Will Dentists Darken The Skies Over Sturgis?
by ANN E-Media Producer (And Resident Gyro-Nut) Paul Plack
The name, "Super Sky Cycle," sounds like something out of a
1960s sci-fi short story, and perhaps that's appropriate. The
notion of a road-going flying machine has been Larry Neal's dream
for decades, according to friends. Now, Neal has done what no other
designer before has done -- brought his hybrid motorcycle/gyroplane
Neal's company, The Butterfly LLC, is in production with its
first 30 Super Sky Cycle kits, and Larry says the first five are
sold. The machine is a lightweight, tricycle-geared gyroplane with
a roadworthy suspension and folding rotor. The kit, after assembly
by the buyer, is registered for the air as an experimental
amateur-built aircraft, and for the ground as a homebuilt
The production version
of the machine is powered by a 100-horsepower Rotax 912 ULS engine,
running through a variable-speed, belt-drive transmission. It
features disc brakes on the front and main gear wheels, and long,
sleek wheel pants with integrated taillights inspired by classic
Cadillacs. Neal says the Super Sky Cycle utilizes streamlining of
some draggy parts to allow a top speed of 100 MPH.
Because gyroplanes use unpowered, free-wheeling rotors, and
employ autorotation in all flight regimes, they normally require a
moderate takeoff roll. Neal (right) addresses that shortcoming with
an adaptation he calls the "Metro Launch System," employing a
powerful engine-driven prerotator while the wheels are still in
ground contact, allowing takeoffs in just a few feet.
The Super Sky Cycle prototype first flew in December 2005. Neal
says he received a US patent for his "Fly-Drive Vehicle" just days
later. He hopes the concept will provide solutions for unique
transportation challenges around the world.
Unlike some designers in the experimental rotorcraft world, Neal
has been involved in the sport for decades. He is credited with the
frame redesign which improved the stability of Air Command
gyroplanes in the 1990s, was a leader in promoting gyroplanes in
his home state of Texas, and was one of the test pilots for the
Carter Aviation Technologies "Carter Copter," a development test
bed for Carter's advanced rotors and propellers.
Neal acknowledges the checkered history of small companies
developing machines which promise machines which can negotiate both
the sky and the highway. He observes, "Now, instead of just reading
about them, you can buy one. They're real! I've flown the Super Sky
Cycle in front of thousands of people at air shows, and more have
seen the television news coverage. Almost unanimously, people tell
me this is an idea whose time has come."
The Super Sky Cycle kit lists for $37,195 US including the Rotax
engine, and is recommended for pilots under 280 pounds. Claimed
maximum highway speed is 55 MPH.