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Sun, Apr 03, 2005

Popular Rotorcraft Association Relaunches Website

Experimental Gyro/Helicopter Group Improves Design, Performance

The Popular Rotorcraft Association, a membership organization that promotes gyroplanes and experimental helicopters, has relaunched its website with a new, modern look and a promise of more content and more frequent updates.

The old website was professionally designed, but it was getting long in the tooth and updating it was an arduous process. The new one, developed by volunteers from the PRA ranks, takes advantage of trends in technology without using gimmicks for gimmicks' sake.

The site contains a photo album, information about upcoming events, lists of helicopter and gyro CFIs (if you are one, and not listed, send your information to prahq@medt.com for inclusion), a list of books (and where to buy them), and, of course, an FAQ. The photos in this article are from the PRA album.

One of the areas that is most likely to interest newcomers to the sport, after the photo album, is the section of Tributes, which includes biographical information about rotorcraft and PRA figures who have gone west, including Igor Bensen, Ken Brock, and several others of whom you might not have heard (but where's BJ Schramm?)

And the PRA has been able to count many rotorcraft luminaries in its ranks. The PRA was founded by Dr Igor Bensen as, essentially, a type club for builder/pilots of his Bensen Gyrocopter. When Dr Bensen found himself older and in declining health, legendary gyro and homebuilt-plane pioneer Ken Brock, a friend and admirer of Bensen, took over the helm of PRA. Now it is run from rural Mentone, Indiana by an elected board, with a very small staff. Like EAA, but on a smaller scale, PRA organizes a rotorcraft fly-in at Mentone every July, just before Airventure. Many rotorcraft manufacturers use it as a chance to hit a narrowly targeted audience and tune up their sales pitch on the way to Oshkosh.

The organization also publishes Rotorcraft magazine.

Experimental rotorcraft have come a long way since Dr Bensen and BJ Schramme sold their pioneering gyro and helicopter, the Gyrocopter and Scorpion, respectively, from small ads in the back pages of magazines. Thousands of sport rotorcraft are on the US and hundreds on the Canadian registry, and more are operated as ultralights. Dozens of companies make kits and components, and more instructors are certified every year.

The PRA has struggled in recent years, with angry board quarrels breaking out in public, and -- a much more serious problem --stagnant membership figures. Nevertheless, all parties to the disagreements can agree that sport rotorcraft, which have always been fun, will continue to prove themselves safe and practical as well. The PRA can help people get into the sport -- in a safe and practical way.

FMI: www.pra.org

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