Thursday, September 29, 2011

An Important Message From Norman

It has been a while since we have been able to post any news from Japan, this is mainly because of the stalemate with the Russian authorities concerning permits for Norman to enter Russian airspace and fly across their country.

As many people will remember from last year, any hold up at this time of year can have a knock-on effect with weather problems further along the route. Because of the length of the delay and because of Norman’s expediency in all matters concerning safety a decision had to be made.
Norman has decided to tell everyone in his own words the decision he has made and why…

Wintering in - yet again….
Who would have thought when recommencing the circumnavigation flight in May this year that I would still be facing the prospect of seeking to overwinter ROXY in yet another far off land only a few short months later in September. Yet this is exactly what has come to pass in the past few weeks while I’ve been waiting oh so patiently for permission to fly on from Japan to Russia and thence onwards to Alaska. The Bering Sea (as happened last year - and of course which happens every year….) has once again begun to pull its all enveloping,  winter cloak of snow and ice around itself as an extremely efficient, protective deterrent against any would be open cockpit flyers who would dare to challenge it at this most volatile and changeable time of the year.
This has of course left me with the problem of what to do next? The actual decision to halt the flight (again) has been the relatively easy part. Further north in Russia, the increasingly changeable recent weather patterns combined with early reports from Alaska that the weather there had also already started to turn, meant that by the time mid- September appeared it was quite evident that the Bering Sea crossing would have to be deferred for a second winter. Once again I found myself facing the prospect of finding a safe haven for the aircraft that could logistically accommodate us for the coming months. Various options presented themselves and all then had to be considered.
Flying back South and West towards the warmer climes of the Philippines looked to be one possibility. However on closer inspection, the prospect of making the long open sea crossing between the Japanese Island chain and Luzon Island in the Philippines against the prevailing winds would have proved to be a hugely uncertain physical undertaking, never mind the added logistical minefield of trying to obtain Japanese overflight permission for a second time (when the first time was something of a triumphant achievement in itself). Or a third time for that matter for, of course, if I was back down on Luzon Island I would then have to re-fly the Japanese route back up to Shonai next spring. All in all, it seemed too risky and too complicated to consider any further.
Onwards to (just) enter Russia was another option to consider, however, the blinding and break neck speed that the Russian Permission is still being pushed through their ultra slick Bureaucratic system (“Blinding” as in, catching a glimpse of the welding arc used to weld the box presumably containing my whole permission application to the floor, “Break Neck” as you then trip over it…and  “Slick” might just be a typo error…) has meant that we still haven’t got the definitive word from Russia to proceed with the flight. This, after 2 months of waiting and on top of the fact that outline permission had already been given, way back in March 2010 (and before I had commenced the flight at all). This original permission, subject to some easily achieved provisos (such as carrying a Russian speaker, emergency satellite phone and conducting all flights in daylight hours), had been the catalyst, the “green light” if you will, to set off in the first place as I knew full well that without transiting Russia and the Bering Sea this type of circumnavigation would otherwise have been impossible to complete. To be then subsequently told (once we were sure of a realistic date of entry - late July this year) that we would then have to effectively submit the whole application again, as things (and perhaps people?) have moved on since last year, has been very, very, frustrating to say the least… 
So, without the onward final permission from Russia (yet) even the prospect of simply flying as far as Vladivostok to overwinter there hasn’t been an allowable option (yet…). This situation may change if the permission does now come through miraculously soon, but on current form it’s perhaps better odds to back me achieving all out victory in the All Japan Sumo Wrestling championships that are being screened on TV at the moment…
Therefore, with both the Philippines and Russia ruled out for these various reasons, it was then left to our obvious first choice option, namely to seek permission to overwinter the aircraft precisely where it is now: - Shonai Airport, Yamagata Prefecture, East Japan.
The facilities at Woodland Airpark (where the aircraft wintered last year) and the special care and attention given there by Jay Cook, will prove to be a very hard act to follow, but the very capable and imaginative staff at Shonai Airport are certainly hoping to rise to the challenge! The flight restrictions placed on the aircraft generally in Japan mean that most ongoing activity at Shonai will likely be ground based maintenance and taking measures to guard against the much colder winter weather (after all, 6 feet of drifting snow is not that common in the Philippines…) and we can expect more updates on this new chapter of Roxy’s already very chequered (!) history in the coming weeks and months.
Indeed so much has been happening on the ground in Japan since my arrival here 2 months ago, that I feel there are many more fantastic stories to tell to the blog as we collectively gather around our online winter fireside*,waiting for the late arctic spring to appear once again. Varied topics will feature here, such as “how to spot a Ninja living in your town”, “living with techno toilets (and other gadgets)”, “plastic has never looked so tasty!” and “Rice harvesting for beginners”.
*with apologies of course to all our followers who happen to live in hotter parts of the world and who perhaps have no concept of what a “winter fireside” is, lucky you!  
Now, where did I leave that Sumo Belt…?!
Cheers N.
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Norman arrives at Shonai where Roxy will now spend the winter.

It is sad news that once again bureaucracy has brought this magnificent adventure to a grinding halt. The fact that our brave aviator is doing something unique and for such a good cause seems to go over the heads of these faceless pen pushers in so many countries, but they haven’t reckoned with the tenacity of Norman Surplus.
Norman hasn't been idle whilst in Japan. Here, he is giving talks to local schoolchildren.

You can guarantee he will be back in the spring, equipped with the necessary documents that will allow him to finally finish the first ever circumnavigation of the globe by autogyro. We hope you, Norman’s faithful followers, will all be back next year, cheering him on and showing your undying support that Norman has appreciated so much over the last 18 months.

Norman has actively been promoting "Ganbarou Tohoku !!" Tohoku is the region directly affected by the Tsunami back in March and Ganbarou means "Go on! We are with you!" Here Norman applies a "Ganbarou Tohoku !!" sticker to Roxy at Shonai.
Norman will be returning home to his family very soon, after a sad farewell to his new friends in Japan and of course Roxy, with the promise of returning soon. We at the Gyrox team will still be working hard to keep everyone informed and entertained during the winter months until the day arrives when we can announce that the adventure is on again.
Thank you all for your past support and we hope you will stay with us until the flight of a lifetime has reached its goal, next year.
The Gyrox Team
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(Unless otherwise credited, all images on this blog are the property of GyroxGoesGlobal and may be used with prior permission from

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Saturday, September 3, 2011

Deja Vu: Your help is needed again.

A feeling of Déjà Vu has descended over the GyroxGoesGlobal camp. Once again we are nearing the cut-off point for continuation of the flight northwards.

With the small summer weather window quickly closing, the realities are that once again Norman may have to call a halt to flight with the hope of resuming it next spring.

The problems, once again, are all down to bureaucracy and the inability of the Russian authorities to issue the required permits that would allow Norman to fly up the east coast of the Russian mainland before making the treacherous crossing of the Bering Straits and reaching the aviation-appreciative shores of Alaska, USA.
Norman, as can be expected, is not happy even just contemplating having to call a halt to the flight. Considering what he has been through it will be a shame that some faceless pen pushers will end this epic, brave and unique journey that has inspired so many and kept the world on the edge of their seats for so many months.
But even so, Norman is still upbeat and being a man who never gives up, still has an optimistic view on the events. There has been a massive assault on the world’s media over the last few days by Norman and the Gyrox team, in the hope that with enough public backing then the Russian authorities may change their stance and finally give Norman the permits he so urgently needs.
(Click the links above to see the news articles).
So all is not lost and even though the ‘seasonal’ clock is ticking, there is still time to make that final effort to get to the USA and Canada in time.
How can You, Norman’s faithful supporters, help? There are a number of things you can do.
1.       Contact your local Russian embassy and let them know that you and many others are disappointed with the Russian authorities for blocking this amazing flight, especiall as it is for a good cause.
2.       Contact your local/national media – press/TV – and make them aware of the problem, suggesting they run something that may make everyone aware of the problems, and maybe use our links to illustrate the story.
3.       Go to the Facebook pages (see links below) and post your supportive messages so that we can show that there is a massive worldwide audience watching the events happening in Russia.
Of course, we will keep you up to date with any breaking news concerning these ongoing negotiations and hope that with your support we can reach a positive outcome.
Many thanks for your patience and support
The Gyrox Team
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