History of Gyrocopters
In 1919 a Spanish man named Juan de la Cierva, whilst pondering the crash of a large three-engine bomber that crashed on its initial flight when it stalled, had the brilliant insight to see the wing differently. An aircraft will stall when the air passing over the wing fails to generate enough lift at slow speed. He reasoned that stalls could be effectively eliminated if the wing itself moved independently of the aircraft.
The rotor, a moving, stall-proof wing, was placed on top of an existing fuselage. He patented the name "Autogiro" and it flew by autorotation - "the process of producing lift with freely-rotating aerofoils by means of the aerodynamic forces resulting from an upward flow of air." Air coming up through the rotor would generate lift, and should the Autogiro's motor fail, it would gently descend while air flowed upward through the rotor blades.
Between 1920 - 23 Cierva progressively developed autorotation through various models of autogyro developing more sophisticated designs with a means to tilting rotor head, altering individual blade pitch, pre-rotaters and forms of "jump takeoff" capacity.
The rotor would be spun up at zero pitch and then "snapped" into a positive angle, causing the aircraft to "jump" into air.
Unfortunately for the autogyro, the world's attention became riveted on the stunning indoor demonstrations of a helicopter in 1938.
Following the death of Cierva in the crash of a KLM DC-2 bound for Amsterdam from London in 1936, the Cierva Autogiro Company would shift the focus of their efforts towards developing a helicopter.
Even though Cierva-licensed Autogiros would be used by the British, French, Russian and Japanese forces, including the daily calibration of the coastal radars that enabled the RAF to defeat the German Luftwaffe and win the Battle of Britain, the Autogiro would all but disappear by the end of WWII.
The most familiar of the WWII autorotational developments were the English and German rotary kites launched from German submarines at the end of a 400 ft tether to increase target observation.
Looking like Cierva's vision would merely be a minor footnote to helicopter development, it did survive due to a Russian immigrant called Igor Bensen.
With a degree in mechanical engineering, Igor Bensen began work for General Electric on their helicopter development efforts.
While working on the project, Bensen flew and gained almost exclusive use of a surplus Autogiro and gained a deep understanding of the dynamics and theory of autorotational flight.
In 1953 Bensen founded his own company and introduced various Gyro-Gliders, towed behind a vehicle and deriving its lift from an unpowered rotor.
Eventually came the B-7M (M for motorized) which first flew in 1955 with Bensen as pilot.
Bensen called his creation a Gyrocopter, a term he subsequently trademarked.
The subsequent B-8M model, incorporating the improvements developed and tested in the B-7M, was placed into production in 1957 and became the most produced and copied aircraft design in history and provided, in kit form and plan-built, the most popular way to fly.
The Bensen, and its variants and local adaptation were to dominate the American Gyrocopter movement for almost twenty-five years.
In Europe, however, it was a different story. England's Wing Commander Kenneth H. Wallis and others began with Bensen kits or plans, but soon modified the design, taking gyrocopter design into some very un-Bensen-like directions.
Wallis, who would achieve international fame with "Little Nellie", a WA-116 autogyro, in the 1967 James Bond film "You Only Live Twice", remains an honored pilot, world record holder and designer.
Behold the 21st century and the arrival of a great advancement in gyrocopter design and engineering incorporating comfort, ease of operation and safety.
There are now around half a dozen top quality gyrocopter manufacturers, mainly from Europe, each of them having multiple models of gyrocopter, fully assembled, for sale, which makes it a great time to get started in aviation by learning to fly a safe future proof aircraft.
The versatility of the modern gyro now include water or snow operations with the use of floats or skis, police and border patrols, Search and Rescue and Agricultural flying. Over 1,000 gyrocopters worldwide are used by authorities for military and law enforcement. Autogyro's Cavalon is now certified for night flying in the UK.
In 2002, Groen Brothers Aviation's (GBA) Hawk 4 provided perimeter patrol for the Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. The aircraft completed 67 missions and accumulated 75 hours of maintenance-free flight time during its 90-day operational contract.
Extending from the gyrocopter's extra comfort and safety qualities, comes a more common desire for gyro pilots to attempt longer flights across countries and even around the world.
From 2009 to 2010 for the first time a world tour was undertaken by a German pilot couple Melanie and Andreas Stütz who flew in 18 months in different gyrocopter types in Europe, southern Africa, Australia, New Zealand, USA and South America. The adventure was documented in the book "WELTFLUG - The Gyroplane Dream" and in the film "Weltflug.tv - The Gyrocopter World Tour".
The Time Has Arrived
So there has never been a better time to get into the gyrocopter world. A relatively affordable form of aviation with safe, comfortable and easy to fly, factory built gyrocopters. An easy and exciting way to get into the air and to be as free as a bird, in a way you may never have thought possible.