Sunday, November 15, 2009

Coming soon, a gyro accident report( non fatal)

Gyro accidents happen for many reasons. They happen to novice pilots and also to high time pilots. Sometimes the accident is caused by someone wanting a picture of the gyro in flight. Inattention is another frequent cause of accidents. An example of inattention is the pilot who was fatally injured when he flew into power lines while being photographed from the ground. Well, I guess you could say that particular accident was caused by two reasons; a camera and inattention. But as mentioned, all manner of things can cause an accident.

Poor flight planning can be a reason for an accident. I am guilty not doing a thorough job of flight planning years ago when I went on a cross country flight in my gyro. I had neglected to check the runway condition of a field where I planned to land . I had landed there years before and at that time the small strip was well maintained and in good condition but in the intervening years the asphalt had suffered greatly and there were deep chuck holes all over the runway.

Fortunately for me , the wind was blowing about 30 mph. and that allowed me to make a no roll landing thus avoiding running into a chuckhole. The high wind allowed for an almost vertical takeoff when I departed, again avoiding the holes in the runway. If there had been no wind I could not have landed there safely as a landing roll or takeoff run was not possible because of the holes in the runway.

And if I had to fly to an alternate airport I would have had a major problem as I didn't have enough fuel to make it to the next airport. As I said, it was poor flight planning and is an example of what could cause a gyro accident. If there had been an accident I could have been cited by the FAA because it is an FAA rule that the condition of the runway to be used be checked prior to departing on a cross country trip.

Recently a gyro pilot friend with some years of gyro flying experience crashed his gyro. His accident was one of those that shouldn't have happened but it did. My friend was not injured but his gyro was totally destroyed . Knowing that the accident was his fault he has asked me to write about it for he believes as I do, that there is a lesson to be learned in every accident. He is to be commended for wanting to try to prevent someone else from similar grief. It will be a day or so before I can get to it but at his request I will describe his non fatal accident.

Till next time.
Marion Springer

Thursday, November 12, 2009

First Flight With The New Starter

I didn't realize it but I was spoiled. You see, the engine I have on my gyro was never meant to carry man or woman in flight . It was designed for the military during World War 2 to power small drone aircraft that towed target banners for pilots to practice shooting at. It was meant for one flight period. Along came a bunch of gyro pilots looking for a small lightweight affordable engine to use on their gyrocopters.

The pilots found the small powerful McCulloch engine in military surplus stores, in garages and just about everywhere. Of course, most of the engines had bit the dust when the aircraft they powered was shot down. But, the good thing about the engine, it was affordable. Most could be purchased for about $200 or less. As most of the pilots in our group were young folks with small children, the small price of the engine fit our small budgets. Gyro pilots bought the surplus engines, learned what to do to make it airworthy and flew it. It weighed 70 pounds and came in 72 and 90 horse power versions. The weight to power ratio was loved by gyro pilots, me included.

Down through the years modern engines came on the scene and many pilots adapted them to their gyros but some pilots still loved and flew the McCulloch. I was one of them.

To start the engine that didn't have a starter, one had to pull the propeller through. That means to turn the prop fast by hand. That isn't something for the faint of heart to do. It is a dangerous procedure and there are many gyro pilots missing a finger or two who can attest to that last statement. But with my husband always there to start or ' prop' the engine for me, I never gave a starter a thought. To fly, all I had to do was suit up and sit on the seat and Docko would prop the engine and start it for me. As I said, I was spoiled.

Fast forward...Docko passed away, I retired from flying then 12 1/2 years after his passing I started flying the gyro again. Now getting my engine started became a big problem for I only knew two gyro pilots who knew how to prop the engine and they were not always available to lend a hand when I wanted to fly. I needed a starter!

On the Rotary Wing Forum, a site on the internet which I visit often, someone offered a starter kit for the McCulloch engine for sale! Oh happy day! I ordered a kit and my friend , gyro pilot Dave Bacon installed the starter on my gyro. I wrote all about the installation in an earlier blog. Fast forward again to the last weekend of September , 2009. That's when we have the annual gyro fly-in on the El Mirage dry lake and that's when I made the first flight of my gyro with the new starter. The picture above was taken as I arrived at the fly-in site. I am still getting used to the feel of the machine with the added weight of 30 lbs. of starter and battery but I can say one thing for sure, to turn the switch on and push the button and have the mighty Mac come to life is a thrill! As Jackie Gleason would say, " How sweet it is".
The photo was taken by my friend, Edna Arlt, affectionatly known as Ed.
Till next time.
Marion Springer