We were greeted by Best, Able and Torben, the team who have brought this first Cavalon into the Kingdom. As with any new aeroplane there are mountains of paperwork and registration to get through before you can even think of flying it. It sounded all too hard to me. I was simply in awe of their dedication to make this happen – a new flying machine in Phuket, a new style of aircraft, a new experience for me as walked towards the hangar.
And there it was.
Well, it clearly wasn’t a ‘plane’. Where were the wings? But it wasn’t a helicopter either. There was an engine ‘pushing’ the aircraft through the sky unlike a helicopter where the rotating blades do all the magic of ‘lift’ and the motion forward as well.
The Cavalon is a new take on the auto-gyro concept. The first time many of us saw a gyro-copter was in the James Bond film You Only Live Twice. In 1967 it was a radical aircraft indeed, but the auto-gyro/gyro-copter concept never really took off. Maybe it was just too different for the average flyer, maybe it all looked a bit ‘clunky’, maybe we didn’t think we were as clever as James Bond. (Point of note: Sean Connery never actually flew ‘Little Nellie’ in the film).
So, this is how it works, sort of. The spinning blades above you are providing the ‘wing’, it just happens to be rotating and providing the lift to get you off the ground. The forward propulsion comes from the spinning blades behind you. Aha? Got it? Okay, you might have to Google a better explanation. In essence, it flies almost exactly like a small plane. Having flown ultralight aircraft for many years I felt entirely at home in the Cavalon.
Pilot instructor Tim Morell, a young Swede who moves around the world teaching people how to fly, had the perfect bedside manner to calm down any nerves, and it does take a bit of courage to jump into this radical looking craft. But close inspection revealed some beautiful German engineering and a very slick looking machine. Tim was happy to explain everything in astonishing detail – he really knew his stuff and I was utterly convinced we would get back in one piece.
For the purposes of our Phuket News TV story we did a few ‘touch and gos’ at the Phuket Airpark before flying off and checking out some of the beautiful little islands off the east coast. With the headphones on for communication and even with the doors off (this Cavalon model comes as two-seater, side-by-side, with doors) there was no sense of it being too noisy or in any way ‘scary’. The Cavalon will cruise happily at 145 kph and uses up to 20 litres per hour of flying.
Torben Busic Jensen fell in love with the Cavalon when he first saw one and now has the franchise for the Auto Gyro brand here in Thailand. Of course, everyone wants to know ‘how much’. We were flying in the fully-tickled specification of the Cavalon Auto Gyro. Ready to fly it’s going to cost over B5 million, though there are many variations of specification and there are other, cheaper models without doors or a tandem seating arrangement.
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it’s a Cavalon Auto-Gyro. And it was the most fun I’ve had with my clothes on for a long, long time. Thanks to Able, Best, Torben and Tim for the ride and introducing me to this exciting new-generation flying experience.