The Gyrocopter Experience
Kati Hedger flies solo PDF Print E-mail

ImageAt 5:20pm Kati Hedger, Event Coordinator for the Gyrocopter Experience, took off from Rufforth Airfield, York, on her very first solo flight - and what a flight it was!

Earlier in the afternoon, Kati had been practicing circuits (where you take off, fly in a big rectangle around the airfield and then land) building up to her first solo flight.  All afternoon, there had been no wind at all which can actually make landing more difficult than normal but after a few practice laps she had perfected her technique and was ready to go.

She was signed off by the instructor and taxied, on her own for the first time, to the start of the runway.  She started the rotors spinning and gently rolled down the runway picking up speed in a nice steady manner.  Being the only person in the Gyrocopter, the Gyrocopter is much lighter and will take off  quicker and can cause some people alarm, but Kati took off perfectly and flew along the runway and climbed into the sky.

Just as she levelled off at the preagreed height of 500ft the wind suddenly and unexpectedly changed.  Instead of being calm, the wind suddenly started blowing, and in a different direction to the runway that she had just taken off from, and was intending to landing on.  She would no longer be able to stick to her plan.

As the wind was now unpredictable, she did the sensible thing and flew around, just outside the airfield perimeter for about 10 minutes keeping an eye on the windsock.  She was in radio contact with her instructor who could give her advice from the ground, but only she would be able to fly the Gyrocopter back safely to the ground.  

Eventually the wind setlled down so that a landing decision could be made, but the safe runway to land on was normally out of bounds for Gyrocopter pilots due to gliding activity at the nearby gliding school. In this situation and having checked that noone was flying from the gliding site, landing on this safe but unfamiliar runway was the best decision that could be made.

She lined up with the runway and came into land.  As this would be the first time ever that she would land on this runway she decided to have a practice go, so came down to about 100ft and then applied power and flew around safely.  She lined up for a second time but didnt feel comfortable landing so made the decision to fly around again.  All the time she was keeping her instructor informed of what she was doing, listening in on the radio we could tell that she was enjoying herself and, although under pressure she remained focussed and relaxed.

On her third attempt at lining up she made a beautiful landing right down the centre of the runway and taxied back to the apron.  As you can see from the photograph she had the BIGGEST Gyrocopter grin that we have ever seen.

It was a great day for the Gyrocopter Experience and a great day for Kati.  In true pilot tradition, she took us all to the pub for a drink to celebrate.  Kati now has to consolidate her solo flying for at least 10 hours which will include flying away from York and navigating to, and landing at, other airfields.  Then she can sit her General Flying Test (GFT) and will obtain her very own pilots licence.

 Well done Kati.