Cracks in the tanks of the „MTOsports“ gyrocopter identified but nobody really cares
„The MTOsport is the logical development of our successful MT03. Today there are more than 800 gyrocopters successfully in operation worldwide. As the first in the UL-class approved gyrocopter in Germany, the MT03 offers a whole new flying experience.“ In these warm words AutoGyro GmbH, based in Hildesheim (Germany) advertises its lightweight gyrocopter.
Businessmen Dieter Trutschler however has during the last weeks thoroughly lost the joy to fly his gyrocopter and the sense of security vanished completely. This was caused by the handling of the manufacturer of unexplainable material defects in the tanks of his gyrocopter, which did cast substantial doubts in the safety concept of the aircraft and the competence of the firm from Lower Saxony. What happened?
Mr. Trutschler’s enterprise owns a MTOsport, constructed in 2009. meeco AG, operating worldwide, purchased the gyrocopter for customer events and for technical aerial photos. In 2012 the gyrocopter, which has so far only accumulated 30 hours airtime, was transported in a mobile hangar (custom-made trailer) to the office of the meeco Group in Alicante, Spain. In Spain several large-scale photovoltaic parks are located, which the meeco Group has promoted. These solar parks were supposed to be shown to potential customers and investors using the gyrocopter of the company. All the greater was the unpleasant surprise at the end of July 2013, when at the event of opening the mobile hangar for a scheduled fight, an intensive smell of petrol was noticed by all present, which even after intensive ventilation did not vanish.
Trutschler, a skilled pilot himself with hundreds of flying hours, therefore intensively examined the gyrocopter in a way that even exceeds a normal pre-flight inspection and discovered at the bottom and the side of the petrol tank fuel spills. The aircraft was therefore immediately grounded for safety concerns. In September finally the gyrocopter was thoroughly checked by the government-approved air safety inspector for gyrocopters Mr. Silvio Büttner, who specially travelled from Germany to Spain for that exercise.
The report of his examination, which he compiled in Alicante three weeks ago, was anything but pleasant. The fuel tank unexplainably features a crack of 1mm width and 2,5cm length at a location, which is, according to the expert “completely free of any mechanical stress”. The second fuel tank was damaged as well, namely at the same spot. Although a crack has not developed yet, the material showed exactly at the same location a discolouration and was distinctly more porous than the rest of the tank. The nature of the damage and the duplicity are clear indications for a material- and production fault of the petrol tanks. In consequence the controller grounded the said gyrocopter officially as well as informing at the same time the German Association for Lightweight Flying (DULV) and of course the manufacturer.
Who now expects that the manufacturing company would inform all owners of identically constructed aircrafts in line with a security and service philosophy through a dedicated air safety bulleting about a potential leakage and the crack formation and advises them to check the tanks, is wrong. Neither AutoGyro nor DULV saw up to the present day any necessity to undertake any such action. Whilst DULV did not respond at all until now, AutoGyro just indicated that this aircrafts warranty has expired and that the problem is until that day not a known material fault. Generously AutoGyro offered for the inevitable new tanks on grounds of good will a sales discount of 20 % which was rejected by the owner.
“Our main concerns is not the 20 % discount or a free replacement of the apparently damaged tanks which clearly endanger the life of the pilot and co-pilot, but rather the cynical treatment of human lifes”, explaines Trutschler indignantly. “The leakage respectively the porous spot is located in the direct aerodynamic airflow area of the motor and nearby the tail pipe, so that an instant ignition and blazing start or aircrash can not be ruled out at all. Not to publish immediately a warning or at least information about the possible danger is just plain irresponsible. The slogan of AutoGyro “Joy of Flying” sounds to me nothing other than macabre after this experience. Who does not remember the pictures from the smashed Concorde, where leaking petrol from damaged tanks caused a fireball as well.”