The Titanium Explorer is the first new generation gyro to be manufactured in Australia and a world first using titanium. The idea was born by two friends, Neil Sheather and Andrew Pepper in 2009 after noticing other gyro models could be better designed incorporating ideas to make them more practical to explore the country where a person lives. Furthermore, Neil has balanced many rotor systems on different gyros and decided he would design a rotor and rotor head to be smooth and shake free.
The explorer has a full dashboard fitted with a mini i-pad to download all the necessary information required for the pilot. The standard instrumentation consists of an Airspeed indicator, Vertical speed indicator, Altimeter, Rotor trim / brake pressure gauge, Rotor tachometer, Engine tachometer, Cylinder head temperature gauge, Oil temperature gauge, Oil pressure gauge, Fuel level indicator and a Hour meter. XCOM Radio and Microair G Transponder can also be fitted if required. A rear instrument panel for training can be installed as an optional extra and is fitted in place of the Key-lockable glove box.
The 180 litre storage pods have plenty of storage space inside so there is no need to stow items and other equipment around your feet that may cause problems during flight. The pods were designed to load long items such as fold up chairs, tent poles and even fishing rods making this a true explorer.
The explorer is powered by either the Rotax 912 (100hp) or the 914 (115hp) turbo engines, the Rotax range of engines was chosen due to their proven reliability in varying conditions.
The main frame is made of titanium which is twice the strength of stainless steel or chrommoly and has twice the elasticity of stainless steel which is perfect for gyros as they absorb the rotor pulses giving a far smoother flight. Titanium has been used in the aviation industry for years because of its superior strength and its ability to withstand both heat and stress. It is also very light in weight which is a perfect fit for gyros.
The body is made up of carbon fibre, fibreglass and honeycomb making it extremely strong giving the pilot and passenger extra safety. The rotor is a full composite blade giving very long life and the strength required.
The rear suspension is made from 7000 series aluminium which works extremely well on rough runways and is complimented by the rubber block suspension on the front. The turning circle is nice and tight ensuring that a U-turn at the end of the runway is easy. No three point turn needed with this one.
All pedals, controls, wheels, rotor head and anything else that can be made from titanium has been done so to increase strength and save weight. The dry weight of this magnificent machine is a mere 270kg. The welds are expertly done by hand are really a work of art, all welds on the frame are heat treated after welding. The heat treating process take 5 to 6 days to complete, takes 2 days to heat the oven up to around 500 degrees and then holds that temperature for 2 days before cooling it down, all in a vacuum and zero oxygen environment. The frame is built is three sections and bolted together using 5mm Gr 5 Titanium plates and crush tubes. This eliminates the possibility of cracking around the mast.
All TAG explorers are fitted with double controls - rear stick with all the same controls as the front stick including a rear brake lever and pre-rotation controls. The large forward windshield protects the pilot from being battered by the wind and after many hours of testing in 3D wind tunnels a solution was found for the amount of air being forced into the rear seat thus making for a far more pleasant experience as a passenger. An entry door on the front cockpit ensures easy access to the large and very comfortable seat.
The Fuselage and tail are made from carbon fibre and honeycomb construction and vacuum formed into the mould, this allows for a very strong but very light construction.
TAG believes the most important thing is safety so when it came to designing the 83 lt fuel tank they looked for the best material possible and after plenty research they settled on High-Density Cross linked Polyethylene (XLPE) a thermoset resin that is specifically designed for critical applications like chemical storage and fuel tanks. During the XLPE manufacturing process, a catalyst (peroxide) is built into the resin, which creates a free radical. The free radical generates the cross linking of the polymer chain, so the tank essentially becomes one giant molecule. The result is a resin that is specifically designed for critical chemical and fuel applications. XLPE has twenty times the environmental stress crack resistance, ten times the molecular weight and five times the impact and tensile strength of normal HDPE.
Over the past 30 years most helicopter companies have gone back to making full composite rotor blades and rotor blade hubs, the main reason for this is because of fatigue affecting rotor blades made from aluminium. Unfortunately there have been recent reports of a number of aluminium rotor blades developing cracks in gyro copters. Composite rotor blades usually have an extended life, don't suffer from fatigue (provided they don’t get physically damaged) and are generally much smoother in-flight. This is because composite rotor blades if designed correctly can flex in-flight absorbing a lot of loads and reducing the teetering on the hub bar.
TAG have built the strongest and safest rotor blades ever built for gyro copters with the help of some of the world's leading aerospace composite engineers, with their extensive knowledge in helicopter rotor blades we were able to develop a rotor spar that is as strong as those used in helicopters.
The composite rotor blades we developed for the Titanium Explorer are made from pre-preg carbon fibre, "Prepreg" is the common term for a reinforcing fabric which has been pre-impregnated with a resin system.This resin system (typically epoxy) already includes the proper curing agent. As a result, the prepreg is ready to lay into the mould without the addition of any more resin. In order for the laminate to cure, it is necessary to use a combination of pressure and heat. With prepreg carbon fibre the TG (which is the point at which resin starts to soften) is around 120 degrees Celsius compared to wet laid composite that has a TG of between 65 to 85 degrees, so for the first time ever you could have pure black composite rotor blades.
The advanced open pre-rotor system is designed so the pilot can control the spin up speed of the rotors to reduce overstress of the system in turn overcoming the problems of blockages in the air valves from dust and moisture, it runs extremely quiet and is highly efficient. A manual pre rotor lever has been added as a backup in case the primary pre-rotor system fails, additionally aids in aligning the rotor forward and aft on the ground.
The pre rotor system on the Titanium Explorer is capable of spinning the rotors up to over 300 RPM, this is not recommended for normal use but can be hugely beneficial if a very short field take-off is needed.
An early warning system for low speed rotor flap after has also been developed this will greatly reduce accidents caused by absent minded pilots.
Over all The TAG Explorer definitely seems to address all the needs and concerns in the South African Gyro fraternity.