What exactly is a Gyrocopter I hear you ask?
It looks like a small helicopter without a canopy and without an engine turning the rotors. The rotors apparently self-propel due to the way the air flows through them.
I had kept my eye on the weather forecast all week and I was delighted when I woke up to bright blue skies and brilliant sunshine! Perfect flying conditions!
We left our home town of Kendal at around about 9.30am for the 62 mile journey up to Kirkbride Airfield. I didn't risk having any breakfast just in case it was a bumpy ride! I didn't want to see it again!
My flight was scheduled for 11am and we thought we had left in plenty of time – not counting on there being a diversion due to road works which added a substantial amount of time onto our journey!
We breathed a sigh of relief when we got to the airfield with 10 minutes to spare and saw a sign directing us to the white control tower. We headed towards it only to be stopped as a “Truck Show” was in progress and we got diverted (again!). The only problem being the directions we were given didn’t take us where we wanted to be but after much trial and error we found our way and parked up at exactly 11 O Clock!
After heaving a sigh of relief on making it we were informed that Chris, my pilot was still flying and would be about 20 minutes!
Time to relax or time to rack up the nerves a bit more!
I had travelled in shorts and a vest top as it was such a hot day but as the literature had said it was cold in the air even on a hot day I had brought extra layers consisting of trousers and a fleece top. I took the opportunity to layer up. I’m not sure whether the sweat trickling down my forehead was from nerves or over-heating! There was a couple of Gyrocopters ready and waiting on the airfield and I did wonder if one of these had my name on it!
At around 11.30am Chris landed after having a flight with another student and met us enthusiastically.
He then gave us a mini tour of the aircraft hangar and we were shown some of the original Gyrocopters as well as some of the most modern before getting geared up to go! This involved a one-size-fits-all (it didn’t!) flying suit, along with a neck warmer, helmet and gloves, oh yes ... and a piece of rope to attach my camera to and hang around my neck so I couldn’t drop it over board!
I was surprised to find that once we got out onto the airfield how windy it actually was – this made me more nervous – was I in for a thrilling bumping ride?! I was amazed to discover that very little grounds a gyrocopter, in the way of weather which is probably a good job in this corner of the world! However, purely for customer enjoyment they tend not to fly in high winds. They just don't want to have to clean up puke from the windscreen!
Chris gave me a safety briefing and explained the how’s and whereabouts of the controls. I was slightly alarmed to discover that although the aircraft had duel control there was in fact 3 things that I could only do being the front seat passenger! Yikes! This made me apprehensive but I was reassured that he would talk me through it when the time came!
We were soon strapped in and ready to go!
It felt very strange having no canopy to come down over the top of me and I was completely open to the elements although there was a protective windscreen as well as my helmet visor to keep the bugs out!
We trundled to the end of the run way before turning around and soon after picking up speed we were airborne!
WOW! What an exhilarating experience. To have the sun shining on us and the wind buffering us I felt free and unrestricted and there was nothing at all to obscure the fantastic Lake District views.
Chris had a very calming voice and manner and talked me through when I had to do my "bit" and directed me to the right knobs to twiddle!
Not long after take off he invited me to take over the controls! After talking me through the controls I heard the intrepid words “you have control” - Yikes!
I was really flying this wonderful machine on my own ... or was I?!
At this point I was fairly relaxed and calm thinking “Chris has the controls in the back and has his hand on the stick just in case" when I felt 2 hands on my shoulders with the words “YOU are REALLY flying this!” The nerves then kicked in and the hand started to shake!
We headed towards Bassenthwaite Lake with me following Chris’s directions, although I need to get my lefts and rights more secure in stressful situations!
Once we were greeted by fabulous views of the lake and surrounding fells Chris took over the controls so I could take some ariel photography!
Being unrestricted in the gyrocopter the panoramas are absolutely immense. The aircraft is slow enough and goes low enough to allow you to see what is happening in the world below, whilst at the same time providing a truly exhilarating experience.
As we skimmed over the fells, we lowered our height to enable us to interact with the hikers below and waved at them – to be greeted with enthusiastic waves back. Once I had my fill of being a camera
It was an incredible feeling I never wanted to end!
On the way back Chris took over the controls for a short while to demonstrate to me how safe a gyrocopter really is! As the engine is not connected to the rotors, it means that a Gyrocopter is not seriously affected if the engine should stop in flight, so to prove this to me Chris turned the engine low and I was amazed how slowly the aircraft lost height and how it was still possible to guide it to land exactly where you want! Just as we were (what felt like) inches off the ground Chris revved the engine back up and we were soon gaining height again and I was given back control!
All too soon we had the airfield in our sight and it was time for me to hand over the controls for the final time! We did several fly-pasts to enable my husband to get some good photographs before landing incredibly lightly on the run way!
We then trundled back to the parking lot before I got to disembark and then derobe!
All in all a fantastic experience and one that I would love to do again! If you have the opportunity to fly in a Gyrocopter I highly recommend you do!