UK pilots pass world’s first autogyro flight test course

Date: 28 September 2012

Six UK pilots are the latest graduates of a unique course aimed at providing pilots with the skills required to flight test light aircraft. Run jointly by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the Light Aircraft Association (LAA), the latest course offered dedicated training to enable experienced AutoGyro pilots to be able to test and evaluate such aircraft. This is believed to be the first course to teach autogyro testing ever developed.

The week-long course, run from the LAA’s headquarters at Turweston Aerodrome, taught the basics of stability and control with dedicated sorties on four very different fixed wing aircraft - Optica, EuroFox, SkyRanger and Eurostar. In addition to flying all the fixed wing types the Gyro students flew dedicated sorties in the Magni M24 and RotorSport Calidus two seat autogyros.

The first CAA/LAA flight test course was run in June 2011 with weightshift microlight testing being added to the syllabus for the June 2012 course. The latest course, completed on 21 September, introduced an option to specialise in the test flying of autogyros. The course comprised two fixed wing pilots from the Shuttleworth Collection, Clare Tector and Rob Millinship and four autogyro pilots, Gerry Speich, Chief Test Pilot/MD for Rotor Sport UK (supplier of the MT, Calidus and Cavalon Aircraft); Phil Harwood, Chairman of the British Rotorcraft Association (BRA); Peter Troy-Davies, CAA Approved Examiner; and Simon Hornsby who in his day job flies AB139 search and rescue helicopters from Lee on Solent.

The courses have been designed by Chris Taylor, Senior Test Pilot with the CAA and a former tutor at the Empire Test Pilots’ School. Chris has been flight testing autogyros for seven years and recently qualified as an instructor in order to be able to deliver this training.

Chris said: “The biggest challenge was putting together the autogyro stability and control theory lectures as nothing like this has been done before; we managed to complete the course on schedule, within budget, with students and tutors enjoying themselves immensely throughout.”

Other highly experienced tutors on the course include the LAA Chief Test Pilot, Dan Griffith; LAA Chief Engineer, Francis Donaldson; and CAA Chief Test Pilot, Paul Mulcahy.

Phil Harwood of the BRA said “For me, it was a superb way to learn how to assess how an aircraft is really flying. It is easy for a pilot to take an aircraft’s stability for granted – but now I know that making it stable yet controllable is the result of a lot of hard work. Well done to all the tutors.”

It is expected that the course will continue to run twice a year, with the 2013 courses being already planned for June and September.

Photographs of the six aircraft formation running in to overfly Turweston are available from the Press Office.

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Notes to Editors:

1. Highlights of the course included a six dissimilar aircraft formation, where the different characteristics of the aircraft could be directly compared. This is believed to be the first time gyros have led fixed wing aircraft in such a way. Photographs are attached.

2. The CAA is the UK's specialist aviation regulator. Its activities include: making sure that the aviation industry meets the highest technical and operational safety standards; preventing holidaymakers from being stranded abroad or losing money because of tour operator insolvency; planning and regulating all UK airspace; and regulating airports, air traffic services and airlines and providing advice on aviation policy from an economic standpoint.