Going from California to Florida and back in three days by gyrocopter has netted Missouri physician Paul Salmon a handful of aviation records now pending before the National Aeronautic Association and Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. The previous record set in 2003 was 19 days. Officially they will be “gyroplane” records if approved.
Salmon, also a helicopter and gyroplane instructor and Robinson Helicopter Co. dealer in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, flew at speeds between 49 and 59 knots true airspeed. He and a partner own Cape Copters at Cape Girardeau Regional Airport. For 90 percent of the roundtrip in late August, he had tailwinds of 10 to 20 knots both ways, as though the weather system was willing to reverse itself in less than 72 hours to help him out. He used an Italian-built Magni M-22 Voyager from Magni Gyro powered by a turbocharged Rotax 914 engine for the attempt.
The route started and ended at Torrance, California, where Robinson Helicopter Co. is located, and ended at Jacksonville, Florida. He used Robinson’s computers to complete filing for the record.
His experience as an emergency room physician who gets little sleep served him well on the journey. He slept only a few hours at a time except once when weather gave him a six-hour delay. Following Interstate 10 roughly 100 miles northwest of San Antonio, Salmon found himself paralleling weather systems on both sides of the highway and had to stop in Junction, Texas, for the night. He also had weather on the way back, flying at treetop level near Jacksonville, Florida. In some cases it was the bad weather that provided the tailwind as the system cleared.
A Turtle-Pac collapsible fuel tank in the back seat of his tandem-seat gyrocopter allowed him to increase the fuel capacity from 19 gallons to 52 gallons, and that enabled legs of 6.5 hours. Turtle-Pac makes collapsible tanks for jets, helicopter, boats, bush planes, and trucks.
The day following his return, Salmon went immediately to former record holder Andy Keech to tell him about the trip. The gyrocopter route has been contested since 1931 when Johnny Miller established the first record. Salmon says on his Cape Copters website than Amelia Earhart attempted the flight but was unsuccessful, losing out to Miller.