It's a shame that the 'experimental' lettering painted on the side of the gyroplane has lead a lot of would-be flyers to steer away from the little aircraft because the gyroplane offers one of the smoothest, most enjoyable rides available.
Randy Stiles, the authorized dealer of gyroplanes for Georgia and the surrounding areas for American Autogyro, says he fell in love with the gyroplane 19 years ago on his first flight.
Stiles, who has clocked 700 flight hours flying gyroplanes, is a seller of the SparrowHawk II gyroplane. From his base of operations at the Covington Municipal Airport, Stiles says he has taken over 100 people up in his own SparrowHawk gyroplane, a shiny-red two-seater.
In all of those 100 flights, Stiles says, he hasn't had one person not enjoy their flight.
One of the chief reasons why he loves to fly gyroplanes says Stiles is the safety factor.
The gyroplane is powered through thrust produced by an engine-driven propeller. The backwards tilt of the aircraft's unpowered freely-turning rotor blade provides lift through autorotation brought on by oncoming airflow through the rotor blades.
Because there is always oncoming wind, the aircraft always operates in autorotation says Stiles. In the event of an engine failure, the autorotation of the rotor blade allows the gyroplane to coast to a landing rather than a free-fall.
"We do not stall," Stiles said. "That's why we're the safest aircraft there is."
While the gyroplane flies safely at low altitudes and low speeds it cannot hover.
In addition, the gyroplane can fly in conditions that many other small-sized fixed winged aircraft cannot. While wind can be an adversary to other types of aircraft, for gyroplanes Stiles says it's more of an ally.
The SparrowHawk II gyroplane which Stiles sells is a two-seat aluminum frame, centerline thrust aircraft with a wide-molded fiberglass cabin.
It is 12-feet-3-inches in length, 6-feet-1-inch wide and 10-feet tall. The SparrowHawk carries up to 600 pounds safely.
The aircraft can take-off from a minimum ground roll of 100 feet. Normal take-off ground roll is between 300 and 500-feet. Its landing roll is between 0 and 30 feet.
The rate of climb for the SparrowHawk is 650 feet per minute and the maximum speed 100 mph. The aircraft can fly to heights of 10,000 feet and has an endurance (at the cruise speed of 75 mph) of three hours.
Parties interested in purchasing the SparrowHawk for their private use, law enforcement purposes, government or ranch work can purchase an introductory packet on the aircraft for $50. An introductory 20-minute flight is included with the price.
Stiles says the FAA's 'experimental' designation of the SparrowHawk means that aircraft is to be used for recreational and educational purposes only.
The SparrowHawk is constructed as an Experimental-Amateur-Built gyroplane - which simply means says Stiles that it is not built in a factory but by hand from a kit. The SparrowHawk kit can be purchased from American AutoGyro for $45,500.
American Autogyro also has a builder-assist program and for $65,500 will construct the SparrowHawk for customers.
The SparrowHawk requires a minimum of a Private Pilot license (for passenger carrying privileges) or a Sport Pilot license with a gyroplane rating.
American Autogyro employs a flight instructor - Rick Abercrombie - at the Covington Municipal Airport. Aircraft lessons are $150 an hour. The price includes instruction, aircraft time and gas.
For Newton and Rockdale County residents, flight instruction lessons are half off said Stiles. For those customers who are part of the builder-assist program, flight lessons are free.