartering tailwinds, say a 135 degree crosswind? The odds of a pure tailwind are rather low.

I shared my hangar for a while with a Pitts Special that I had watched land downwind, stand on its nose, and do two full rotations on the spinner before plopping down on and crushing the left wingtip(s). I have also seen gliders come to grief downwind when they experienced control reversal on roll-out. I have seen pilots throw a traffic pattern into chaos when they flew opposite the direction of those operating into wind. I don't see any safety virtue in practicing an unnecessarily risky procedure.

I believe in demonstrating downwind approaches for students so that they see the effects and fully understand the peril, but not teaching it as something to be practiced. The time and training is better spent on learning and practicing ways to read the wind direction from altitude to avoid the situation, and in developing the willingness to do a go-around when a misjudgment of the wind has been detected.

Practicing downwind landings has about as much appeal to me as practicing ditching.
 
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Vance

Gyroplane CFI
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The reason I teach downwind landings is because it happens.

I have landed at San Luis Obispo and had a twelve knot head wind turn into a nine knot tail wind during my descent several times.

I have had similar experience at Santa Paula and to a lesser degree at Santa Maria (SMX). At SMX they don’t switch from runway three zero to runway one two till wind is 120 degrees at seven knots. I land on runway two if those are the conditions.

I even had it happen once at San Martin and several times at Hollister.

I come in with a little power to increase rudder authority and touch down at a higher ground speed. My airspeed indicator does not read that low.

In my opinion I have not come close to trouble.
 

thomasant

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"Practicing downwind landings has about as much appeal to me as practicing ditching."

I had an experience with a D/W landing with a passenger on board due to the prerotator engaging during flight.

In the overall context, what I mean is regularly practicing all the skills, including D/W landings
 

WaspAir

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The reason I teach downwind landings is because it happens.
I have landed at San Luis Obispo and had a twelve knot head wind turn into a nine knot tail wind during my descent several times. . . .
In my opinion I have not come close to trouble.
I'm pleased that it has worked out well for you, Vance. In my own case, if I have a major surface windshift to tailwind while in the pattern, I'll go around, and pick a suitable Plan B, as my way of keeping away from trouble.
 

Philbennett

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I agree WaspAir - I find it incredible that we have anyone practice downwind landings simply because if nothing else what message is that sending to your students? What next, turn backs to the runway you just left on engine failure?
 

thomasant

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I feel there is value in learning as much as one can learn about how to deal with unexpected situations if and when they arise. If my instructor is able to demonstrate advanced maneuvers, I believe the exposure will only help me in a situation if I am on my own.

I wish someone had taught me about the reversal of airflow phenomenon that can occur when the rotor overspeeds, and maybe I might not have crashed in December.

Two weeks ago I witnessed a near rollover on T/O. The pilot had inadvertently used the switch for back trim instead of rotor brake and he had to deal with a backward force of about 350 lbs which was what the actuator was designed for. So the stick could not be advanced forward while accelerating.

Yes, this particular gyroplane is designed with a trim actuator of 350 lbs and an electric rotor brake actuator that will also push the rotor head forward with 350 lbs of force. Such are the type of machines that are now in the market.

I wonder if the pilots of these gyros are trained to deal with an unexpected runaway trim situation, I doubt it. But it is something that we have since addressed in our club, as we have two such machines.

I may not teach downwind landings to a student, but I would like them to see the difference in the attitude and ground speed. So I demonstrate it to them. IMHO, advanced maneuvers that are not included in the training syllabus are an individual's decision to learn as they progress on their own.
 

XXavier

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I feel there is value in learning as much as one can learn about how to deal with unexpected situations if and when they arise. If my instructor is able to demonstrate advanced maneuvers, I believe the exposure will only help me in a situation if I am on my own.

I wish someone had taught me about the reversal of airflow phenomenon that can occur when the rotor overspeeds, and maybe I might not have crashed in December.

Two weeks ago I witnessed a near rollover on T/O. The pilot had inadvertently used the switch for back trim instead of rotor brake and (...)

Could you please elaborate...? That 'reversal of airflow' phenomenon is completely unknown to me...
 

DavePA11

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Thomasant - So if you are accelerating on take off and need to push the stick slightly forward to increase airspeed there is something that prevents that on the gyro you mentioned?

I agree it is important to continue to learn under different conditions as long as it is safe to do so in the gyro you are flying. Operating the Sportcopter Vortex M912 in many off airport locations gives you experiences which you learn from under many different weather and surface conditions. I found the gyrocopter much more tolerant to varying wind conditions than fixed wing, but surface gradients were much harder to handle. Landing up hill was more important than into the wind. More important to avoid side slants on take off than taking off into the wind given enough surface for safe takeoff. Sometimes had to do 180 on climb out to avoid obstacles. Found out the gyro had limited traction on icy and muddy surfaces with gradients. Need to avoid repetitive bumps on takeoff surface and keep rotor rpms high. In writing this I wouldn’t have been able to do any of the off airport flying with the two place gyros I trained in. Sportcopter M912 sure is an amazing gyro. Wish I had the same skills as some of the other CFIs...They make it look easy. The bush fixed wing planes are better suited for more off airport adventures IMO.
 
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