Garry Belton has been flying gyrocopters for 30 years and says they're ideal for getting around his 485ha Turakina farm.

He's one of Whanganui's two gyrocopter owners and was at Wanganui Aero Club on June 3 for the three-day Queen's Birthday Gyrocopter Fly-In. There are about 80 gyrocopters in New Zealand and Belton is the longest continuous member of the New Zealand Gyrocopter Association.

He got into gyrocopters because they were the cheapest way he could find to get flying, and he uses them on his farm.

"They're ideal for looking for water leaks or missing stock. You can cover the whole property in 20 minutes and know everything," he said.

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The fly-in is the third to be held in Whanganui. It attracted eight gyrocopters and about 35 people who either use the whirly birds or want to know about them.

Gyrocopters cost $70,000 to about $130,000 and can be homemade. Photo / Lewis Gardner
Gyrocopters cost $70,000 to about $130,000 and can be homemade. Photo / Lewis Gardner

Gyrocopter flying is very weather dependent. On June 2 a group flew down the coast to Foxton, and they hoped to fly north to Waiinu Beach before the end of the weekend, touching down at the bach of Whanganui gyrocopter owner John O'Leary.

They also usually visit former Wanganui Aero Work owner Richmond Harding. He's interested in everything to do with aviation, has a replica Spitfire with a hangar and airstrip and a museum of agricultural industry aircraft.

On June 3 the weather was iffy. Gyrocopters were coming and going, and people seemed content to chat and watch them.

The machines can be in the air for three hours, using 70 litres of high-octane petrol.

Whanganui Airport is uncontrolled, but gyrocopters in the air are expected to radio their location regularly.

"We have to observe the same procedures as any aircraft," Belton said.

Tim Clarke and Linda Clarke look over a gyrocopter at the Wanganui Aero Club. Photo / Lewis Gardner
Tim Clarke and Linda Clarke look over a gyrocopter at the Wanganui Aero Club. Photo / Lewis Gardner