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Aero-TV: Brazilian Hummingbird Alights in U.S.

The Resurgent Gyroplane

Existing at the confluence of the airplane, the helicopter, and the pinwheel, the machine known alternately as the autogiro and the gyrocopter is among powered flight’s stranger birds.

Invented by Juan de la Cierva, a Spanish engineer seeking to create an aircraft capable of flying safely at low speeds, the gyrocopter is characterized by a free-spinning rotor impelled to rotation by the passage of air across its blades from below. The downward component of the rotor’s total aerodynamic reaction imparts lift to the vehicle while a separate, longitudinally-oriented, powered-propeller provides forward thrust.

Unlike a conventional helicopter—which functions by dint of forcing its rotor-blades through the air, thereby drawing air from above—the gyrocopter generates lift by changing the angle of the air’s flow as it moves upward and backwards relative to the blades of its main-rotor. The free-spinning blades, which turn by autorotation, are angled in such a way that they contemporaneously produce lift and accelerate the rotor-assembly’s rotation rate to a stable speed—at which the forces of drag and thrust are balanced.

As the gyrocopter’s lift-scheme is predicated upon forward movement through the air (after the fashion of fixed-wing airplane), such aircraft cannot takeoff vertically; excepting in strong headwinds.

Gyrocopter pitch and roll control are respectively achieved by tilting the main-rotor disk laterally and longitudinally. Main-rotor tilt is facilitated by varying architectures, including tilting hubs, swashplates, and servo-flaps. Gyrocopter yaw control is accomplished via either single or dual rudder assemblies.

Among the more impressive and accessible gyrocopters available in 2023 is the Hummingbird, an innovative, home-built machine designed and manufactured by Brazil’s Hummingbird Industria Aeronautica and distributed in North America by Helicopters International, LLC.

Established in 2006, Helicopters International, LLC is managed by a team of highly-experienced, FAA-certified Commercial pilots and Airframe & Powerplant (A&P) mechanics.

Helicopters International offers two Hummingbird kit models designated  Hummingbird One and Hummingbird Two. The airframes of both iterations feature 6061-T6 and 7075-Tb aluminum construction. Similarly, the Hummingbirds’ main-rotor blades are fashioned from extruded 6005A-T6 aluminum. High-stress components—tubes, plates, nuts and bolts, etc.—are stainless steel.

Both Hummingbird models feature standard fuel-tank capacities of ten-gallons. An optional, eight-gallon secondary tank raises fuel capacity to 18-gallons and aircraft endurance to approximately 2.5-hours.

The undercarriage common to the Hummingbird One and Hummingbird Two models comprises robust construction and heavy-duty shock-absorbers conducive to operations from unimproved surfaces. What’s more, the Hummingbirds’ wheel-assemblies have been designed to offer owners the option to add and remove wheel fairings and make use of a variety of tire sizes.

All Hummingbird kits are designed to accommodate Rotax powerplants. The Hummingbird One is compatible with Rotax’s one-hundred-horsepower 912UL and 912ULS engines. Hummingbird Two owners may choose between Rotax’s one-hundred-horsepower 912ULS, and 115-horsepower 914 engines. The entirety of the aforementioned mills are designed to run on premium automotive gasoline.

Both Hummingbird models weigh 529-pounds empty. The Hummingbird One has a payload of 308-pounds and a maximum gross weight of 837-pounds. Conversely, the Hummingbird Two manages a 615-pound payload and a maximum weight of 1,102-pounds. Both aircraft have an advertised top-speed of 78-knots and a service-ceiling of 10,000-feet. Cruise-speeds vary between the two models, albeit at the low end of the index. The Hummingbird Two’s specifications cite a cruise-speed range of 60 to 70 knots. The Hummingbird One, however, cruises between 52 and 70 knots.

All told, the Hummingbird is a customizable, builder-and-pilot-friendly machine designed for joy of flight, ease of maintenance, and efficient use of hangar space. Both the One and Two models’ construction are compact, lightweight, and easy to transport and store.

At once affordable and innovative, the Hummingbird is among the most intriguing experimental aircraft currently in production.

Aero-TV is a production of the Internationally syndicated Aero-News Network. Seen worldwide by hundreds of thousands of aviators and aviation adherents, ANN's Aero-TV has produced over 5000 aviation and feature programs, including nearly 2000 episodes of our daily aviation news program, AIRBORNE UNLIMITED, currently hosted by Holland Lee. Now in its third decade of operation, parent company Aero-News Network, has the most aggressive and intensive editorial profile of any aviation news organization and has published nearly a half-million news and feature stories since its inception -- having pioneered the online 24/7 aviation new-media model that so many have emulated.

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