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McCulloch J2

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McCulloch J2

Old 5th Aug 2018, 22:44
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McCulloch J2

Apologies if this isnít quite the right forum, but has anyone here had any first hand experience with the McCulloch J2 gyroplane which was certified and produced in small numbers in the early Ď70ís? Or, does anyone know of one lurking in the back of a hangar or shed gathering dust, or even any parts for one?

Many thanks.
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Old 6th Aug 2018, 00:41
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Don't know, if this will help you, but this one seems to have been flying only 10 years ago:

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Old 6th Aug 2018, 04:10
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I have some time in one. It's a handful to fly near the ground. As noted, there were very few produced, and even fewer remaining. Not fun when the engine is off. Look for something else, anything else.
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Old 6th Aug 2018, 05:58
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The J2 was designed by Drago Jovanovich and morphed into the H269 with Hughes and became the TH55/H269. If you believe the stories when he worked for Hughes he also had a hand in designing the H500 rotorhead
as well. Which if you look further you will notice that even the AH64 is only a fat version of the 500 head.

I was in El Segundo in the early 80's and went with a couple of guys to this small shop and was introduced to him as he was working on a tip jet powered OH6A.

The guys told me to go and have a look in a small cabinet in the corner and there was the prototype of the J2 H269 head and mast.

Interesting guy to talk to.
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Old 6th Aug 2018, 09:27
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CSE had one as a demonstrator at Oxford in the early in the early 1970s.
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Old 6th Aug 2018, 11:35
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Originally Posted by ethicalconundrum View Post
I have some time in one. It's a handful to fly near the ground. As noted, there were very few produced, and even fewer remaining. Not fun when the engine is off. Look for something else, anything else.
Well, Iíve got one here so Iíll be looking at it! It hasnít flown for a while so Iím in the process of going right over it thouroughly before itís sent back into the air.
Can you elobrate on what you mean that itís a handful near the ground? I understand that early on they had issues with the rigid link nose wheel steering causing over controlling and roll-overs?
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Old 6th Aug 2018, 12:23
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Many years ago I did my Gyro training on the J2, was licenced, then conducted certification test flying on the machine.
Strange but true.
This was over 40 years ago but ......
I thought that it wasn't a bad way of converting avgas into noise (good earplugs required), but a few things come to mind.
The static directional stability was a bit weak with low side forces to cue the pilot of sideslip.
The major problem with this was that the airspeed PEC corrections changed dramatically in sideslip. Not much sideslip was required for the IAS to drop to zero at virtually any speed. This was fixed by fitting a shrouded pitot head.
I didn't much like the capability to easily reach a zero rate of climb speed at full power. That is, a speed at which descent was required to accelerate to a speed at which the aircraft would climb. If I recall correctly this was a speed that was fairly high compared to the low speeds which could be safely (except for the required acceleration to a climb speed} flown during a descent
Taxiing in winds required attention to avoid blade sailing of the rotor.
Generally, I thought the handling was Ok including practice forced landings with idle power. Care was required as the high drag at low speed could cause airspeed control difficulties.
Great fun to land and stop on a postage stamp, needed much more room to take-off though.
Another poster here was the flight test engineer for this flying, his recollections may be more accurate than mine.
Have lots of fun!

Last edited by zzuf; 6th Aug 2018 at 12:43.
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Old 6th Aug 2018, 13:04
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If the J2 was mine I would:
1. Fit a shrouded pitot head which was good for up to about 30 degrees of sideslip.
2. Early in your flight test/famil programme establish the full power zero rate of climb speed. (Yes, I know this will vary depending on......)
3. Work up a technique to fly from any low speed to climb speed and know how much height you loose in the acceleration.
4. Practice minimum speed approaches and go arounds at a safe altitude until familiar with the drag characteristics and the zero rate of climb situation.
The reason for the shrouded pitot recommendation is that even a small, unnoticed, sideslip angle may give an an airspeed error which leaves you, unknowingly below zero rate of climb speed.
Personally, I would fit an airspeed switch to operate an audio warning at the zero rate of climb speed. It may be necessary to work out a satisfactory but foolproof method of cancelling this warning when it is a nuisance.
Oh, and it really is easy to fly, just different.
My total flying was just over 15 hours.

Last edited by zzuf; 6th Aug 2018 at 13:23.
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Old 6th Aug 2018, 13:18
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Watching the Takeoff in the Video....I am thinking "Son of Jaguar"!
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Old 6th Aug 2018, 20:33
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Thanks ZZUF, very helpful. As I mentioned, I’ve got a bit of work ahead of me before this J2 sees air under its wheels; it is in very tidy condition but having been in storage for a decade time will have taken its toll to some extent.
Im in NZ, and I’ve managed to track down a couple of J2 owners in Oz. It seems that none are flying there any more? I don’t suppose you would have any contacts these days of owners, or even where any parts may be lurking?
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Old 6th Aug 2018, 22:04
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The International Helicopter Museum at Weston has a McCulloch J-2, built in 1971 Their J-2 Gyroplane has a three-bladed rotor mounted above an enclosed cabin, the museums example was bought for the Bahrain Police in 1971 and in 1981 was transferred to the UK.

It arrived at the museum a few years ago. They may have documentation as well.
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Old 7th Aug 2018, 06:24
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Watching the Takeoff in the Video....I am thinking "Son of Jaguar"!
And that needed afterburner to get airborne - not an option for the J2 presumably
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Old 7th Aug 2018, 08:13
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Originally Posted by [email protected] View Post
And that needed afterburner to get airborne - not an option for the J2 presumably
I thought that maximum weight was exceeded due to large brass balls of the pilot?

cheers SLB
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Old 7th Aug 2018, 08:41
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The CSE aircraft was cancelled as destroyed with a private owner in Sussex in 1975.

Looking for an accident report for G-AZWZ - didn't find one but came across this recent article which you may have seen:


Last edited by treadigraph; 7th Aug 2018 at 11:18. Reason: Added year of cancellation
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Old 7th Aug 2018, 10:46
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Great article and clearly indicating why that little beastie did not make its mark on the aviation world. I agree though it looks a great static exhibit!

The Autogiro [autogyro] was an important step in the development of the helicopter but it was best left where it was in 1939.... halted by the war .... and not ressurected.

Unfortunately it was revisited by several small manufacturers as the supposed 'uncrashable' rotary wing solution and the J2 was just one example. Another worse example was the Thruxton Gadfly [ see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gadfly_HDW.1 ] which was truly awful ... akin to getting 1 ton van in the air. The Air and Space 18 was perhaps a better attempt [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_%26_Space_18A ] but even that failed to sell in any numbers.

Why have a machine that is not a helicopter if you can have the real thing?

There are other much lighter solutions but as soon as you try and turn them into machines sporting a grown up cabin it loses all sensibility. I noted also that as soon as they fitted a cabin to the things they got all important and decided that they could put a Police or EMS sticker on the side and undertake the role!!!! Case in point he Polish/Malta Xenon .... I think they sold three police examples into Africa.

Wallis had it right, if you want a gyro go minimalist and get out there with the wind in your hair.
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Old 7th Aug 2018, 16:16
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Glad to see many others here have far more experience than I on the J2. My introduction was at Gillespie field in SoCal in around 1982. I was towing banners down the beach, and giving aerobatic rides in my Citabria, and was always interested in new, or different aircraft. There was a J2 owner/operator on the field, and try as I might, I wasn't able to cross paths with him until one day I saw him at the fuel depot. I pulled in, and chatted with him for a bit as we fueled, and boldly asked if I could go with him sometime. He said we could go up right now, as he was just doing some landing practice, and extra weight might be a good thing(little did I understand at the time about the top-heavy condition). So I parked my flivver and hopped in his plane. It was loud just rolling around on the taxiway, but when we got to take off it was unbearable. I think the cabin actually acted as a resonator for the engine and prop vibrations. Just deafening.

Well, we took off fine, and went out on our way. I had a Benson B-8M gyrocopter before in which I self-taught to fly. So, I had a basic understanding of gyrocopter flight, but was by no means an expert. He let me fly it for a while, and it was pretty nice despite the horrific noise. Then we joined the circuit for our landing and he rapidly got rather tense, and focused. We had wind directly down the runway at 5Kts. The first landing was a long rolling landing, as he said he liked to taxi back. I found out, that long rollouts were a means to keep full authority on the rotor until stopping without the nose gear touching. It didn't make sense to me at the time, but in retrospect, it was very clear. The landing was similar to what the tailwheel pilot would do, except we had power on and the cyclic back to keep weight on the mains, and keep airflow over the rudder for directional control.

After a few pattern landings, we took off and I flew again for a while. I wanted to see what the 'stall' or more accurately the zero-airspeed conditions were like. Well, we were about 2000AGL over a valley, and I pulled it up some as the airspeed bled off, things got very interesting. Plenty of directional control in roll and yaw, but nothing for pitch. No matter what we did with the engine, we were just going down about 800FPM. I relieved the back pressure on the cyclic, and let off on the power, and it flew out of the 'stall'(yes I know it's not a stall) in full authority. Lesson learned - high power, back cyclic is a recipe for disaster, but,,,, that is precisely what's need for an in control landing profile. Back cyclic, and modest power. It is a devil to land cleanly unless one wants to spot land into a good breeze with zero airspeed. Even then, judging lift reserve, and descent profile takes finesse.

Moving forward, we went on our ways, and a few months later, he contacted me through the banner tow and asked if I would be interested in buying the thing. Or buying half of the thing, or buying shares in the thing. I had some cash in my pocket so we chatted for a while, and agreed to meet again for another flight. I wanted to see if it would go somewhere, and then come back. I suggested we fly up to Fallbrook which is about 40 miles N of Gillespie, and then come back. He agreed, but said he would do the landings. I said fine, makes sense to me. I took off, we turned right and found Fallbrook fine, but it was a 10kts crosswind. At first, he just wanted to circle and go back to Gillespie, but I wanted to land and do another take off. So he set up his approach, and lined up well, and here we came in for a landing with an 8-10kt crosswind. We shouldn't have, and gone back to Gillespie.

We touched down on the right main tire, and he throttled and yawed it some, to get the left tire down. It came down, but we were wiggling, and finally he just firewalled the engine, and we went around. Next pass was similar, with both wheels down, and speed coming down, and the right wheel lifts and we skid a bit sideways, and again he firewalls the engine and we lift off. I advised him to make an angled approach from the lee side of the runway, slightly crosswise to the center-line and see if that would help. He agreed, and we came in and touched down right at the edge of the runway pavement, headed about 30deg off-set to the runway heading into the wind. This time, he closed the throttle with both main wheels down, and more or less stabbed the brakes, thus pitching the nose gear on pretty firm. We were down, and I understood why he wanted to sell any or all of the plane.

Our trip back was uneventful, except we landed with about 4 gallons in the tank, maybe 30 min of reserve, but unlikely. I advised him I wasn't interested in the ship, paid for half the fuel we burned and wished him good luck. I only saw the plane once more a few months later, and have no idea what happened to it, but more than likely it was rolled somewhere and was not repaired. Thus endeth my time in the J2, about 1.3 hours total. I went on to fly both the B-8M, and more recently a GyroBee which used a 2 stroke 2 cyl engine and was the most twitchy thing I'd ever been in. But still not a handful like the J2.
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Old 8th Aug 2018, 01:58
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Interesting story, thanks for sharing! Your experience with thrust vs drag seems to echo what ZZUF cautioned, so it will certainly be taken on board. Oh, and no cross wind landings for the inexperienced: check!
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Old 5th Sep 2018, 18:21
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I'm a Gyroplane CFI and former owner/operator of a J-2, with extensive experience in flying the productions models, including transcontinental U.S. trips. I'd like to clarify some of the comments made here, because the aircraft hasn't been given a fair shake. It is fun to fly with no handling vices.

First, the zero climb rate speed mentioned above is a logical necessity in any gyroplane. As one slows, in an aircraft that can neither stall nor hover, there must be a minimum level flight speed. In the J-2, that's around 25 IAS. If you go slower, you will sink, and if you wish to climb, you will need more speed.

This is perfectly normal and not at all dangerous. The downside is that engine cooling airflow isn't great in this condition, so one shouldn't overly prolong it. You will never come anywhere near this condition in any competently flown landing, generally done power off. You can sink vertically safely at zero airspeed, but the sink rate is too high to carry to touchdown, so that isn't a practical landing option.

Next, I never experienced any difficulties in low altitude handling, and indeed would prefer to be in a J-2 suffering an engine failure than in any airplane or helicopter you might name. The aircraft climbs, cruises, and lands all in autorotation, and no pilot action is required to enter that mode of flight or to control rotor rpm. Just point it at your landing spot, and do a cyclic flare at the bottom. You can land it in a tennis court.

Third, in the production models I have flown, the pitot presented no problems and airspeed indications were reliable. The production models, compared to the prototypes, had a large fin between the mast and the prop, and no wheel pants, and showed no yaw instability. Many were fitted with a three blade controllable prop and benefited from a higher gross weight.

Fourth, I have watched the video linked above and suspect that the pilot was not qualified/trained for the unique qualities of the aircraft. I never had a take-off roll of more than 200 feet and routinely landed with zero ground speed. The climb rate is not impressive, but the aircraft is nimble and easy to fly with light forces in all directions on the cyclic.

Fifth, long roll-outs are just plain silly in this aircraft, and there is no reason to do them. If you want to stop far down the runway, you simply fly it there, and then do a minimal roll touchdown. Even on a calm day, you should never need more than the width of a taxiway intersection to touch and stop.

Sixth, the crosswind technique described above smacks of serious incompetence. If there is enough wind to cause concern for a crosswind component, there is enough wind to land with zero roll by merely pointing the nose into the wind. A typical approach is flown with closed throttle and moderate airspeed (I used 53 solo and 57 with a passenger) down a fairly steep profile, One continuously applied cyclic flare would easily bring you to zero ground speed just a couple inches above ground, followed by a gentle settling onto the mains. The nosewheel is then lowered, and you're done. You will have to apply throttle to gain taxi speed.

I preferred to pick a spot where a taxiway intersects the runway and put it down there for an easy exit. Learning that cyclic flare is no harder than learning to flare a taildragger or to quick-stop a helicopter, and doesn't require special abilities or skills. It is merely a new skill for those new to the aircraft.
By the way, the article cited above (airfactsjournal) is replete with bad information and a pretty significant negative bias.

Finally, the question " Why have a machine that is not a helicopter if you can have the real thing? " makes a huge assumption that one can as easily have a helicopter. The J-2 is dirt cheap by comparison to acquire, much simpler and cheaper to maintain, and much less workload to fly. It won't hover, but most helicopters spend precious little of their lives actually hovering for anything but take-off/landing. They are not efficient, but they are great fun if flown well. Unfortunately, they are also sufficiently forgiving to allow clueless pilots to get away with horrible technique, and that's where most negative comments arise.
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Old 29th May 2019, 10:46
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Waspair, thanks to you and others for your input. I'm having trouble with my message system on this site; I have a full mailbox after sending one message. Please email me direct at [email protected]

Does the J2 have castering nose gear and differential toe brakes? Are there a suitable replacement main rotor blades available (TBO) or is one stuck with current blades installed? I saw in an earlier post mention of the aircraft being top heavy; any input/insight on this? I assume there is a rotor brake but cannot find mention. Also the trim system, is it cables and cranks or another method? Any pictures folks may have would be greatly appreciated.

Many thanks! Rob.


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