Wednesday, September 21, 2011

How The HoneyBee Gyro Came To Bee

First HoneyBee Gyro (G1) Prototype
For those of you that have been following the Gyro Journal, you probably have wondered if I was ever going to get around to adding the next chapter.  Here it….let's continue the story of the HoneyBee Gyro...

There is a four letter word the human mind completely and immediately understands.  The response in other languages is more than likely a similar response to the English word. The word is "free"; what an amazing word. I only know of a couple things in my life that have been completely "free".  One was my salvation and the other was plans for the Gyrobee.

In 1997 Popular Rotorcraft Association provided a link to the Gyrobee Project. Once there web surfers found that Dr. Taggart graciously provided FREE plans to thousands just like me over the world.  It is true that Martin Hollman created the first Part 103 Legal UL Gyroplane called the "Bumble Bee" but it was really Dr. Taggart that spread the blessings of an UL gyroplane called the Gyrobee all over the world. I was one of those people that received a blessing. 

In 1997 I discovered the Internet with the help of AOL who made it come alive on a practical level.  By simply installing the AOL disk, my laptop became the information highway, just like Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gore said it would.  I discovered what "search engine" meant.  I learned that the "blue writing" took me all over the globe in a matter of seconds. It was a marvelous awaking to the world of "HTML", hyper text markup language.  I could look up P-51 pages....P-38 pages...and last but not least gyroplane pages. What more could a guy ask for? I was learning more and more about how to find things and what hot spots on the pages did, how to navigate and how to return to where I came from, how to bookmark, etc. Every day I was growing and learning "skills" on how to get around in the "World Wide Web".  It was during this time that I discovered the little rolling "New Ultralight Gyroplane-Free Plans" icon at Clicking on that icon changed my life forever.  I, like many of you, took the download.

With the plans in written form I immediately began printing and organizing the pages into a three ring binder. I started looking for materials, pricing blades, looking at engines and dreaming of the day when I would actually fly an UL Gyroplane. I dreamed of my new UL Gyroplane and what it would take to offer it as a kit aircraft too. I needed to contact Dr. Taggart and have that discussion. Finding him was easier than I thought. The URL of Dr. Taggart's website was clearly at Michigan State University who was an hour and fifteen minutes from my home. MSU was one of my largest and best college customers; they purchased truckloads of Rubbermaid from me.  Because I had gotten over the fear of cold calls about 100 years prior, I simply called the main number at MSU and asked for Mr. Taggart. They immediately sent me to the department where he worked, the phone rang, I got his voice mail, I left my number and within an hour Dr. Taggart called me back. He was easy to talk too and within minutes we had a date in Mason, MI for coffee and donuts ….to talk about the Gyrobee!

On the following Saturday morning, Dr. Taggart and I were setting together having coffee and donuts telling tall tales (not Tall Tails) of our flying experiences, drawing  on napkins and discussing the Gyrobee. With a couple of donuts and a lot of coffee in me, Ralph probably felt that he had me softened up enough to suggest that we not build the Gyrobee but rather build the next generation Gyrobee and call it the HoneyBee.  I felt like Ralph "slipped me a mickey" and I was shocked. I did not want to build something else, I wanted to build a slightly upgraded Gyrobee. This kind of thinking had never crossed my mind. As Ralph stated in the original video we did together, "Jim had a puzzled look on his face"....I am sure that I did. I wanted a Gyrobee and that was all I hoped for. When Ralph started suggesting these ideas, at first it sort of set me back. 

After a couple of hours together, the idea of a next generation Gyrobee started sinking in and the idea of a "HoneyBee Gyro" started getting traction in my mind, the momentum started building. Soon my laptop was humming  with "tweaks" in AutoCAD Light.  Getting the data into CAD would allow for machining with automotive precision and provide me with a production quality frame. Getting the data into CAD also allowed me to make the changes that Ralph and I were coming up with. Getting the data into CAD allowed me to put the aircraft together "electronically" before we started cutting all the aluminum that it would take. For the record, paper is cheaper than 6061-T6 for sure! 

Days and days went by; probably a month in total.  By then the new "HoneyBee Gyro" was really born and it was a work of art!  The "Improvements" were: 
1.     New Nose Gear (It took three iterations to get it right)
2.     New Adjustable Rudder Pedals
3.     New Fiberglass Rod Main Gear (It took two iterations to get it right)
4.     New Composite Tail (No more Brock Tail)
5.     New Engine Mount (It took two iterations to get it right)
6.     New Control Stick 
7.     New Lighter Tires and Wheels (It took two iterations to get it right)

Within 60 days it was complete and it was absolutely beautiful as gyroplanes go! It was the HoneyBee Gyro (G1). That was fourteen (14+) years ago and I still enjoy seeing and flying gyroplanes.

At this point (1997) in the design stage of the HoneyBee Gyro (G1) was 99% done with 50% to go. Building a gyroplane is not flying a gyroplane. Flying one requires a gyronaut and I had only sat in one gyroplane in my life, that was the new HoneyBee Gyro (G1) setting on the shop floor.  There was much to learn….

Embrace the struggle!


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