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Which gyro?

The gyro is one of those little magic contraptions that is invaluable. In the early days of helicopters, they weren't used (probably cause they hadn't been invented) and the pilots would compensate for tail movements manually. Talk about difficult! I don't think I would have even bothered getting into helis if gyro's weren't around.

A good gyro is worth it's weight in gold. What does it do? Well simply put, it makes flying easier cause it looks after the tail.

Gyro's come in two flavours. Heading hold ability and non-heading hold.

When you're looking to buy a gyro, you've got to take into account a number of things. Some of these are:

  • How much it costs.
    Obviously important in any purchasing decision.
  • Local knowledge
    While these systems may look complicated (and they are!), they're not too hard to use. However, if you know someone who already uses the gyro you are thinking of buying and can help you set it up, it's much easier.
  • Reputation
    What's the general opinion of this gyro?

Non-Heading Hold
A non-hold gyro allows the tail of the helicopter to 'weathervane' behind the helicopter. This means that the tail follows the helicopter in the direction it's heading. This is good for smooth fast forward flight where the tail just follows the rest of the helicopter. However when hovering, it means you have to keep an eye on the tail and make any corrections when it starts drifting.

Futaba's GY601 gyro with servo. Futaba's answer to the JR 5000. Like the 5000, the 601 is switchable normal and heading hold mode

Heading Hold
A heading hold gyro (when in heading hold) will keep the helicopter pointed in the direction the pilot last pointed it no matter what's going on. The wind can blow all it wants and the helicopter will stay pointing in your chosen direction. This is really good for hovering cause it allows you to concentrate on everything else that's going on, comfortable that the gyro is looking after the tail.
It's also really handy in fast backward flight. In normal mode (ie non-heading hold mode), the tail will tend to wander when flying backwards. However, in Heading Hold mode it won't.
I personally, find it really handy when flying inverted. I've got my hands full with the rest of the controls and it's nice to not have to worry about compensating for wind, weathervaning etc when you're upside down :).
Most heading hold gyros will do both heading hold and non-heading hold. Most also have the ability to be remotely adjusted from the transmitter (in my opinion, an invaluable function).

Gyro's come in all sizes for all budgets. There are many 'non-name brand' gyros that are cheap, but once you get advanced you'll probably find yourself looking to a more able system.

JR's 5000 Gyro. Top of the line. Used by Curtis Youngblood.

My own personal experience
I originally got started with a CSM 180 which is a non-heading hold gyro. It wasn't too bad a gyro for the price. But any adjustments had to be made on the gyro itself on the helicopter, which became a real pain in the a$$. It did pretty well though, I learned to hover and I started to do nose in with it etc. Then I got a great deal on a GY501 gyro which does both heading hold and non-heading hold. Wow what a difference! It really accelerated my learning. When I was doing nose in I just stuck it in heading hold and concentrated on the other controls. Once I got confident with nose in I was able to do it in normal mode also.

In my opinion, the market leaders are CSM, JR and Futaba. You won't go wrong with either of these choices. Currently (June 2001) the best bargain is the Futaba GY401 with servo combo.

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