Because of the time difference between Japan and most of the rest of the world, the majority of Norman’s followers who have been following the flight on the ‘Spot Tracker’ have either been staying up late, getting up very early or even staying awake all night so as not to miss a minute of this adventure as it plays out live on their computer screens.
But how many of the hardy souls who stayed up to follow the full 5 hour flight earlier today would have realized what a suspenseful, heart-stopping 5 hours it would be?
The day for Norman started really well. A nice weather outlook, a pleasant ride to Oki airport from his hotel and a good turnout of people from the airport and other local bodies all coming to see Norman off.
|Prior to today's departure, Norman has a group photo with Oki Airport firemen and an airport official. (Photo courtesy of Elisabeth Pardee)|
Luckily, during his stay on Dogo Island, Norman had been accompanied by Elisabeth Pardee who acted as his translator and this meant he was able to receive all the best wishes and messages of praise from the locals who were genuinely pleased that they had met Norman and been part of his adventure.
|Normally used to topping up small airliners the Oki Airport refuelling crew are quite perplexed by the 'Turtle-Pac' fuel bag that acts as Norman's back seat passenger! (Photo courtesy of Elisabeth pardee)|
Norman’s estimated departure time of 10:00 hrs local, passed by and finally with all farewells said it was time to get Roxy ready for the next leg. This caused a short delay as the refueling people had never come across anything like the ‘Turtle-Pac’ fuel bag in the back seat.
|Roxy shares the Oki ramp with a NAMC YS-11 as Norman busies himself with pre-flight checks. (Photo courtesy of Elisabeth Pardee)|
But, with this small hitch fixed and the fuel bag engorged with Avgas, Norman lifted off at approximately 10:30 hrs local (01:30hrs GMT/UTC) and headed straight out over the Sea of Japan on a north easterly track towards Japan’s largest island, Honshu and his next destination, Shonai airport, 400 miles away (645km/348nm).
|Suited, booted and ready for the off. (Photo courtesy of Elisabeth Pardee)|
The first tracker update after take-off showed Norman about 10 miles out to sea, heading in the right direction and although the tracker had been slow to update whilst on the ground, about every 20-30 minutes, it was easy to imagine people around the world refreshing the tracker, waiting to see that orange line move a bit closer to the mainland.
But, 30 minutes came and went with no update. Then an hour passed and nothing. After an hour and a half and with still no update the Gyrox team started to receive messages asking if we knew why. But in reality we were as much in the dark as everyone else. All we could do was recall that this had happened before and not to worry.
But then 2 hours had passed and still no update! No, this hadn’t happened before but it was probably just a hitch with Spot.
By the time 3 hours had passed we were really starting to worry, as were many people around the world. It was time to do something. One of our colleagues, Ahmed Hassan Mohamed, works as a flight dispatcher and is able to call air traffic controllers around the world. So we got in touch with him and he tried to glean some information from Oki and Shonai airports, all to no avail. Unlike most airports around the world, it turns out that the smaller airfields in Japan do not have English as their language and seeing our Japanese is non-existent then this avenue was going nowhere.
It was then that we remembered that Elisabeth at Oki was Norman’s Translator!
A quick email to her and she was immediately on the phone to the authorities at Oki airport and in the meantime the clock showed that it was now 4 hours since the tracker had updated. Elisabeth got back to us straight away with the news that the people at Oki confirmed, as far as they could tell, that Norman was fine and at that moment Spot refreshed and showed Norman approaching the coast of Honshu, not that far from Shonai! Phew!
|A special thank you to Paul Curtis for capturing the moment. That long orange line equated to 4 hours of tension for everyone watching.|
It was with a sigh of relief that everybody around the world were able to watch the final leg into Shonai Airport where, oblivious to the online drama that had been unfolding, Norman landed safely at approximately 15:30 hours local (06:30 GMT/UTC).
|Shonai Airport's coastal location is clear from this aerial view.|
The actual flight took 5 hours and covered 400 miles (645km/348nm), the vast majority of it over the open sea. Another great flight that has brought Norman to his final arrival in Japan before he heads off to Russia.
Norman will be having a rest day tomorrow at Shonai, which is well deserved considering the distances already flown since he left the Philippines last Wednesday.
Another country traversed and the big ones coming up, starting with Russia. The logistics of flying across the desolate regions of far eastern Russia will certainly keep us all on the edge of our seats for the proposed 10 day crossing of the country until he flies across the bering Sea to Alaska. A truly magnificent adventure that is keeping us all enthralled, onwards and upwards Norman, the sky’s the limit.
The Gyrox Team
Because Norman isn’t flying tomorrow our blog post will be about the vagaries of the Spot tracker with tips and hints on how to get the best out of following it.
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