Monday, Nov. 19, 2001


Inventor: Groen Bros. Aviation

It's a plane ... It's a helicopter ... Actually, it's a bit of both. The gyroplane, whose concept was first put forward in 1919 by Spanish inventor Juan de la Cierva, has been revived by two Utah-based brothers, David and Jay Groen. They've spent 15 years and some $40 million perfecting a design they hope will provide a cheaper, simpler, safer alternative to the helicopter. No airport is required. Like a helicopter, the gyroplane takes off almost vertically and can fly 330 miles at a cruising speed of 120 m.p.h. Unlike a helicopter, it has a gas turbine powered propeller that drives the craft forward and provides airspeed to power two asymmetrical overhead blades. These 42-ft. blades rotate only when the wind rushes up through them. They give the aircraft lift, stability and improved safety; in case of engine failure, they continue to rotate and allow a safe, controlled descent. The other thing that makes the gyroplane different from a helicopter is the bottom line: running costs (about $160 per hr.) are almost halved. The gyroplane is in the final stages of FAA testing, and a 13-dealer network is busy targeting tourism and agriculture markets. It might also do service on the homeland-security beat: CEO David Groen says the craft would be ideal for border, pipeline and nuclear-facility surveillance.

Availability: Early 2003, for $749,000
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