Most people, when they hear me say that I fly “gyros”, give me the condescending brow. Eventually, I figured out where the problem was. Here it is:
They thought I was talking about the left picture, a yummy Greek-style wrap dripping of spicy yogurt sauce. Whereas I had in mind a gyrocopter (also called a gyroplane or, in short, “gyro”), the flying contraption shown in the right picture.
Once I explained the difference, they had an aha-moment: “Oh, you mean a helicopter!” And that’s where it gets a bit more technical. See if you can spot the principal difference (I’m not talking color):
Well, yes, both have a big rotor on top but take a look at the tail rotor. The helicopter has a little tail rotor which pushes the tail left-right. The gyrocopter has a propeller that is actually pushing it forward!
There’s an even bigger difference which you can’t see: the gyrocopters rotor is not driven by the engine, it is actually freewheeling! Thats right, it just windmilling as the prop pushes the gyro through the air. And through that windmilling motion it provides the needed lift to keep the gyro flying.
Gyros actually predate helicopters by about 10 years. They are much simpler machines, have fewer moving parts, are a lot cheaper and require less maintenance.
“What’s the downside,” you ask? Well, they cannot take off vertically and they cannot hover. Mind you, they can fly real slow, like 50 km/h (30 mph), but they cannot stay still in the air.
While helicopters pretty quickly took over from gyros and have become a workhorse in aerial jobs, gyros are purely for fun. The one I fly is the Lamborghini of gyros (yeah, yeah, I know, I’m not entirely unbiased, but use Google and judge for yourself). It is called the Arrowcopter, and I used it establish the speed world record for gyros in 2016. Boy, was it a rush! But that’s a different story and will be told another time.