Monday, May 18, 2015

The Long Wait is Nearly Over!

Most regular readers will be aware that over the past winter Roxy has been enjoying a very relaxing stay in a very exclusive hangar "resort" in McMinnville, just south of Portland, Oregon. This luxury resort normally only accommodates residents who have moved in the highest circles of their society, achieved the very pinnacle of their careers and amassed the most numerous of accolades; an extremely distinguished clientele who are offered permanent residence strictly "by invitation only"... and you can understand why...a light and airy hangar with full air conditioning 24/7 including temperature/humidity/dust control and legions of highly trained staff continually fussing over even the smallest of details to ensure that these pampered guests appear meticulously polished and groomed at all times. Everyone is preened in constant readiness to meet and satisfy their adoring fans when the gated community doors are opened to the public each day.
Roxy shares floor space with the celebrities of the aviation world.

Which must beg the question; how did we ever manage to blag our way in?!
(Note that I say it "normally" only accommodates such our case, it simply flags up how very, very fortunate we have been to be allowed our temporary winter billet surrounded by such iconic and famous aircraft on permanent display.) Many thanks again to the EvergreenAviation and Space Museum for proving to be such perfect hosts. 
Roxy with The Spirit of St Louis (exact replica) and Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose
It has also been extremely interesting to be able to stop and chat to the many people who have wandered past our own little "enclosure" in the Museum while I have been busy working on various background maintenance tasks....The enclosure is surrounded by a low chain link fence that serves to keep the visitors a safe distance from all the exhibits. However I have now discovered that the chain also has the equal (and opposite) effect of safely keeping the exhibit away from the public... for in my case of course, it is a live exhibit on display (at those times when I happen to be "in residence"), and the view that meets the eye for the passing public is akin perhaps to watching some sort of over active performing monkey struggle and squeeze into a bright red suit in the highly optimistic hope of being finally ready to go off flying any time soon...

 At such times I sense an idea of what it must feel like to be one of the lesser side show attractions at a travelling circus (you know the ones, right at the end of the line and often overlooked) and think perhaps I should really be busy dancing a little jig or telling a few jokes to entertain the folks who happen to be passing by! Our lowly status is very short lived however and is dramatically transformed once the monkey is fully suited and booted, for then, all of a sudden, it's Show Time!... The little chain is removed, heads turn and the once static fixed exhibit now transforms into being a fantastic active flying machine; rolled out and being walked through the concourse to the huge hangar doors at the rear of the display building. Once outside we are no longer a Museum Exhibit, but are free again to take to the wide open Oregon skies.
Norman and Roxy...Star Attractions 
A few hours later sees our safe return to the Museum (often just before closing time) and on rolling Roxy back into her enclosure I often think what must the other exhibits be thinking. Most now are of course permanently grounded but perhaps they would say "Oh to have the same chance of taking to the air yet again! Even just for one more flight..."

Norman arriving back at the Evergreen Museum hangars, McMinnville airport.

And so we should also look toward our next flight, or should I say the continuation of the flight, the one that has kept me focused and occupied for the past 5 years...
The plan going forward is to take off in early June from McMinnville and initially, at least, head west...this is in the opposite direction to where we ideally want to go but it is necessary to backtrack a little to reach the Pacific Coast. From the Coastal airfield at Tillamook (a former Naval air Station and still home to an absolutely enormous wooden Airship hangar - it remains the largest wooden built structure in the world, apparently) we will then be able to turn Eastbound once more to continue onwards on the global circumnavigation challenge.

Portland Oregon to Portland Maine

Both Portland Airports are major transport hubs and as such are very busy, very complicated and very expensive for small light aviation traffic to fly in and out of.
So instead for practicality, we have elected to use smaller more GA friendly airports near to each Portland City and that also happen to be near to the western and eastern US Coastlines.
It means perhaps our route should really be called "Within the very near vicinity of Portland to Portland" but I think everyone will agree that simply "Portland to Portland" has a much better ring to it...
Coast to Coast - Route is subject to change
Broadly speaking from Tillamook, the route will then fly east, pass "within the very near vicinity" of Portland Oregon and up the mighty Columbia Gorge, before turning south east to follow the Snake River and north west to pass by the "Craters of the Moon". Hopefully, we are then able to overfly Yellowstone and then on eastwards to take in the sights of Bighorn, Thunder Basin and the Black Hills of South Dakota. Mount Rushmore (with the 4 carved president heads and newly formed Native American head) is also close by here. Crossing the Missouri River the easterly progress is maintained through the wide agricultural expanses of the mid-west, through Minnesota and Wisconsin to reach Oshkosh, home of both a world renowned aviation Museum and a huge Annual Fly-In Air show (alas this is held later in the summer). Passing south of the great lakes then brings us close by Niagara Falls before reaching over to the eastern coastline and "within the very near vicinity" of Portland Maine.

 From this point, the overall route pauses briefly (for a visit to Nantucket Island) before heading north and then eastwards up into Eastern Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Faeroe Islands, Outer Hebrides, Scottish west coast and back home to Larne, Northern Ireland. For a more detailed description of that sector we shall have to wait for a future blog...  

The final legs...then Home at last!


Saturday, December 27, 2014

All at Sea - Part Two

This is the second part of Norman's Christmas and New year blog post 2014 in which he describes what has been happening to and what will be planned for the Gyrox Goes Global adventure. In part one he described how 3 years of stalemate ended with his decision to forego the 'full' circumnavigation attempt as any hope of flying across the Pacific using Russian airfields as stepping stones to Alaska was dashed by the 'powers that be' in Russia. 
In this part, written by Norman, we find out how 'Roxy' finally left Japan, where she is now and what Norman has planned for 2015...

Moving Times

My first goal was to move the aircraft from Shonai Airport – as I was not permitted to fly Roxy over to North America, the next best thing was to order up a shipping container and send her over there by sea.
Firstly the logistics of shipping an aircraft by this method threw up some challenges…by consultation with Gerry Speich back at Rotorsport UK, we knew that by removing the mainwheels and rotorhead the MT-03 is capable of fitting into a standard 20 foot shipping container, however the big unknown was how to maneuver the aircraft into the container without any wheels in place….this would remain a concern until we actually had a go at getting it in the box…more of this later on…!
Prior to that we had to organize the move of the aircraft from Airport to Seaport…fortunately Shonai Airport is only about 30 minutes drive from Sakata Seaport and so with the help of Kudo Masanobu (Shonai Airport) and Endo Hirofumi (Nippon Express) we devised a plan…
Roxy gets her final roll-out at Shonai Airport.
The first job was to hire a flatbed truck (of the type used to transport cars that have broken down). The truck was allowed to enter ‘airside’ at the airport and we were able to quickly roll Roxy up onto the trucks rear loading ramp and secure in place for the journey. 
Roxy is loaded onto the flat-bed truck and Norman receives airport stickers from the management.
A lovely ceremony was held outside the Airport building to mark the aircraft's final departure after her 3 years of enforced residency, a somewhat bitter sweet experience as you can imagine, given that my real aim had been to fly her onwards rather than proceed on the back of a truck. 
Norman receives a 'Good Luck' banner from the airport staff.

Norman and Roxy with the airport and operations staff

Norman and Roxy with the Shonai Airport Fire service who have hosted Roxy for the last 3 years.
The journey to the Sakata Seaport went smoothly, with just the odd look of curiosity from fellow road users and passers-by!
After 3 years, Roxy is finally on the move again.

Taking the coastal road to Sakata Sea Port.
Unloading the Gyro was easily done inside one of the large cargo holding sheds at the port and a quick discussion followed with the Nippon Express ‘stuffers’ (for that is what you do when loading a container at the docks - you literally ‘stuff’ the goods into the box) about how to load up the shipping container the next day.

Roxy arriving at Sakata Seaport
When it came, the next day proved to be quite dramatic! Our primary objective was to get the Gyro to fit in the box…there was no problem in length or width but the mast on a MT03 gyro is normally much higher than can fit in through the door frame of a standard 20 foot shipping container. We had already removed the Rotor blades at the airport and to now further reduce the overall height I removed the whole Rotor Head assembly from the mast head. Next the main wheels and brake caliper assemblies were also removed and replaced with small trolley wheels (think supermarket trolley size). 
Roxy looking very odd with her new main undercarriage wheels!
This gave the Gyro a very odd appearance, almost scraping its belly along the floor but it had the desired effect of reducing the overall height whilst keeping some degree of maneuverability in order to roll the aircraft into the container. The big question now was  were the trolley wheels small enough in diameter? There was only one way to find out for sure; we rolled Roxy to the slight ramp to enter the container and initially we tried pushing her in nose first…the front end fitted but alas the mast section was still about 5 mm too high for the doorframe!
There's always Plan B
We all looked at each other a little aghast and with rising trepidation we hauled her back out and tried again, this time going in tail first. The slight ramp up into the container kept the nose wheel lower than the raised container floor and this meant that a favourable angle was kept on the mast as it approached under the doorframe…and with much whooping and hollering, in a lovely controlled manouvre, much like a limbo dancer performs, the mast gracefully slid under and inside the doorframe with only 3 mm to spare!!
3 millimeters more and Roxy would still be in Japan :-)
A big relief all round as those 3 mm prevented the need to use a special container with a higher roof (which are all twice as long at 40 feet, the addition of which would have easily added over US$1000 to the overall shipping costs!

With Roxy now safely inside the box all that remained was to chock the suspension bow/airframe, load in the boxes of spare parts, blades and other assorted ‘luggage’ and lash everything down with copious quantities of cargo strap tape. 
Roxy and assorted 'luggage' being battened down for the long sea voyage.
After one last check inside, the very last, almost ceremonial, act was to close and lock the doors followed by affixing a special security seal that we would only remove again in America. 
The next time these pair will be together is on the other side of the Pacific Ocean!

Time for one final photo call...Kudo-San, Norman, Roxy and the Nippon Express 'Stuffers'
All boxed up and ready to go, I couldn't resist taking a marker pen and signing a small GYROX label on the front door….almost as proof to myself that it would definitely be the same box that would arrive at the other end!!    
Norman gets the job of sealing the container

Kudo-San double checks and it is time to start then next chapter.
The Aircraft's journey across to America was slightly convoluted, as is the vagaries of international shipping routes…First, a small feeder container vessel took our box from Sakata Port, Yamagata Prefecture, Japan, directly to the large international hub seaport of Busan in South Korea, then from Busan it was a direct sailing across the North Pacific to Tacoma Port near Seattle. From there our box was trucked by road some 200 miles south to arrive at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon. (just south of Portland). The Museum very kindly offered to put Roxy on temporary display over the winter period and this proved to be a great help in the ongoing and ever present logistics of keeping the aircraft both Secure and Airworthy at all times…there surely cannot be many lucky Gyros that find themselves in hangers that are not only strictly Temperature and Humidity controlled, but also in the company of some of the world’s most iconic aircraft, including the huge Howard Hughes ‘Spruce Goose’ Hercules flying boat, a fine example of a B17 Flying Fortress, an X-15 Rocket plane and a Mach 3 Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird (one of only 32 that were ever produced).    
The container with Roxy inside, arriving at the Evergreen Air and Space Museum
The Arrival

I arranged to meet the Container as it was delivered to the Museum; however my plans were a little compromised by a delay in Customs clearance entering the USA at Tacoma. Customs, in their wisdom, decided to hold onto our box to conduct a random x-ray check using a huge machine that can scan the contents of a whole container without opening it…However, soon enough, after several extra days delay, the sight of our box arriving on the back of a big American haulage truck soon brought a smile to our faces. The next immediate problem we faced was how exactly to get the aircraft out of the box again!

When we loaded in Japan, we had the advantage of having the Container down on the ground. It was comparatively easy (apart from the limbo dance element) to simply roll the aircraft up a slight incline and into place. Now we were faced with a new dilemma, the box was now elevated, sitting high on the back of the road truck. One option would have been to rent a crane to lift the box down to ground level, but on further discussion with Terry, the resident ‘go to’ man and head ‘Fixer’ at the Museum, we opted for a slightly more creative approach. By strapping a small flatbed trailer onto the forks of the resident forklift truck we were able to construct a rough and ready form of ‘elevating platform’ on which to roll the gyro out at container level and lower gently to the ground. 
Where there's a will...

There's a way...Roxy is slowly lowered back to the ground.

A job well done!
As can be seen in the photos, all went very smoothly with the able assistance of the Truck Driver and 2 of Terry’s groundsmen crew. 

2 days of reassembly followed, to return the aircraft to flight worthy status and this was in turn followed by a comprehensive check flight around the open fields surrounding the Museum. 
Roxy starting to look normal again, especially with proper wheels back on.

Getting up high to affix the rotors, but still being dwarfed by Howard Hughes' behemoth!
All too soon it was time to roll Roxy into the 2nd of the two huge display halls at the Museum and with the Museum now closed to visitors for the day, we were able to line Roxy up for a few very exclusive photo shots with some of the other ‘residents’ before proudly placing her in her winter-time display spot…Roll on the Spring time again!!
The Hughes H-4 Hercules 'Spruce Goose' may dwarf Roxy but our little autogyro has flown 10,000+ more miles than her new neighbour.

Roxy stands proud next to a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress

Roxy meets some impressive new friends...on the left is the nose of a F101 Voodoo, in the far corner is a F4 Phantom, hovering above that is a S61 Sea King and immediately behind the well traveled Gyro is P51 Mustang...and we mustn't forget the many space vehicles that make up the backdrop!

An enthusiasts dream...Roxy will be cuddling up to the world's fastest conventional aeroplane...the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird! 

There are many superlatives that can be said about the SR-71, but that is also true for our little friend Roxy :-)

Extremes...the world's furthest flying autogyro with the world's biggest single seat fighter (F101 Voodoo) both underneath the worlds fastest rocket powered aircraft, the amazing X-15 which reached 4,500 mph!

In Closing

I hope everyone has a very happy and fun filled festive season for the end of 2014…and with the difficulties of Russian Bureaucracy now safely behind us, I also hope that 2015 can finally be the year that we successfully complete the whole Gyrox Goes Global adventure.
When we started out on this Journey back in 2010, no one could have predicted the many twists and turns of how this Gyro-saga has finally played out across the surface of the globe. With the prospect of some very exciting and adventurous flying ahead (a record setting US Coast to Coast flight, followed by the first attempt of crossing the Atlantic Ocean by an Autogyro), I hope that everyone reading this can once more pick up again and follow the journey online, right through to the finish point back at Sandy Bay Playing fields, Larne Harbour, Northern Ireland.

Best Festive Wishes and a Happy New Year to all,


Norman and G-YROX/Roxy
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from all of us at Gyrox Goes Global

Friday, December 26, 2014

All at Sea - Part One

At the time of writing, 'Roxy' has now voyaged on (rather than over) the high seas…encased in a steel box bound for the US West Coast….needless to say a lot has happened since our last update from Japan, as I will explain.

Early August, 2014, saw a concerted and very focused team effort by Russian flight planners, a Senior Far East Navigator and our own personal contact (Dmitry in Vladivostok) to secure the support and approval of no less than 8 Far East Russian airfields….The plan called for a routing that would need to use all of these stops en-route between exiting Japan and reaching across the Bering Sea to enter the USA via Alaska. In addition, at the same time the logistics of providing fuel along the route was also made viable. I was very heartened by the fact that all of the en-route airfields reported back as being very keen to see this World Record setting aircraft pass through their areas and the general level of support for the whole project in the region was very high. With all this careful additional preparation work in place, we felt that surely this time our submission to the Russian Civil Aviation Authority (FATA) would be successful at long last…
Norman even visited Vladivostok and made many new friends at the Flying Club there.
By mid-August 2014 however, we were given, yet again, the news that the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) had again failed to make any response about our most recent application to FATA. This latest setback came after 3 solid years of trying to reason, persuade, cajole, embarrass and moralise the FSB into giving some sort of reaction about our flight plans….For, at least with some sort of feedback, we would have then been given a chance to adjust our plans accordingly to meet any concerns that they would have had (although such was our thorough initial planning there could be little that they could really complain about). However the FSB, instead of giving a courteous/helpful response back to FATA, chose instead to simply ignore us all totally (as they have repeatedly done on every occasion for the last 3 years) and thus no response at all, good or bad, was given to the often repeated request to do so by their own Civil Aviation Authority. As the FSB acts as a statutory consultee, it then followed that no overall permission could possibly be given by FATA without first receiving some (any) sort of commentary from the FSB. 

Norman even enjoyed flying GA aircraft in Russia, something he was never allowed to do with Roxy.
It thus became (and remained) a stalemate situation, with the FSB seemingly content to simply say nothing, safe in the knowledge that no onward flight permission could be awarded to us while they did so….it could be viewed that perhaps this is a somewhat “creative” way to effectively say No, without actually having to say anything (or actually having to face the awkward task of conjuring up a good practical, aviation related reason as to why this very competent little aircraft, that has already flown half way around the world through 18 other consecutive countries, would suddenly be deemed incapable of crossing their so different 19th one…
Had we been given the benefit of an understandable, rational explanation for a refusal to give permission, then of course we could have wholly respected that decision and adjusted our own plans accordingly…or at least then been given a fighting chance to counter-argue our own case for subsequent flight approval. But that did not happen; the FSB just chose to continue to say nothing.

So, having spent 3 stationary years trying to extract some/any sort of civilized response from the powers that be, I eventually have had to take on the view that we could easily be made to sit and wait for a further 3 years (or more) and even perhaps be still no further on. I was forced therefore to make the very frustrating and unfortunate decision that I would have to abandon the hope of a full circumnavigation and to simply push onward again without the Russian Sector. 
The Vladivostok Flying Club show their thanks to Norman for visiting them.

Norman was more than happy to give talks to Russian schools about the Gyrox adventure and the children were looking forward to the arrival of our plucky adventurer.

In late August I therefore very reluctantly organised the shipment of Roxy over the Pacific Ocean by container vessel from Japan directly to the US west coast. This action of course terminated the full FAI circumnavigation flight record attempt.....and as you can appreciate, this has been very difficult for me to absorb having spent the best part of the last 6 years planning and making this whole attempt happen. 

However we are where we are, we cannot make the Russian Federal Security Service appear any more benevolent towards (or even remotely interested in) what must seem to them as a very insignificant and pointless activity. It is however a very sad day for all our Russian supporters and aviation enthusiasts who are denied all the fun and excitement of seeing a World Record being attempted right on their doorsteps. Sad too for all the other Russian Agencies who, by the indifference and tactlessness of one powerful agency lurking in their midst, are then made to appear wholly powerless and ineffectual in carrying out their own, more accommodating, inclusive and supportive good works. It’s also an especially sad day for the Federation Aeronautique Internationale and FAI endorsed World Record aviation attempts in general; no longer can a Record attempt be solely timed and measured against the basic challenges of aircraft/pilot versus the natural, simple elements of the worlds geography, weather and climate…, rather, in our case at least, the fickle whims, spirit sapping bureaucracy and wholly restrictive indifference of a small but powerful section of one of the major countries in the world seems to call all the shots and all seemingly in the name of Federal “security”. It is surely a sign, conversely, of much “insecurity” that a countries ruling security elite feels it has to act in such a defensive “stick your head in the sand” type of manner…stand up Russia and allow yourself to engage in proper international sporting and record setting competition…How can a small, quirky little aircraft flying an officially sanctioned and recognised FAI Circumnavigation Record attempt ever have shown cause or good reason to become a “security” threat?? And if it is not a Security threat then why oh why has The Russian Federal Security Service not simply made the all so necessary comment that it actually has no real objections to the flight going ahead….

So, while I leave Mr Putin to ponder his next best diplomatic move…I simply draw inspiration from the fact that at least I am still in a far, far better place than I was when first diagnosed with Bowel Cancer back in 2003....everything else compared to that is obviously a huge bonus, even just to be here at all!! 
So, with that optimistic, positive attitude restored to my mind I then set about planning the next phase of the expedition, to move the aircraft physically (and me mentally) beyond the Russian impasse and set us up for the continued onward (and homeward) journey. 


Norman and Roxy at Shonai Airport where she has been based for 3 years awaiting permission to move on

                                                                * * * * * * 
The second part of this blog update will appear tomorrow and will detail the way Roxy left Shonai after 3 years stuck there waiting for permission to continue the quest. The 2nd part will also detail where Roxy is now...and if you don;t know then you are in for a big surprise! 
And finally we will give details on how the Gyrox Goes Global adventure will finally be returning home to Larne in Northern Ireland...over 5 years after this tiny but determined autogyro with her equally determined and brave pilot lifted off from Larne in 2010.

The Gyrox Team

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Having a Rubbery Time In Japan: Part Two

As promised here is the second part of Norman's blog explaining the work that is underway to get 'Roxy' ready for a speedy departure from Japan when the hoped for Russian permits come through. This section follows on from part one where Norman explained the need to replace the rubber hoses that criss cross the whole of the engine and pulse the lifeblood - oil, fuel and coolant - around the aircraft to keep it flying. These had to be checked and replaced ready for the all important CAA inspection. Norman continues...


Part 2

How best to run the engine up to operating temperature and give it a good workout on the ground? It’s quite easy in our case with the help of a strong rope and a good anchor point to tie off to. We attached the rope to the keel at the rear most point of the Gyro (under the Rudder) then attached the other end to a large eye bolt on the back of the spare luggage handling machine on the apron. We were then able to happily run the engine to full power while the Gyro was held stationary, pulling against the rope. Continuous full power was thus achieved for some minutes and the systems could be fully checked.
With some eager helping hands from the airport fire brigade, Norman re-attaches a blade to the Hub bar. Note the bolts neatly lined up ready to be fitted and the sturdy shopping basket!

The other main task prior to CAA inspection was to remount the main rotor on top of the mast. During the severe winter weather that Shonai endures, the snow can build up to perhaps 2 metres, conditions which are definitely not ideal for flying in an open topped aircraft! So, as with last year, during the main winter months I have removed the main rotor, splitting the two blades apart and storing these separately to the aircraft.

The first task now was to re-attach the blades to the Hub Bar. The whole rotor is slightly coned upwards when it sits on the aircraft as the slightly bent Hub Bar (sitting in the middle), angles both blades upwards by a small amount at their roots. Gravity then makes the tips of the blades sag when at rest, but when the aircraft weight comes to hang off the spinning rotor during flight, the rotor takes on its natural shallow cone shape again and thus reduces the stress felt overall by the blades. This means while re-attaching the blades to the Hub Bar, the middle of the rotor has to be kept higher than the tips and we use an old plastic shopping basket for support. It’s perfect for this operation! ( note: the whole rotor is upside down at this point - to tighten the Hub bar bolts)
At times like this an overhead crane comes in useful!

Re-mounting can be a tricky job if done by hand, the two blades which are bolted to the Hub bar in the middle can be lifted by one person but they are quite heavy and very unwieldy to move into position single handed. Much better then to use a crane hoist and very luckily I am able to borrow the services of one of these at the airport! Even better still, I usually have about 6 firemen volunteering to hold the rotor steady and manoeuvre the gyro directly under the blades….      

With the main rotor successfully attached, we were then able to take to the airport apron for some taxi ground manoeuvres and check that the Pre-rotator system (the device that spins the rotors up prior to takeoff) was functioning properly. Some final cleaning and tidying followed and we were now ready for inspection.
Roxy is looking pristine as she and Norman undergo taxiing trials in the Shonai Airport sunshine.

Keeping the aircraft legal and ready to fly has been a constant challenge each year that the flight has been out of the UK and this year has been no exception. Very luckily through discussions with the UK CAA, this year we were able to come up with a very neat, 2 part solution. Part 1 - my normal CAA surveyor, Brian Spurle visited me three weeks ago (at home) to check and audit the aircraft’s paperwork files (a now weighty tome that would be difficult to ship around the world) and Part 2 - another CAA surveyor, Paul Farrel, happened to be in Nagoya Japan with other work during late May and so was able to make a weekend day trip visit up to Shonai to conduct the physical inspection part of the survey. This innovative 2 part plan worked out very well and I am pleased to say that overall, through this cooperative approach we managed to re-permit G-YROX quite smoothly. 
CAA inspector, Paul Farrel shakes hands with Norman as Roxy passes her inspection.

So with “Permit to Fly” safely in hand for another year, all we now need is the elusive Russian “Permission to fly”…..

Cheers, Norman

So, with everything now ready for the resumption of the circumnavigation all we can do is hope and wait for the elusive permits from the Russians. If you haven't already done so then could you please help Norman's case by writing a letter to President Putin stating the need to let Norman fly through Russia, mentioning that it is for a good cause and that the world is watching and waiting. You can write a short message to the President via this link...
Thank you.

The Gyrox Team



Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Having a Rubbery Time in Japan!

As Norman waits patiently in Japan to see whether the latest appeal to President Putin is successful, preparations to get 'Roxy' ready for the next flight continue apace. 

Norman has kindly sent us some photos showing the first stage in getting Roxy ready for the all important CAA inspection and in his own words describes the action...

Having a Rubbery Time in Japan!

One of the big challenges this spring, apart from seeking the elusive Russian entry permission… was the fact that the aircraft engine would need some additional maintenance over and above its normal routine servicing. As a precaution, Rotax engines are obliged to have all their rubber components changed periodically to prevent the rubber ageing and weakening while attached on the engine, which in turn could lead to leaks. So it was this year that I needed to arrange this task to be performed before the next CAA annual re-permitting inspection that allows the aircraft to fly on for another year. 
Jay Cook, like a surgeon, prepares for the clinical procedure ahead.

New Hoses, seals and gaskets were duly ordered up and I brought them out to Japan in a very battered old suitcase with only one roll along wheel….a bit too battered as it turned out as the dishevelled, Jet lagged foreigner limping along on one wheel in the ultra efficient Tokyo Haneda International Airport terminal soon drew the attention of the Customs men at security…some probing questions followed about the somewhat bizarre contents of my suitcase, but my equally bizarre explanation of needing all these rubber attachments to fix onto my own 5 metre long aircraft that I had flown all the way from the UK seemed to miraculously placate them - perhaps they are very used to seeing all the best jet setting international pilots roll up with one wheel missing on their luggage…
Make sure you remember how it all goes back in again!

The next piece of the maintenance jigsaw involved the reappearance of a previous GGG stalwart, namely Jay Cook, who seasoned blog readers may remember looked after Roxy in the Philippines during the winter of 2010-11. Jay volunteered to give me a hand with the hose change out job and duly arrived with tools and knowhow to lead the task of removing all the old hoses and replace with the new.
All go in the temporary GGG workshop

Now to look at a Rotax 914 Engine, you could easily be lost as to where to start with the Rubber Spaghetti that you are faced with. There are separate hose systems for oil, water coolant, air and fuel along with some further rubber components hidden deep within the carburettors. However taking one system at a time, we soon worked our way around, although not without plenty of battling with some of the more obstinate hose clips who would conspire to position themselves in the most awkward angles and hard to reach places. As Jay accurately predicted on the first day, we would probably both end up losing some skin on our knuckles in the coming week…
The scrapped engine hoses that had seen Norman and Roxy halfway around the globe.

Draining, changing out and then refilling the systems with their respective fluids, we then had the slightly nervous but most satisfying sensation of knowing there were no leaks and that all the tasks were complete. Engine testing followed to purge the systems of any possible trapped air and give all the seals a proper check while the engine was up to operating temperatures. With great relief on my part, the engine fired up first time and I am happy to report is now running very well again.

The final task was to meticulously go around all the newly installed pipework and check that there would be no rubbing or chafing on any surfaces. A quick trip to the local “Ninja boot shop” (see blog 29 Dec 2011) secured 2 metres of best quality, clear, reinforced, “aviation grade” (well, almost!) garden hose and yet another pack of cable ties (which along with Velcro is surely one of the all time best inventions of the 20th Century) with which to protect and sleeve any vulnerable hose sections.
Norman and the Shonai Airport Fire crew give the thumbs up to a job well done .

So the hoses were now complete but we still had to pass the CAA inspection…more in part 2, coming soon.


We will of course bring you part two of the preparations for the resumption of the world record breaking flight and to help make sure that it does go ahead please remember to keep sending those letters to President Putin requesting he let Norman fly through the east of Russia and complete this special project. The link to send letters is...

The Gyrox Team


Monday, May 27, 2013

A Personal Plea to Putin

As the months have rolled by, Norman, still ensconced in Shonai Airport, Japan, where Roxy has been housed since July 2011, has been resolutely trying to gain permission to enter Russian airspace to continue his record breaking circumnavigation of the globe in an autogyro/gyrocopter.
At every step he has been hampered by bureaucracy, secrecy and at times deaf ears. Frustration is now Norman's middle name.
Of course this lack of movement by the Russian authorities has kept us back at team HQ very quiet, not publishing too much in case we rock the boat in any way, but as we reach the 3rd year of this quest Norman has decided to bypass the usual paths of the Russian Civil aviation maze and go straight to the top...President Putin himself!

A few weeks ago, Norman decided to write a personal letter to the Russian President showcasing his plight in trying to do the simple feat of flying in the far Eastern portion of this huge country. He also showed in the letter that he has fulfilled all requirements subjected by the Russian Civil Aviation Authority and this includes hiring a Russian navigator to ride with him in Roxy. There appears to be no reason for the Russians not to grant a permit to fly there...but the latest attempt has effectively been met by a brick wall.

So why has Norman decided to write to President Putin now? It just so happens that on the 17th and 18th June this year the 39th G8 Summit of the world's top economically powerful countries will meet at the beautiful Lough Erne estate in Northern Ireland, not far from where Norman lives and the Gyrox adventure began. Amongst the G8 countries attending will be the UK, USA and of course...Russia with President Putin headlining the list of world leaders.

With this in mind, Norman has written to President Putin reminding him of the exceptionally warm welcome he will receive from the Northern Irish people and that it would show good faith on his behalf if the authorities could show the same kind of welcome to Norman and his little aircraft, after all, his flight is not just a record breaking flight but is raising awareness and funds for a number of Cancer charities.

Here is the letter Norman sent to the President...

An open letter to President Putin of the Russian Federation.
Dear Mr Putin,
My Name is Norman Surplus I am very pleased to hear that you are planning to attend the 39th G8 Summit at the Lough Erne Resort in my homeland of Northern Ireland. I am sure you will be afforded a warm welcome in our very small, but very beautiful country!
Currently, I am attempting to set an official FAI world record journey to make the first circumnavigation of the globe flying an Autogyro/Gyrocopter aircraft and to date, have made great progress flying through 18 consecutive countries from Northern Ireland, through Europe, Middle East, India and S.E. Asia to reach Japan. However, now I have been stuck (for almost two years) trying to get permission to fly through the Russia’s Far Eastern region to be allowed to fly onwards from Japan to reach Alaska. This is the only routing that is available to my small open cockpit aircraft to enable me to cross the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean and making this short Bering Sea Crossing is only possible in the brief Arctic summer months. After crossing the North American continent I will then fly on through Greenland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands to reach Scotland and then back home to my starting point in the port town of Larne in Northern Ireland.  
So far, I have been making all my applications (via the British Embassy) to your Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Moscow for permission to fly across Russia, however we have had great difficulty in being given permission as my British Registered aircraft needs to fly outside (or below) the commercial international airways and also use some small, non-international airfields en route. Out of the 18 countries so far flown, Russia has proved to be the only country where this permission has proved to be so difficult. Being such an unusual request it is now thought that a special exemption / permission given directly from the Russian Government/ Presidents office would be needed to allow this flight to proceed and this is the reason for my sending this letter and appealing directly to you at this time.   
The circumnavigation flight is a small scale, non commercial venture, raising awareness and funds for Cancer charities. As per the rules for foreign aircraft flying within Russian domestic airspace, we already have a very experienced Russian Navigator ready and waiting to assist in the logistics of flying across the Far Eastern Region - a journey which is expected to take approximately 6-7 days.
We are asking to make our entry to Russia (flying in from Northern Japan) in the first week in June 2013. This is the earliest opportunity that the Bering Sea will be made passable by the sub Arctic summer climate and it also allows the flight to proceed with the benefit of very long hours of daylight.  
I therefore make this simple appeal to you directly; purely in the name of improved international cooperation and perhaps it can also be seen as a friendly, non political, non sectarian, “goodwill gesture” between our two countries, promoting the “spirit of outdoor adventure” for which you are well known! Simply put: as you are to be hosted in my country, that I could be similarly hosted in yours….to make a good news story for everyone!!
Best Regards, Norman Surplus

Norman is not putting all his eggs in one basket and is also hoping that we, all Norman's followers, can also write an email to the Kremlin pleading for the President and the authorities to let Norman in so he can continue and finish his amazing and worthwhile flight. You can send your requests to the Kremlin by email to...

This will take you to a website at the Kremlin and you will find a form to fill in and a box where you write your message. Remember to click the button marked 'Letter to President'.
One email may not make much difference but if we get a few hundred sent this week then someone will take notice!

Over the coming days we will keep you updated with any progress and also have a blog about the work done on Roxy to keep her airworthy and be re-certificated after all this time. There should be some nice photos to go with that, so keep watching our media pages for updates.

Good luck with your letters and lets make this a real attempt at getting Norman and Roxy home again.
Norman and Roxy, raring to go....

The Gyrox Team

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