A Motorcycle with Altitude | Aero-News Network
Aero-News Network
RSS icon RSS feed
podcast icon MP3 podcast
Subscribe Aero-News e-mail Newsletter Subscribe

Airborne Unlimited -- Most Recent Daily Episodes

Episode Date



Airborne-Wednesday Airborne-Thursday


Airborne On YouTube






Mon, Apr 11, 2005

A Motorcycle with Altitude

Sun-n-Fun Intro For Super Sky Cycle - Super Sky Car Will Follow

By ANN Senior Correspondent Kevin R.C. "Hognose" O'Brien

Are you ready for something different? Larry Neal has been thinking about flying cars. He's been thinking about them seriously for well over ten years, and all that time he's been quietly -- almost surreptitiously -- acting on those thoughts. We've known Larry for years, and we've been hearing him say all along that his ultimate plan for his Butterfly series of gyroplanes was to have a convertible road/air machine -- but we never took him all that seriously. After all, when I wrote about flying cars for my blog, I called the article "Lying Cars." Projects either were technical successes that failed as businesses, or businesses whose seriousness about actually making a product, as opposed to milking generations of stockholders, was in doubt.

Now, I have great confidence in Larry's integrity, and his technical ability is illustrated by his patents, by his work as chief test pilot for Carter Aviation Technologies, by NASA's interest in his work, and by his longtime activity in the ultralight and sport aviation community.

We caught up with Larry by phone as he worked late into the night getting two projects ready to introduce at Sun-n-Fun -- the Super Sky Cycle and the Turbo Golden Monarch. The former is, as the name suggests, a roadable single-seat enclosed gyroplane which readily converts into a roadgoing vehicle, licensed as a motorcycle. The Turbo Golden is the latest iteration of Larry's unconventional two-seat tandem training gyro, but with his ultimate plans for it, we're probably going to have to redefine the fire-breathing Turbo Golden Monarch as conventional and the ordinary Golden Monarch as... dullsville.

And then there's the business plan, which is as innovative as the gyroplanes themselves. But let's begin with the first big news coming down the pike (literally): the Super Sky Cycle.

The Super Sky Cycle

"I first conceived this product in 1994, but I didn't tell anybody," Neal told me.

Ah, I understood why. "You were afraid they'd think you were a crank?"

"No... not really. I was afraid they'd steal my ideas before I was ready to go to market."

I listened carefully for the sound of paranoia. But now that he's ready to go to market, Larry is open about what he's doing -- as wide open as the skies of the West where he works. Paranoids don't relax like that. Larry never hesitated to answer or steered me away from a line of questioning, so if something is missing, it's because I didn't have the wits to ask him.

Everything Larry has done, from that day in 1994, to the official introduction of the Super Sky Cycle, coming at Sun-n-Fun April 13th, and on into the future, is aimed at making dual-mode transportation simple, safe and affordable.

When Larry bought the rights to the popular Falcon ultralights in 1997, he did it because he loved the planes, sure, but he also was thinking of the suitability of parts of the canard design for a roadable aircraft.

When Larry was poring over the history of the designs of jump-takeoff-capable gyroplanes, he did it because he knew a roadable aircraft would be most useful if it didn't always need a large runway to take off.

The Super Sky Cycle is the first culmination of these years of research and design. The Sky Cycle wraps the skeleton of a Monarch gyro in a sleek composite covering, and replaces the small wheels with three large motorcycle-type wheels. The Monarch G-Force landing gear, in either of two strokes, is retained. The Rotax engine that makes it fly also, through a simple clutch, drives the rear wheels; the front wheel is, in essence, a motorcycle fork. The builder takes the machine to the Registry of Motor Vehicles in his jurisdiction when the road-going parts are complete, and registers it as a motorcycle. Then he completes the machine with the flying gear, and registers it with the FAA as an experimental aircraft.

In the US, you will need to have both a state motorcycle license, and an FAA airman certificate, to operate the Sky Cycle. At first a private pilot's license in the rotorcraft class and gyroplane category will be required. It is possible that Sport Pilot privileges may cover the Sky Cycle in the future, but they don't now.

Larry envisions large numbers of these aircraft used for commuting. You wouldn't need a large runway, more a sort of an air park where Sky Cycles could land and take off, and convert from terrestrial to aerial mode and back again.

To do that, you land, stop the rotors, and fold the mast. The current experimental Butterfly models include a folding mast, which has until now been billed as enhancing one's ability to store the gyro in a conventional auto garage with the normal low door. It certainly does, but the real reason that design feature has been there is in order to enhance the flying car. The mast pivots in two places. The rotor head and blades remain parallel to the ground plane, but the mast folds down parallel to the ground plane itself. A simple clutch disconnects the propeller while in ground mode, for safety.

The Rotax 582 motor can drive the Sky Cycle at speeds up to 60 miles an hour, through the 9 1/2 inch rear wheels. (Larger, 16", wheels may be available optionally for unimproved fields). The Sky Cycle has only one seat; the pilot/rider controls it on the ground using motorcycle style handlebars.

Of course, with the Fly-Drive convenience of the Sky Cycle, the commuter air parks that Larry imagines need never happen. As his business plan puts it, "The Super Sky Cycle can land virtually anywhere, even at an airport, and drives home or to an appointment, where it is easily parked in a garage or normal parking space." Even at an airport, he says.

Rolling Jump Takeoffs

Along with an easy conversion from roadgoing to flying machine and back again -- you can land, fold the mast and blades, and drive home to the garage -- a critical component is jump takeoff capability.

But zero-speed jump takeoffs as he does them in the CarterCopter Technology Demonstrator are, to tell the truth, pretty demanding in terms of pilot skill and workload. That didn't fit Larry's conception of a flying machine for Everyman. "This machine is not meant to do a standing takeoff." So the Sky Cycle's jump capability is meant to be used with some forward motion, to shorten rather than eliminate ground roll; and it's been made impressively simple.

"There's a button on the dash," Larry explains. Push button, prerotation begins and the blades are hydraulically depitched to zero drag, which is an incidence of minus two degrees. The belt driven prerotator spins the blades to above flight RPM, using only about 15 HP from the motor. As the aircraft moves forward, easily accelerating (at effective zero pitch the drag of the rotor is greatly reduced), the pitch mechanism releases the hydraulic fluid in the cylinders, and the rotor is springloaded to normal flying incidence of plus two and a half degrees.

Specific Training Required

The Super Sky Cycle is not something that any schmuck can operate without training. In fact, even an experienced airplane or helicopter pilot needs specific instruction to be able to operate a gyroplane safely. Larry plans to make that happen by spreading instructional centers and dealerships like inkblots over the nation. You'll also need a motorcycle license, as mentioned above, to operate the vehicle on public roads.

And yet, for all its sophistication, with its sleek enclosed body, lift-providing stub wings, 7.5-foot-wide G-Force Magnum landing gear with a 22" stroke, depitching prerotator, rear-drive suspension -- it is at its heart a Butterfly.

And in the next installment of this story, we'll tell you about the modular concept that allows an ultralight Butterfly to metamorphosize into a Monarch or Super Sky Cycle, about the Turbo Monarch and what happens when it gets the Sky-Cycle treatment, and about Larry's innovative business plan. We'll talk about some of the devilish details, like financing and insurance. And we'll wrap with Larry's take on what's in store, next.

FMI: www.thebutterflyllc.com


More News

Kickstarting Your Aviation Journey at Oshkosh 2024

A Guide to Making the Most out of the World’s Biggest Airshow EAA’s Oshkosh Airventure generates fun for all aviation lovers. You get a chance to see, touch, and maybe >[...]

Aero-News: Quote of the Day (07.22.24)

"We're excited to offer our advanced avionics to a broader range of aircraft while maintaining our commitment to value. Twin-engine aircraft usually pay a significant premium to eq>[...]

Electric Power Systems Seeks TSO for Rechargeable Battery System

Modular, Scalable Lithium Battery System for Select Aircraft Electric Power Systems, Inc., announced that it has submitted its application to the FAA for a Technical Standard Order>[...]

Advanced Micro Turbines Find Footing in USA

350 Pound-feet of Thrust Now Available in a Small, Lightweight Package UAV Propulsion Tech signed an agreement with AMT-Advanced Micro Turbines to begin marketing their tiny little>[...]

Klyde Morris (07.22.23)

Klyde Provokes The Ultimate Oshkosh Invite... Sorta... FMI: www.klydemorris.com>[...]

blog comments powered by Disqus





© 2007 - 2024 Web Development & Design by Pauli Systems, LC