This is an article I wrote awhile back to be included in another gyro book I'm currently writing . I cut and pasted the article to this blog page. There is a very interesting photo of the crashed gyro in the original article. Unfortunately, the photo didn't come along when I cut and pasted the rest of the story here and I don't have the skill to put the picture on the blog. I find computers much more difficult to operate than gyrocopters! Maybe I can have my granddaughter move the photo to the blog when she comes to visit. Anyway here is the story.
If the lake could talk, what stories it could tell.
My entertainment for one summer on the El Mirage dry lake was a group of people who were determined to fly a two place Air Command gyro by remote control. The gyro was not a model but a full size gyro .
I first learned of them when Bill Davis , a gyro pilot , had seen them on the lake while he was flying . Bill had landed nearby and visited with them . He told Docko and me about their plan to fly the gyro without a pilot . It sounded interesting so Docko and I drove to the other end of the lake to take a look . I had been flying earlier and was still wearing my orange flight suit .
We parked the van , got out and approached the group who were gathered around the parked gyro . As we walked toward the gyro I could see that they had placed a platform across the wide seat of the machine and the platform seemed to be full of instruments .
One of the group came out to meet us . We told him we had heard of their project and would like to see their gyro if they didn’t mind .
Seeing my orange flight suit instantly put the man on the defensive. “ You must be the other gyro pilot flying this morning “, he said . I replied that I had been flying earlier and would be in the air again before long . Things went downhill between us from there .
When he learned that I planned to fly again he began giving me my marching orders . “ We don’t want you flying anywhere in this vicinity……We do not want you to come closer than …..You are to stay away from…..
Who would want to fly near where they were attempting to fly a gyro without a pilot ? Not me . Common sense would dictate that one keep some distance from their activities .
I was a professional flight instructor . I knew the FAR’s ( Federal Aviation Regulations ) , I had common sense , and besides I didn’t appreciate being talked down to .
So, before he had finished his tirade we left without bothering to look at their
machine . Later in the day word reached us that their first attempt to fly the gyro by remote control had failed and the machine had been badly damaged . They had packed up the bent gyro and gone away . I couldn’t muster up any sympathy for them . “ Serves them right “, I thought .
The next week they were back . The Air Command had been repaired and it also had been modified . Week two was a replay of the first week . They wrecked the gyro again , packed it up and went away .
That same scene was played out over and over during the summer . They were never able to fly the gyro but they kept trying and each week they would bend the gyro , take it away , repair it , modify it , and try again the following week .
We would see the modified gyro as we drove across the lake bed or I would see it from the air as I flew my gyro . Before long it had been modified so much it no longer resembled an Air Command , or any other gyro for that matter . Still , they hadn’t been able to successfully fly the machine .
Then one day the leader of the group drove up to our home on the edge of the dry lake . “ We need help “, he said , “ we’re having trouble trying to fly the gyro . This morning we tore the nose wheel off while trying to make a take off ".
I replied that it sounded to me like whoever was trying to fly the gyro didn’t know what he was doing . I had offended the man . He informed me that he was the one who was handling the controls . He added that he was president of some such remote control organization and that he had vast amounts of knowledge and flying of radio control model aircraft .
Diplomacy is not one of my strong points , so I blurted out , “ yeah , but what do you know about flying gyros ? “.
“ I have had gyro flight training “ , he replied . “I had two hours of instruction from a guy in Florida “. Well , I knew the ‘guy in Florida ‘ . He instructed in gyros but was not a certified flight instructor . ‘ The guy in Florida ‘ had told me himself that his students received 20 minutes of actual flight time per hour of instruction .
So this man with the remote control , full sized Air Command had traveled 3000 miles from California to Florida for 40 minutes of gyro flight instruction and now that he found he didn’t know how to fly the gyro he wanted some free handy tips from me . Fat chance ! That went over like a lead balloon with me !
“We have been hoping you would make some landings and take offs near us so we could see how you do it “, he said . “My , my “, I thought . “ It hasn’t been so very long ago that you didn’t want me flying within a country mile of you . Now you’re singing a different tune . Oh, how sweet it is !”.
He said he was having trouble with the take off and wanted me to brief him on proper take off procedure . I asked how ‘ the guy in Florida’ had taught him to make a take off . “ Oh, he never let me touch the controls on take off “, he replied . So how did this man think he could make a gyro take off the ground if he didn’t know the first thing about it ???? Amazing , simply amazing .
I gave him my standard line that I couldn’t teach him to fly just by talking about it and suggested he take a full flight training program . He insisted he didn’t need that much training and grudgingly said he would take one hour of instruction . That didn’t happen because it wasn’t our policy to offer flight training by the hour .
So he went back to his group and they continued with their crash , rebuild and modify program for a couple of more weeks but they threw in the towel after a final spectacular crash of their gyro .
Bill Davis had happened by just after the crash and saw the wreckage of the remote controlled Air Command scattered about on the lake bed . He landed and talked with the group . They were looking at a video of the last crash and were trying to figure out what happened . They invited Bill to view the video of the gyros’ last hurrah with them .
According to Davis , they had finally gotten the gyro into the air . It flew a short distance then they tried to land it . The landing was extremely hard , and caused the gyro to bounce 15 to 20 feet up into the air . At the top of the bounce the operator did the absolutely worst possible thing he could do . He had shut the engine down !
The gyro did the only thing it could possibly do….it dropped in . The mast folded , the blades dug in , and the gyro was totally destroyed . That permanently ended their crash , rebuild and modify program .
Two things killed the gyro – one man’s huge ego and his cheapness . What a shame.
Marion Springer, CFI-Gyro, Ret.