Over the years, I've included gyros in my safety studies but haven't done anything with them. Then I got asked a question about their safety record on another forum. Figured I'd share it with the EAA folks.

The FAA registry lists only about 156 Experimental Amateur-Built gyros plus about 42 licensed as Light Sport. Not a real strong base to work with.

My 1998-2020 homebuilt accident database has 198 EAB gyro accidents. That's about nine per year. Divide that by the 156 registered as of the start of this year, it comes out to a fleet accident rate of about 0.57% per year. Overall homebuilt rate is about 0.75%, so they seem to come out a bit better with this metric.

(Yes, it's a bit goofy way to compute it, but I think the *relative* rates between types should be about right.)

59 of the 156 accidents resulted in at least one fatality. That means about 38% of all EAB gyro accidents result in at least one fatality. This is high; the full EAB rate is about 25%.

There are probably several explanations for this. First, the typical gyro does not have a lot of structure protecting the occupants, and there are big whirly-cutty things right above their heads that probably don't help.

Second, I think gyros probably spend more time at low altitude (who flies a gyro at 5,000 feet?) and low flying traditionally has a higher fatality rate).

Scanning through the Probable Causes, I'm seeing the rotor mentioned in 18 of the 59 fatal accidents. Often, this is related to the pilot maneuvering so that the rotor strikes the tail. Obviously, fixed-wing aircraft don't have this issue.

On the positive side, much fewer gyro accidents seem to be related to power failure. About a third of fixed-wing EAB accidents start with the loss of engine power (whether or not the issue is related to the engine itself) vs. about 12% of the gyro accidents.

I think this can be explained by the fact that a gyro is ALWAYS operating in autorotation. Loss of engine power just means a gentle descent to the ground, with the pilot really having to muck it up to cause serious injury.

Gyros seem to be good subjects for auto-engine conversions. Over half of all fixed-wing EAB accidents with Subaru engines are power-failure cases (25% of them related to the engine itself) vs. 17% of the gyros (~9% of them related to the engine).

Personally, I'm not seeing a lot that would scare away from them. Fleet accident rate the same or roughly better, less impact of engine choice means one can find an economical powerplant. I'd get good training and wear a helmet, otherwise sounds pretty good.

I dumped an older version of my spreadsheet to my web page so curious folks can download it:


This only runs to 2019, but it will give you an idea of where some of the statistics are coming from.

Ron Wanttaja