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first time autogyro flying experience
Steven Allcock

Having had a long relationship with motorbikes and cars it seems a common step for men of a certain age to begin to look to the skies for further challenges. It was with this background that I heard of Roger Savage gyroplanes and a friend and I duly booked trial flights. We had both had very limited experience of fixed wing and micro lights respectively and therefore had very little to compare with.
 
The day of our flights arrived and we made the relatively short trip from our Lancashire homes to Carlisle airport to be greeted by the news that Roger had just taken off on a photographic job. No problem as Dave and Jeff, both club members and gyro pilots, were on hand to welcome us and to chat enthusiastically about all things gyro. After a full Monty breakfast in the bar we went to the hangars to view some aircraft and talk some more. From the almost skeletal Benson, through Merlin's, and the more sophisticated VPM and RAF 2000 aircraft. It very soon became clear from these discussions that whilst enjoyment and enthusiasm were in abundance that all training has safety as the foundation upon which all else is based. It was certainly very comforting to be greeted by such a warm and professional group of club members.

Roger then returned and after a short introduction and familiarisation with the twin seater VPM we were fitted with flying suits, crash helmets and head sets. By now quite a wind had developed and the microlight training run from the airfield had to be abandoned. We were concerned that our flights would also have to be rescheduled but thanks to the capabilities of gyros we could go ahead as planned. After the safety belts were secured we taxied out from the hangar and after no more than half the width of a football pitch we were airborne, effectively taxiing around the airfield at an altitude of fifteen feet or so. We then climbed rapidly to an altitude of about eight hundred feet and were treated to the full majesty of the local countryside stretching out before us towards Gretna in the distance.

Visibility was excellent and despite the wind there was almost no perceptible buffeting of the aircraft. This, it was later explained was due to the gyroscopic effect of the rotors spinning above our heads and I'm sure to the skill of our pilot. Moments later and I was given the stick and after the initial adrenaline surge it soon became clear that only very fine movements were required to make the craft either pitch or roll as required. The headsets meant that instructions were easy to hear and conversation was comfortably possible. Roger then demonstrated some gyro tricks by firstly reducing the ground speed to zero, which then allowed our instruments to reveal the 40-knot wind and he then showed the typical steep landing approach characteristic of gyros and the short landing run of no more than a few steps.

All too quickly the flight was over and it was back to the bar to compare stories with newfound friends. The autogyro experience is quite simply unique and having had further discussions with Roger it seems that training packages are not as expensive as you might imagine. Both of us are now in the process of starting our training but I would give you one note of caution before booking a trial flight at Carlisle and that is to make sure that you understand that if you try autogyro flight it is almost certain that you will want one. 
Happy landings!!!!!  

It is a story that can no doubt be told by many how I and friend Steve, both approaching a mid-life crisis, decided that if we didnít do something about our ambitions to fly now, we probably never would. Eventually after much talking and internet browsing we decided autogyros looked promising and a trial lesson in an autogyro was needed. So Steve and I ended up in Carlisle, our families safely booked in to a local hotel, on one sunny but blustery October day, to look at these autogyros. After a hearty breakfast and coffee in the bar we met Roger Savage and some other students. Whilst Roger was up with another student Steve and I were entertained in the hangar, looking at other autogyros and speaking to the student pilots. This was a most valuable time, and much was learnt about autogyros, the process of learning to fly and the Carlisle set-up.

Kitted out with suit, neck warmer, helmet, gloves and intercom I wedged my large frame in the front seat of the VPM. The radio was strapped to my left leg and the engine started. The main rotor was then started by a pre-rotator, a means of driving the main blade from the engine prior to flight. This is merely a starting mechanism, as the rotor is kept spinning by the passage of air through the blade. At lOOrpm the pre-rotator was disconnected and we waited for a further 5 minutes for the engine to reach temperature. At the end of this time the main rotor was spinning at 180 rpm. It was being driven by the prevailing wind.

After gaining clearance we taxied to the runway, although after a few feet this taxiing was at 20 feet above ground level, a right turn along the direction of the runway and we climbed to 700 feet and headed away from Carlisle. Communication with Roger sitting in the backseat was always clear and he talked about the controls and their effects, whilst I followed the movements in the front. After some turns I was given the control stick and the task of keeping the aircraft straight and level, aiming at a distant point and trying to keep the aircrafts nose a certain distance above the horizon. The view to Gretna was amazing. 

My overwhelming impression was how stable everything felt, whilst there was a lot of turbulence hitting the aircraft it did not pitch or roll in the same way as a light aircraft. I felt sure that Roger was helping me until he put his hands on my shoulders! A demonstration of a hover, flying into the wind at 35 knots such that our ground speed was nil, a touch and go on the main runway and a demonstration of a short field landing by touching down on the taxiway near the hangars brought the flight to an end far too soon. 

What did I think of the flight? I felt much more confident in the aircraft than I have in fixed wing planes, and was impressed by the autogyros ability to take off and land in short distances. Whilst I realize there is a lot to learn, the trial lesson gave me the impression it was something I could do. Time will tell if that is right as I have joined the club and am arranging my first lessons. It seems most people who take the trial flight do! 
 

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