Text and photos by Bruce Estes
Dug Smith and Ken Schwartz are good salesmen. It seems I showed up at Ken’s hangar Saturday morning and was immediately corralled by Ken and Dug and convinced to take an introductory ride in Foothill Sport Aviation’s Magni M16 Gyroplane. I’ve read about the accident rates in gyrocopters, and was a little reluctant to climb in, but Dug and Ken convinced me to take the flight. Don Bradley, of Foothill Sport Aviation is a very competent CFI, and gives instruction and add on ratings for the Gyroplane.
The Magni M16 is a two-seat, tandem gyroplane powered by a turbocharged Rotax 914 that produces 115 hp. I know very little about gyroplanes, but this aircraft seemed very well equipped, having things like a pre-rotor that starts the 28’carbon fiber rotor spinning in the run up area, rudder pedals, and hand brake by the throttle. Normal cruise is about 80-90 mph per the POH. The aircraft is impossible to stall, and horizontal speed can go to zero as you descend. The aircraft cannot hover like a helicopter.
Don briefed me and we both climbed into the Magni, started the engine, and proceeded to taxi to the run up area. Steering is with rudder pedals like a fixed wing aircraft. After run up, the pre-rotor was slowly engaged by squeezing a handle on the control stick to start the rotor rotating. A rotor tachometer gives you the rotor speed. After the rotor reached about 190 rpm we taxied onto the runway, advanced the throttle, and quickly were airborne. Because the control stick is connected to the rotor, and the rotor is doing a lot of “monkey motion” as it rotates and changes angles, the control stick shakes. Pulling back on the stick changes the angle of the rotor to make the Magni climb, and side to side motion banks the Magni. We flew around, and Don demonstrated some of the flying qualities of the Magni. Landings were next, and to a fixed wing pilot like myself, the landings were VERY DIFFERENT. Pull the power back on downwind, set up for a short but high approach, and then dive for the runway. Flare prior to hitting the runway, the forward speed decays real quickly, and you plop down to a landing. It was really weird to see the runway SLOWLY passing underneath you.
After a thirty minute flight, which included two landings, we taxied back to Ken’s hangar. As I climbed out of the Magni, I found myself smiling. This was a totally different flying experience than what I was accustomed to. I’m glad I did it. Contact Don Bradley at Foothill Sport Aviation for more info. Don flies out of Cameron Park.