They are a cross between a helicopter and a microlight and they attracted enthusiasts from throughout the country to Whanganui at the weekend.

The city hosted a midwinter meeting of the New Zealand Auto Gyrocopter Association.

Club member Garry Belton, from Marton, said club members met regularly in Dannevirke in summer.

"We just thought we'd have a midwinter meeting to tide us over until next summer, and it's been quite successful.

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"Hopefully it will become a regular event," Mr Belton said.

About 150 club members made the trip to Whanganui.

Mr Belton said gyrocopters were classed as microlights, but have a rotor blade for lift instead of fixed wings.

"There are various types of engines, but most are around 90-160 horsepower.

"We've got one here today that has a modified Subaru car engine."

He said that traditionally gyrocopters were built by enthusiasts, but increasingly people were buying them ready made.

Gyrocopters were invented in the 1930s and were an early version of the helicopter.

Anton Meier from Hamilton runs a company, Aerosport, that sells gyrocopters.

He said there had been a resurgence in gyros recently and the craft were popular.

"They're an affordable way to get into aviation.

"Obviously there are rules and regulations, but you fly on a microlight licence which makes it much more accessible for the average person," he said.

Mr Meier said he had recently flown a gyrocopter from Wanaka to Hamilton.

It had taken four hours and 90 litres of fuel to make the trip.