Gyrate Blog

Summer Time ?

Tony Unwin - Monday, November 16, 2015

 The start of summer in New Zealand is hard to define, some say it's Labour weekend, the last Monday in October but last year warm flying weather did not show up until after Christmas.  Traditionally October is a very windy month and this year was no exception, Gyroplanes like wind and we were noticeable by our regular flight training in otherwise empty circuits.  On the subject of circuits it's worthy of note that with 3 annual increases Airways Corporation have arrived at a charge of $3.50 for every circuit that a gyroplane flies at Tauranga.  That charge is an extra to the standard $7 charge for providing a service in the control zone and of course is extra to the Council landing fee.  Feeling is running high that safety is being compromised as portrayed by the member of parliament quoted as saying  "Inept, power-tripping witch-hunters: Judith Collins lays into the CAA".
Similar views were 
expressed in the UK following the knee-jerk reaction to the tragic loss of a Hawker Hunter aircraft at a display last August, I could not believe the absurd restrictions placed on the Red Arrows and Vulcan that I witnessed at the Dartmouth Regatta, but at least I did see and hear the Vulcan in her last year of flight.
My annual visit to Europe included meeting with Niki Rotory Aviation in Bulgaria, newcomers to making gyroplanes but well established as manufacturers of high quality precision metal and composite components.  The comparison with two other start-up companies was striking, in 1990 I bought my first gyro from the Magni family in Italy.  They went on to become the first successful producers of modern gyroplanes in Europe.  In 2005 I bought my first Autogyro from Otmar Birkner, his small family sized business went on to produce some 2000 machines before he sold it to Swiss investors.

We intend to support Niki Rotors in developing two new models which offer great promise to New Zealand  aviation.  The
Lightning was showcased in Florida this Spring and won a major award at the 'Sun and Fun' airshow.  The Kalithea is more conventional but both machines offer the same fully enclosed, easy enter, cabin with removable doors.  By clever carbon fibre structural design and tandem seating at different levels there is virtually unobstructed vision for both pilot and passenger.

No sooner was I back in NZ when Gyrate Auckland organised a trip to Canberra to flight test and evaluate the Titanium Explorer.  This proved to be an interesting insight to the world of Neil Sheffer, he was the ELA representative in Australia until he branched out into a design made in China which has its origins in the world of both Magni and ELA.   Neil arranged for Steve Pegg and myself to have short flights from a grass strip some 2000 feet up and the prototype performed well although more power would have been a bonus.

Back in Tauranga training continues and some of our latest three clients have arrived from Hawkes Bay.  Richard, Hamish and Lars are specialists in the Honey industry and visualise the use of a gyroplane to locate sites for their hives in remote locations known only to the Bees.  From further afield we had a group of Chinese students visit us, fortunately they had learnt English and were already qualified with FAA fixed wing licences. 
Two new solo pilots to celebrate are Phil Empson who took to the air in his Cavalon, still bright and gleaming after years of waiting for him.  Almost of the same vintage is the yellow MTO of Richard Wagner who soloed at Matamata recently, we expect to see this aircraft around the skies of Tauranga on a regular basis.  Looking ahead we have a display planned for the Tauranga Airshow and at the Gyro fly-in at Danevirke in January.  Hovering in the planning stages are the SAA event at Hastings on 20th February and Warbirds over Wanaka at Easter. 

Shortest Day

Tony Unwin - Saturday, June 20, 2015

Mid winter? Well with record snow falls in South Island and horrific flooding on North Island it is nice to think we are heading for better things.  Gyrate feels that way too, our second year of displaying at Fieldays was a great success with a constant stream of visitors to the large hangar erected by Coresteel.  The Calidus aircraft remained on its trailer but even so it emphasised how little room a gyroplane takes up compared to conventional aircraft.  Our visitors came from all over the Country, several from the far South who must have thought it was tropical compared to their normal winter temperatures.  Maybe the folks over from Oz felt the same but in reverse!  

No sooner were we back and settled into training when we were celebrating another first solo, this time a Cavalon at Matamata in the hands of Noel Smith.  Noel has been flying his aircraft for some time but continuity of training has always been a problem, being a busy farmer there were always other priorities.  This brought about our new concept of offering training anywhere in the Country on the basis that it may be more cost effective to host an instructor rather than to travel to us with all the associated expenses and disruption.

Just a couple of weeks earlier Gyrate entered two aircraft into a local club competition at Whakatane and to our complete surprise ended up with First and Second prize for completing a mini safari around the Rotorua control zone.  We suspect we did quite well in the spot landing as well but maybe gyros were given a handicap in that event which might in fact be fair!!

Gyrate Auckland is becoming well established at Parakai with a growing student base despite some challenging weather; the winter has been pretty mild in Tauranga so far and our regular training also continues unabated.  Several new students have started with us and we expect several more following on from the interest shown at Fieldays.

To keep our eye on safety issues we despatched Elton to attend a CAA Safety Coordinators Course being held at Taupo, he now has a CAA rucksack to match my own so you can be sure we have both the theory and the intent to look after you.  I also picked up a CAA mini weather station by way of a spot prize at the recent Tauranga safety evening so all in all we are doing pretty well.

Looking ahead Gyrate will be offering a wider range of aircraft than of late, last year I visited Trendek Aviation in Poland to renew my knowledge of their aircraft, before that I had enjoyed flying the very interesting Trixy gyro in Austria although it is in fact constructed in Slovenia.

Next month I will again be in Europe having a look at the striking new concept from Niki Gyroplanes, the Lightning!  I hope to have at least one of these flying in New Zealand before the end of the year with the six cylinder 130hp D motor.  Great looks and great performance with more Bang for less Bucks!!

Add to this the little Italian job that is surfacing in Dunedin and with other manufacturers recognising the power of our three training schools and Spring is blooming already.  Dance the Skies.


Tony Unwin - Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Wow, what a hectic time we have had this past year and what developments have occurred in the Gyroplane world both in New Zealand and around the globe.  Autogyro have just  announced the completion of their 2000th aircraft and manufacturers are springing up and introducing new models in countries where no gyro previously existed.  This picture shows us conducting trials with Coastguard Tauranga, The results were impressive and financially convincing.  With the gyro we could cover the search area much faster than surface vessels and the angle of observation provided an improved chance locating an item in the water.  With two-way communications we could assist service vessels to be more effective in rescue.  Looking ahead we are planning on better on-board GPS displays for search patterns and track recording, information that can also be seen by a ground controller to ensure the most effective use of the gyroplane.  Carrying a stabilised camera with magnification and image enhancement together with the use of infra-red thermal imaging would significantly improve search capability.  In the USA night flying in gyroplanes is commonplace and is a requirement for a private pilot's licence, clearly it is only time before that option is available here, linked with night vision goggles the search could be much more effective.Going back through the year we had a visit to Hawkes Bay, Waipakarau Airfield for a Raanz fly-in.  Shown here is the Beer O'clock gathering to discuss how the gyros could happily operate in the fresh wind that kept others on the ground!  Our success in the treasure hunt exercise was limited and the judges walked off the job when we tried spot landing!! But a great social weekend, many thanks to the Central Hawkes Bay Aeroclub.  By chance the Airbus Captain who was guest speaker at the RAANZ dinner was the brother of a gyro pilot in the UK who I had trained some 20 years ago and is still flying his own gyro today, small world.

I flew down in a Cavalon with my wife Sue and came back against a Westerly gale, we crossed the hills at 9,000 feet to avoid the severe turbulence reported at lower levels. Great to have heated seats!!  
Elton and Glen McIntosh in the MTO sport came along the Napier highway to Taupo checking out the all weather capability of the aircraft and the take-off / cross-wind limits after refuelling.  

Another Cavalon adventure was with David Wright who trained with us last year at Tauranga but now keeps his aircraft hangared at Mercer Airfield.  We decided at fairly short notice to travel South to Timaru and enjoyed an amazing day flying in superb conditions via Foxpine and Kaikora.  We stayed in Timaru a couple of nights and met up with Hub Hall and a group of Deer farmers on a nearby strip known as Woodville International.  I was thankful for the images taken from Google Earth and the GPS as the generous grass length across the whole field gave no hint as to where a runway might be!   However we were warmly welcomed even when 3 other gyros arrived from different directions!  Les Vincent and Jim Service joined us in their Calidus aircraft and Rex Telfer and Alan Wright flew the MTO Eagle up from Dunedin.  This all generated interest amongst the deer farmers and raised Hub's standing in that community!  The flight back from Timaru was interesting with a cloud-base around 800ft when we first became airborne and not a lot better all the way over the Canterbury plains to Christchurch.  Rounding the controlled airspace and passing Rangiora the weather suddenly improved to clear-blue sky and a strong Southerly wind.  As airspace allowed we climbed to 5000ft and established a good groundspeed which took us past Kaikoura with enough fuel for Omaka.  A refuel and a cuppa set us on our way across the straights under the watchful eye of Wellington Radar and on to Wanganui.  Ohakia were having a quiet day and were happy to provide us with TAF and ATIS information to help our flight planning and decision making.  Wanganui had had low cloud and rain which lifted for our arrival but had moved East to threaten if not close the desert road option so we launched towards Te Kuiti and Tauranga.  Cloud continued to challenge us over the rugged valleys and bush country bordering National Park but further West we could see New Plymouth was in sunshine.  By the time we reached the civilised terrain of the Waikato it was plain sailing and we hopped over the Kaimai hills into the good weather bowl of the Bay of Plenty to be greeted by the familiar voice of Tauranga Air Traffic.  Modern gyroplanes make very capable cross-country tourers!!

First Quarter Report

Tony Unwin - Sunday, March 30, 2014

Yes, we are heading for an equinox already and yet it seems only yesterday that we were clearing up after Christmas.  First event of the year was an airshow at Whitianga where I was invited to demonstrate an aircraft.  This turned out to be an expensive exercise as due to the rules of the CAA, I was required to attend a display briefing on Friday night and then another at 9.30 on the Saturday morning, I was required back in Tauranga in between so the Calidus was kept busy shuttling back and forth.

A week later we had to unload another bright red Cavalon from its container for Derrick Willis, He has since been training hard and recently took me to the RAANZ annual gathering at Fielding, on the way back we flew around the top of Ruapahu where we took some great pictures - spectacular!

Talking of pictures I will skip back to mid January when we were asked to supply a single seat machine for a film company shooting in an Auckland studio for an English TV advert.  To achieve the required effect the little Montgomerie Benson was wrapped in vinyl and given appropriate logos, on arrival in Auckland it was strung up from a high-lift crane in a huge barn of a studio that is seven stories high.  As usual with these things, two days stretched into best part of a week but we achieved what was required with 5am starts and late finishes.
Returning to a normal flying routine we moved on with the training of private owners on Calidus and Cavalon as well as offering basic experience on our steadfast MTO Eagle, the first Autogyro aircraft into New Zealand way back in 2006!
The busy month of January concluded with the bi-annual Tauranga Airshow where Gyrate set a record with a formation take-off with six aircraft into a well received display routine followed by a formation landing.  Great work guys!!
The Airshow created a lot of interest in our machines and the spin-off is regular training for several new students.  We also received an invitation to attend an 'opening' fly-in at a local airstrip in Whangamata, somewhat postponed from the inaugural flight some 2 years earlier but a truly superb setting and great hospitality nonetheless.
Around this time an old friend returned to Tauranga, Xenon XJE, this aircraft had been in Taupo for some 3 years but with a new owner it came back for a quick brush up and some on-going conversion training.  The hangar is getting quite full now with some ten aircraft and a new MTO Eagle being assembled from a factory supplied kit, all change next month when most of them head South to Wings over Wanaka!

The calendar has been very full and it is as well that we have had Lawrence to maintain operations in Tauranga while Sue and I have been travelling.  Next up was the 50th anniversary of the SAA which was held at Hastings, the gyro contingent was Heinz Kitzhoffer in his Cavalon complete with his Advanced National certificate.  I travelled down with Darryl Goodwin in his Calidus which was his first long Cross-Country, he flew it back solo in formation with the Cavalon, good progress.  Finally today we attended a lunch-time BBQ at Matamata with Mike O'Rourke in his MTO Eagle, Heinz and Sue in the Cavalon (his first passenger flight) and I was in the Calidus with Richard Wagner.  Next up Wanaka, may the fine weather last!!

Goodbye 13, Hello 14

Tony Unwin - Saturday, December 28, 2013

Yes, 2013 is closing and 2014 is just days away.  Like so many others at this time we can enjoy a review of the past year and look ahead with great hopes for the coming months.  Quite a lot must have happened because the Kenyan adventure of last January seems a long time ago, unfortunately this year Kenya became associated with terrorism and violence and the peaceful experience that we enjoyed is somewhat tarnished in memory.  
Andrew Hares and Elton Haakma did a great job keeping the Gyrate operation on track and even introduced new long term members to the gyro fraternity.  About this time we had an influx of visitors from Hong Kong andBen Price @ Matamata China and these relationships have been strengthened and renewed regularly ever since.  I even met one of our Chinese friends in Germany at the Autogyro factory in August.  
Our regular flyers have been making steady progress with 3 single seat machines now flying from Matamata and a 2 place Dominator due to join them shortly.  The requirement for transponders in Tauranga airspace has made Matamata a popular alternative for home-built aircraft and the recent increase in Airways charges makes it a sensible option for circuit training.
On the two-seat front we have had delivery of a new Calidus for Darryl Goodwin and a Cavalon for David Church, on the 10th January the next container arrives with a red Cavalon for Derek Willis and an MTO Eagle kit for Gyrate to assemble.
Another container is due around April/May with the sixth Cavalon for New Zealand, currently there is still space for your order to join it!!  We must not forget our gyro collector Hub Hall for whom we imported a very fancy Calidus finished in a stylish metallic maroon well set-off by a Gyrate silver fern decal design.
While I was in Europe I established a dealership for Airbox, a GPS supplier based in the UK who offer NZCAA charts on their very clear screens. We now have several users based in Tauranga who can vouch for their simple and straightforward operation. Airbox also offer similar software for use on Apple devices called RunwayHD which again uses the NZCAA charts, especially useful in an open cockpit where conventional maps can be a liability. 

To enhance our range of radio and transponder equipment we have become agents for Trig Avionics who are another UK based Company offering a high quality product at a competitive price.  Having recently attended the CAA presentation on future plans for our airspace the requirement to handle ADS-B is getting closer.

Christmas is a time for BBQs and as usual Gyrate held a gathering, unusually the sun was in evidence and the sky was blue!  The line up of machines was smaller than some years but the quality was higher than ever, the new aircraft just get better and better. 

Gyrate has taken a major leap of faith and employed a full-time instructor to join the team in Tauranga.  Lawrence Robinson has landed from South Africa with impressive qualifications for a young man.  He says he has been an aviation enthusiast since building his first model at the age of five, this led to being South African model aircraft flying champion  at sixteen.  By 21 he had a single engine fixed wing commercial licence with instructor rating plus a twin-engined licence with instrument rating.  Add to this 200 hours of commercial crop spraying in gyroplanes and you have a very unique CV.
In the short time he has been flying with us we have been very pleased with the way he has handled the change to Kiwi aviation and the challenges of new aircraft, people and places.  The Gyrate instructional team goes from strength to strength and able to help more people become pilots of these world leading aircraft.

Summertime for Some

Tony Unwin - Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Well overdue and and written from overseas!  This blog entry now has to cover a huge amount of material so apologies if you want to skip to the end anytime soon.  Firstly I should publicly congratulate two students for going solo in their own single seat machines and a third almost there.  Having used Gyrate's MTO Eagle to learn to fly Trevor Jefferies and Neil Hawkes positioned their single seat Dominators at Matamata Airfield and converted to the new environment with little hassle.  In the early days of transition the use of two radios allows the instructor to make all positioning calls on behalf of the student leaving him free to receive coaching on another frequency. 
 It is particularly good to see our youngest student, Ben Price,making good progress towards his goal of single seat gyro flying.  Men of 21 are rare in the gyroplane world and we wish him every success.
To expand his horizons and to practice cross country navigation Ben flew me on an outing with the Gordonton Microlight Club.  Initially Bruce Watson flew me across to Te Kuiti in the Training Eagle where we met up with some 20 other microlights including Hub Hall in his own  MTO Eagle.  At this point Ben joined the party and took over flying me, while Hub gave Bruce a ride.  We all headed off for a farm strip near Taumaranui which was to prove educational.
 Firstly I took the wrong valley and then, on arrival, the wire hazard around the strip proved to be as invisible as had been briefed.  
On to land at the pristine Taumaranui Airfield where we were to record the closing of the fuel facility, what a shame!  The GMC crew headed into town but it was such a glorious day that Hub and I headed East to Turangi and then on around the lake to Taupo.  This was to be the lunch stop but the cafe was closed so we raided the automatic dispenser for sustenance and liquids instead.  A crew change here and Hub took Ben back to Te Kuiti while Bruce flew me home to Tauranga under suddenly thickening cloud.  Winter flying can be challenging but it was a brilliant day out!
In order to explain the photograph we have attended some other GMC flyins and the one shown is on a private strip just West of Mercer Airfield, the grass is so smooth as are our hosts, great breakfast and superb company!

This might be an opportune moment to mention the walking wounded in the club.  Well hobbling might be a better term as David Church has had to deal with the replacement of a replacement hip and Sue Unwin underwent surgery to implant a new knee joint.  Fortunately as I type both are mending well.

Back at base things are changing, not always for the better.  Airways Corporation, the organisation appointed by your Government via the CAA, have decided to increase charges for their services and inflict a fee for each circuit.  Not helpful.
The discretion of controllers to allow microlights to operate at Tauranga without transponders has been removed.  Not helpful.  At the same time the CAA have allowed the medical section to charge to permit pilots to take a medical examination.  Not helpful.   However all is not gloom, a light aircraft deputation was well received by the minister for transport and these points, plus fuel duty issues were taken away for consideration.

Gyrate continues to raise the status of gyroplanes wherever possible and to this end I have been active within FlyingNZ the umbrella organisation for light aviation previously known as the Royal Aero Club.  I attended the AGM and conference at Hamilton Airport and was able to park a shiny new Cavalon outside the front door of the conference centre.  Great exposure for the sport.  I have also joined the local Chamber of Commerce and enjoy some business coaching which may help to move Gyrate up a gear.  We are hopeful to  have a sister Company established in the Auckland area next year as well as increasing the instructor base at Tauranga.  

Talking of sister Companies we were pleased to be visited by Rex Telfer and Jim Service from Gyrate South.  Rex was keen to enjoy the comfort of the Cavalon and Jim wanted to experience the Calidus now fitted with a Misubishi Turbo and a converted summer canopy now suited for winter flying.  Other visitors have come from further afield and Oliver So and Lei An both appeared to discuss the expanding and changing face of light sport aircraft in China.  If we didn't have a language issue the market for training is unbelievable!

Another opportunity exists for gyroplane manufacturers to provide machines capable of commercial application in this developing market and the New Zealand developed Kahu gyroplane is being tailored towards this requirement.  I continue to test fly and fine tune the Kahu at Tauranga, progress is encouraging.  Another club member of note is Brian Murphy who has been fettleing a Spanish ELA for many a month.  It now boasts one of the best value for money GPS units available displaying position and track on current NZ CAA charts with the brightest sun-readable 7 inch screen you can imagine.  Don't worry it can be dimmed as the light fades!  I am a fan and will arrive back from Europe with several units to install in the fleet.
As many of you will know I am currently in Germany visiting Autogyro and other manufacturers. The expansion continues and a massive six million Euro building is under construction to house a specialist carbon fibre moulding and finishing facility.  The level of investment is impressive as are some of the commercial applications for these versatile aircraft.  One Cavalon, worth say 100,000 Euros, was on display with 500,000 Euros worth of computer tracking and mapping equipment. In another hall was a MTOsport with agricultural spraying booms and of course the police and military departments have deployed Autogyros to great effect.

This last week has included a review of instructor standards throughout the forty or so Countries currently operating Autogyro aircraft, the conclusion was recognition of a need to establish a standard of certified instructor and flight school.  More on this shortly but sufficient to say that there is a fantastic, cost effective, on-line training facility available which should enable us to leap ahead of most light aviation organisations and put gyroplanes at the forefront of modern flight education.  A worldwide standard that will provide a payback in insurance and reputation.

Another significant event this week was the opportunity for me to have a short flight in a top of the range Trixy gyroplane.  
Thunderstorms were lurking in the valleys, the Alps had disappeared in haze and there were only twenty litres of fuel on board, we didn't go far!!  First impression is of a solid aircraft sitting steady in the sky with a brilliant electronic flight display that I could get to love.
 Second impression is of a need to lead turns with rudder to keep in balance and a rotor system that has more inertia than I am used to on Autogyro.
  The disc is steady with little stick shake but needs more effort to move it to a new position giving a sense of stability normally found in the heavy fibreglass blades used by Magni and ELA.  I later discover that the Averso aluminium rotor system used is indeed much heavier than the Autogyro one.  Although we were light on fuel, two good sized pilots provided a reasonable payload and I believe the generously equipped aircraft will benefit from the longer rotors that are proposed.  The Trixy is part of a development for multi mode transport and their website is thought provoking to say the least.
Back in Tauranga the latest Autogyro arrivals are in a 40 foot high-top container awaiting Customs clearance.  This should be the normal formality and Solowings will have them completely ready for CAA inspection before I return.

My final piece of news is that we have secured advertising space within the Tauranga Airport terminal so your sport goes in front of the travelling public on a daily basis come October.


All Change with the Clocks

Tony Unwin - Monday, April 29, 2013

While the Northern Hemisphere Springs forward the less crowded Southern Hemisphere Falls back, this heralds a change in the weather.  

After a fantastic summer in the last couple of weeks Tauranga has seen some torrential rain and flooding followed by the usual equinox winds.  The end of summer and the associated holiday-makers has left Gyrate a little quieter and allows time to address items like writing a blog and newsletter both of which are, as usual, overdue.

Life is anything but dull and recently with Heinz in his Cavalon, me in the Eagle and Sue in the car we had a great weekend in Hastings at the invitation of the Aero Club.  

Friday night is always good value with this Club and on the Saturday we returned the favour by providing fourteen trial flights for their pilots.  The wind was fresh which allowed for some good appreciation of the gyroplanes capabilities which were well described by many as awesome!  We did more flying on Sunday but before we knew it the hills had clagged in and we had to stay over until the Monday.  No big problem when in the centre of one of New Zealand's premier wine districts!  On departure we had to tackle Northerly winds of over 40 knots creating a fairly disturbed airflow over 4000ft mountains, as always the gyros handled the conditions well even if the GPS was unsure if we were making much progress.

This was my second visit to the East coast in close succession, a couple of weeks earlier I had arranged to meet up with Dieter who owns a Calidus which he has operated from Wairoa for over a year.  I flew over to check on his progress and to oversea his first operation into his own farm-strip which is about 200 metres long and perched at the end of the Mahia peninsular.

I flew the Eagle to Wairoa and in a fresh breeze we did some short take-off and landing practice dual before Dieter continued solo.  Having honed the skill level we set of under a miserable low cloud-base in loose formation to find the farm, this is not difficult navigation as it merely involves following the coast line.  However with rugged cliffs and shore line together with a grey sea topped with white-caps a reliable rotax provides great comfort.  We arrived to find a strong wind blowing some 30 degrees off the runway line which made for a very straight forward landing.  Dieter followed me in and we soon had his aircraft secured in a hangar that used  to be a wool-shed.  We both boarded the Eagle for the return flight to Wairoa and the fresh breeze was a welcome bonus for our departure.

Life at Tauranga is following the pattern of previous years and we have several students training towards flying their own aircraft as well as those trying out gyro flying for the first time.  We have a container with three aircraft on board due to ship from Germany in June and yet again these are all enclosed machines, are we getting a tad soft guys?  Planning for the Tauranga Airshow next January is well under way and with any luck we may have another shipment by then!

 Many of you will be aware that ANZAC day is celebrated in these parts with much remembrance and ceremony. What you may not know is that the following day, April 26th is also a day of celebration for the Birthday of Ken Wallis, one time owner of all world gyroplane records and James Bond in disguise.  This year Ken made 97 and is still flying gyros, he is also scheduled to address the Royal Aeronautical Society in London very soon!  The thought of following in those footsteps means another 25 years of doing this stuff which is a rather daunting!!

Thinking of time reminds me that I was sent a DVD this week containing copy of a film made for Independent Television News back in 1970, a mere 43 years ago! It shows me partaking in the first eight-way freefall star in the UK and brought back some very happy memories of flight without wings.

If you have not seen the story of Ivo-prop propellers then copy and paste the link below for a look at ingenuity to rival Kiwi.

A Stunning Summer in Two Continents!

Tony Unwin - Sunday, March 03, 2013

For January 2013 I had been booked to instruct in Kenya, Gyrate NZ would continue its busy program in the administrative hands of Andy Hares and Elton Haakma would do the flying.  This was a win win situation which produced great results, maybe I should disappear more often!  If you subscribe to our newsletter then you will have seen a full report on the trip to Africa, on facebook there are a few pictures.

 So this is just a resume of what went on.
Sue and I headed out of Auckland to Sydney then 14 hours to Dubai and then, after a wait of 5 hours, another 5 hours of flying to Nairobi.
 The next day I was taken to meet a brand new Magni M24 and did some local circuits getting used to operating at 5000ft amsl.
 Fortunately it was not too hot and with extra long rotors it performed as well as a standard machine at sea level.  
Another giant step was flying this 'virgin' aircraft from Nairobi for 100 miles West over the rugged Rift Valley to the Masai Mara game reserve where I had three students to train.  The airstrip was long but rough, grass patches had been grazed  short by Zebra and Gazelle while the regular Cessna Caravan flig
hts had blown away large amounts of the dried mud surface.

 Local Masai tribesmen acted as security guards while Sue and I made ourselves at home in the 5 star Safari Camp first established for the 'Great White Hunters' of the 1920's.

I had 20 days to make 3 pilots capable of flying solo in 1 Magni M24.  The only answer was to get up at 5.30 and enjoy the glorious African sunrise then about 11.00am, when the heat and thermals were making circuits at 6000ft somewhat challenging, we would retire for a lunch/siesta break.  The flying program resumed around 3 o'clock and ran till last-light/beer-time.  Some day
s we achieved 9 sorties but on a couple we had issues with dirty fuel blocking a fuel filter, this gave me a chance to take a 'Safari Ride' into the conservancy area to see wild life close up. 

Flying the Magni was interesting and it worked well, the cabin was more cramped than the Cavalon and some of the systems and controls were less user friendly but we achieved 60 hours in hostile conditions which was a hard christening for any new aircraft.

With mission accomplished Sue and I returned, with a couple of days R & R in Dubai to recover, before dealing with high season in Tauranga.  February bookings included a number of Chinese pilots, some from Hong Kong and others from Northern China, life does feel rather international at the moment.  While I was away the Cavalon aircraft that arrived shortly before Christmas were enjoying fine blue skies.  Heinz consolidated his solo experience and Phil Empson focused on flying his bright red machine while his family holidayed at the Mount.  Looking ahead we have some new local flyers training in the Eagle and 2 of our regulars are about to make a move into single seat Dominators.  Airways New Zealand are making life more challenging by insisting on transponders on all aircraft in the Control Zone so we may be forced to take the single seat aircraft to Matamata.  Watch this space!

Red Letter Day

Tony Unwin - Tuesday, December 04, 2012

I had forgotten the origins of this saying so I googled it and found that it means any day of significance, originally marked in red in Church manuscripts after 325AD.  Well November the 22nd 2012AD  was a long awaited day of significance for me, finally our order for three new Cavalon aircraft was delivered to Tauranga Airport.  These machines are spectacular and include some great glass screens and mapping. The finish is superb, and of course the stylish looks speak volumes for the award winning design.  SoloWings will prepare the aircraft and the all important paperwork for inspection by the CAA. 
The appointed day has been delayed to Wednesday 5th December with no apology for the disruption this will cause to our commercial schedules and of course with no recompense! The Gyrate schedules have been fairly busy since we returned from Europe and we have enjoyed training two Chineese gyro pilots over a three week period.  We have now received a booking from one of their colleagues to fly with us during the first half of January 2013.  We have also been training students who want to progress to flying their own single-seat Dominator aircraft, Trevor Jefferis from Putaruru is awaiting completion of his aircraft by Neil Hintz of AeroFlight and Neil Hawkes from Auckland plans to solo on the well tried ZK-RCH.
Meanwhile down South in Dunedin two examples of Vitorio Magni's early work have arrived.  Paul Newman has imported his VPM from the UK and my own VPM arrived in the same container but more in kit form and in need of a complete rebuild.  We look forward to seeing them as per the picture sometime next year.  A further huge step for Rex Telfer, Alan Wright and the Club at Taieri is the new website produced by the students of the local Polytechnic, great work guys. Check out the video at

December looks like one of the heaviest flight schedules we have undertaken.  Two new owners of Cavalons require training together with an experienced flyer from the UK looking to obtain an instructor rating on Gyroplanes.  Christmas has also to be fitted in and then January will see Sue and I heading for Kenya where I have been tasked with training three pilots on their new M24. This will be challenging as the flight time and time zone issues are more than going to London, not to mention the jabs and malaria pills.  I was fortunate to spend significant time in Kenya while flying DC8 Freighters in the late 70's and I am very keen to return to a stunning part of the world.  Interesting to think that if the poachers have not got them then the Elephants that I saw then may still be tramping around today!

Latest news from AutoGyro in Germany is a report from the agents in the USA who have been training members of the Justice Department in Washington.  The result is that several law enforcement agencies have started to use AutoGyro aircraft for patrols, note the wonderful Bald Eagle graphics on the Calidus!

Spring is in the Air

Tony Unwin - Thursday, October 18, 2012

Looking at the last Blog it seems the NZ Winter and the UK Summer have passed without comment.  Those of you who subscribe to the newsletter are better informed but a new Blog is well overdue.  There is some danger of repetition here but also the opportunity to reflect on some of the great happenings that we have enjoyed as well as looking forward to the fantastic year ahead.
I returned to England in July as Sue was due to have knee replacement surgery before we went to Europe for pre-arranged visits to the Brako and AutoGyro factories.  In fact the operation was postponed for twelve months and we had more time than expected to explore Europe.  The Brako facility is located in Northern Italy, halfway between Venice and the Dolomite mountains.  I had never visited Venice as a tourist although I had flown there many times as Captain of various charter flights.  This City is truly unique as it is based on a network of canals and it appears that there is more water than solid foundation below most of the structures.
I had always been sceptical about the reputation of this Mecca of the Tourist industry but to experience the atmosphere of history that pervades the network of narrow alleyways that are an excuse for streets and the vibrant canal system is unforgettable.

The temperature was 38C and the crowds were intense but escape onto a terrace overlooking the Grand Canal with a bottle of chilled wine makes one feel as sophisticated as any of the stars one sees filmed in this environment.  We moved back into reality and took a small rental car 50 miles North to the Brako factory. This is a family concern tucked away in a small nondescript town in an area of agriculture and light industry.  
Claudio Brako is an engineer and aviator with experience in the development of fixed wing microlights and gyroplanes.  He is also a representative for Rotax engines and has developed his own modification kit which uses a Mitsubishi turbo-charger to transform a 912 from 80 to 120HP.  We were proudly shown the engine test facility where performance is measured on a test stand before fitting to the Brako gyro.  
Each gyroplane is constructed to order from the standard model, we saw several sets of metal-work together with carbon fibre bodies, awaiting assembly.
 We then left to see the finished product in action at the Company's own airstrip.  Several gyroplanes and microlights were in the hangar and the Company demonstrator was wheeled out for examination and demonstration.  The engine on this aircraft had done 1800 hours of trouble free service which was a good advertisement for the turbo conversion.  The gyroplane itself was solidly constructed with high sided bodywork that provided excellent protection from the elements, a hinged pane
l let down to provide easy access.

  I watched Claudio demonstrate his creation in the high temperatures with little wind
 and the performance was impressive.  I was invited to join him and despite my failure to release the parking brake the machine took both of us airborne off the grass strip with little hassle.  In the air the aircraft was smooth and solid to operate.  Claudio prides himself on the performance of his rotor system as well as the engine and I can endorse both.
  Sue and I were invited to lunch where Leandro Vega, the sales and promotional partner, helped to interpret for us and to outline the aims and future objectives of Brako Gyroplanes.

Moving on for 2 more days exploring the Dolomite Mountains the rental car took 
to the hills sharing the continuous hairpins with fleets of Bikers enjoying every curve. 
 The scenery is spectacular and the cool mountain air refreshing after the heat of the plains. In winter this is ski 

country but now the roads are crowded with holiday makers even though they are challenging to car and driver alike.  The  towns that sprang up where valleys interlinked are treasures of history modernised to carry the latest fashions from Milan and every fragrance known to the perfume trade. 

We left the Mountains via the City of Bolzano and headed back to the International Airport at Venice.  A cut price airline flight to Berlin, another rental and we are heading for the Autgyro factory for our fifth open day, linked this year with a partners' conference.  This award winning organisation with its dynamic CEO never disappoints and now has partners in 39 different Countries.  The gathering of some 30 people were entertained to educational forums and social events that brought a sense of community to a very diverse community. 

 To encourage team building we were taken to the VW headquarters at Wolfsberg and treated to a corporate experience that would be hard to match.
The opportunity to take a Touareg 4x4 over a specially constructed off road course was unique, as was the water show with 300 foot jets, mist screens displaying action video combined with lights and lasers was world class. A challenge to Vegas or Disneyland and yet a hidden gem. 
 The next day was factory open day, the Company showcasing its wares to the families of the engineers and craftsmen, to the many aircraft owners who arrived by air and to the visitors seeking to explore
 this dynamic and expanding empire. 

 The weather was perfect, the latest Cavalon aircraft flew continuously and the generous hospitality ensured a warm feeling of good fortune prevailed.  I was able to meet the technicians behind the latest Flymap avionics/GPS system that will be arriving with a NZ Cavalon this November, we will also have a static demonstration panel available to demonstrate the full spectrum of features available.  In production were the shells of the 3 Cavalons scheduled for New Zealand this November and some urgency was encouraged for their completion.
 I returned to the UK to oversee the shipping of 2 VPM gyroplanes from Somerset to Dunedin, they have now arrived and are being prepared for CAA flight permits as I type. Gyrate is now in full swing for another season, new students are enrolled and the schedule for the year ahead is hectic.  More instructors is a priority for Gyrate and we will endeavour to achieve this goal before 2013.
Please note for those of you who have subscribed to the GYRATE NEWSLETTER recently the gremlins have been at our software and you may not be on our mailing list.  I will have an October NEWSLETTER out before the end of the month so if it fails to reach you could you try and subscribe again.  Dance the Skies, Gyrate!!