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lies, damn lies and autogyro accident rates?

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lies, damn lies and autogyro accident rates?

Old 8th May 2017, 22:36
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lies, damn lies and autogyro accident rates?

a 3 axis microlight pilot I know has suddenly got the autogyro (gyroplane) bug, sold his aircraft and bought a nice shiny new autogyro. He is well into training for it. I queried the atrocious accident rate with him and was informed;

the early ones were dangerous because they lacked a horizontal stabiliser, POI caught people out. My one doesn't suffer from this.

Not being overly convinced I just thought I would see what G-INFO has to add to this.


One of the modern, safe, two seat machines popular in the UK has one sixth (the same rate as Russian Roulette with a revolver!) of the UK fleet de-registered due to "aircraft destroyed". A couple of the other types fair a little better but not much.

Does any one know if there any other sport aviation machines with an accident record that bad?

I was going to check the R22 record but life is too short. It is not as simple as just looking at de-registered entries because changed registration and sold abroad also show up in G-INFO de-registered listings.

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Old 8th May 2017, 22:50
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Bede 5, Bede 10, Rutan Quickie, Pou-de-Ciel (Mignet Flying Flea), Southern Aero Sports Scorpion, Granville Bros Gee Bee R1, Rand KR-2?

The smaller the quantity built, the more greater the chance of a high accident rate.

Its easy to read too much into statistics when taken at face value though. The Cirrus SR22 is a safe aeroplane, but its airframe parachute may give its pilots the confidence to carry on into weather that requires abilities they don't have.

With respect to autogyros specifically, there is a list of accidents worldwide by type, although it appears to be lacking recent updates:


Last edited by Mechta; 8th May 2017 at 23:33.
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Old 9th May 2017, 05:04
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The gyroplane without a horizontal stabiliser your friend refers to was the Aircommand design and it had a pretty horrific accident rate. Things got so bad in the mid 1990's UK CAA commisioned Glasgow university to do a study into gyro flight characteristics using a modified 2 seat Montgomerie Bensen machine which was heavily instrumented .The more recent designs solved the problem of centre of thrust line/c of g and size of horizontal stab required which has reduced the incidence of powered push over . Still see lots if accidents reported but it seems to be more on a par with other ultra light types these days .BG
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Old 9th May 2017, 08:36
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The very early ones didn't suffer from the power pushover problem, either. They had the engine in front and a horizontal stabiliser at the back.
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Old 9th May 2017, 10:49
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Anecdotally the gyro accidents fall into two distinct categories:

"Early" gyros - gross instability leading to inflight loss of control, in flight break up and other terminal for the machine and almost inevitably fatal for the operator accidents. Total number of accidents / deaths low as gyro was mainly homebuilt, production numbers limited and flight hours low due to reliability but rate per flight / hour / number very high. (numbers stagnated to about 30 ish on the UK reg at any one time...as one was built another crashed.)

"Modern" gyros - mainly factory built and in the UK compliant with / to Section T. Large(ish) numbers. Introduced a whole new group of people to gyro flying as a cool looking crossover between weight-shift micros / helicopters and motorbikes.
Accidents mainly look like rollovers on take-off / landing at low(ish) speed and performance planning resulting in hitting obstacle in take-off path. (short take off but very long clearway needed). Both painful but usually much less fatal for the occupants though it does leave a fair number of written off machines.

In conclusion for a new gyro hull insurance likely to be (relatively) expensive (if available) but much less chance of being dead than in the old ones. I've flown a couple of newer models and I'm a chicken.
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Old 9th May 2017, 10:57
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Daysleeper..."early" gyros...how far back are you going?

The early ones I'm thinking of go back to the late 1920s / early 1930s.

A modern one on a similar theme: Little Wing Autogyros, Inc..

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Old 9th May 2017, 11:05
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"early" gyros...how far back are you going?
Fair point well made...

A better example may be is the design concept pre or post the CAA Glasgow report and the evolution of Section T. Obviously there are crossovers and types originally designed "pre" that had been modded to improve stability and so on and make them more like "post."

PS see that little-wing does look very cool, in the opposite way from how the MTO Sport manages to also look cool.
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Old 9th May 2017, 11:11
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Originally Posted by ShyTorque View Post
Daysleeper..."early" gyros...how far back are you going?

The early ones I'm thinking of go back to the late 1920s / early 1930s.

A modern one on a similar theme: Little Wing Autogyros, Inc..

Those machines look very strange to me.
In Germany, we´re more used to the machines from AutoGyro:
AutoGyro - Home

Although I don´t really know their specific safety record, a friend who´s flying one of them, is always telling me about their performance (W&B-wise) and cost compared to "real" helis.

Maybe in summer I will take the chance and fly with him. ;-)

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Old 9th May 2017, 13:29
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I think the new factory built machines are far less prone to inflight failures however autogyros do not respond well to pilot error during takeoff and landing. Essentially there are three main issues as far as I can see:

Firstly, a forward airspeed that is too high for the current rotor RPM as a result of pilot error during takeoff or landing, will result in an uncontrollable rollover because the blades are unable to flap to equality (unless the pilot is quick to push the stick forward to reduce the angle of attack, whilst simultaneously reducing airspeed).

Secondly, landing in a crosswind, pilot error can result in drifting or crabbing during touchdown, and with the tricycle undercarriage and relatively high CofG, coupled with the lift vector from the rotors, you can find yourself experiencing dynamic rollover very quickly.

Thirdly, during takeoff or go-around, finding yourself behind the drag curve and running out of clearway! This is a particular problem in a crosswind partly due to trying to avoid the second point of drifting or crabbing during ground contact. An autogyro requires an acceleration in ground effect phase, in order to get on the right side of the drag curve. But if you continue sideslipping once airborne in a strong crosswind, you're giving yourself an awful lot more drag which in many cases can result in very little acceleration. The pilot needs to recognise this lack of acceleration and commence crabbing whilst being very careful not to make ground contact again. At the same time, they need to remain very alert to the requirement to immediately re-enter sideslip should ground contact be required again.

All three of those gotchas are actually very closely linked and are occurring whilst very close to the ground. It's easy to see why people come a cropper with them, and in all honesty, I'm not entirely sure they are super well understood by low timers.

The high accident rate is due to the fact that generally, people buy an autogyro and then are trained on it, or they train an a school gyro and then immediately buy one. A lack of practical experience and an inadequate understanding of the issues, results in the accident rate that we see. Personally, I think the training of the fundamental understanding of these threats and what to do should you suddenly realise you're in imminent danger of experiencing them, could be a lot better.
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Old 9th May 2017, 19:10
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Someone may find this footage interesting.....

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Old 10th May 2017, 22:11
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IMO as a PPL(A) and PPL(G) the concentration and finesse needed to fly a gyrocopter is similar to that needed to fly a fixed-wing taildragger.

Prior to buying my MT-03 and I read every available AAIB report for the type. I was not put off and did not, and do not, consider the modern gyrocopter concept inherently unsafe.
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Old 10th May 2017, 22:33
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I concur with GS-Alpha. After reading a bunch of fatal accident reports from my corner of the globe it seems that a lack of thorough training played a significant part in the causes. Pilots were getting themselves into areas of the flight envelope that they were not properly prepared for and their gyro bit back hard with fatal results.
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Old 10th May 2017, 23:39
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Does anyone know if fly by wire with flight envelope protection has ever been considered / implemented for autogyros?
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Old 26th May 2017, 11:17
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I fly a single seat gyro in the UK PPL(G) I have a lapsed PPL(A) and used to teach gliding
the PPL(G) training focused many hours on rotor management.. the pilot looked at the blades and by look and feel performed a take off. this has now been deskilled by a ststematic procedual take off technique eg still still and pre rotate, when rotor RPM reaches XX then go full throttle and full stick back. and a take off will work. if you do not do exactly that then the take off will fail, often with bad results. the trainee pilot is being de-skilled.
autorotating rotor blades can produce a huge amount of drag, they can operate like a huge brake parachute, upon climb out or overshoot it's very, very easy to get the wrong side of the drag curve, it can be like deploying a brake parachute. some accident reports say gyro would not climb or engine was not producing enough power. if fact the pilots and investigators may not recognise that the gyro was behind the drag curve, (or power required curve if that is easier to understand).
gyros and guns are safe it all comes down to the training and operation in my opinion.
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Old 26th May 2017, 11:24
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my single seat machine is like a dirt bike, it is not a big x-country machine, if i wanted to go long distance from airfield to airfield I would use a fixed wing, it's warmer and more echonomical, I do not need gyroplane performance (short landing distance and tight turning capability) to cruise from A to B and land on a 1,000 mtr runway whilst drinking 20 ltrs per hour at 2,500 ft, but I would need warm clothing.
gyroplanes are very, very different to fixed wing
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Old 26th May 2017, 11:33
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You make a sweeping statement about current training that I can't agree with. I did mine in 2014 with Roger Savage and there was a lot of emphasis on rotor management.

Also, I was not taught stick back/FULL throttle as a default take-off and nor is that the method in the latest training manuals from Gyrocopter Experience.

I'm sure there are good and not so good instructors out there (as there will be for any type of flying) but your assertion that there is systemic deskilling (by which I assume you actually mean insufficient training) is not one I recognise.

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Old 26th May 2017, 11:36
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I taxi my gyro with blades turning (it reduces stress on the head as you taxi over bumps)
It is possible to taxi too fast with the stick in the wrong place stall and wreck the gyro ... whilst taxiing. As I take off, if go to full power when the blades are not up to speed I will end up next to the runway in the middle of a pile of scrap metal.
Gyros have a high C of G and narrow under carridge, If I turn quickly after landing it will easily tip over and be wrecked. If a rotor blade travelling at about 300mph touches the ground the gyroplane will be wrecked.
both new and old Gyros are safe, you just need to know how to operate them.
and from a design point of view all flying machines that I have come across have their own design flaws that applies to both new and onld gyros, new and old fixed wing as well.
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Old 26th May 2017, 11:49
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Rojer was old school, he came from a single seat environment then the M16, Rojer knows rotor management and I am not at all surprised he taught it extensivly, he knows it's value.
you mention "the latest training manuals".. this suggests that things have changed and I hope improved. I wonder if the manufacturer has also decided to change the pilots notes to match the new procedure ? out of interest what gyro do you fly ?, is it fitted with a rotor tach and powerful pre rotator ? can you fling start the blades and bring them up to speed if the pre-rotator fails? if either fail is it a no fly situation ?
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Old 26th May 2017, 11:54
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an aaib report accident 2010
Whilst taking off the student pilot did not use the
technique he had been taught, resulting in a loss of
control and the gyroplane rolling on to its side. The pilot
received minor injuries.
History of the flight
The student pilot was departing on a solo cross-country
flight in fine weather. He lined up on Runway 10 and, in
accordance with the normal takeoff procedure, selected
full forward cyclic before he engaged the pre-rotator.
The student pilot reported that, during a normal takeoff,
once the rotor has reached 220 rpm, the pre-rotator
should be disengaged, the brakes released, the cyclic
moved fully aft and the throttle advanced. Having
carried out these actions, as the gyroplane increases
speed down the runway, the relative airflow will
accelerate the rotor and at about 340 rpm the gyroplane
will become airborne.
On this occasion, the pilot did not select aft cyclic
before he began the takeoff roll. He realised that the
takeoff was not proceeding normally at the same time
as hearing his instructor, who was watching from beside
the control tower, say “stick back” over the radio. The
pilot pulled back on the cyclic, the gyroplane became
airborne, pitched nose up and rolled left. The rotor
blades struck the ground and the gyroplane came to rest
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Old 26th May 2017, 12:36
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Phil Harwood is old school too and I'd guess many of the new breed of instructors are from his stable.

I fly an MT03. The handbook does not go into great detail about take-off but what it does say is correct and adequate. How much power you use will depend on the runway surface and a/c loading and the manual does not cover every eventuality - but that's the same with heli and fixed wing permit types.

I have had a pre-rotator gearbox fail. I did not, and would not, fly in such a situation - so fling starting would not be an option, for me anyway. My concern would be less about getting the rotor turning and more about what might happen to the components that were broken!

Not sure what point you are making with the AAIB report? The student didn't do what he was trained to do. So what? That's nothing to do with gyros. I can quote a fixed wind report where the student failed to raise flaps on a go-round and spun in. People make mistakes and accidents happen.

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