October 11, 2007
I got my first issue of AOPA Pilot about 2 weeks ago. Although I have been a member for 2 years, I have been receiving AOPA Flight Training instead. I opened it up to find many good articles on many different topics. I particularly enjoyed the article on Aerial Firefighting (Hot Shots, pg 104); but the article that stands out most in my mind is the one on Gyroplane (Old Dog, New Trick, pg 143). You remember these things? Has a rotor on top and and a regular prop in front? Maybe has a pair of short, stubby wings?
Apparently, they're starting to make a comeback. It's understandable, because according to the arcticle they only cost $20 per hour to operate; 1/5 of the cost of the C-172 on a good day and at a cheap FBO. Additionally, the gyroplane doesn't stall, making it safer than a helicopter. There is no tail rotor, because the aircraft uses something called autorotation to power the blades. The principal is similar to those toys you can buy for kids; if you drop the rotor, it begins to spin and slow the descent. Because it is driven by air, it does not produce torque. Although there are rudders, they are not needed for turns because "there is no adverse yaw" as the article says. The Groen Brothers' Website has an excellent description on how these things work)
The article cites one modern, law enforcement gyrocopter: the Hawk 4 Gyroplane. The Hawk 4 apparently saw service during the 2002 winter olympics, and was a huge success. The aircraft's cousin, the Hawk 5's specs are online, and looks to be comporable to a 172 in terms of cruise speed and cost. Maybe something to consider?
Information for this article taken from "Old Dog, New Trick: The gyroplane is half-airplane, half-helicopter and 100 percent fun" by Patrick R. Veillette; AOPA Pilot, October 2007 issue.
UPDATE: I found this video on youtube that I figure is worth sharing: