Is the Gyroplane the future of transportation?

July 18, 2008 7:53:13 AM PDT
An East Bay man has a vision of what the future holds for local commuters. He sees tens of thousands of people avoiding traffic jams and cutting their travel time by 80-percent, by flying to work in their very own Gyroplanes.

The 1960's 'Jetson's' cartoon saw the future of transportation with individual flying crafts. Move over George Jetson, here comes Mark Goroff - in his Sparrowhawk Gyroplane.

"It's a simple to fly vehicle, it's economically reasonable, it simple mechanically, doesn't cost much to maintain, and it can go in a straight line instead of having to follow roads and stay behind traffic," said Goroff.

Goroff says this American Autogyro two-seater can turn a 45 minute stop and go drive from Livermore to San Carlos into a straight line, no traffic 25 minute flight. Powered by a 165 horsepower Subaru car engine that runs on premium unleaded auto fuel, the Sparrowhawk gets 12-miles-per gallon, but that's as the crow flies. And this craft has a lot more in common with a crow's flight than a small plane's flight.

"When you're flying in a small aircraft you are still usually flying at 4,000 to 8,000 to 10,000 feet and you going along at 150 to 200 knots. But this can fly 500 feet off the ground at 40 miles per hour and you can really enjoy the view," said Goroff.

The Gyroplane gets lift from freely turning rotor blades tilted back to catch the air and cruises at 70 miles per hour. It gets thrust from an engine driven propeller.

The idea isn't new, as there were ads with a similar idea in 1932. But it's an idea whose time has finally come, according to Charles Hester who actually purchased a Sparrowhawk Gyroplane dealership.

"It is the future, in my point of view it is very simple, it is very safe, and it's very inexpensive. It's available to the general public now and more and more will be moving in that direction," said Hester.

One of the drawbacks of the Gyroplane is that it is recommended that you have 1,000 feet for take off and landing. That is space that most people don't have in their backyards.

There are other challenges for the Gyroplane before the 'Jetson's' becomes reality.

"More and more economy into the aircraft in its simplicity, more and more people moving to being pilots," said Hester.

Oh, and one last thing - the $45,000 Sparrowhawk comes in a kit - you assemble it.

"It took me 13 months of elapsed time building in my garage from 9 pm to 2 am. It was an incredibly fun process," said Goroff.

So if you have the time and money and a sport pilot license with a Gyroplane rating and a stomach for this kind of flying, there's still plenty of room in the skies of Charles Hester's future.

The Sparrowhawk designer, Groen Brothers Aviation, has run into financial problems and has put its Gyroplane division up for sale. So you can not only buy a Gyroplane right now, you can buy the manufacturer as well.


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