Gyroplanes offer fantastic views over the Lake District
PUBLISHED: 00:00 02 November 2017
Is it a helicopter? Is it a plane? It's neither. Or maybe both. Paul Mackenzie meets a man offering a unique bird's eye view of the Lake District.
Roger Savage grew up with exciting tales of his father’s wartime flights over the Atlantic, hunting for German U boats in a Wellington bomber. The stories gave young Roger a yearning to experience the thrill of the flight but while he’s notched up thousands of hours in a cockpit, his favourite aircraft is a far cry from the Wellington.
Although Roger has flown all manner of planes and helicopters in the 46 years since he first took off, he says nothing comes close to the experience of flying a gyroplane, a small, one or two seater, open cockpit vehicle, with rotor blades.
‘It’s probably the most fun I’ve ever had in a cockpit in about 10,000 flying hours,’ he said. ‘It’s exciting, you can feel the wind in your face and from a pilot’s point of view that adds an extra dimension. I think not being cocooned in a cockpit gives you a greater empathy with the landscape.’
Roger has taken his dad, George who now lives in Burnley, for a spin in a gyroplane but said: ‘The Wellingtons are still his favourite. He was a pilot with Coastal Command in World War Two, flying Wellingtons and Halifax bombers over the Atlantic looking for U boats. After the war he went back to his job as a policeman in Great Harwood but he would tell me about flying and I wanted to try it.
‘I went along to a club near Todmorden when I was in my teens and really enjoyed it. The feeling of freedom was just so exhilarating and I was hooked.’
Throughout his career as a photographer with local newspapers, Roger was spending his spare time in the air.
‘I was very fortunate,’ he added. ‘When I was young I had no idea what I wanted to do but my dad liked photography and he had a collection of cameras. He gave me one and I went out and took some pictures and it just came naturally to me, both technically and creatively. It became a hobby and then it became a job.
‘All the time, I’d be flying whenever I could, in all sorts of aircraft; Cessnas, RAF Bulldogs, helicopters. Then about 30 years ago I discovered gyroplanes when I saw a brief clip of them flying over a canyon in America and I immediately wanted to give them a go.
‘In the last ten years the standard of gyroplanes available has improved a lot, with modern materials and newer engines making it an even better experience.’
Roger moved to his home in Berrier, a few miles west of Penrith on the northern fringe of the Lake District National Park, in the late 1980s and now has a 500m airstrip in the field just beyond his garden gate. And as with his photography, Roger has turned his hobby into a job with his business, Lake District Gyroplanes. He offers lessons and flight experiences which give a bird’s eye view of the Lake District – the popular tourist honeypots, the beauty spots and the remote areas far from the beaten tracks.
‘I am minutes away from the second biggest lake in the Lake District and within easy reach of Derwent Water, Borrowdale and so many beautiful places,’ Roger said. ‘And the beauty of the Lake District is that no two flights are the same. The light is never the same, the views are always changing and there’s always something new to see and experience. I have been doing these flights now for ten years and I never tire of the views over Ullswater, it’s just incredibly beautiful.’
The gyroplanes cruise at about 80mph at heights of between 500 and 1500 feet, depending on the weather, and although some people are nervous before they climb on board, Roger says he’s not yet met a gyroplane passenger who didn’t enjoy the experience.
‘People don’t always know what to make of it at first but it’s amazing. They might think it’s a bit small and it’s likely to be bounced around by the wind but the rotors cut through the turbulence and one of the most common things people comment on is how smooth it is. It’s a really stable flight and because there’s a windscreen, the wind isn’t in your face. You wear a helmet and headset which blocks out the engine noise and it’s just the most wonderful feeling, to have such incredible views of the glorious countryside.
‘Every single person, even the most apprehensive, comes back with a big smile on their face and it’s an experience they will remember for years.’
For more information, go online to lakedistrictgyroplanes.co.uk