Barry Jones MD of Chimera Aviation Ltd
Barry Jones is a former British Military (Army Air Corps) Helicopter Pilot and Chief Instructor. He served for 26 years, joining the Army as a Private Soldier, working his way through the ranks to Warrant Officer (First Class) whereupon he was Commissioned to the rank of Captain.
He started his flying career when he was a Corporal, graduating from the School of Army Aviation and starting his first Operational Flying Tour in Northern Ireland. His military flying career has allowed him to fly in 14 countries, many times with the worlds most elite Troops. read more…
WHY INVENT THE DRAGON?
One of my closest friends is a very experienced Flexwing Pilot. We met when I first got into Autogyros. Actually, I tracked him down hoping to get some advice from him, some guidance based on his not inconsiderable experience. Brian Milton is an extraordinary man. His determination to find aviation adventures and to promote ‘sport aviation’ is unparalleled. I was planning a circumnavigation of the globe by Autogyro and Brian had already done it in a Flexwing. Speaking as a military helicopter pilot, I saw the two aircraft types, the Sport Autogyro and the Flexwing, as the same class of aircraft. So it was logical to seek guidance from someone who had already experienced what I was hoping to achieve.
Brian was fantastic in his support to me. We drank many a bottle of wine at his house in London talking about great aviation adventures. Events from years gone by and things that we would like to experience ourselves. We poured over maps, and I listened intently to the stories of his amazing adventures. Although this was the year 2000 and we were sitting in his kitchen in a modern city, this was the stuff of real pioneering adventure. To take a small, simple aircraft and fly into unknown skies, that is an adventure, surely?
Although I was an experienced military helicopter pilot with several Tours under my belt by then, I listened in awe to this man. His unashamedly British attitude to aviation adventures excited me more than most of the flying that I had done for U.K. Special Forces! It was the sheer independence of climbing aboard a simple flying machine and heading into skies that you had never been shown before, alone. Fantastic.
After my failed attempt to circumnavigate the globe by Autogyro, no fault of the aircraft I might add, I spent a long weekend at Brian’s place in France where he worked on transcribing my handwritten diary entries from my own aviation adventure to computer as we drank yet more wine and consumed unhealthy amounts of cheese. On his sheltered patio, overlooking a beautiful French valley, Brian’s first Trike, the original prototype Flexwing sat looking for all the world as though he had flown her in that morning. I remember sitting in its basic cockpit and taking hold of the Bar and thinking, “Why doesn’t someone simply put an Autogyro Rotor on one of these aircraft”? To be honest, it was an observation based on my experience and on the genius of the simplicity of Brian’s aircraft. I had spent many an hour in very sophisticated cockpits and many of them fitted with equipment designed to keep British Forces ahead of the game, particularly in the world of anti-terrorism. But, the thing that often let us down was the complexity itself. Here I was, sitting in about as basic a cockpit as you could imagine and I knew that as far as reliability was concerned, simplicity was the key. The idea sat idle for several years.
My experience in military helicopters and in Autogyro’s increased over the following years, but I always had this little voice in the back of my head reminding me of that day on Brian’s patio in France with his original weight-shift.
I think that if the Autogyro hadn’t been invented, I’d have been a Weight-Shift Pilot. You might imagine that I got into Autogyro’s because I was a Rotary Wing pilot but, that wasn’t the case. It all started when I watched an Autogyro in the Circuit at Carlisle Airport as I joined as a pair of Lynx helicopters stopping for fuel. It was a strong wind day, 22kts from the West, and I marvelled at how steady the little machine was as I watched it on Finals. From there I arranged a flight for myself, and on the first circuit, I was hooked. It had everything I was looking for, simplicity, performance and seemed to goad me into getting my License and taking it on adventures.
Back then, factory produced Autogyro’s in the U.K. hadn’t even been invented. Magni (the Italian Autogyro manufacturer) had several machines flying in the U.K., but the route to obtaining one was, challenging. I had secured mine, second hand, from South Africa and imported it to the U.K. After several months of building, mostly by military Engineering colleagues, I obtained a Permit To Fly for the machine, and my aviation adventures started.
I reset the World Autogyro Range Record, taking it from another aviation adventures friend, Wing Commander. Ken Wallis (the man who piloted ‘Little Nellie’ in the James Bond film, ‘You Only Live Twice’) and then my failed attempt to circumnavigate the globe. Meanwhile, my military aviation career continued until I left the Army after 26 years of Service and retiring as a Chief Flying Instructor.
At that point in my life, I was trying to develop a commercial Autogyro to try and get them (Autogyro’s) established in commercial aviation. It is my belief that they have much to give to the world of aviation. However, fate had other plans, and my aspiration was going to have to go on hold. Meanwhile, I started to develop a sport Autogyro and in doing so, through a strange set of circumstances, I was brought back to looking at the Weight-Shift.
I suppose you could say that I had an awakening, an epiphany if you will. I had come to realise that one of my goals was to share what seemed to be the incredible secret that is, the Autogyro. I wanted to show people how capable they are. It appeared that so many people had no idea how good the Autogyro really is.
At the moment, the available sport Autogyro’s command a price that precludes many a would-be Pilot. When you consider how similar, in construction terms, Sport Autogyro’s and Flexwings are, it’s hard to see how the price difference is justified. If I could produce an Autogyro, as if I were producing a Flexwing but instead of fitting a ‘Wing’, fit it with Rotors, I could deliver a very capable flying machine to the market at a sensible price. Added to this, market research had shown how limiting Flexwings can be when it comes to wind. When you consider that we live in the windiest country, currently, in Europe, you can see why many instructors only work Part Time. That is why the Dragon has been brought to market.
Barry Jones MD
Why do you use a ‘Direct Control Frame’ instead of a traditional ‘Cyclic Stick’ for the Dragon?
When the first Autogyros flew, they were converted aeroplanes. The aeroplane’s ‘Wings’ were still on the aircraft but mounted above the fuselage was a freely rotating fixed Rotor system. In 1932 Cierva (the inventor of the Autogyro) introduced ‘Direct Control’ in which he was able to ‘tilt’ the Rotor Hub thereby achieving directional control and negating the need for ‘Wings’. This is known as ‘Direct Control’ and is very similar to the way pilots of current Flexwing Microlight aircraft control their Wing. It’s a simple system, very few levers and linkages and therefore, less to maintain.
Direct Control is very simple to understand. Those who currently fly aircraft using this ‘Direct Control’ method will, I’m sure, testify how natural it feels to control your aircraft using this method. It’s as close to feeling like you are using your arms as wings, just like you did as a child in the school playground, as you can currently get.
The ‘Direct Control’ method gives you a significant lever advantage over the normal short Cyclic Stick. This makes for a light control system that doesn’t suffer from a Torque Feedback Kick when the Pre-Spin is applied to the Rotor System. Additionally, it ensures that even the ‘slightest’ of pilots can easily operate the Dragon well. Autogyros with the Cyclic Stick method of control, mimic the Cyclic Stick found in a Helicopter or the single Stick found in a Fighter Jet aircraft. In a helicopter, the pilot uses a Cyclic Stick (held in the Right Hand) because the pilots Left Hand is used to control the Collective Lever. Therefore, the Cyclic Stick is a necessity in a Helicopter. In a Fighter Jet, a single Stick is used due to the rather cramped cockpits and to leave the pilot with a free hand to operate other parts/systems of the aircraft as it is an operational aircraft. The Autogyro is not a Helicopter nor a Fighter Jet, therefore it doesn’t need a Cyclic Stick. When you think about it, most ‘vehicles’ are controlled with both hands on the control system. The Motorbike, the Car, Heavy Goods vehicles, medium and large Aircraft, Jet Skies, Skidoos, Tractors, Tanks for that matter, all use two hands on the Controls. It’s not a new concept.
I’ve taken a further step in that I have made the ‘Control Bar’ aerofoil shaped. This is a good way to help teach student pilots how to operate the control bar, which we call a ‘Control Blade’. The aerofoil shape mimics the input you are making to the Control Blade. For example, if you want to turn Left, you tilt the Control Blade over to the left as if you were tilting your arms, like wings, to turn Left and visa versa. It’s very simple. You will see the aerofoil shape of the ‘Control Blade’ move as if it were Wings, in the way you would expect Wings to work. This may sound obvious, but it was an important step. The more intuitive you can make an aircraft’s control system, the faster a student pilot will acquire the skills required to become a good pilot.
For all those Flexwing Instructors wishing to get into teaching on Autogyro’s, they already know how to operate the aircraft. There is a Conversion to do of course, but the Dragon flys so similar to a Flexwing that they will have no problem converting. With the Dragon, they can teach every day as Instructors will quickly see, they can deliver a smooth flight for students even on the windiest or most thermic days.
One of my ambitions is to get as many people into flying autogyros as possible, the easier I can make it, the better.