Gyro Cross-Country (Literally)

Well, the sale of Anthony’s maroon ELA Eclipse didn’t go through so I was asked to fly (commercially) back to Florida for two purposes: 1) Help train Paul from Charlotte (ironic, huh?) while Chris was in Utah for Rotors Over the Rockies and 2) ferry Anthony’s Eclipse back to North Carolina.

After 3 days of training with Paul, I was ready to depart back to North Carolina.

The total trip was close to 650 miles and took about 7 hours of flight time.  I departed Sebring at around 8AM in order to get out before some rain showers moved in.  Kissimmee and Orlando were reporting 700 foot ceilings from morning mist and Winter Haven was clear.  Luckily, gyroplanes travel cross-country like helicopters, so I stayed below the clouds at 500 feet.  I departed to the northwest to avoid military restricted airspace, Orlando’s busy and congested airspace, and the Disney TFR (“temporary flight restriction” that isn’t temporary).

Once north of Disneyworld, I flew northeast towards Apopka and then on to Deland.  From there, I continued northeast towards the coast around Daytona Beach.  I flew about 5 miles inland to keep away from all the beach traffic of helicopters and flying banners and tourist stuff.  Once I reached Jacksonville, I actually had to talk to air traffic controllers to proceed north through Jacksonville airspace.  I actually flew over Craig Field (Jacksonville Executive) and then continued northeast towards Fernandina Beach.

My first stop after leaving Sebring was Fernandina Beach.  I was burning fuel a little faster than anticipated and I didn’t think it was wise to push on to my first planned fuel stop in Brunswick, GA.  The airport at Fernandina Beach was very friendly and accommodating and the Eclipse immediately drew a crowd of onlookers.  Many people took pictures of the aircraft and asked a ton of questions.

As I went to depart, I had my first “glitch”.  When I went to rotate on takeoff, the trim pressure on my rotor trim went to full pressure (pushing the stick back into my lap).  I fought the trim pressure and pushed forward on the cyclic (stick), cut engine power, and landed.  When I turned on the rotor brake, I was able to relieve all trim pressure.  As I was troubleshooting, I though maybe I had been touching the trim switch during takeoff and caused this issue myself.  I taxied back to the runway, tried again, and had the exact same issue while making sure I wasn’t touching any switches unnecessarily.  Huh.  I sent a text back to Chris about the problem and taxied back to the terminal to assess.  At this time, a friendly gentleman walked up and asked if I would be willing to show-off the aircraft at the EAA hot dog lunch being held at the airfield.  I was given a free lunch and spent about an hour talking about the gyroplane.

When lunch was finished and I had spoken to Chris, I taxied into takeoff position again.  At this time, I had reset the circuit breaker on the trim switch and was ready to pop the breaker out if the pressure started to rise on takeoff.  I would then try to reset in flight, or just manually fly without the pneumatic trim.  When I went full power, trim pressure stayed where it should be and I never had the issue again.  I guess resetting the breaker was the fix.

Leaving Fernandina Beach to the north, I got some good shots of the beach and a fort guarding the inlet.

My next stop was Brunswick, GA, which was only an hour away from Fernandina Beach.  That stop was for “pilot relief”.  I stopped again in Walterboro, SC at the Lowcountry Regional Airport for another fuel stop after flying past Savannah, GA and Beaufort Marine Corps Air Station.  Lowcountry was my last stop before Triangle North Executive Airport back home.  I didn’t take any picture along this route.  From Brunswick north, I didn’t see anything but trees and farmland.  As populated as parts of this country is, there is still a lot of undeveloped, pristine land!  The scenery from Florida all the way to North Carolina looked practically the same, sans the little bit of time over Jacksonville, FL and the beaches of north Florida and south Georgia.

When I landed at KLHZ back home in North Carolina, I was pretty numb and tired.   I had been in the cockpit for 8 hours (7 flying and another  hour taxiing and such at my different stops).  But was it fun!!!  This aircraft will not be used to train future gyroplane pilots.  I am still fully convinced that gyroplanes will be a magnificent asset to missionary aviation and I am blessed to be on the front-edge of that development.