Groen Brothers Aviation

Posted - Aug. 24, 2001 at 11:40 a.m.



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This is Fred Ball for Zions Bank, speaking on business.

Earlier this month, an unusual aircraft took off from a small airport near Woods Cross and demonstrated to an audience of bystanders and news media that there is an alternative to the traditional helicopter. Why is this so important? Because, for one thing, the aircraft, which is known as a gyroplane, is safer and more cost effective to maintain than a helicopter—and—this new design comes from a Utah company.

Gyroplanes and helicopters are both rotor wing aircraft. Gyroplanes fly in constant autorotation, which means their rotors spin in flight without requiring power. Helicopters, however, rely on constant power to maintain flight. If power fails, a pilot can only make a soft landing by converting to autorotation. The conversion requires a certain amount of airspeed, altitude or a combination of both.

The aerodynamics that make a gyroplane work are similar to those that operate a windmill. So landing a gyroplane due to engine failure is virtually the same as landing in a normal approach.

Gyroplanes are also safer than fixed-wing airplanes because they don’t stall or spin. Flying too slow simply causes a gyroplane to gently descend. And altitude can be maintained by flying slightly forward.

Gyroplanes are not a new concept. They actually predate helicopters, but for various reasons, the concept never caught on. Now, thanks to Groen Brothers Aviation in Salt Lake City, they’re making a comeback.

Brothers David and Jay Groen began in 1986, working together to invent the gyroplane technology upon which the company’s patents are now based. Groen Brothers’ latest design, a turbine-powered four-seat model called the Hawk 4, is based on three prototypes tested over a period of 10 years. The company has developed a rotor system that gives pilots better in-flight control and allows for maximum performance regardless of external conditions. Groen Brothers has also invented airfoils for the rotor blades that enable the gyroplanes to fly at airspeeds far above what has been typical for helicopters.

From a two-person startup 15 years ago, Groen Brothers Aviation has now grown to include 120 employees. The gyroplanes will be certified by next summer and dealers throughout the United States, the Bahamas and Costa Rica are already accepting deposits.

For Zions Bank, I’m Fred Ball. I’m speaking on business.

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