How To Fly An Autogyro


This is a blog about flying the autogyro. This post covers how to fly an autogyro from JFK to LAX.

If you get a chance, fly an autogyro.

They are fun. They are easy to fly and with a good instructor you’ll be comfortable flying one in three hours or less. The hardest part is learning the preflight inspection, which is pretty much the same as that of any small airplane. Other than that, it’s just plain fun.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken someone up and had them grinning like a fool when they got out of the cockpit.

The feeling is quite different from that of a plane. Because an autogyro has no stall speed there is no danger of stalling or spinning out of control like there can be in other aircraft. You can fly it all the way to the ground if you want, gently touching down at about 30 mph. It doesn’t have the speed of an airplane so you won’t be setting any cross-country records but it will give you a whole new perspective on flying.

I had my first flight in an autogyro back in 1985 and immediately knew I had to have one. I built my first one from plans in 1988 and have been flying ever since then. I now build kits for others who want to experience the thrill of flying their own gyroplane,

Flying an Autogyro has been described as “like driving a car in three dimensions” and is easier than flying a helicopter. There are two basic controls: the cyclic stick, which works like a car’s steering wheel and changes the angle of the rotor blades; and the collective, which changes the pitch of all blades evenly, increasing or decreasing lift.

It is easy to get airborne. To do so, you simply accelerate to around 60 kilometres per hour and use the cyclic to pull up into a climb. During takeoff and landing, you will have to use lots of right rudder to keep the nose straight.

The hardest manoeuvre is the landing, when you must simultaneously flare (pull back on the collective) and use right rudder to stop the aircraft swinging around. You can do this by trying out different combinations of inputs until you get it right, but it is much better if your instructor shows you how first.

It’s easy to think of reasons not to fly an autogyro in the rain. The rotor blades, after all, are made of wood and fabric. If a car skidded off the road and hit you, the car would be damaged but the autogyro might be destroyed. There are no windshield wipers. You have to wear a helmet, which makes it hard to hear or be understood when talking on your radio. If you were in a plane, you could just put on your oxygen mask and go to a higher altitude.

But I live in Los Angeles, where it almost never rains. So I had never flown in the rain before.

The first big rainstorm of the season was forecast for last Wednesday night, so on Thursday morning I decided to fly down to San Diego to see what would happen. I took off from Santa Monica Airport at 10:30 AM under mostly cloudy skies with light winds out of the south and southeast.

If you want to fly an autogyro, the first thing to do is learn to fly a helicopter. You may be tempted to start with an autogyro because they are supposed to be easier, but they aren’t.

Autogyros are not just helicopters with a different name; they behave differently in some fundamental ways. If you try to fly one without having learned on a helicopter, you will find yourself continually getting into trouble that you don’t know how to get out of.

If you insist on learning directly on an autogyro, the first thing you should do is get a really good instructor who has taught lots of people and whose students have mostly survived. Then follow his instructions exactly and don’t ask questions unless something really doesn’t make sense.

There are two ways to get from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York to Los Angeles International Airport. One is to take a plane; the other is to drive.

Both are bad. If you take the plane, you have to deal with security, which is a pain in the neck. To get from JFK to LAX on a plane, you usually have to change planes in Atlanta or Dallas or someplace where there’s an airport, and if you’ve ever been in Atlanta or Dallas you know that having to spend time there is no treat either.

If you drive across the country instead of flying, most people would agree it’s more fun because there’s more to see on the ground than through an airplane window. But if you don’t like driving, this is not a big benefit. Driving takes a long time; it takes at least 3 days, even if you swap drivers every few hours so that no one person has to drive for more than 8 hours a day (which is illegal anyway). And it costs more than flying: at $2.50 per gallon for gas, and 15 miles/gallon, and 2200 miles as the crow flies from JFK to LAX, that’s $440 just for gas (and another $100 or

You can fly from JFK to LAX in three hours, and you may well have done so. But it’s been fifty years since you could fly non-stop. Nowadays there are so many people traveling the route that it is easier and more profitable for airlines to sell tickets on multiple non-stop flights per day than just one faster one.

The first jet airliner was the Comet, put into service by British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) in 1952. It had a cruising speed of about 600 mph, about twice as fast as propeller planes, though still much less than half the speed of sound. In 1959 BOAC was flying the Comet 4, which had a cruising speed of about 620 mph.

In 1958 Pan Am started flying Boeing 707s on the JFK to LAX route, at a cruising speed of about 630 mph. The next year BOAC started flying its new De Havilland Comet 4s on the same route. They were only ten mph slower than the 707s.

But they weren’t carrying nearly as many passengers. The 707s had room for 157; the Comets only 80. The 707 could pay for itself with one flight per day; BOAC needed four flights per day (three in winter


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