Go Flying Australia Podcast 018 – Flying Autogyros across Australia

Today on the show we are going to be talking about all things related to Autogyros with Pilot John McDermott.  In the interview John and I talk about his recent 5000 nautical mile trip where he flew with Rick and Kay from Berowra in a pair of Cavalon Autogyros from Nowra in NSW to the Gulf of Carpentaria, across to the Kimberleys returning home via Lake Ayre and the Flinders Ranges.

Show Notes:

John’s Trip – As you can see from the below graphic John flew his Cavalon 5000 NM over 70 hours and used around 1200 litres of fuel along the way.

The Route flown


Auto Gyro Cavalon John bought the 7th Cavalon aircraft sold in Australia, John notes that there are now about 10 in Australia.  The Cavalon is a 2 seater side by side aircraft, they cost about a 1/3rd of price of a helicopter and are about 1/10th of the cost of a helicopter to maintain.

What is an Autogyro? – They first flew in the 1920’s predating the helicopter, it is a rotary wing helicopter which spins through the prevailing wind (AutoRotation), the propeller provides the thrust to move the craft forward.   They can be kit built or factory built (as the Cavalon is), the majority are build in Italy and Germany (where Auto Gyro is based).  They can come in two main configurations; open cockpit tandem or side by side enclosed such as the Cavalon.

Structure – The Cavalon is constructed of Carbon Fibre, the mast is around 2 foot long and is bolted onto the carbon fibre frame.  The Cavalon uses a Rotax 914 engine and has a state of the art cockpit.

Performance – It cruises at around 75-80 knots, the fuel burn is around 18 litres with a total capacity of around 100 litres.

The Cavalon front view


Differences to Fixed Wing aircraft – Generally Gyros cannot spin or stall, have an amazing speed range and they have the capability to hover into a headwind.  They have a very short takeoff (less than 100 meters) and landing roll and generally are not heavily affected by headwinds or thermals.  Generally circuits are flown at 500 feet.

Cross Country Machine – Generally Gyros are not considered good country country machines but John has found the Cavalon to be fantastic with its reasonable cruise speed, large storage area and fuel capacity.

The Cavalon cockpit


Windy conditions – Being a rotary wing aircraft with a high wing loading they are generally not heavily affected by turbulence, thermals or cross winds.  The Pilots Operating Handbook has a limit of 25 knots for crosswind takeoffs and landings with a absolute limit of 40 knots.

How did John get into Gyro Flying – John was sick of the process of unpacking and packing his Trike every time he wanted to fly and saw an article in Sport Pilot Magazine for a Gyro.

Initial Training – John transitioned from Trike flying with a control bar to a control stick where the control inputs were reversed.  John notes that the approach to landing is different in a Gyro than a trike.

Licenses – They have similar requirements to obtaining an RA-AUS Pilots Certificate.   ASRA will give pilots credit for Cross Country and Radio Endorsements previously held.

Planning for trip – John used OzRunways which contains the AOPA pilots touring guide to plan the trip.  In the four weeks he was away there were no non flying days due to weather.

Cavalon Aircraft in front of a hotel on the trip



Refill with Mogas for the Cavalon



Events on the trip – John had a failure of his Oil Temperature and Cylinder Head Temperature instruments on one flight.  John decided to return back to a strip close by and checked the engine but could not find any issues, ultimately he found a loose wire causing the fault in the reading.

Views from the Cavalon Cockpit on the trip




Rotax 914 – John discusses the engine and notes it can use both AVGAS and Mogas.

Height limitations – ASRA allows you too fly Gyros at a minimum of 300 feet over uninhabited areas.

Takeoff process – The Rotor needs to be pre rotated prior to takeoff on the ground (spinning it up to around 200 rpm), prior to release the brakes the stick needs to be fully back to give the rotors maximum angle into the wind.  No rudder is needed on takeoff.

Turns – John notes that Gyros put the fun back into flying, that very little control input is needed.  An experienced gyro pilot can do 360 degree turns on the spot as shown in the below video.

Distributor – AutoGyro Australia based at the Sky Ranch at Lake Keepit distributes the Cavalon.

Rough range of prices for Autogyros:

Open cockpit tandem – new $80k (second hand >50k)

Side by side -new 130k (second hand >100k)

Operating Costs –  The 100 hourly service is around $800, most day to day servicing is completed by the owner.  It uses around 18 litres of fuel an hour.  The rotor system has a Time Between Overhaul (TBO) of 2500 hours and the engine has a TBO of 2000 hours.  John notes that they are no more expensive to maintain than other similar aircraft.

Advice – John’s advise is to go and take a Trial Instructional Flight in a Gyro if you are interested.

Gyros popular in Europe – 200 Cavalons have been manufactured to date.

Final 3 questions

Which Aircraft would you buy?

Douglas DC-3

Which Famous Aviator you would fly with?

Dick Smith

Whats your favourite Aviation Phrase?

Speed, Speed, Speed (mantra on final)


Australian Sport Rotorcraft Association

Autogyro Australia

Airborne Australia