In this post I explain why you should go for a flight in a gyrocopter, where you’ll find some gyrocopter training in the UK, and what it costs to complete a course that leads to a licence.
My Gyrocopter flying Experience
So far I’ve only had two flights in a gyrocopter. The first was with gyro pilot Steve Boxall when he was based in Old Sarum, Wiltshire, and before he moved the operation to Popham Airfield in Hampshire. We took off on a cool June day in 2014 and enjoyed a very pleasant experience flying over Wiltshire, taking in some of the landmarks including Iron Age hillforts and Stonehenge.
The second was in the spring of 2019 when I was invited up by James Ketchell, who, a couple weeks after our flight, began his around the world trip in a Magni M16 autogyro.
I loved both experiences and if I could afford to then I would learn to fly these wonderful open cockpit machines. Meanwhile, why not treat yourself or someone special in your life to the same never to be forgotten thrills?
Gyrocopter Training UK
Gyrocopter flight training is available in several places around the UK. Start with a trial flight or two and see how you like it. If you intend to go all the way through a PPL G course then you might want to consider staying nearby for short intensive courses.
Whatever you eventually decide to do, make sure you get at gyrocopter experience in your log book and in your memory bank.
- Gyrocopter experiences from Exeter Airport and Faraway Common, Devon
- Fly from Beccles Airfield in Suffolk, East Anglia
- Gyrocopter flying from Damyns Hall Aerodrome, Essex
- Don a flying suit and take off from Popham Airfield Hampshire
- Fly open cockpit club aircraft from Rochester Airport Kent
- Gyro sightseeing tours out of City Airport Manchester in an open or closed cockpit autogyro
- Enjoy gyrocopter flying from Enstone Airfield, Chipping Norton Oxfordshire
- Open or closed cockpit flying from Perth Airport Scotland
- Try dual instruction at Clench Common Airfield near Marlborough Wiltshire
- View God’s Own Country from a gyrocopter based at Rufforth Airfield North Yorkire
- Start pilot training with a flying instructor based at Melbourne Airfield East Yorkshire
As with learning to fly any other type of aeroplane your flying instructor will guide you through each lesson in the training syllabus until you’re ready to fly solo for the first time.
Student training consists of gradually building up flight time by flying at circuit height and practicising landings (including cross wind) until the student is ready to navigate solo away from the home airfield and into unfamiliar skies and cross country flying. Safety is never compromised and the student’s ability is nurtured progressively.
Gyrocopter Training Cost UK
The CAA syllabus requires a minimum of 40 hours training total (dual instruction and solo flight). This can be reduced by 15 hours if you already have a PPL of some kind. Training rates per hour are about £150-160 at the moment, though check with your local flying school for the latest prices.
So the total cost for training for ab initio students will be about £6-7,000.
This figure is for the flight training only and doesn’t include any additional expenses such as flight gear (flying suit, flight bag, headset, etc), travel, exam fees, and so on.
During your first lesson you might be surprised by the smaller space within an autogyro’s cockpit but you’ll soon get used to it. As training progresses you’ll also become accustomed to the flight briefings which augment the lessons in the air and prepare you for the ground school subjects.
Gyrocopters, Autogyros, Gyroplanes
Gyrocopter flights are inexpensive when compared to other forms of flying in fixed wing aircraft. Gyrocopters are all autogyros (autogiros) and you may also see them called gyroplanes. Contrary to what you may think, they are not mini-helicopters. They are aircraft in their own right with a particular set of flying and handling characteristics.
The most obvious difference is the propeller at the back which pushes the gyro forward. As speed builds up the airflow over the horizontal rotor above generates lift.
Many people will recall ‘Little Nellie’ in the 1967 James Bond film ‘You Only Live Twice‘. This was also my first encounter with a gyrocopter, but it was to be over 40 years before I had a ride in one. I did however, have a ride in a Bell47D helicopter that same year, but that’s another story.
‘Little Nellie’ was designed by a former Royal Air Force Wing Commander Ken Wallis and his legacy and influence lives on with the current generation of gyrocopter pilots.
Gyrocopters vs Helicopters
Unlike helicopters gyrocopters don’t take off and land vertically. They do need some room in which to perform a take off run and to land, but the they don’t need very much. Watch any gyrocopter land and you’ll see what I mean. They are definitely STOL – Short Take Off and Landing – aircraft!
As with any aircraft their range varies according to the number of people aboard, size and power of the engine, and the wind & weather conditions. If a trial flight gives you the taste for more then you can start considering the path to obtaining a PPL(G) i.e. Private Pilot’s Licence (Gyrocopter). As these aircraft are much less expensive to run you’ll find the cost of a training course substantially less than conventional fixed or rotary wing aircraft.
Most gyrocopters are tandem two seat aircraft with open cockpits but there are an increasing number of side by side two seat aircraft with closed cockpits. Open cockpit puts you right in the elements. You feel the wind and taste the air. It’s similar in a way to being on the back of a motorbike.
Closed cockpits are more cosy and there’s obviously less noise, and you can fly more comfortably in colder air. Each has its advantages so my advice is try both! The great thing is that you’ll be flying at fairly low level, at about 1,000 to 1,500 feet, although these aircraft are capable of climbing much higher.
There are gyrocopter flight experiences available in many UK counties; Devon, Doncaster, Essex, Kent, Hampshire, the Lake District, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire, Perthshire, Wiltshire, and Yorkshire. For prices and details use the links below. Check them out, make some enquiries, and give it some serious thought.
If it’s not for you but you know just the person who might like to have a go, please share this post with them. Your inspiration may one day lead to someone you know gaining a private pilot’s licence.
Clothing Advice For Your Gyrocopter Flight
Any reputable school will take all measures possible to not only minimise risks during your gyrocopter flight but also to make it as enjoyable as possible for you, whether you’ve signed up for a trial flight or a full pilot training syllabus. They have a vested interest in persuading you to take up lessons and do more flying at their establisment.
Flying is a low risk activity and you’re probably putting yourself in more danger during the drive to the airfield than in the aircraft itself, whatever its size. However, the amount of training that students require varies and only the instructor will be able to assess how much gyrocopter flying you’ll need to be proficient.
However, one thing I would advise is that you dress in layered clothing and ensure that you’re warm on the ground, because if you’re not warm when standing next to the aircraft then it’s almost certain that you’re going to be cold in the air and nothing ruins a flight more quickly than wishing it would end because you’re freezing.
You’ll probably be offered some clothing for the flight but these items alone may not be enough. My flights were in June (just about OK, temperature wise) and March (very cold, particularly at altitude). So wrap up warm and don’t let the cold ruin what would otherwise be a really enjoyable experience.
Obviously if your flight is in one of the gyrocopter types that have canopies, like the Cavalon, then the wind-chill factor will be minimal, so check before you fly.
There’s an old saying in aviation that the three most useless things to a pilot are:
- The altitude above you
- The runway behind you
- The fuel in the truck
For gyrocopter pilots are anyone flying in an open cockpit in cooler climates you could also add the clothing you left behind.
Gaining a Private Pilot Licence PPL(G)
The UK CAA’s PPL(G) is the licence you need to fly UK registered autogyros within the UK’s airspace. To fly in the airspace of other countries you have to obtain permissions and agreements from the respective aviation authorities.
Full details about the gyrocopter pilot’s licence syllabus can be found in the CAA Publication Standards Document 44: Gyroplane Licensing. It’s 88 pages long so you’re probably better off going to speak to your nearest gyroplane flying instructor and having someone explain it to you in plain English.
You’ll find a list of all the gyroplane examiners and instructors here, along with their phone numbers and email addresses, so give one a call and start there.
This list is maintained by the International Association of Professional Gyroplane Training.
Their site is packed with information about learning to fly, flying, building, and maintaing gyrocopters. The IAPGT are the association that created the Gyropedia site which includes online training for student pilots and gyroplane pilots who want to be come instructors.
If you’re already a pilot then no matter what plane you’ve flown before you will find the whole gyrocopter experience to be quite unlike anything else, with perhaps the exception of a helicopter, but even that doesn’t do gyrocopter flying justice.
If you would like to learn to fly and obtain your private pilot’s licence in an open cockpit aircraft then gyrocopter flying is an affordable and fun choice. As you can see from the links above, schools and clubs offering a trial flight and gyrocopter pilot training should be within a few hours drive of wherever you are in the UK.