The following video is of poor quality but good enough to make out the events that unfold. Unfortunately the results of this pilots actions resulted in the loss of life it is hoped that others will see the results of trying to fly a gyroplane outside of the flight envelope for which it was designed. Our deepest sympathy and respects to the family. It is hoped we can all learn from this tragic event.
This section is intended as an awareness resource. Safety afterall is a relative term when factors of risk versus benefit and most importantly benefit to others is taken into consideration. Aviation is an inherantly dangerous environment.
Managing the risks we take is managing the degree of safety we are trying to implement. The risks vary with the level of difficulty of the job or mission, available resources, degree of experience or expertise, the degree of prior planning, environmental factors, just to name a few.
As most of the people in our sport are recreational flyers and apprentice mechanics these are major factors to consider in improving safety within the sport, we have just identified what it is we do. We will need to address two major areas in our risk management, flying and maintenance. Links to maintenance and flying safety appear later in this page but for now let's just stay on topic with general gyroplane safety.
In our look at safety within this website we will not get into debates about horizontal stabilizers, centerline of thrust and other acedamia theory. For those intrested in this information I provide you with the following link to The University of Glasgow and their summary from the reasearch of Project 5. What will be looked at and reviewed are some things we as individuals can do, here and now, to improve our personal safety, the safety of the aircraft and in the process improve the perception of our sport and those of us involved in it.
www.gyroplanepassion.com has provided some general precautions and warnings throughout the website as a moral and ethical standard to our visitors who may not be familiar with certain processes or procedures or "the nature of the beast" (the product hazards themselves). Please forgive us if these have seemed like pretty obvious precautions but for someone who does not know it may be of great benefit and that brings us to our next topic- knowledge.
By simply visiting this website and researching the various topics and associated links you have been knowingly or unknowingly increasing your knowledge base on gyroplanes. How important is this? Let's take a brief look at the amatuer built aviation industry of the 70's.
Amatuer built experimetal aircraft were becoming quite popular and a surge of builders were attempting to take to the skies. Due to the increased demand for condition inspections, that had to be carried by an FAA inspector during various stages of the build, the FAA was pushed to the limit. At the same time a lot of these new builders did not have a good fabrication background and there was serious debate over the safety of this section of American aviation. The future looked bleak for the experimental marketplace but out of the darkness a much brighter future emerged. The FAA and Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) collaberated and passed new legislation that revolutionized the experimetal aircraft category. The FAA agreed to do only a final assembly inspection at the completion of the build process and the EAA started an educational program complete with forums, and hands on instruction to help the builders and to also provide local technical assistance by virtue of the EAA Technical Advisor.
Within a very short time period the industry seen a much improved safety record despite a market that continued to grow exponetially and one that has contiued to keep a safety record very near that of manufactured or certificated aircraft.
We can see the direct results of education and the mastering of basic skills or inother words by increasing our knowledge base.
The state of the homebuilt gyroplane community is not nearly in as much peril as the situation previously described but we have seen many insurance carriers drop gyroplanes, rates go up because quite simply accident rates increased. There have been many factors for the increase in mishaps that have all contibuted in some way to the current state of affairs.
The 1980's and 90's saw the introduction of many new gyroplane kits. Gyroplanes with more seating, more powerful engines, more efficient rotor blades, cabin pods and enclosures and many more innovations. The little Bensen was growing up.
The people purchasing these kits were, and today as well, primarily fixed wing pilots with an interest in rotorcraft. The basic knowledge base of rotorcraft flight dynamics and rotorcraft maintenance knowledge would generally have to be viewed as low for most entering the sport.
The number of qualified gyroplane flight insructors was low and through the efforts of the later formed (and now defunct) Ask First program, this area has been greatly improved but at he time was a factor none the less.
The only true gyroplane association, similar t the EAA, was recieving many new members and membership rose to an all time high but no regional forums, workshops or hands on eductional programs were put into place to support the sport. To date these programs are not available.
The raport between the homebuilt gyroplane associations and the FAA, while improved due to the creation of the LSA category, still isn't as productive as the EAA/FAA partnership in resolving sport flying issues.
Unfortunately the only real statistics we can look at are those of yearly mishaps.
CAA response to gyroplane safety statistics PRA gyroplane safety response with NTSB statistical links
Please take note that according to the statistical data provided by the NTSB that approx. 50% of the fatalities and accidents were due to pilots deficiencies. I know we have seen this many times in aviation but for gyroplanes it seems the pilots are more apt to try and fly the aircraft outside of the flight envelope or parameters for which the gyroplane was designed. As with most rotorcraft the result is deadly.
Pilot Induced Ocillation (PIO), power push over or bunting is nothing new to aviation and can all be corrected with proper technique, knowledge of the condition and proper training. Most pilots would like us to believe this is a problem with the aircraft, maybe so maybe not. Let's look at that Bensen gyro again with its' little say 60 hp engine and wooden propeller and compare the applied energy to say a more modern design with an engine of twice the horsepower a much larger propeller and we can deduce we have have a lot more potential energy still located on a short coupled arm. In defense of the aircraft thousands of safe flight hours have been logged on these aircraft when operated within the limitations.
PRA Test Pull Data
Please allow me to give one example of this aircraft/pilot interface issue.
Most twin engine general aviation airplanes will roll, rather quickly, in an engine out condition. The opposite engine, the one running, will actually torque the aircraft about the longitudinal axis of the airplane. If the pilot is not prepared for this situation and apply proper emergency procedures very fatal results can occur if this situation occurs close to the ground (i.e. landing or takeoff phase of flight). This is quite obviously a very dangerous condition and has claimed its fair share of pilots, passengers and airframes. Mind you this condition can be encountered on federally certificated airplanes. These aircraft have met stability and safety standards as required by the FAA/DOT and are fully liscensed aircraft. So I'll leave for you to decide, aircraft or pilot?
Knowledge is king. Knowledge to build, maintain and fly safely is the easiest, most cost effective and biggest return on investment to reducing the risks associated with our sport.
Maybe over time our gyroplane organizations will implement programs to truely help us out until then there are some precautions we can put into practice ourselves. Each and everyone of us can help reduce our risks and the following links provide information and resources for both maintenance safety and flight safety for our gyroplane experience.
One aspect of gyroplane safety is the ability to find quality reference and document materials more especially to the gyroplane designer. In addition, people just getting interested in this sport can find some of the terms and lingo a bit confusing- gyroplanepassion.com is proud to provide a link to the following site that provides an online gyro encyclopedia. This is a Web 2.0 site that allows the posting of gyroplane documents and is a virtual repository for gyroplane design and other technical information. A website with a passion for knowledge- how great is that?! See: gyrowiki