- Ultralights and gyros at BLOIS 2005 -

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BLOIS 2005:

The success of the Blois meeting reflects that of the ULM (Ultra light machine) movement. With about 6000 federation (French Ultra light federation) members in 2000, then 8000 in 2003 we are now more than 10,000…..
This is the result of liberal ULM rules and a strong federation guaranteeing the rights we've acquired.
The meeting welcomed some 50,000 visitors and the arrival of the machines, like a cloud of mosquitoes was really impressive.
All this without radio and without problem. A little dig at our general aviation friends who can't seem to do without radio.

Regarding Autogyros their rebirth is really quite recent. It is only in the last 2 to 3 years that we have seen new manufacturers on the scene.


1/ DF02 from Gyrotec:

Michaël Obermaier (Gyrotec boss) was present with his superb, fully enclosed single place gyro. Unfortunately, the gyro still wasn't finished and remained on the static display. We are following the development of this top of the range single place gyro that we have already mentioned on our website. Anyway it allowed us to get to know Michaël who we only knew through the internet before. He's really a cool guy. He supplied the Magni stand with beer while Eric Changeur competed with his wine. That's collaborative competition !

Pictures: A1, A2, A3


The Airbet is made in Spain. We've seen it a number of times especially at the Bois de Pierre meeting.
The conception of this gyro is really different because the frame is made from formed and welded steel tube. The strength of this structure shouldn't be a problem but with a welded chassis the landing mustn't be too hard or it's all in the trash can. But that's also true for many other gyros: Magni, MT03, ELA…
The rotor is Aluminium anodised black which really looks good and the streamlining of the instrument pod and wheel pants look nice as well. The rod end bearings for the controls are correctly sized at 10 mm ( 3/8") contrary to what I had advised before.

We had a satisfactory flying demonstration of the cheapest factory built autogyro available at 17,400€. This being said it is a single place gyro with a Rotax 503 which might be a bit short for the heavier ones amongst us.

More questionable however are the inbuilt security aspects of this design. We have constantly repeated over the years, that to be stable an autogyro must have a high centre of gravity and/or a well sized horizontal stabilizer. This isn't the case for this gyro.
We've discussed this point with the designer via internet forums and he assures us that his gyro is stable, emphasising that first, we haven't flown it (which is true) and second the stabilizer is in the prop wash (which is also true).

This may be true but the stabilization of autogyros is scientifically proven and demonstrated by the thousands of gyros that have been built in the world and the dozens of deaths of those who didn't know the basics or chose to ignore them.

It really wouldn't take much to lengthen the stabilizer. Apart from that it's a good opportunity for a restricted budget.

Pictures: B1, B2, B3
Contact:Xavier Llobet

Waiting for the other manufacturers to catch up, the only alternative for a factory built single place gyro is the Magni M18, for a reasonable price of 25,000 € (all taxes included) you get a safe, solid gyro that has proven itself, with a 65 HP Rotax 582, a streamlined open cockpit and a good pre rotator. On the other hand all this is reflected in the weight. Sometimes it's better to wait a bit longer.

Finally there are always homebuilt gyros where you find the good and bad deals side by side! For example, at Blois there was a single place gyro for sale privately for about 6000€ that was at least ten years old. Fitted with a 503 and a very small stabilizer this was not the good deal it appeared unless the buyer was warned of the shortcomings of such a machine.
I wouldn't give much for the life of the new gyro pilot, having learned to fly on a modern stable machine, finding himself on this one in the state it was in.

Despite that there are some good deals to be had in the homebuilt market but please ask your instructor for his advice before buying, this isn't a model aeroplane, you are going to find yourself sitting in what you buy...

Crédits photos:Jacques HOUDAILLE.

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1/ The Futura:

This recent luxury gyro, that we have already reported, has never been demonstrated in flight neither at Angouleme, Bois de Pierre nor at Blois. An example has flown however, but was recently subject of an accident killing one of our friends Gaëtan Thiercelin. He's been an autogyro pilot for a number of years and we'll all miss his kindness.
We don't know much about the cause of the accident except that the machine had been modified because it was 30 kg (66lb) (that's enormous) overweight. This was achieved mainly by the replacement of the American Sportcopter rotor by the French Aircopter model.
Having proved themselves on both sides of the Atlantic, there is little chance of the rotor being the cause of the accident. However the second rotor was much lighter than the first and that surely changed the centre of gravity.

Let the BEA (French accident investigation department) finish their inquiry there could be many reasons for the accident that have nothing to do with the gyro, the pilot fainting for one, in the mean time we've lost a friend.

Picture: A1

2/ The ELA:

As far as ELA goes there are some changes.
In the past there were big problems between ELA and their first distributor in France, Aircopter, then with the second distributor Aerotrophy, leader in the ULM market.
Since then the distribution agency was taken by Médoc-ULM-Evasion under the name "ELA France", let's hope that the relationship between the two is more professional than in the past. Inspired by the Magni and being the source of inspiration for the German MT03, this gyro has returned to its source and, like its competitor Magni, proposes a small windscreen to protect the rear passenger.
If you haven't managed to follow all this it's not surprising!!
Note that this windscreen is biased to the left to allow the instructor in the rear to have his own instruments and not have to lean over to see those in the front cockpit. A bit strange but useful.

Apparently there are more than 70 ELAs in the world, mainly in South Africa and Australia, which is surprising considering its recent arrival on the scene and the limited feedback from the internet.

The weight is 277 kg (610 lb) equipped with a Rotax 914, plus 13 kg (29 lb) with a parachute. Apart from a few American manufacturers only ELA offer a parachute.
This is a debatable option because we usually fly too low to allow the full deployment of the chute. Also it requires the pilot to make a very rapid decision and to have removed the safety pin prior to the flight. Finally nobody has ever tested a parachute on an autogyro.
Having said that it must also be said that the 3000 € extra is not a lot compared to the cost of a two place gyro and you life is priceless
The competition should therefore take note and perhaps one day a parachute may save the lives of one of our pilots. For sure in the last 3 years it could have saved 2 in France alone, the rotor stopped dead in less than 4 seconds.

The ELA costs 52,000 € (all taxes included) without parachute. A technical specification has been submitted to the authorities and a dedicated web site should be on line soon.

Pictures: A2, A3
In France: Philippe Belle-Croix 06 27 34 49 85

3/ The XENON:

Two Xenons were present at Blois and we were able to see them both fly.
Without having taken exact measurements, we saw that their performance was obviously inferior to that of the Magni, MT03 and ELA that flew in parallel. This is to be expected, since drag increases with the frontal area a streamlined side by side will never outperform a tandem gyro unless the tandem was a mess of tube without streamlining. Also the cockpit masks the propeller and reduces the efficiency of this type of gyro.
But what is important for you? If you want to fly fast, better fly a classic ULM rather than a gyro. So if you want to enjoy the cosiness of a side by side fully enclosed gyro and it doesn't bother you to be burned off by the high performance tandems you can opt for a Xenon.
The problem is that you would use more fuel and make more noise. You have to pay for comfort!

On the two Xenons at Blois there were two different pre rotators, the starter motor type and the mechanical drive type. A bit of advice, forget the first one, the take off run is pretty long without a headwind, invest about 2,260 € more in the higher performance of second type, it's not worth going without.

Regarding the engine, the Xenon is still equipped with the Hirth F30 with 2 cooling fans. We've spent some time debating this choice of a non-liquid-cooled engine, especially as the Xenon is usually fitted with a pretty cowling around the engine. Having said this, the engine cowlings were removed at Blois because of the high ambient temperature.
Putting this type of cowling on a pusher gyro seems to us to be more a sales catch than a utility, especially considering that a gyro has flight configurations that tend to create high engine temperatures such as during slow flight. Finally the pre flight is much easier without one
Considering that this is choosing an engine that has sometimes had bad press reports in the ULM world (rightly or wrongly) we would have thought that using its little brother the 3 cylinder water cooled 100 HP Hirth would be a wiser choice. Or simply turn to the competition and use a Rotax engine, more expensive but reassuringly more reliable.

Concerning the price, there's no denying that the Xenon is the cheapest two place gyro available.
This difference is explained primarily by the use of the 2 stroke Hirth engine while the competition usually use the 4 stroke Rotax whose prices are dissuasive.
Starting with the 36,000 € base price, add a real pre rotator and two doors and you arrive at 40,000 €, if you have it built at the factory you finish with 47,000 €.
If the manufacturer changed the Hirth for a Rotax the price would rise to 58,000€ ready to fly, that's the same price as the competition.
Meanwhile it's the only two place gyro to be offered in kit form, an opportunity for those who love to build their own machine.
For the engine, ABS have taken a big risk in being different to their competitors, because production of the Xenon has only just started, they'll have to prove its reliability, only time will tell. But that's the challenge for all innovative manufacturers.

Pictures: B1, B2, B3

Revision of 10/10/05
3 days after the publication of this predictive article, ABS announced on their website that other engines could be installed on the Xenon.
The F30 remains available and the price has taken a substantial hike to 40,664€ for the kit without doors, that's about 48,000€ (all taxes included) for the ready to fly gyro.
As we suggested the 3 cylinder Hirth 3701 will also be offered and at the same price.
In the same manner ABS have increased the powerplant range to Rotax, which is acceptable to all in the ULM movement. The prices are nothing like before, with the 914, mechanical pre rotator, doors, leather upholstery and heater the Xenon is propelled from the cheapest on the market to the most expensive. At 58,364€ for the kit, that's about 66,000€ (all taxes included) for the ready to fly gyro. Note that the Magni M16, which was until now the most expensive autogyro, costs 63,600€ (all taxes included) ready to fly with all options. That said, the M21 completely enclosed gyro that is still under development, will be more expensive than the Xenon. No expense is too great for those in love apparently.
It is regrettable that ABS made an announcement about new engine options when they are neither installed nor tested. Normally industries, especially the aeronautical industry, complete the engineering, development and often testing of a machine before putting it on the market.
On the other hand we can only congratulate this manufacturer for his rapid response to customer feedback.
One last comment, our two place autogyros are not going to be financially more accessible if Rotax monopolise this corner of the market by closing the first opening made by Hirth.

Crédits pictures: A1 et B1: Michel de Bretagne. A2, A3, B2: Jacques HOUDAILLE.

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4/ The MT03 by Autogyro Europe:

This gyro is imported into France by J.PDoleac (Aircopter) who also supplys the rotor. Initially inspired by ELA, it has now started to differentiate itself with its typical German construction quality and some innovations, especially in its top of the range fuselage partly in carbon fibre.
Saving as much as 10 kg (22lb) from an already lightweight gyro we find ourselves at 235 kg (517 lb)! Needless to say the MT03 has an impressive rate of climb for an autogyro and the overall performance is breathtaking? The two MT03s at Blois never stopped flying which allowed us to appreciate them even more.

For the chassis, it is in stainless steel and so highly polished that you'd think it was chrome.
It must be said that Autogyro Europe comes from a company having a solid experience in powered hang gliders (the make Eagle) and with HTC propellers, unknown in France but with a promising performance. They are, therefore, well versed in stainless steel and composite construction. You only have to look at the quality of the welding and fuselage to realise.

The MT03 still hasn't been cleared by the DGAC (French FAA) because Aircopter have proposed some minor modifications to the German manufacturer before transmitting the final application for approval. This should all be finished by the end of the year and the distribution network will be put in place from then on.

Importer -> Aircopter
Paris area distributor:
Gap-Tallard distributor: -> ULM Light System

5/ The MAGNIS:

Magnis in plural because apart from the dozen or so Magnis that flew to Blois from all over France proving that these gyros are completely developed and reliable, Magni remains the only manufacturer offering a complete range of autogyros. Passing from the M18 single seat to a M22 full two place touring gyro via the intimate two place M14 and standard two place M16 giving four types of gyro, all with various options and engines.

As we all know Magni has been the leader in the autogyro market for a number of years, and the competition have done nothing to reduce their popularity. With the 324th gyro delivered last week, many instructors have shown their confidence in these gyros that have proved reliable, stable and long living.
It must be said that the frame in welded aeronautical steel and the very costly Rotax 914 are major contributors to this reliability.

For the disadvantages they are quickly listed. The weight remains high (when are we going to see some carbon fibre?) and this is explained mainly by the heavy rotor and the use of thicker sections of aeronautical steel that are much heavier, but much stronger, than the stainless steel sections used by LEA or the MT03. The tail tube remains straight while the competition have gone for a "dog leg" to gain a few meters for the take off and landing. Magni explain this choice by the fact that it is much more rigid and prevents a take off "behind the curve", adding safety. It's also easier to make…..The controls are still deliberately very stiff to avoid Pilot induced oscillation by an inexperienced pilot.
The price remains high but not that high considering the expected life of such a machine. For those who don't need dual control and want to be close to their passenger there is always the possibility to go for the intimate two place M14 Scout that sells for 48,000€ (all taxes included) for the 100 HP version and 53,000€ for the 115 HP version. Prices that remain equal to or less than the competition for a M14 with better performance and manoeuvrability than its bigger brother the M16. An option that is often forgotten.

The big novelty at the Magni stand was the presentation of the M22 Voyager! This very nice looking gyro is in fact an M16 equipped with two generous (150 litre,5.3 cu ft) baggage compartments that can accept fairly long items. It is also fitted with a supplementary 10 litre (2.6 US gal) fuel tank bringing the total to 75 litre (20 US gal). It's not called Voyager for nothing.
Price wise the M22 is about the same price as the M16 but it doesn't have dual controls. You can sacrifice the extra fuel tank and fit a second stick but, for the moment, not the rudder pedals.
The last discrete innovation from Magni is that the rotor manufacturing process was modified last month. I had the pleasure of testing one last week it's still very heavy, to maintain a high inertia, but I detected no vibration.

French importer: Eric CHANGEUR, sté Rotavia
Paris area distributor:
Gap-Tallard distributor: -> ULM Light System

Crédits photos: A1: Michel de Bretagne, B1 à D3:

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6/ Homebuilt autogyros:

Considering the price of new two place gyros the homebuild gyro is still a valid option.
This year at Blois we saw Roland Kloéti, who flew in from Paris in the same gyro that he tried with floats last year (more info in french). Except that this time it was equipped with wheels!

Michel Deluc also made the journey to Blois with a single seat gyro and 2 two place machines, one of which belongs to his buddy Jeannot COHEN who we wrote about after the St Ciers (Angoulème) meeting (more info in french).
A reminder for those who cannot afford a factory built gyro or who feel capable of making their own gyro, Michel still sells plans of his two place gyro. Combined with a Sabaru engine modified by Jos Schepers, for example, this machine could be very economical if you have a few hundred hours of patience available.

Also present amongst the homebuilds Alain SURRE and Jean-Marie BOUTIN presented their two completely enclosed, side by side, two place gyros. Unfortunately they were not completely finished and we should see them fly soon, surely at the 1st May meeting at Angoulème. A further article about them will appear soon.

Jean-Marie BOUTIN Jean-Marie BOUTIN Jean-Marie BOUTIN


Hervé TERRASSON 5 October 2005
Revised 7 Oct and 10 Oct
Translated by Mike Goodrich

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Vue aérienne de Blois:

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Alain SURRE et Jean-Marie BOUTIN:

Jean-Marie BOUTIN

Jean-Marie BOUTIN

Jean-Marie BOUTIN