Saturday, April 27, 2013

40th. Annual Bensen Days 2013... And I was there !

The picture  is of a good friend, Tommy Milton and me.  Tommy is as hooked on gyros as I am and has been involved with gyros for many years.  He is a gyro pilot and is also  a DAR.  DAR means he is a designated airworthiness Representative for the FAA and is qualified to conduct airworthiness inspections of gyros to determine if they are airworthy.  We met up again at the annual Bensen Days fly-in in Wauchula , Florida.   

It was my first visit to Bensen Days .   It was the 40th anniversary of the annual gyro fly-in that  honors the birthday of Igor Bensen, the man who designed the much loved Bensen Gyrocopter that stole my heart so many years ago.    The event is hosted by a gyro club known as SWaRC  , Sunstate Wing and Rotor Club, PRA Ch. 26.

My daughter Donna, accompanied me on the Florida trip.  She was a great help to me in many ways.  I gave up freeway driving awhile back so she took over that chore.  She made sure I got on the right airliner for where we were going and she kept me from sounding off whenever someone mumbled making it impossible  for me to hear what they were saying to me.  She kept me out of trouble in other words!  I was glad to have her assistance.   It was her first time in the deep south and she told me the people down there speak another language!  It  took her a bit to get used to the good old southern drawl spoken down there.

We landed in Tampa, got a rental car, exited the rental shop  right onto the freeway and were instantly lost !  It was rush hour with a zillion cars out there.  None of the street names  on the Map Quest print out I had were coming up on the freeway signs.    We stopped a total of four times to ask directions to Wauchula  and got different directions each time.   Finally with another stop to purchase a Florida map we located the small town of Wauchula on the map and then  even found the town itself.   We found our motel and turned in for the night.  

Next morning the challenge was to find the Wauchula airport where the fly-in was .  It was pouring  rain and the huge puddles all around said it had already rained a bunch.   Not finding a sign anywhere to show where the airport was, we started asking locals again.  Three times  we were sent the wrong way .   I suggested that perhaps we should ask a delivery person as they get around  and should be able to direct us.  Donna spotted a  Sheriffs station.  Thinking deputies get around, she pulled into the parking lot and went in to once more ask directions to the airport. 

The only person in the sheriff's office was a female receptionist.  She gave directions that took us out of town aways  then  dead ended.    Finally  we received a  call from someone at the fly-in who was wondering where in the heck we were.   He gave us perfect directions and we found the airport in short order.

When we arrived at the airport it was still raining but that was  not a problem because the down time from flying gave everyone a great time to visit new and old friends.  For me it was Heaven.  I met gyro types whose words I had read  for years in PRA's gyro magazine and on the rotary forum.  It was great to put faces with the names I knew for so long.  I met Chris, another female gyro pilot...there's not many of those creatures around!  We  had good times visiting and getting to know each other.  Her husband Jim, is a big ole huggable teddy bear.  I loved  him on sight.  After awhile the rain ended and gyros  of all  kinds took to the air .  

There was a spot landing contest where no one actually landed on the spot and I wondered how come they couldn't  hit the spot...they were allowed to descend to three or four feet above the ground and drag it in.  Hey, guys, you need to work on that !   For the spot  landing contest we old timers  used to set an altitude for the pilot to be ,  of say not lower than  100 feet above the ground and  then bring the engine  back to idle , and then land on the spot or try to.   But that was the good old days.  

Then there was the egg drop contest where the pilots were given three trys to drop eggs and try to hit the target which in this case was Gabor Kovac.  Gabor  sat out there in a chair  on the runway dressed in a bright red angry bird outfit and he was as safe as could be from the eggs raining all around but not on him.   Good fun but lousy bombardiers !

Recent times have seen a crop of  new big two place gyros, some fully enclosed on the market and they were well represented at Bensen Days but my heart  is still with the smaller open type gyros and they were also well represented .    Seeing Gary Goldsberry  fly a demo in his light weight ( awesome powered ) gyro was a thrill.  He flys a gyro the way it ought to be flown!  

There was never a moment  when someone wasn't asking if we needed something to eat and it was all cooked right there on the field by the fly-in attendees ( guys and their better halves ) , except for a night when we went to the unforgettable Soloman's Castle for a fine dinner and the last night  on the airport  when the dinner was catered and served under the big tent on the field.  

For me a highlight was flying with Steve McGowan , a friend from way back.  We flew in his open tandem gyro called, The Black.  

The week  was over all too soon .  I returned home with a bunch of new memories to add to my  stash of gyro  good times.     My thanks to the good group of volunteers who made  Bensen Days a wonderful time for me and also for a whole lot of other visitors.  
 Till next time.