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Bensen Days 2012 Gyroplane Fly-In

By Tim O'Connor, EAA 714900, for Light Plane World

The Behemoth Gyro by Gabor Kovacs
The Behemoth Gyro by Gabor Kovacs

Flightline at Bensen Days
Flightline at Bensen Days

Roy Davis packing eggs for the egg drop contest
Roy Davis packing eggs for the egg drop contest

HoneyBee G2 gyroplane
HoneyBee G2 gyroplane

Every April for the past 39 years, PRA Chapter 26 (Sunstate Wing & Rotor Club) has hosted an event called "Bensen Days" at an airport in Florida. This event is named for Dr. Igor Bensen who helped give birth to the homebuilt aircraft market, created the Popular Rotorcraft Association (PRA), and worked with the FAA to create the experimental and FAR 103 ultralight regulations.

Dr. Bensen is no longer well known outside of the gyroplane community, but in the world of personal rotorcraft he is well remembered; every April this gathering is held in his honor. As you would expect, gyroplanes and helicopters attend Bensen Days, but all aircraft are welcome. Typically, powered parachutes (PPCs), trikes, and fixed wing aircraft attend the event as well. This year the PRA assisted Chapter 26 with advertising, online registration, and a volunteer team headed by Robert Rymer and his wife coordinating on-site admissions.

Bensen Days attracts attendees from the north looking for a taste of warm Florida weather to shake off cabin fever. Thus the event is scheduled for the week after Sun 'n Fun International Fly-In & Expo so that vendors and pilots can attend both fly-ins with one trip. However, because of the Easter holiday, this Bensen Days was held the week before Sun 'n Fun.

Walk-in attendance was the same as previous years; however, this year the event seemed smaller because fewer gyroplanes were present. An informal poll of pilots who attended but didn't bring their machines this year cited high gas prices as the culprit. Not everyone was put off by fuel costs, though, as some machines were flown or trailered in from distant parts of the country such as Johnny Hay who brought his machine in from Cincinnati, Ohio.

Many contests and awards were held as always, such as the famous "Cluster Cluck" egg drop, spot landing contests, and more. Training was in full swing with CFI flights available from HoneyBee Gyros debuting the new two-place HoneyBee G2, AutoGyro USA with no less than two training ships, and the renowned instructor Steve McGowan with his Parsons gyroplane.

Other gyroplane dealers were present including Rotor Flight Dynamics with a number of Dominator brand gyroplanes, including some with creative new engine packages. Bear Perkins and a number of parts and accessory vendors were available with pilot and builder supplies. Other vendors catered to all attendees with homemade ice cream and award-winning BBQ.

Gabor Kovacs has gathered a remarkable online following because he has been sharing a one-year detailed design-and-build log of his Behemoth gyroplane. The long anticipated fruition of this endeavor took place at Bensen Days. The design methods were proven with a triple-hang-test which was videotaped for the PRA "how-to" webpage (www.PRA.org) and concluded with the first flight by Greg Spicola.

If you missed Bensen Days 2012, make plans to attend in 2013. Other personal rotorcraft events that open to all aircraft types and fans are: PRA National Convention's 50th year celebration fly-in, July 31 to August 4 at Mentone, Indiana; Rotors Over The Rockies, June 7 to 9, Brigham City, Utah; and Ken Brock Freedom Fly-In, September 28 to 30, El Mirage, California.

View more photos by Tim O'Connor from the Bensen Days fly-in in his Facebook albums and find the latest news about gyroplanes on the PRA Facebook page.

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