Port Macquarie aircraft enthusiasts have been treated to a special gyrocopter showcase, with interest in the high-flying hobby on the rise.
Local pilots including Hastings District Flying Club members browsed an array of enclosed and open-cockpit gyrocopters on show at Port Macquarie Airport on January 11.
Modern gyrocopters resemble traditional helicopter but are a faction of the price and running costs according to local hobbyist and aspiring commercial pilot Brian Chow.
"I changed career a couple of years ago and I always thought aviation was for rich people, until I discovered gyrocopters," said Mr Chow, who has owned a gyrocopter for two years.
"When I was working out in western NSW and guys would turn up to the pub in their utes with gyrocopters on the back. I thought that was great and I started looking at them because I knew they were cheap to run.
"We can do 90 per cent of what a helicopter can do, at ten per cent of the cost. Gyrocopters run on regular petrol and they only draw about 15 litres an hour, whereas a helicopter can draw up to 50 litres an hour, cost ten times as much to buy and has high servicing costs.
"A gyrocopter can cost from $40,000 to $150,000 whereas an old secondhand helicopter would start at $200,000."
Mr Chow said it takes around 20 hours to learn how to fly a gyrocopter including five solo hours and he is using the time to achieve a commercial pilots license.
"It's a good hobby for sure but it's also a good basis for flight training," he said.
"I've been able to use up to 100 hours of my aviation experience in gyrocopters and been able to put that towards a commercial pilots license in aeroplanes because it's all aeronautical experience.
"Because you are flying a lot slower than aeroplanes you can really enjoy the sights. Certainly the beaches and the marine life are great to see from the air.
"There is a lot of interest among established aviators who are just looking for the next different thing in aviation.
"There is a great level of experience among the pilots in Port Macquarie and some have in excess of 20,000 hours. They have flown everything and are saying 'well, what's next?'."
Pilots were treated to several test flights and had a look at various models of craft.
Gyrocopters use a propeller driven system and helicopter rotor but do not don't stall or tail spin. They are known for being able to fly at very low speeds and are easy to transport.
They can have a takeoff distance of within 100 metres and a landing distance of within five to six metres. They are also able to reach 10,000 feet with a radio.
Auto-Gyro Australia senior instructor Neil Farr, who gave information to pilots on the day said the craft are about putting the fun back into flying.
"People are interested in them because they don't stall, they are good fun and they are very stable at low level," he said.
"They are a great alternative to an aeroplane. Some can go up to 100 knots and they can also do zero airspeed without stalling.
"Gyrocopters have had a bad wrap in the past because up until 2005 they were all home-built craft, but now they are factory built and proper aeroplanes.
"We tend to usually do the air shows out west and I've only been over here once, a while ago. It's a wonderful set up for flying in Port Macquarie and I wish we had this out west, It's a beautiful facility here."
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