Ever wished you could fly like James Bond in his Little Nellie gyrocopter?
Guess what…? You can!
I flew one as part of my disaster response training in France, but there are flight schools in the US (and many more in Europe) that offer gyrocopter training and discovery flights.
WHAT'S A GYROCOPTER?
For those unfamiliar with the concept, a gyrocopter (also known as “autogyro,” “rotorcraft” and “gyroplane”) is an aircraft that resembles a small helicopter but takes off like a plane. Unlike a helicopter, where an engine malfunction is deadly, a gyrocopter is not seriously affected if the engine stops in flight. Because its rotors are self-propelled, they continue to spin, and the aircraft descends gradually. As long as the pilot is able to find a small open space, the gyrocopter can land safely. According to many pilots, a gyrocopter is the safest aircraft there is.
WHAT TO EXPECT?
A flight in an open-cockpit gyrocopter is like no other. With the seatbelt as the only barrier between you and the void, there is an incredible feeling of freedom and oneness with the open blue. With no roofs or doors obstructing the view, the landscapes are absolutely stunning. Throughout my weeklong training, I couldn’t stop gasping at the breathtaking vistas of Ardèche and feeling amazed just at how much was hidden from me as an earthbound traveller.
If you are new to gyrocopters, a discovery flight is a great way to start. You’ll get a safety briefing & an overview of the aircraft’s controls and make your very first gyro-journey into the open blue. If the gyrocopter has dual controls, you may even be able to aviate – the most exhilarating, if slightly terrifying, experience.
The only downside of gyrocopter-flying is that, like most aerial adventures, it tends to be pricey, averaging around $180/hour in Europe and the US. But whenever it puts a dent in your pocket, it makes it up by filling you with unparalleled emotions!!
WHERE TO FLY?
Here are a few suggestions to help you schedule your first gyro flight..
Planet Gyros: Montélimar, Ardèche (Airport where I did my training ♥)
Fly Aero: Paris, Île-de-France
Autogyre Academy:Paris, Île-de-France
Gyros-Evasion: Romans-sur-Isère, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes
Rotavia: Saint-Ciers-sur-Bonnieure, Nouvelle-Aquitaine
Reunitours: Reunion Island
* For discovery flights looks for “baptêmes” and “vol d’initiation.”