Friday, July 29, 2011

Waiting For News: Norman in Shonai.

It has now been six days since Norman flew his tiny aircraft into the coastal airport of Shonai on the Japanese main island of Honshu. It was hoped that after a day’s rest he would be off again for the major sea crossing to Vladivostok in Russia, but as those of us who have followed the flight since it started last year will know through experience, plans like these can suddenly be scuppered, sometimes because of weather but more often than not because of bureaucracy and the dreaded red-tape.
The approach to Shonai airport with the volcano, Mt Chokai to the left.
This is what has happened this week. Although this part of the flight had been in the planning for 2 years and regularly updated as needs be, when it came to the actual departure it seems that international bureaucratic negotiations work at a different pace to the mile-crunching speed of the little gyro and its intrepid pilot.
Norman disembarks from the tiny cockpit after arriving at Shonai. (Photo courtesy of Andy Edney)
Many people will have been in awe of the distances covered since Norman left the Philippines just over a week ago, but once again, that epic part of the journey falls foul of another wall made of paper.
Norman is greeted at Shonai by the Military Attache to the British Embassy in Tokyo, Andy Edney (Photo courtesy of Andy Edney)

Rest assured that the paper wall that is holding Norman up is not going to stop him; it is really just a slow moving exercise in patience amidst many negotiations with authorities in a number of countries around the world. As you can imagine, time zones and the language barrier are not conducive to speedy results.
Norman talks with airport staff and Aki the translator (grey suit) whilst Andy looks on following the moving of 'Roxy' into the Airport Fire Station 'hangar' (photo courtesy of Andy Edney)
So, whilst this has been going on and each day is spent waiting for the go ahead to continue the journey, what has Norman been doing to pass the time?
Norman's welcoming comitee at Shonai. The marketing manager for Shonai airport, Mr. Muraoka with Military Attache, Andy Edney and Norman's translator Alegria Takano(Aki). (Photo courtesy of Andy Edney) 
It was fortuitous that Norman’s arrival at Shonai had been eagerly awaited and as he touched down there was already a welcome committee to meet him, including a translator, Aki Takano, who would accompany Norman during his stay.
With Aki translating, Norman faces his first press conference at Shonai on arrival day. (Photo courtesy of Andy Edney) 
Norman prepares to leave the airport with Aki and Andy (Photo courtesy of Andy Edney)
The first thing though on Norman’s agenda was to check out the ‘Spot’ tracker. Anyone who was watching the flight from Oki to Shonai via the online tracker will remember the world wide panic when the tracker failed to refresh for 4 hours and had Norman stuck in the middle of the sea. But it did reappear just before he reached the mainland.
Norman with friends Aki and Mr. Muraoka at Mt Haguro (Photo courtesy of Aki Takano)
After a night’s sleep and a check of the battery and connections, Norman, accompanied by Aki, went for a drive into the mountains. Wearing ‘Spot’ on his belt, he was later able to check the track and confirm that it was now working OK, although what he didn’t know was that a lot of followers had been watching too and thought he was flying south east and had landed in the woods!
The famous steps through the forest of 600 year old Cedar trees. (Photo courtesy of Aki Takano)
During this drive into the countryside, Norman was able to visit Mt Haguro, a famous area with many shrines and a walk that takes you through a forest of 600 year old trees!
Norman on 'The God's Bridge' on Mt Haguro (Photo courtesy of Aki Takano)
The shrines and temples on the mountain are classed as a national treasure and although we are not sure how many Norman visited we do have some nice photos from this trip.
At the Sanjin-Gosaiden Shrine on Mt Haguro (Photo courtesy of Aki Takano) 
Something amuses Norman at the Haniyamahime shrine (Photo courtesy of Aki Takano)
Surrounded by 600 year old forest, the 5 story Pagoda is a Japanese treasure (photo courtesy of Aki Takano)
Norman is dwarfed by a giant bell at one of the temples (Photo courtesy of Aki Tanako)
There are 2,466 steps to the Sanzan Gosaiden Temple at the summit, but we haven’t heard if Norman made the full ascent.
Norman brings up the rear on the ascent up Mt Haguro (Photo courtesy of Aki Takano)
Norman looks a lot livelier on the way down! (Photo courtesy of Aki Takano)
The journey up the mountain included a stop at a traditional tea-house where Norman enjoyed the world famous Japanese tea ceremony.
Norman enjoys a refreshing cup of tea at the traditional 'Tea-House' on Mt Haguro with Sachi Sato, another interpreter friend (Photo courtesy of Aki Takano)
The day after, following the usual sending of emails and numerous phone calls to officials in Russia and the UK as well as in Japan, Norman was met by Mr. Muraoka, his 14 year old son, Yui Sasaki (the official interpreter) and her friend Mari Ikeda (also an interpreter) and they were able to take him to the Kamo Aquarium. A bit different from your usual aquarium, Kamo specializes in Jellyfish! Using Neon lights the jellyfish tanks are a sight to see. Another favourite at Kamo are the seals, sea lions and their pups, one of which Norman got very close to.
Norman with Mari Ikeda (left) and Mr. Muraoka's son arrive at the Kamo Jellyfish Aquarium!
Inside the colourful aquarium. From the left...Mari Ikeda, Norman, Mr Muraoka's son and Yui Sasaki.
So that's what a tank full of jellyfish looks like!
Norman makes friends with a Spotted Seal pup.
Luckily the Aquarium does have a restaurant…unluckily for the jellyfish; the main ingredients on the menu are jellyfish! Norman was persuaded to try the jellyfish ice cream but we have no idea if he liked it or not. You will have to guess by his expression.

Jellyfish Ice Cream! Mari, Yui and Norman seem to like the taste!
The next few days consisted of meeting with airport officials, members of the press and even watching a soccer match with local English teacher, Mr Noguchi, where one of his pupil's happened to be playing.
Multi-tasking! Phoning Andy inTokyo whilst eating sushi with chopsticks. A man of many talents!
Aki has been very hospitable to Norman and has shown him as much of Japanese culture as she can. This has meant sampling the delights of Sushi restaurants, sitting cross legged at very low tables, trying out many different types of sea food served in some amazing settings amongst charming company.
A traditional Japanese setting for a traditional meal of sushi. From the left...Yui Sasaki, Mari Ikeda, Mr Muraoka and Norman
A close up of the 'Sushi Bridge' complete with sea urchin, the yellow paste on the far right!
Norman with many of his new friends enjoying a cold beer at the Suzune restaurant.
Dish of the day at Suzune Restaurant: Sea Bass and Turban Shell!
Norman enjoys a family meal at the Kanazawaya Noodle Restaurant.
A happy gathering at the Happo-Zushi restaurant. It's a good job Norman likes sea food! From the left...Mari Ikeda, Mr Muraoka, Norman and Nagasawa Toshihiro
A visit to a ‘Tea-House’ museum was interesting as a pseudo ‘Geisha Girl’ performed the Tea Ceremony, white face and kimono included.
Norman has been very gracious in his respect for the Japanese people and how they have gone out of their way to show him some amazing hospitality but in the long run, his main aim is to continue with his journey and he, like all of us, wait patiently for that good news to arrive from Russia and then the journey can resume once again.
"Come and join us Norman, you are always welcome" From the left...Yui Sasaki, Mari Ikeda, Mr Muraoka and Nagasawa Toshihiro
Of course, as soon as we hear anything then we will let all the followers know through the various social media channels.
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, July 23, 2011

Norman Reaches Final Japanese Destination.

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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Unless otherwise credited, all images on this blog are the property of GyroxGoesGlobal and may be used with prior permissionfrom

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Friday, July 22, 2011

Norman is Okay at Oki!

Earlier today, Friday 22nd July, Norman departed Fukue Airport on Fukue-Jima Island at around 11:20hrs local (02:00 GMT/UTC) and headed North towards the main Islands of Japan; Kyushu and Honshu. Generally following the coastlines of these two islands, Norman and Roxy flew past the major city of Nagasaki and eventually turned out to sea near Miho Airport where a 45 mile crossing of the Sea of Japan brought him to the small group of Islands called the Oki Islands where at 16:10 local time he landed at Oki Airport on the Island of Dogo.

The whole flight took just short of five hours with a distance covered of approximately 365 miles (588km/318nm) with no problems and clement weather conditions.
Norman is marshalled in at the quiet Oki Airport on Dogo Island, Japan. (Photo courtesy of Elisabeth Pardee)

Norman was greeted at Oki airport by a Facebook friend, Elisabeth Pardee who was able to act as his translator. We are grateful to Elisabeth for contacting us and giving us an update on Norman’s wellbeing. This is what Elisabeth was able to tell us...
“Norman arrived safe and sound at about 4:10 this afternoon. He was greeted by a combination of airport personnel, tourist information workers, and some Board of Education and public office workers. After he got off of his plane we took him (a BOE employee named Mr. Ikemoto, a Japanese teacher of English named Mrs. Matsuoka, and myself) to get his hotel reservation in Saigo, the main town. Then we went to get sushi at a Kaitenzushi restaurant (one of those places with revolving plates of sushi going around) and he regaled us with exciting stories of his travels. The Oki people were all thrilled to see him. He's made an absolutely wonderful impression here and I think people will be turning out in droves to see him off tomorrow.
It seems that Norman can bring out the best in people and with his winning smile and warm conversation he inspires so many people who meet him.
For instance, check the personal blog post of Marga Ortigas, the Al Jazeera correspondent who interviewed Norman prior to his leaving from Woodland Air Park. Read it here.
As Elisabeth said, it is expected that Norman will have a great turnout tomorrow to see him off on his next leg. The world renowned Japanese hospitality is certainly being shown to our intrepid traveler. But, another day, and another destination…and tomorrow that means Shonai on the western coast of Honshu Island.
Yet another Volcano will greet norman on arrival. This time it will be Mt Chokai near Shonai!

An estimated time of departure of 10:00hrs local (01:00 GMT/UTC) will see him fly North East, back across the Sea of Japan to his final destination in Japan, Shonai, a distance of 400 miles (640km/345nm). We are still waiting for confirmation of the departure date from Japan and Norman may well have a rest day in Shonai before continuing on to Russia. Keep checking back for the latest updates.
We are hoping for some more images tomorrow, hopefully from Norman’s departure from Oki and maybe an update from Norman himself if he gets time and an internet connection in Shonai.
Another day and another massive flight for such a small aircraft. As Marga says in her blog, His energy was infectious from the start; his smile enough to brighten any day” and I am sure we all agree.
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 permissionfrom

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Norman Arrives at Fukue.

Earlier today Norman completed his second day’s flying of the resumption of the circumnavigation adventure and traversed the Eastern China Sea, flying approximately 460 miles (740km/400nm) in six and a half hours.

Setting off from the USAF air base at Kadena, Okinawa, at around 10:30 hrs local, Norman flew along the chain of small islands that links Okinawa to the larger Japanese islands in the north. Just before reaching the Island of Kyushu he turned to the east and headed to the smaller island of Fukue-Jima where at around 17:00hrs local (08:00GMT/UTC) he landed safely at Fukue Airport.
His previous days arrival at USAF Kadena marked a great start to the 2nd half of the adventure, with Norman being greeted many American servicemen and women as well as Japanese staff and a contingent from the Kadena Aero Club.
A couple of members of the club have graciously allowed us to use some of their images from Norman’s arrival and we thank them very much for their generosity.
Norman stiffly disembarks from Roxy, to the amusement of the children and the amazement of the Air Base personnel. (Photo courtesy of Cindia Garcia)
USAF servicemen flock to ask Norman questions about his venture. (Photo courtesy of Cindia Garcia)
Could this gentleman be pointing the way to Fukue or is it more likely he is answering Norman's first question raised after the 6 and a half hour flight..."Yes Sir, the nearest toilet is a mile in that direction". (Photo courtesy of Cindia Garcia)
Group shot of Norman's welcoming comittee with an Aero Club Cessna 172 in the background. (Photo courtesy of Ichikawa Hiroaki)
How do you keep a cockpit this clean after flying all day? (Photo courtesy of Ichikawa Hiroaki)
Roxy's tailplanes frame the vast expanse of Kadena Air Force Base. (Photo courtesy of Ichikawa Hiroaki)
She may be tiny compared to the giant C-17 transport aircraft she had just taxied past, but Roxy looks like the proudest aircraft on the apron as she is admired by everyone. (Photo courtesy of Ichikawa Hiroaki)
We are sure Norman enjoyed the hospitality of the personnel at the air base and the aero club but when you are a circumnavigator the following day will always mean saying farewells to new found friends and onwards and upwards to your next destination.
As stated earlier, Norman’s next destination was Fukue Airport on the island of Fukue-Jima in the Nagasaki prefecture. Unlike the massive Kadena air base, Fukue is a category 3 airport and is a lot smaller but Norman probably suddenly felt at home as he approached the runway.
During the many weeks Norman spent at Woodland Air Park in the Philippines he would fly a number of test flights, quite often circling the local volcano, Mt Arayat, and lo and behold, a mile or two to the west of Fukue airport lies another very similar looking volcano…with the name of…Fukue Volcano! (there may be a local name for it if anyone would like to enlighten us).
Fukue Volcano, an impressive sight from the airport.
With two days flying completed and over 1,200 miles logged Norman is certainl eating up those miles in his amazing little autogyro, Roxy. Tonight he will be receiving traditional Japanese hospitality and should wake refreshed for tomorrow’s leg…Fukue to Oki.
Make sure you log into the Flight Tracker to follow this next leg of 360+ miles over the Sea of Japan.
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 permissionfrom
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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Norman has arrived in Japan.

We are delighted to confirm that after a  9 hour flight Norman has safely landed at Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa, Japan. This incredible feat of airmanship has taken him from the Philippines across the Philippine Sea to Japan, quite an extraordinary accomplishment seeing it was the first leg of the second part of this circumnavigation and the first flight of any distance that Norman has undertaken since last August!
This has been a fantastic start to the resumption of the circumnavigation, not only because of the length of the flight, 730 miles, but because he has arrived in a new country, the 17th of the journey, and what a place to arrive!
Norman will think he has missed Japan and arrived in California instead during his stay at Kadena. It just happens to be the biggest USAF air base in the Pacific and is home to PACAF (Pacific Air Forces).
The approach to the massive Kadena AFB
Kadena Air Base is the home to the Air Force’s largest combat wing—the 18th Wing—and a variety of associate units. Nearly 18,000 Americans and more than 4,000 Japanese employees and contractors make up Team Kadena.
It will seem strange to Norman, after spending so much time at the small grass airfield at Woodland Air Park where he shared the ramp with many microlights, to suddenly find himself parked amongst massive military transports and combat aircraft, including the brand new F-22 Raptor!
F-22 Raptors at Kadena

It has been a USAF base since 1945 and was instrumental during the Korean and Viet Nam wars. During the cold war it was home to the SR-71 Blackbird, Mach 3 reconnaissance plane as well as having a USN presence.
A Lockheed SR-71 mach 3 spy plane at Kadena in 1985
We are sure there will be a fantastic welcome for Norman in Kadena as Americans are renowned for the hospitality, and we expect Norman will be partaking of the odd burger or two.
We are still waiting to hear from Norman about tomorrows flight to Fukue Airport on Fukue-Jima Island but this will also be a marathon. Another 380-400 miles of open water lie ahead. As soon as we get the departure and arrival times we will let everyone know.
But for now, enjoy the American Air Force hospitality Norman, thousands of followers have been watching you tirelessly make your way across the ocean over the last 9+ hours and will no doubt be awaiting your departure tomorrow.
A great flight and a special one to get under your belt. The adventure is well and truly underway again.
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 permissionfrom
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