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Taking flight





RUSSELL -- He's set it down a little harder than he'd prefer, and in some unusual places, but Mike David isn't at all willing to give up on either one of his gyrocopters.

In fact, he's working on at least one other one and hopes one day to get it up in the air.

While it looks a lot like a helicopter, only smaller, David said there's a lot of difference between the two.

Helicopters, he said, can hover, while gyrocopters need a good headwind to keep them aloft. Gyrocopters effectively take off much like an airplane, although they don't need as much runway space as a plane.

"These were used in World War II by the Germans," David said of gyrocopters.

It took a while before moving overseas to the United States.

"They caught on real good in the '80s," he said. "But they fell out of favor. It's a poor man's helicopter."

And it's more fun, David claims.

"I tell guys that once you run this, you'll throw rocks at a helicopter," he said. "You can fly this like a helicopter or an airplane."

David recently was working on getting his single-seater back in operation, only to find a small leak in a radiator.

He's also got a two-seater, but it's out of commission after he set it down harder than he'd like in a field next to Russell Municipal Airport, where he maintains a hangar and stores them.

The single-seat gyrocopter, he said, came in a kit that had to be put together. He switched out the engine on the kit, going with a Suburu engine instead. That gave him more power and a guarantee of more time in the air before a replacement was required.

"I taught myself how to fly," he said, and now he's got more than 2,000 hours on the machine.

The two-seater, he said, requires a full license, which requires training and certification.

Along the way, David's come up with a set of his own rules.

One, he said, is "you don't fly over anything you don't want to land on."

Water and Interstate 70 would be among those places.

When he's not tinkering on gyrocopters, David runs I-70 Towing and Recovery. He typically takes Fridays off and will spend time at the airport working on his machines.

"Weekends are pretty busy," he said of the towing business.