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Gyrocopter: what is the little machine that landed on the Capitol Hill lawn?

Gyrocopters, autogyros, gyroplanes, rotaplanes — whatever they are, when one crashed into one of the most important places in the US, it was exciting and a little confusing. What are they? And how do they work?

What is a gyrocopter?

It looks a little like a helicopter. But it works in a completely different way — though it has spinning blades on top, they’re not powered but pushed around by the forward movement of the aircraft. It gets its forward push through a propeller on the back, like a plane.

Being built like that means that they can fly slowly but safely.

Why are they in the news?

Yesterday, Doug Hughes — a Florida postman protesting about US campaign finance — managed to fly one onto the Capitol Hill lawn.

Could someone do a similar protest here?

There are strict rules about who can fly gyrocopters in the UK. Pilots have to get a licence and then get flying experience. They have to get extra permission from the Civil Aviation Authority if they want to fly over built-up areas.

But one result of the protest is that it has shown how apparently lacking the security controls were around Capitol Hill, one of the most sensitive and important places in the US. Hughes was afraid that he would be shot down and could die as a result of the stunt; the same could happen to someone in the UK, but they might also make it all the way through.

Can I get one?

Gyrocopters sell for about £35,000-£45,000, second hand. Anyone can buy one, though to actually fly it you’ll have to get a licence.

An easier way of getting a go in one would be to take part in a Gyrocopter experience, where a pilot will give you a flight in one. That might be less exciting — and they won’t let you fly it into any important government gardens — but it’ll be more safe and a lot cheaper.

Where have I seen them before?

They’re a favourite vehicle of people in films, for some reason. In 1967, James Bond flew one in ‘You Only Live Twice’. GI Joe and Mad Max have both seen them used, as well as a range of other films and videos.

Source: Independent

Independent News Service

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