This was a record length for a meeting at three hours of fascinating conversation with Vance Breeze, exceeding even the length of time when the airport fireman brought over one of their trucks.
Vance started off his presentation by talking about his famous father, also named Vance Breeze a famous test pilot. As with many people with famous fathers he did not want to follow in his father’s footsteps and chose motocycle racing instead. A serious accident while attempting to set a land-speed record resulted in him being declared dead. His girlfriend at the time allowed the doctors to experiment on him and they brought him back to life. He lost the vision in his left eye and has a traumatic brain injury which made his ability to get a medical a challenge. After a lengthy and expensive process he was granted the opportunity to demonstrate that he had the mental and physical ability to fly. He passed the SODA in a gyroplane and the rest is history.
Vance has graciously written up the contents of his talk for those who missed it so here it is.
I love the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) and I belong to several chapters. I try to make the monthly meetings and I have made a lot of friends there. I have also learned a lot over the years.
One of the chapters I belong to is EAA 170 in San Luis Obispo (SBP). They often have great speakers talking about aviation. At the last meeting I attended our hard working chapter president (John S) asked me if I would give a talk.
I am the only gyroplane in the chapter so I was concerned about holding the interest of a lot of fixed wing pilots for a half hour and I find giving a talk to people I barely know intimidating. I still have some speech irregularities (aphasia) from a traumatic brain injury from a motorcycle mishap at Bonneville.
As I did my daily dig through my emails I saw an email from EAA chapter 70 that said “Vance will be talking about his career and if the weather cooperates will bring his aircraft.” with a picture of my gyroplane (The Predator). The meeting was going to be a week late because of the air show at SMX (The Santa Maria Public airport).
At first I felt relief because I figured the turnout would be low and then my trepidation blossomed as I contemplated talking about my career in front of people, some with very impressive aviation careers. I have always chased my dreams and seem to change how I make a living every 17 years.
It was too late to change the subject of the talk so I worked at putting together a presentation on my computer expecting fog in the morning would keep me from flying to the meeting. I wrote about how the FAA felt about a one eyed, brain injured commercial pilot and flight instructor because I hypothesized that some of the older pilots there are concerned about keeping their medical.
As luck would have it the sun was shining and after trying unsuccessfully to find a way to secure my computer in The Predator I left it in the hangar with my notes. I checked the weather and winds for my return to SMX were expected to be 280 degrees at 20kts gusting to 30kts with similar winds at SBP (San Luis Obispo). As I waited for my takeoff clearance at the hold short line my apprehension about my talk without my computer for distraction grew. Most of our speakers have been well organized with meaningful pictures.
As I lifted off and climbed out I found as things on the ground grew smaller so did my trepidation. I love to fly and I enjoy hearing talks given by people with passion and my passion began to replace my misgivings.
My climb out was as nice as could be and I aimed the Predator direct toward SBP. My communications were good and I was able to report conflicting traffic remaining south of the centerline. I asked ATC (air traffic control) for a long landing and it was approved. My confidence grew as The Predator caressed the runway.
ATC told me to hover taxi to fuel thinking that because I had a rotor I must be a helicopter despite my always using Gyroplane 142 Mike Golf as my identifier and tail number. As I pulled up in front of the hangar where the EAA meeting would be I was relieved to see only three friends as I began my shut down, filled out my log book and secured the aircraft. Soon a flow of people was established through the gate and I hurried to get ready before any more showed up.
I asked John and the ten people that had gathered if they would prefer I talked about special issuance medicals, how I got started, being a flight instructor or the peculiarities of flying a gyroplane. As I looked at each face and then at John he said quietly “they all sound good Vance.”
Two hours later I had not lost anyone and John wrapped up the meeting with an offer to pick up anyone who wanted to fly with me to SMX.
[Note: Vance spent a while talking about the history of gyroplanes and the role of Juan de la Cierva. He’s a fascinating guy that you can learn more about on his Wikipedia page.]
Matt; a tall young man in the back raised his hand and volunteered. I asked Matt about his aviation experience and found he was a recently minted private pilot. I told him the pre-flight would take at least 45 minutes and several people asked to watch.
I had Matt read the items on the list and I explained the reasons for checking them and what I was looking for. Some people watching asked some good questions and I felt it was forty five minutes well spent.
The winds had come up and the tower approved my early left cross wind. SBP is in a valley so the winds can be a little unpredictable so I did not give Matt the controls untill we had cleared the ridge. Several times he demonstrated that he had a very good flight instructor and had learned well.
He did as well as anyone without gyroplane experience I have flown with and when I would offer guidance I only had to tell him once. He was a pleasure to fly with.
The wind at Santa Maria was 270 degrees at 20kts gusting to 29kts. I typically don’t give flight instruction in more than a 17kts wind; Matt was doing so well I asked if he wanted to try the landing with just the cyclic if I talked him through it. When he agreed I explained I may have to take the controls quickly and would just say my aircraft without waiting for a response instead of the normal three step exchange of controls. For a learners first landing I typically have the throttle and the rudder pedals so they can focus on keeping the gyroplane over the centerline and managing the flare.
Matt was drifting a little right from a gust so I was set to manage that when the gust went away and we made a less than elegant landing. I explained that it was my fault; I should have corrected it with power or an aggressive pull on the cyclic. Landing is one of the things I had been talking about as a magic moment in a gyroplane so I asked Matt if he would like to try that again. When Matt said yes I asked ATC for a taxi back and the controller approved and gave me a gratuitous wind check, 270 degrees at 20kst gusting to 28kts.
I managed the pre-rotation and then gave Matt all the controls for the takeoff. He did great and followed my directions for the rotorcraft pattern. I briefly took the controls to demonstrate the three steps to making a turn and Matt’s turn to final looked great, we got a little fast and Matt fixed it as soon as I mentioned it with smooth control inputs.
We touched down very gently with less than five knots of ground speed and headed for the hanger and the debrief. I had trouble downloading the video so I promised to mail it to him on USB flash drive so we could get John on his way.
[Note: Vance shows up on ForeFlight if you have ADSB-In but he’s just about impossible to see.]
John has done offered this service several times before with me coming back from our EAA meetings and it has always been a delight. I usually bring an extra helmet/headset to EAA meetings for just this reason.
Thank you, Vance Breese Gyroplane CFI (805) 680-9523
Here’s a few videos if you want to see him in action.