It’s a gyroplane, not a gyrocopter and it’s nothing at all like a helicopter. In this video, AVweb’s Paul Bertorelli explains what’s involved in getting a gyroplane add-on rating or even starting from scratch. Whatever the hell you call them, gyroplanes are a ton of fun to fly. This video was shot at Blades Over Me in Sebastian, Florida, last winter, before the COVID-19 pandemic.


  1. I used to fly my Mooney out of Farrington Airpark at Paducah, Ky. It was a former drag strip turned into an airport that was home to an iteration of the Air & Space 18A gyroplane. The airport has since closed and reverted to racing.

    Don Farrington, Purdue University Aero Engineer, Air Force and Pan Am pilot, developed STCs for and eventually owned the type certificate for the Air & Space 18A gyroplane. The company that originally made the gyroplane ran into problems with the SEC and went bankrupt. Farrington modified the initial design to make it more quiet and faster.

    The 18A was powered by a 180 HP Lycoming with a constant speed prop. It was capable of a jump takeoff. Farrington had a bunch of complete and partially complete airframes, but I’m nearly certain he never manufactured new ones.

    Rating hunters used to come to Farrington Airpark for a gyroplane ATP rating back when that was still possible. Don Farrington was also a DPE. He administered my airplane commercial and instrument checkrides.

    Farrington used to demonstrate the 18A at Oshkosh and Sun ‘n Fun. He died in the crash of an 18A after being stricken during a demonstration at Sun ‘n Fun 2000.

  2. I had a go in a Calidus a couple of years ago, flows from a private grass field in the South West of the UK. As a heli piot, I found the stick forces heavy and I didn’t like the pulsing. I was also rather shocked by the length of the take-off run – the tree at the end of the field seemed worryingly close!

  3. Paul, thanks for yet another interesting article. If you do decide to learn to fly a gyroplane, maybe some time you could show us some stall/spin/upset recovery maneuvers in it?

  4. Very good video. I’ve always thought it would be fun, if not all that practical. [Not everything in life has to be practical!] After my many decades of fixed wing operations, you make it look fascinating, tempting, and just a little bit scary. Good job.

  5. The last time I visited one of my favorite strips, Clearview Airpark (2W2 – south of Westminster, MD) there was an Air&Space 18A tied down in the grass. You can see it in Google Maps. It’s been there since the turn of the century but looks complete and possibly airworthy with some money and effort. Most likely, the blades would be the big issue. Don’t know who owns it, but that shouldn’t be hard to find. There aren’t many 18A’s left; most of them seem to be in museums or Great Britain, or both.

    If you go to see it, bring your short-field skills; landing long is not an option. But if that’s not a challenge, fly 5.5nm SE to Hoby Wolf Field (1W5/2MD5, now closed) a grass strip where I based my C172A for seven years. Clearview was where I got 80 octane.

  6. Add to the congrats on the videos!

    I flew a McCulloch J-2 gyro years ago–(yes, “the chain saw people”). It was factory built and FAA certified. Had a 180 hp. Lycoming, and the 3 blade rotor system of the TH–55 (Hughes 300) helicopter. As someone that flies airplanes, helicopters, and gliders, I found it “interesting”. LIKE a helicopter, it can fly very slow and land with hardly any landing roll. LIKE a helicopter, it was slow, noisy, vibrated a lot, and had little useful load for the installed power.

    I wouldn’t claim to be GOOD at flying it, but I was able to pick it up fairly fast. Unlike the gyro in the video, the McCulloch was even shorter coupled and landed in a higher-nose up attitude. An interesting feature for the McCulloch was that they advertised a “jump start” takeoff. It had a lever on the left that looked (and in part ACTED) like a helicopter collective pitch–it was latched down to zero pitch–the rotor pre-rotated to something like 130% of normal operating rpm with the gyro pointed into the wind, and the catch was released–causing the gyro to climb “15′ or more straight up” according to the instructor. (for obvious reasons, the instructor declined to demonstrate that maneuver!)

    There was notably less vibration than what I saw in the stick on the video–but certainly more than an airplane. I always thought that flying the gyro would be an excellent way to teach touchdown autorotations in a helicopter–eliminating the chance of a skid digging in.

    In the same vein, B.J. Schramm–founder of Rotorway, stopped by the airport 20 years ago to demonstrate his latest project–a single-place Helicycle compound helicopter–with or without a backup pusher engine. The main engine was a Rotax 4 stroke, but a 2 cycle Zenoah was attached to the left side–the pusher prop not only made it faster, but the craft could maintain altitude as a gyrocopter if the main engine failed. The concept worked, but Schramm was killed in the prototype some time later.

  7. When I attended accident investigation school in OKC we had a whole day of training on the peculiarities of gyro plane crashes. Apparently along with some fairly unique flying traits are some unique crash traits too.