This weekend at our local airfield the gyro-copter club were enjoying a sunny day to show off their flying machines. Ranging from $30 000 to $100 000 NZ dollars these are definitely the cheapest and closest thing you'll get to a helicopter. The main difference is that the main rotor blades are not powered by a motor during flight. The main blades are powered up just before take off so that they are spinning while taxing along the runway. They can be landed on a short strip of 10 metres, but need a longish taxing distance during take off. If you have a good breeze this shortens the distance needed.
A smoothish runway is best and grass is preferred because sand and fine stones can be flicked into the propeller causing damage. These machines can bank, turn and maneuver like a helicopter, they can be landed quite steeply but do require some taxing room. Most of these are powered by Subaru car engines. Some of them are fuel injected and turbo charged. In some cases the seat is actually the fuel tank. They fuel can last up to 2 or more hours flying.
Some have small nose cones, while others brave the elements sitting out in front with no protection from the elements. One pilot flew done from Wanganui in his, across Cook Straight, stopping once for fuel. His machine is the Rolls Royce of Gyro-copters. Its the orange twin seater you can see. This model costs $100 000NZ dollars. One pilot said, "You need a head full of saw-dust to go up in one of these!"
As a fishing vehicle it has its limitations. One pilot regularly uses his for mustering sheep on his farm. Another said deer shooting would be possible if you had a hand gun! These are a fun way to fly and most people buy them for the sheer thrill of flying. Some of the pilots also fly other types of aircraft.