Autogyros are aircraft similar in design to helicopters. Juan de la Cierva invented the first of these in 1919 and the first successful flight occurred in Madrid on January 9, 1923. These aircraft use rotors to help them lift off the ground and are similar to helicopters in this way. Unlike helicopters, though, during flight, aerodynamic forces in autorotation drive the autogyro’s rotors. It has an engine-powered propeller to give the aircraft its thrust. Other names by which this aircraft is known include gyroplanes, rotaplanes and gyrocopters.
An autogyro has a free spinning rotor that spins as air passes upwards through it. The rotor has a vertical component that helps it lift off the ground and the aerodynamic reaction helps to sustain the aircraft in the air. There is a separate propeller to provide forward thrust. This propeller can be at the front or the rear of the aircraft.
The blades of the autogyro change the angle of the air as they move backwards and forwards in much the same way as the wings of a glider do. The angle of these blades also accelerates the rate of rotation so that the rotor can turn at a stable speed. When the rotor is tilted fore and aft this controls the pitch and tilting the rotor side to side controls the roll.
Autogyros have three primary flight controls:
- The control stick tilts the rotor to control the pitch and roll
- The rotor pedals provide yaw control
- The throttle controls the engine power
The pusher configuration is the most common one for autogyros. In this design the engine and the propeller are located behind the pilot and the rotor mast.
The Rotorsport MT03 is one type of autogyro that is certified in the UK. Other types must have a permit to operate, but this permit is only issued to existing types because of their poor safety record.