Who Am I?

My photo
A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

05 February 2008

Autogyros, Gyroplanes and Gyrocopters

Letters...I do get letters...

"Kman" from Long Island, New York asked: "Was that a gyroplane used in the Bond movie,"You Only Live Twice?"

Yepper! It sure was. In fact, it was a relatively famous (in aviation circles, anyway) ship called "Little Nelly," built and flown by a guy named Ken Wallis. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

In the beginning, and by that I mean back in the 1920's, a guy named Juan de la Cierva was experimenting with the concept of the autogyro in Spain. His pioneering work in the field of rotor dynamics lead directly to the gyroplanes and helicopters of today.

One of Cierva's early autogyros - half airplane/half helicopter

In the U.S., the "father" of the gyrocopter is Dr. Igor Bensen. In the mid-1950's he began experimenting with autogyros. Eventually he designed his own single-seat aircraft and coined the term "gyrocopter." You may have seen the ads for the "Bensen Gyrocopter" in various magazines back in the 1960's and '70s.

In Europe, Bensen's counterpart is Wing Commander Ken Wallis, who looked at the Bensen designs and in the early 1960's began modifying them as he saw fit. (Some of Wallis's designs are quite clever.)

Gyrocopters fascinate me. On one hand I'd love to own and fly one; on the other hand I think they're goofy and impractical. But before being consigned to aviation's bin of discarded wierd designs, let's take a closer look at these unusual machines.

I could write a whole bunch of words about gyrocopters, but I'd rather let you see the video. In this case, it's another YouTube video which is really a short clip from a progrm on The History Channel. It's only seven minutes long, and it's really interesting. Enjoy!


Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, Little Nelly. These gyros are cool! Each gyrocopter is custom it seems. I don't see them around this part of the world, mostly ultralights which are nothing like these.

Fascinating guy that Ken Wallis.


Hal Johnson said...

Doggone ya Bob. I'd pretty much put to bed my lust for a Benson gyrocopter or something of that ilk, and then you post this. Can't a guy find any peace?

Bob Barbanes said...

Hal, I like the idea of a single-place gyrocopter. Might be fun. But I just don't know that I could actually fly one. Being up there so...so naked...like that...man, I don't even like to fly the helicopter with the doors off (and won't!).

The other thing about gyros (that they don't tell you) is that they're noisy. They use high-revving two-stroke engines with fast-turning propellers. They sound like annoying buzzsaws overhead. And they stay overhead for a long time because they don't go anywhere fast.

My ideal gyro (and one I might just build) is one with a Harley Evo Big-Twin engine. It's not all that heavy, it's fuel-injected, and it is a separate unit from the transmission, so you could take a drive right off the crankshaft for the speed-reduction unit you'd need to drive the propeller. A Harley-powered gyro? Wouldn't *THAT* sound cool!

You know, now that you got me thinking about it, I think the gyro guy who shares our hangar has a little single-seater. I saw it hanging around once, and then it disappeared. I think he stashed it someplace. I wonder what he'd want for it...?

Since all my cars are running well, I haven't had anything to work on lately. Damn you Hal, now I'm going to spend the rest of the evening scouring Ebay for a Big Twin motor that doesn't already come mounted in a motorcycle.

Anonymous said...

I saw your add talking about the Bensen Aircraft gyrocopter add.

I think you can still get the plans to build one from this website