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Be Bond, Build an Autogyro With Newly Certified Kit

By Frank Wolfe | December 11, 2018
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The miniature Autogyro, Little Nellie, as seen in the James Bond movie You Only Live Twice, here at a convention with its creator and pilot, Wing Commander Ken Wallis.

Imagine yourself as "Q," the MI6 quartermaster in the 1967 film, You Only Live Twice. James Bond calls from Japan and asks for "Little Nellie" to join him there and her uncle to accompany her, if available.

Bond is asking for your expertise in assembling an autogyro from a cased kit to help agent 007 defeat a slew of bad-guy helicopters.

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Aside from the armament on the Little Nellie and the Bond plot details, the auto-assembly would likely be a reality for any would-be American Q's. While autogyros have had a long history in Europe, the U.S. market has lagged behind.

Outside of the U.S., consumers may buy such aircraft fully assembled, while buyers in the states have typically had to assemble the autogyros from kits or plans under FAA regulations for experimental aircraft used for non-commercial, recreational purposes.

In November 2016, however, the FAA type certified the factory-built two-seat Calidus model gyroplane by the Maryland-based AutoGyro USA, a division of the German AutoGyro Gmbh.

The company says it builds about 200 of its gyroplanes a year and that about 185 are flying in the U.S. out of 2,600 of the company's autogyros flying globally. AutoGyro has said that the FAA certification likely means that other companies wishing to have their fully assembled gyroplanes sold will have to meet requirements laid out in the certification of Calidus.

Interest in autogyros may be increasing in the United States. Last month, the Utah-based American Autogyro International (AAI) announced that it was restarting its Sparrowhawk III line of gyroplanes. AAI flew its first Sparrowhawk prototype in 2004.

"When the original SparrowHawk gyroplane was first introduced, the home-built gyroplane kit industry had a poor reputation due to accidents," AAI said in a statement about the restart of the Sparrowhawk line. "The majority of these could be attributed to flawed designs that misplaced thrust vectors. The SparrowHawk corrected this issue by introducing the innovative 'center-line-thrust' placement of the propeller and appropriately aligning the rotor thrust vector."

"Over the next several years, other gyroplane manufacturers adopted centerline thrust (and certain others left the market) and the accident rate declined," AAI said. "As a result, the gyroplane market has experienced significant growth and renewed interest."

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