The current world record for the most number of Gyrocopters at a single fly-in is 52, which is currently held by the Italians. Up to now, the largest gathering in Africa is 28 of these magnificent flying machines.
Johan Stemmet, host and producer of a local TV show called Noot vir Noot, had the brainstorm to try and break the world record here in South Africa. Johan has been flying Gyros since 1989 and as a matter of fact owned the 4th Magni gyro in the country. He has over 1600 hours on Gyros and currently owns one very smart Xenon 2. Johan, born in Springbok, now resides in Johannesburg and is a local at Tedderfield where he hangars his aircraft. After months of organising, his plan came into action on the weekend of 20-21 November 2010. Johan says that he wanted it to be more than a record attempt, he wanted the pilots from the North side of the country to meet up with the pilots from the south and to share a weekend together to share in the joys of rotorcraft. All products to be put aside, whether one flies a Xenon, a Magni, a Sycamore, an RAF or an Ela, it mustn’t matter, just get the guys together and have a gathering of like minded pilots from all over the country.
Johan was one of the many that made the 11 hour flight down from Tedderfield to Stellenbosch in his gyro for this great event.
The gyros started arriving on Friday afternoon already. Saturday morning came and so did the rain and the 500ft cloud base. It appeared as though the event may not even happen.
I arrived there early Saturday morning and was greeted by Paul Roux, who went out of his way to make sure that I would have everything I needed for the day. I was introduced to the who’s who of the gyro industry and was able to get what I needed.
The weather started to clear and a few more gyro’s started arriving. Paul was kind enough to take me up in his gyrocopter for an aerial shot of the field and we managed to get an air to air shoot in as well with another gyro, flown by Len Klopper. I thought that the open cockpit would make for a great platform to shoot from…I was wrong. The vibrations from the machine don’t help at all and the rain was making it just that much more difficult. That aside, this was my first flight in a gyro and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve flown fixed wing and have had my chance to fly the odd helicopter. Paul’s words to me just before he started the pre-rotation of the main blade was, ‘Everything you know about flying, is about to change’…and it sure did. I loved the experience and could easily see how addictive these little machines could become.
One of the gyros that got the most attention, next the Xenons was the Calidus 09 made by Auto-Gyro GmBh. This very sexy looking aircraft weighs in at 240kg, has a maximum take-off weight of 500kg and can climb at 1200ft/min. With a Vne of 110knots and a cruise Speed of 100 knots, she is really quick for a gyro. The Rotax 912S burns 14 liters per hour and the Calidus has been voted as the best closed gyrocopter.
Another interesting visitor which arrived later in the day was the Von Ludwig JT Kriek Gyroplane. My first thoughts were, ‘oh my word this is ugly’ and apparently I wasn’t alone. The gyro brought a lot attention as she made her approach down runway 01 and then taxied to her parking bay with onlookers scratching their heads muttering things like…’What is that?’
The Kriek was the brainchild of Johan von Ludwig and Jan Loedolff. Johan, with over 4500 hours on Gyros, hails from Sasolburg with his unique machine, of which he has now built three of. The Kriek is powered by a Rotax 914 and has a Vne of 100mph. She cruises at 80-85mph and her 90 liter fuel tank can keep her airborne for four and a half hours. This particular experimental airframe already had 300 hours on it. It has a 36ft high inertia rotor fitted to its hydraulic pre-rotation system. The system designed by these two men is able to engage at any power setting and needs never be tied down as it is capable of locking itself in place. The hydraulic pre-rotater is designed more for the commercial type of gyro. Johan flies his machine for the purposes of doing geo-surveys, which cover the gravimetric and emission spectrums. His main clients are the mines of South Africa.
All’s well that ends well, so they say. The day was a huge success and all in all 43 Gyros were eventually accounted for at Stellenbosch. The world record was not broken as the weather played a significant role in that not happening. About 20 hopefuls turned back enroute to FASH. However, Stellenbosch now holds the official African record for the most number of gyros at one event. My sincere gratitude goes out to Paul Roux, Gerrit Roux, Vice Chairman of SAGPA, Eric Torr, the Chairman of SAGPA, Rikus Erasmus of ASSA, Johan Stemmet, Len Klopper and the many others for their hospitality and helpfulness.
The whisper of the day was that next year the meeting would take place up north and hopefully a new world record can be set.