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Kitty Hawk and SAGPA Gyro Fly-in

By Garth Calitz Photos by Andre Venter

Gyros or more correctly AutoGyros have become more and more popular over the last ten or so years with many of these odd-looking aircraft joining the fun at fly-ins and other general aviation events. Although their popularity increased recently these aircraft are by no means new technology.

The first recorded flight of a gyro was way back in 1923, Juan de la Cierva a Spanish engineer and aeronautical enthusiast attempted to design an aircraft that could fly safely at very low airspeeds without stalling. The result was the first successful rotor-craft, which he named Autogiro, De la Cierva's autogyro used a conventional aircraft fuselage with a forward-mounted propeller and engine with a rotor mounted on a mast and a horizontal and vertical stabilizer.

The gyros that graced Kitty Hawk with their presence on Saturday are slightly different to the original but still make use of the same technology. Very simply explained the gyro uses a free-spinning rotor that turns because of the passage of air through the rotor from below. The vertical component of the total aerodynamic reaction of the rotor gives lift to the craft and sustains the autogyro in the air. A separate propeller provides forward thrust and can be placed in a tractor configuration with the engine and propeller at the front of the fuselage, or pusher configuration with the engine and propeller at the rear of the fuselage.

Dawie Pretorius Kitty Hawks airport manager and gyro pilot Juanita Kruger decided to join forces and put a gyro-centred fly-in together, I can think of no better place for this than Kitty Hawk. The Gyro started arriving pretty early in the morning some of them from away, the furthest being all the way from Hoedspruit.

Most of the gyro were open cockpit machines so the steaming hot coffee on offer at the clubhouse restaurant was a winner on landing. A scrumptious Kitty Hawk breakfast was also served to everyone who made the effort to join the fun. It is great to see such a wonderful turnout for a specific type of fly-in, Thirty two gyros made their way to Kitty Hawk for the morning, which is incidentally a better turnout than this year's annual Geriep North meets South Gyro weekend.

SAGPA, the Aviation Recreation Organisation that represents gyroplane pilots and enthusiasts in South Africa is putting in a major effort to bring gyro pilots together at events like these and hopefully entice more fixed-wing and helicopter pilots to make the switch to gyros. Sadly, gyros got a rather undeserved bad rap in the pioneering years due to the excessive amount of accidents, this is definitely no longer the case but shedding the stigma is going to take lots of time and effort.

A great day of camaraderie was had by all but all too soon it was time for the visitors to head off to their home bases. Those who did stick around later in the day were treated to some aerobatic action when members of the SAC (Sports Aerobatic Club) took to the air for some practice what a great way to end a great day.

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