Alba Airsports Gyrocopter Adventures.

I hear the call to the tower on the radio in the clubhouse, a request to join the circuit with a vertical decent over the signal square to land. I look out expecting a helicopter, but see a tiny aircraft crack over the field at 1000 feet then spiral tightly down in an incredibly small radius turn, to ease out into a roller landing an equally incredibly short distance.


This is the arrival of my latest interviewee, Kevin Whitehead of Alba Airsports in his MTO Sport 4 gyrocopter, complete with trainee pilot on a first lesson. I can see the smile shining from her face from a good 100 meters away.

As they unstrapped, the young Spanish photography student was clearly smitten; breathless, animated, grinning from ear to ear, hugging Kevin and rushing to thank her friend who bought her the trip as a gift. The hallmarks were all there, one more bitten by the flying bug, never again able to look at the sky without the urge to go back up again.

For some this is a life defining moment, the birth of a new passion, for others like Kevin himself, the starting point of a career in aviation.

I must point out that not everyone has such a spectacular flight, only those who are both willing and have the right stuff are introduced so early to the more exciting corners of the flight envelope. Those of a more gentle nature can enjoy a much more sedate introduction as the autogyro is just as comfortable on a more conventional profile.

Kevin’s background in the off shore oil industry unsurprisingly peaked his interest in flying and helicopters in particular. The incredibly high cost of helicopter flying led him to seek other avenues though and he discovered flexwing microlights in 2005.

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     “ I was hooked after a 90 minute trial flight.”

 Flying model helicopters was not enough to scratch the itch but a trip to Kirkbride in Cumbria and a meeting with an autogyro instructor there changed that. He was introduced then to Phil Harwood who had just set up a new Gyrocopter flying school at York. Kevin signed up right away, completed his PPL and went on to start training as an instructor.

“ I was really impressed by the way Phil did business. It dawned on me that no one in Scotland was offering this experience so I set up along the same lines.”

That idea eventually led to the formation of Alba Airsports at Perth with Jim Lister.

A View of Perth Airfield home of Alba Airsports.

Perth Airfield

I know there was a lot of bad press around autogyro flying for years, even after “Little Nellie” shot to stardom as co-star to Sean Connery in the James Bond movie ‘You Only Live Twice’. Kevin is completely open about this and explains exactly why  some of the early machines were so accident prone.

"The setup was all wrong, the thrust line was too high so when you added power it pushed the nose down, if you were not ready for that then it could lead to problems. Modern machines have all of that sorted out. They also now have tailplanes which add to the stability.  Gyros are much more stable and secure than the flexwing, in fact they are about the most stable aircraft you can fly."

"You can’t stall a gyro either, you can slow to zero forward speed and do a vertical descent into wind, if you add power you can go up the same way. The aircraft has a 45mph wind operating limit, I’ll fly up to about 25mph to be sensible about it.

There’s still a lot of stigma from older pilots, but I’m up flying when they are not, that’s a good feeling."

I’m impressed by the build quality of the gyro, although it looks cramped it is actually very comfortable using space very cleverly. The Alba Airsportaircraft is quite capable of touring as well as ripping up the sky in the local flying area.

The 500kg max take off weight means that there is enough for full fuel, luggage panniers and two reasonably heavy people, Kevin informs me.