Gyrogliders

**Wanted : please send me photos of interesting gyrogliders from anywhere in the world. I hope that this page will grow larger, but for the moment I will start off with just a few photos and probably a bit too much text!

the Focke Achgelis Fa-330 gyroglider

photo courtesy of U-boat Net (see my links page)

This gyroglider, the Focke Achgelis Fa-330, was towed behind U-Boat submarines during the Second World War as an ariel observation platform. The British 'Rotachute' shown below, was another single seat gyroglider but this time designed to be towed behind an aircraft (again designed during the Second World War) - was evaluated by Dr Igor Bensen in 1946, and along with the Fa-330 became the inspiration for our present day sport gyros.

The Rotachute, at The Museum of Army Flying, Middle Wallop, Hampshire, UK.


Gyrogliders are a fantastic, fun and inexpensive way of experiencing the magic of gyro flight. As far as I am aware there are no countries in the world which require you to have a licence to fly a gyroglider, but you MUST treat and maintain them with the same serious respect that you would give to any aircraft in which you were entrusting your life. Basically you start with a gyrocopter which has no engine to propell it, but which instead achieves it's forward flight being towed behind a vehicle. Gyrogliders come in all shapes and sizes although the most common is probably the 2seat side by side open frame Bensen type. When I first heard of this thing called a gyro glider I assumed that the gyro was towed up to a great height, would then disengage the tow rope, fly around for 20 minutes or so and then land - in a similar sort of way as a fixed wing glider flight. Well, that would be very nice but although you can cast off your towrope, fly around and then land perfectly happily - you certainly can't stay up there for 20 minutes!!! You come down still under full control, but fairly rapidly. So what you do is to take off, fly around and then land - all while still tethered to the tow vehicle.

If you are lucky enough to have miles of deserted beach along which to fly your gyroglider - lucky you! (Please send me your address!) But another way of getting good long flights is if you are able to fly behind the tow vehicle in a circuit. This is easy enough in light winds but should not be tried in a stronger wind unless you have a VERY experienced tow driver. This brings me on to the role of the tow (sometimes called tug) driver. The throttle of a powered gyro is a crucially important control. The gyroglider pilot does not have a throttle - the only throttle available is in the hands (or foot really) of the tow driver, and so it is vital that the driver should always "think gyro". It is not surprising therefore that the best tow drivers are usually experienced gyro flyers. If the driver is not a gyro flyer then he, or she, must have a very good understanding of gyro flight and the bad news which things like a sudden lack of airspeed at a low height will mean. If a Grandma suddenly walks out in front of you when you happen to be towing a gyroglider - swerve round her if you can, but whatever you do don't stop suddenly!! Think of the guys in the air!

Although the gyroglider pilot does not have a throttle, he has (or he ought to have) agreed a series of hand signals with the driver, which the driver should see in his mirrors. It is also much safer to have a passenger sitting beside the driver, who is constantly watching what is going on with the gyro and relaying any signals in case the driver has missed them.

A gyroglider can be 'kited' in strong, steady winds (NOT gusty winds) - that is, the gyroglider is tethered to a stationary ground feature (usually a vehicle) and takes off in the strong wind, flying around much as you would fly a kite. I have never heard of two people being able to fly together in a kited gyro. I have never kited a gyro myself, but do have a gyroglider addict friend who has been known to take his sandwiches with him into his kited gyroglider on a strong wind day - staying aloft for hours!! You need to be experienced to do this!

One wonderful thing that gyroglider pilots get, but powered gyro pilots do not, is that unforgettably sweet sound of rotor blades singing through the air ... it really is music to my ears! The only time that powered gyro pilots get to hear this is when their engine has cut out - they would really much rather not hear this sound!!

We in the UK have learned (unfortunately the hard way) to always use a flexible steel rope - and NEVER use a polypropylene rope as it can act like elastic. We cover the steel rope with a tough, flexible length of plastic water pipe to stop it chafing on the runway/surface.

That's enough from me. The answer is to GET GOOD, PROPER TRAINING BEFORE FLYING A GYROGLIDER SOLO. (This is usually considerably cheaper than instruction in powered gyros would be).


click on this photo to see a much bigger, clearer version (160KB) of Igor Bensen 'flying' his heliboat.

* * If you want to see a large, clearer version of this picture (bigger than my 800x600 monitor and 160KB) click on the picture. * *

How about this for a gyroglider! Igor Bensen enjoying the view from his 'heliboat'. The photographic studio did a good job on this photo, I suspect. But he did actually fly it and live to tell the tale! I understand that it did NOT fly as gracefully as shown in the picture - indeed he was lucky to survive the experience! * I have recently heard that it did not fly so badly. Anyone else have any first-hand experience with this gyroboat?


a 2seat, 'side by side' Bensen gyroglider.

photo by Keith Balch

This is a more conventional Bensen gyroglider, and is probably the most common type of gyroglider flown throughout the world - a Bensen gyrocopter without the engine. Two people sit side by side and the single, central control stick is constructed in such a way that either person is able to fly the gyro. Note how these particular type of composite rotor blades are hanging down limply while the rotor is tethered and still. At flying speeds they become very stiff through centrifugal force, and in fact the rotor cones upwards slightly. Most rotors are a little less 'floppy' than this. This particular gyroglider has flown successfully for many thousands of hours.

* If you are ever in Cornwall and want to do some gyrogliding training then I suggest you contact Shirley Jennings who teaches on the gyroglider in the above photo at the lovely clifftop airfield of Perranporth. Her rates are £20 per hour (which mainly goes to pay the airfield owners and for maintenance on the glider). In the UK an instructors rating is not required to teach on the gyroglider - and Shirley has had a lot of experience! To see a photo of Shirley flying by solo in a gyroglider at Henstridge Airfield click HERE (then use your browser's "Back" button to return here).

Shirley Jennings: 4 Parc-An-Drea, Whitecross Road, Cury, Helston, Cornwall, TR12 7BJ, United Kingdom. Telephone no.(UK) : 07931 457305

*Or ..... If you are ever in Hondo Texas then why not contact Craig Wall who very kindly offers FREE training on his 'Boom Trainer' on many weekends. See it in action, and more gyrogliding on my Gyrogliders page 2


Fergus Kavanagh flying his overhead stick Bensen gyroglider

Thanks to Fergus Kavanagh for sending these two photos of him flying his recently built overhead stick type Bensen gyroglider in Ireland. It is good to see the old overhead stick Bensens still being built and very successfully flown. Fergus has also built his own rotors too and is happy with the way that they fly. Click HERE to see a photo taken by Paddy Flanagan of gyrogliding on the beach in County Clare, Ireland. (then use your browser's "Back" button to return here). Short rope! - or telephoto lens?

wing mirrors should always include a sight like this!

What a nice sight in the wing mirror!

Gyrogliders page 2

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gyro photos taken while filming for TV series

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single seat gyro types commonly flown in the UK (Cricket types, Bensen, Montgomerie Bensen)

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single seat gyro types rarely flown in the UK (Wombat, KB2, Air Command, Hornet, McCandless, etc.)

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2 seat gyro types commonly flown in the UK (VPM M16, RAF2000)

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2 seat gyro types rarely flown in the UK

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