The Enduring Misfire Of Gyrocopters


Anyone who attends Aero in Friedrichshafen for the first time would quite naturally believe Europe is awash in gyrocopters. The expo floor is just cheek-by-rotor jammed with them and somebody must be buying them or there wouldn’t be so many companies selling them.

And that’s also why most of the gyrocopters you see at the U.S. shows are also of European origin, including the Rotovox C2A described in this video. Whether U.S. buyers would develop a taste for gyros is, at the moment, an academic question because the approvals to sell them as modern certified aircraft or even light sport aircraft don’t exist in the U.S. It wouldn’t necessarily be obvious that the C2A is being imported into the U.S. not as a completed aircraft but as an experimental amateur built with a fast build program. It’s priced at around $165,000-ish.

As dollars-to-capability goes, that much money doesn’t compare favorably to a well-equipped EAB or a light sport airplane, say the Flight Design CTLS or some of the other imports from Eastern Europe. While it’s an apples-to-lug-wrenches comparison, the airplanes just fly faster and farther than any of the gyros. Gyroplanes are pure fun flyers that have their own niche, but it’s not a broad one, at least in the U.S.

But who am I to judge what people want? Still, before the want can be satisfied, the FAA has to get out of the way and provide an approved definition so gyroplanes can be certified under the light sport rule. Just to make things confusing as hell, you can fly them under the sport pilot rule because they meet the weight limit, but you can’t buy the equivalent of a S-LSA that’s a gyroplane. I’m told that a proposal to change this is percolating through the ASTM committees, but no one seems to know when that will emerge or if it ever will.

And here, I’ma flip into autorant repeating my screech about the LSA weight limit. I was out at Vashon Aircraft in Seattle last week flying the Ranger. Nice airplane, brilliant production plan and maybe timed right to become the next Cessna 150. Maybe. But because it’s an LSA with an increasingly arbitrary 1320-pound weight limit, it’s artificially limited in adding more structure, a different engine or maybe even a ballistic parachute.

People want that kind of stuff, so here’s yet another example of the bureaucratic inertia of ASTM rules and FAA agreements both stunting the market and working against safety. Again, the raising or eliminating the weight limit is on the table, but it’s unclear if it’s going anywhere.