Updated September 26, 2018 — This article has been updated to include more producers. See at bottom. —DJ
Over many years, you have found LSA market share information on this website. Many have found this of interest …from businesses learning more about their market; to customers doing careful investigation before paying tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for a new aircraft; to government fulfilling its task of regulating industry; to insurance companies assessing risk of providing their product; and many other actors in the blockbuster movie that is light, recreational aviation.
I will have more to say about the broader LSA market share reports below but now I want to present the best information I have seen for Light-Sport Aircraft Gyroplanes.
…uh, except for one problem. No such aircraft category exists, SLSA gyroplanes, that is.
FAA has denied fully-built Special LSA status to rotary winged aircraft such as gyroplanes. LAMA thought this was on track for a solution as recently as two months ago (see report), but today, the matter is back in doubt, truly a shame as these aircraft are thriving around the world.
Rotax has reported for some time that they sell more 9-series engines to gyroplanes as a specific category than to other groups. Indeed, sellers like Germany’s AutoGyro have more than 2,500 units flying.
FAA’s rotorcraft personnel are living in the past, remembering the problems of early machines like the Bensen Gyrocopter. Before training and before design evolution, those aircraft did have a undesirable safety record. However, that has been remedied… long ago, actually.
Our new associate, Steve Beste, wrote an excellent article for his club newsletter and I will summarize that piece in another post.
In his article, he wrote, “[Along with better training] the other change since those days is the large horizontal stabilizer, mounted well aft. Some machines were prone to PIO, pilot-induced oscillations in pitch. The pilot would chase the oscillations, only making them worse until the gyro did a fatal bunt over. The large tail that Magni invented – as is used on all modern gyros – has fixed that.”
Welcoming Steve Beste
“I’m a retired computer guy and trike pilot who loves databases,” Steve told me. He used his special set of skills to download FAA’s aircraft registration database to compile statistics on gyroplane registrations, focused on the new European-style gyroplanes.
A new American manufacturer, SilverLight Aviation, has quickly tied Spanish producer ELA for third at 8% with 26 aircraft registered for each. After that it trails off more quickly as Steve’s chart shows. More details about other brands will be chronicled in an article to follow.
For 2018 through July 23rd, Magni shows its strength by slightly beating AutoGyro U.S. registrations. As always, note that confirmed sales and registrations may not match precisely. In addition, much more of 2018 remains. In slightly more than half a year, gyroplanes registered 58 aircraft putting them on track to exceed 100 for the year. To offer perspective, this figure is approaching half as many as SLSA fixed wing registrations in recent full years.
So far this year, Magni has 15 registrations to AutoGyro’s 14 for 26% and 24% shares totaling half of total U.S. gyroplane registrations. SilverLight has registered 8 aircraft in 2018 for a 14% yearly share of 2018 to date.
A less well recognized U.S. producer, Tango, is having a respectable year, with 9 registrations accounting for 16% in 2018 so far. Tango is trailed by ELA with 6 registrations (10%), Australia’s Titanium and Italy’s Brako tied at 3 for 5% each. One interesting point: only Tango and Brako offer a single place gyroplane; all others are two place machines.
Much More Data to Follow!
Steve Beste and I have been discussing him providing database research to allow this website to continue providing LSA Market Share Info. Many visitors have written to ask; indeed, we are way behind on this effort.
The delay is ending. After Steve gets time to study the previous work and methods, he has proposed some wonderful improvements.
About the special skills he can offer, Steve wrote, “I’m a retired computer guy and trike pilot who loves databases.” Well, that certainly sounds perfect to me.
“I’m also the president of Flying Club 1, which was the original USUA Chapter 1,” Steve added. “Regarding the FAA database, I’d very much like to reach beyond just [fixed wing] airplanes, partly because I’m a trike pilot, myself. I think that’s entirely possible.”
Given this background, his obvious enthusiasm for this work, and the keen interest of many in light aviation, I am exceedingly pleased to welcome Steve to this website.
“[However, FAA’s] data is not clean,” Steve observed. I am well aware of this problem. Uncertainty about data accuracy of “alternative” LSA is why we have reported fixed wing Special LSA, only offering guesses for weight shift trikes, powered parachutes, gyroplanes, motorgliders, and more.
However, we hope that will now change and our market share reporting will be more inclusive. Hurray!
Problems in FAA’s database is not caused by incompetent clerks. Agency personnel must sort through inconsistently-reported aircraft. If, as Steve pointed out in one example, the registered name of the aircraft is slightly different, it won’t show up on a casual investigation.
He added, “There’s no end of that kind of thing …just so we know the limitations on this exercise. But with that understanding, I love this kind of thing, I have the skills to do it, and would be honored to support your good work for the sport.” All such reporting will be available on the home page when fresh and catalogued on its own space found by this link.
Wonderful, simply wonderful! Please welcome Steve Beste as a new contributor to ByDanJohnson.com!
UPDATE September 26, 2018 — In the article above, I inadvertently suggested SilverLight and their American Ranger gyroplane was the first or only U.S. producer of such aircraft. That is not what I intended but some readers viewed it that way. Allow me to bring your attention to two other producers.
Sport Copter & Rotor Flight Dynamics
Based in Oregon, Sport Copter is a long established, second-generation family business started in 1958. Chuck Vanek was one of the early pioneers of gyroplane design and development beginning his work in 1957.
Chuck’s son Jim Vanek took over the business and revamped the Vancraft designs. He said his “award-winning, world’s-first, two-place gyroplane took the prestigious Charles Lindbergh award at the Oshkosh airshow in 1985.” The company also reports his Sport Copter II design was voted as one of the Top Ten Best Designs at AirVenture in 2011.
An airshow performer, Jim said he wrote the parameters and guidelines for gyroplane looping for the FAA in 1998 after performing the world’s first loop in a conventional gyroplane, in 1997. The company’s website reports, “He is the only gyro pilot in the world that holds an International Council of Air Shows card for gyroplane looping and rolling.” Don’t even think about trying this yourself, however.
Rotor Flight Dynamics, founded and run by Ernie Boyette, produces a two place and single variations of their Dominator line. Sold as kit aircraft, the two-place model can be powered by Hirth four-cylinder engines, Subaru/AutoFlight EA-81, or the 115-horsepower Rotax 914 Turbo.
The company said, “We offer 22 thru 28 foot rotor blades of our own design with a lift capability from ultralight thru 1,200 pounds gross weight.” They added, “We are the only manufacturer that test flies all blade sets prior to shipping.” For export, Rotor Flight will fully build their aircraft but in the USA, FAA will only permit them to deliver kits, the same as all gyroplane producers.
As with all the modern gyroplanes, Rotor Flight uses a substantial tailplane. “The Dominator [series of one and two-place machines] incorporate the Tall Tail design for stability.” Asked how their product differs, the company’s website states, “What makes the Dominator so unique is its high profile design. It sits up very high off the ground.”