Monday, May 31, 2010

A waiting game - engine and bodywork repairs progress

Repairing an aircraft, much like flying one, definitely has its high and low points and the past few weeks have seen several. On the positive side we have seen good progress with John checking over the engine and stripping the airframe back ready for repair. Photo below shows the Rotax engine suspended and detached from the autogyro to facilitate repairs. (May be used with permission

We have also sourced a local composite repair shop capable of repairing the carbon fibre enclosure (bodywork) to the required standard and as luck would have it this facility is a manufacturing outpost of a German company. In fact the President of the Thai company knows the German AutoGyro company very well. The penny dropped and the connection made when the Thai operations manager saw online the very same enclosure parked on the forecourt of a Saudi Arabian Garage some weeks back! Sometimes it is a very small world! Photo below shows the bodywork arriving at the Thai factory for repair with John (left) and factory staff looking on. (May be used with permission

And so we continue our pleasurable incarceration in Thailand for the time being...

Monday, May 24, 2010

The autogyro engine is tested and other work begins

Yesterday (22 May 2010) we carried out Non Destructive Testing (NDT) on the engine to look for any possible internal damage. Thankfully none showing up here at Nongprue Airfield, Thailand. We then ran the engine today Sunday to full power. It was great to have the engine running again for the first time since the beginning of May. Photo below shows Austrian built Rotax engine in Gyrox autogyro (may be used with permission

We are now stripping down the aircraft ready for rotor mast repair so we are showing steady progress. Photo below shows Norman greeting specialist autogyro engineer John Hereward under the cool of a palm tree on his arrival at Nongprue, Thailand (may be used with permission

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Gyro enthusiast reports on repairs and what Norman had to say

An autogyro enthusiast from Sweden, Andreas Hansson, who recently visited Norman at Nong Prue, Thailand reports on what he found and what Norman had to say. This is from some Facebook entries by Andreas. Photo below shows Andreas Hansson with Norman at Nongprue Airfield (may be used with permission
"Today I am back in Pattaya and rented a motorbike to see Norman and his newly flown in tech from UK, efficiently overhauling the engine (with instructions from EAA).
The tech did a lot of measurements on the Gyrox engine, and as long as I stayed with them he did a lot of heavy maintenance on the engine, including checking the crankshaft for not being bent (180 degrees exactly between full compression of each cylinder), and also made some crack-tests on important parts of the inner parts of the engine. This guy really know what he's doing!
Norman took the time to tell me about interesting parts of his flight trip so far, how he managed to cross hills with down winds blowing along the side.
He also shared very interesting thoughts how to ditch a gyro plane into the sea in case of engine stop, which I am going to take with me when I am flying in Sweden."

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Gyrox stripped as repair work begins in earnest

In the last week Gyrox autogyro has been stripped down to its basic parts. This is to facilitate comprehensive cleaning, checking and drying of of every item which is essential after a dipping in water. Photo below shows Norman taking off from Nongprue Airfield, Thailand just before the accident. Note the powerlines in the background (may be used with permission

It is anticipated that a specialist engineer will be flying into Thailand on today Thursday (20 May 2010) from the UK braving potential ash clouds and civil unrest. He has considerable experience in working on autogyros and will be carrying 18 kg of small spares and special tools!. He will first thoroughly inspect the autogyo then lead on any repair work needed, supported by the Nongprue crew and Norman.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Norman speaks to Paul Plack Aero-News.Net

There is a new link to interview on the website with Norman speaking to Paul Plack of Aero-News.Net in the US. Norman discusses his ditching in Thailand, the repairs which will be required by Gyrox autogyro, and how soon he hopes to resume his journey.

To listen go to the 
link The phone line to Norman is poor quality unfortunately.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The plan for getting back in the air after 'gyro in the lake incident'

Greetings again from Thailand! It's been just over a week since my unscheduled stop off began and I initially thought that was the end of my circumnavigation record attempt. Photo shows Norman 'suited, booted and rearing to go' at a Buddhist Temple near Nongprue, Thailand (may be used with permission

However, the expeditious retrieval of the aeroplane prevented any permanent water damage and after removing the outer yellow bodywork shell things looked more positive. The crucial, fundamental structure of any aircraft is its airframe and on the gyro that frame comprises a central, horizontal keel running the entire length of the aircraft. This keel directly supports the tail section and also the vertical rotor mast. All the other components of the aircraft are supported from this box section stainless steel skeleton.

Although GYROX suffered superficial damage to the fixed undercarriage, fortunately the main airframe keel retained its integrity. Norman with the Nong Prue crew who saved the day L to R. Dan, Steve, Peter, Norman, Ian, Paul, Tom, Tiger (Owner Nong Prue Airfield).(may be used with permission

The main damage has been a bend in the main rotor mast section about 3 feet down from the rotorhead. This was sustained as the gyro turned over in the lake. The engineers have examined the damage and it appears we are going to be able to cut out the damaged part of the rotor mast where it attaches to the box section and weld in a new piece to repair the damage. An approved CAA/DCA (Thai CAA) welder has obtained authority from the UK CAA to work on the aircraft and will be brought in to make good the repair to the required standards.

Once this has taken place then we will put the stripped down aircraft back together and carry out checks on the instrumentation for long-term water damage and other electrical components on the aircraft. The engine was run shortly after the event but this will be re-checked prior to flight trials and rotor balancing. Photo shows Norman's personal items being cleaned and dried not long after the 'autogyro in the lake' incident (may be used with permission

I will issue some regular reports as the process proceeds to get GYROX airborne again. The anticipated timescale is approximately 2 to 3 weeks, depending on the availability of people and parts.

There are worse places than Pattaya for an enforced stop over!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

For Norman record breaking is in the genes - 50's super cyclist aunt

Norman is not the first member of his family to set a record as his aunt Isabel Woods held the Woman’s ‘End to End of Ireland Cycling Record’. Set back in the 1950’s and held for a staggering 52 years, is was only broken in 2007. Known as the 'Wonder girl cyclist' her story has been quite an inspiration to the record setting aspect of Norman’s trip. According to Isabel back in the 50’s “the training was tough, the distances covered immense, and Isabel had none of the advantages of riders today. Photo shows Isabel Woods peddling furiously on her bike in the 50's in Ireland from the cover of her book about her record attempt (may be used with permission
Isabel's record 386-mile record bears little comparison to a similar modern day challenge. She completed the ride in 23 hours and 2 minutes, only stopping to put on a sweater and tights when cold. She had a five-gear bike compared to the modern 25 gears. She relied on sandwiches and raisins plus brown bread and honey compared to scientifically devised diets of today. Photo shows Norman's aunt Isabel today a spritely octogenarian (may be used with permission
Isabel has recently written a book about her cycling exploits in the 50's called The Wheels of Change which is available from Shanway Press, Belfast, N. Ireland. In addition one of her record-setting bikes has been put on permanent display in the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum in Cultra near Belfast N. Ireland. You can also read an article about the book in the Larne Times.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Norman working out the logistics of getting repair work done

Norman is still working out the logistics of getting the repair work done on the autogyro which will take some specialist expertise.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Norman's description of the weekend incident

Norman is working away on getting the autogyro repairs sorted. Below are some insights to what actually happened over the weekend from Norman that were featured in a recent Belfast Telegraph newspaper article.

“It was a combination of factors. It was a very hot afternoon and the gyro was very heavy with fuel. There was also a cross wind that was blowing across the runway and it was variable so that meant it was blowing you in one direction one minute and another direction the next." Photo below shows Norman waving as he flies by (may be used with permission

“I was trying to take off into the wind and really I didn’t get the correct amount of lift as I was flying. At the end of the runway there were power lines which I had to avoid and meant I couldn’t go on and set it down on the other side of them.

I couldn’t turn right because there was a grove of coconut palms. On the other side there was a shallow lake so the best option was to try and go over the lake. We just did not have the energy in the rota to stay above the water and the aircraft tumbled over and ended upside down. I came out like you would from a canoe.”

“I have never had an accident before so it was quite interesting. “One second I was flying and the next thing I was upside down in the water. But once I got my head above water that was fine. The water was warm so at least it wasn’t like plunging into the North Sea or something and I am fairly used to the water. It wasn’t really that panicky — it sounds a lot more dramatic that it actually was.”

“I got the gyro out of the water in about half an hour. A lorry came along and lifted it out and we had the engine running in about two hours after the event. We are still evaluating the damage,”

“I hope to be able to fly on. It would be a bit of a shame saying as I have done so well. The plan of action is to take two or three weeks to get the parts from the main factory and Germany and the UK. We are also getting an engineer out to look at repairing the aircraft."

“I was a bit annoyed at myself for putting it into this position but if nothing else, if we get her up and running again, it will be interesting and will show the versatility of this little aircraft."

“I would be very attached to the aircraft and if we can possibly get her going we will. There is a great morale among everyone here in Thailand — I would equate it to that of a Formula 1 racing team who have crashed in practice session.”

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Disaster and triumph

Well everyone, what a difference a few days make! who could have predicted a week ago as I was flying towards Thailand that I would now be reporting on potential disaster and triumph both in the same sentence! The disaster part, as most will be now well aware of was my very unfortunate forced ditching into a shallow lake beside Nong Prue Airfield last Saturday afternoon. At that point I really did think that this fantastic flying adventure had come to an untimely and very abrupt conclusion...However, the positive team spirit displayed by the local flying club members and friends that day was not just "beyond the call of duty", it was quite simply beyond comparison. (photo below may be used with permission

As I literally sat with my head in my hands trying to come to terms with what had just happened, about 20 people quickly set about recovering the Gyro from its 30 minute swim and recovering all the very soggy equipment and luggage held therein. There followed a scene, when I occasionally looked up from my chair, of fantastic uplifting teamwork. The whole contents of the aircraft had been exploded across the floor of the hanger on large tarpaulin sheets, every item carefully washed to remove the lake silt and rinsed with clean water and laid out to dry in the intense afternoon heat. Your eye was drawn around the hanger, an odd mixture of Dollar bills all individually laid out, next to aircraft service sheets, next to soggy passport, next to camera batteries, electrical equipment etc.etc. and all this done spontaneously and with such drive and purpose. (photo below may be used with permission

Within a few short hours all clothing had been washed and dried and all dried items stowed in large plastic barrels ready for sorting (a job I am still working through days later!). The aircraft too, received the same treatment, recovered, unloaded into hanger, engine drained of water and restarted barely two hours after the incident. 

It was a triumph, not just in the physical achievement of so quickly turning the situation around bringing a sense of order to the devastating chaos which was first presented, but it was also a triumph for the positive, spontaneous spirit displayed by all those people, who a few short days before had all been complete strangers to me on my arrival. If we successfully repair the aircraft in the coming weeks, a contributing factor will no doubt be the fact that the "can do" atmosphere pervades here in Thailand and in Nong Prue Airfield in particular. In short, their efforts may well have managed to save the whole show... Cheers N.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Norman is well but the autogyro is damaged

Thank you for all your patience. Norman is well but the autogyro has been damaged a will not be flying for the immediate future. Here is a message received from Norman by mobile / cell phone text in relation to taking off on Saturday morning. 

"Apologies to all for the delays - a combination of high air temperature, heavy aircraft and variable cross wind resulted in a poor climb out by the aircraft on take off. Obstacle avoidance resulted in a forced ditching in to a shallow lake. Thankfully I was not injured and the aircraft is now being assessed for possible repair. There will be more on this as soon as I know all the options. Regards, Norman."

End of text. We have no other information at present, communications with him is difficult and as you can imagine he is occupied with 101 things. Below is a photo of Norman with Andreas Hansson earlier today at Nongprue, Thailand (May be used with permission

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Norman not flying today / new Thai photos

Norman will not be flying today but we have just uploaded some photos of him flying and hanging out at Nongprue. Thailand.  To see the new photos go to this link. Below is a sample (May be used with permission

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Norman will not now be flying today

Norman will not now be flying today due to technical problems - more later.

Norman is flying to Samui, Thailand today / his stay in Nongprue

Norman is flying to Samui, Thailand today - the Island off the east coast of the Thai peninsula, weather permitting. This is about 210 miles / 335 kilometers which will take approx three hours flight time. He hopes to set off around noon local time which is 05:00 (UTC) am UK time. He will be flying in a south west direction and the weather at present is hot 32c / 92f and sunny with some partial cloud and a light wind out of the south.

Norman will stay in Samui for two days to allow flight clearence for Malaysia to come through. You may be aware that Norman was entertaining the local media with a fly around accompanied by microlights
from the local flying club who are hosting him. He also did a great radio interview and this will be made available as soon as is possible. Any available photographs and video from the fly around will also be made available as soon as is possible. Photo shows Norman flying high above the Thai countryside (may be used with permission)

Norman has been staying at the Horseshoe Point Resort near the beach in Pattaya. Open since November 2001 it is set in an estate which covers more than 530 hectares. He was amazed to find that his room overlooked the large spectacular indoor riding arena!

The time in Thailand has been a light relief for Norman from the weather problems Bangladesh, communications difficulties in Burma and the civil unrest of the 'Red' Protests in Bangkok.