A gyrocopter, gyroplane, autogiro and autogyro are different words for the same thing, and the most important feature shared by gliders, airplanes, helicopters and gyroplanes is that they all use wings to fly. It’s just that on helicopters and autogyros the wings are mounted on pylons and spin in circles, but they are rigidly affixed to the sides of airplanes and gliders. Other than that, they all get into the sky the same way: You move a wing rapidly through the air and it produces Lift. The rotating wings of a helicopter are directly-driven by the engine, enabling it to hover; whereas the rotating wings of the gyroplane are free-spinning, meaning it can’t hover – though it can come astonishingly close to it, because it needs very little forward speed to stay airborne.
The cardinal virtue of the gyroplane is its ability to do nearly everything a helicopter can do, at only a fraction of the cost, while doing it more safely than any other kind of flying machine. While even the most mundane gyroplanes are true STOL (Short Take-Off/Landing) vehicles, they can be configured to take-off and land with no ground-roll at all. Moreover, their exceptional STOL capabilities make them terrific for “bush” or water operations. Helicopters are vastly more mechanically complex than any other kind of aircraft, with a host of critically interdependent moving parts, which is why they cost several times as much to purchase and maintain as a same-sized gyroplane. Meanwhile, many gyroplanes can be purchased and operated for less than some motorcycles, and because they fly in a constant state of autorotation, even a total engine failure results in a parachute-like descent, making them the safest of all aircraft.
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