May 05, 2015 - 11:26 AM
OKANAGAN – The next big thing to hit the skies over the Okanagan is part of a growing trend around the world.
The gyrocopter, sometimes called an autogyro, looks like a helicopter but instead of getting its thrust from the top rotor, the engine sends power to a propeller mounted at the rear. Gyrocopters are smaller and slower than a helicopter but what they lack in speed and size they make up for in maneouverability, ease of handling and cost.
Peachland resident Mark Jennings-Bates and his partner Andre Voskuil from West Kelowna are in the process of bringing a brand new $150,000 autogyro to Kelowna this summer. Their company SkyDriving Aviation plans to use their new toy to take tourists and locals on scenic tours around the Okanagan starting this summer.
“We’ll be looking to do pleasure flights with passengers quite soon,” Jennings-Bates says. “We’d like to show people how easy it is to fly over to Vancouver Island or to the Yukon in an autogyro… they’re really practical.”
With a traditional helicopter, the controls have to be put into autorotation if there’s a problem, that isn’t the case with an autogyro.
“We always fly in autorotation so it’s very safe,” he says. “They’re impossible to stall… they will actually descend very tamely… it just starts to come down to the ground and it’s very controllable.”
Jennings-Bates has been interested in autogyro’s for more than two decades. He owned his first one 20 years ago and says they technology has come a long way since then.
“The appeal for the recreational enthusiast is that it’s actually not too challenging to learn to fly a gyroplane,” he says. “We want to show people they’re not as mystical as people tend to think they are. They’re actually quite straightforward to fly and they’re quite affordable.”
Jennings-Bates and Voskuil say they expect to start offering tours on their new two-seater out of Kelowna International Airport mid-summer.
“You’ll see a beautiful, metallic orange airplane flying around the Okanagan around mid-July,” Voskuil says.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015