Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Roxy is Airborne Again!

We at the Gyrox team are very happy to announce that yesterday, 28th March 2012, Norman was able to take to the air again in his autogyro, G-YROX (Roxy); the first true flight since last July!

Roxy has been in storage at Shonai airport, Japan, since the circumnavigation was put on hold last autumn because of weather conditions and bureaucratic delays. But as the weather is set to clear and the bureaucratic problems are solved it was time to dust off the rotors, put all the bits back together and following engine test runs earlier this week, take to the air again.

As we saw on Monday, the supposed first day of test flying, the weather still had a bearing on the schedule as a massive snow storm grounded everything, but yesterday the snow was cleared and Norman was at the airport early hoping to get some comprehensive test flights in.

But, as is the case with flying and some would say...Murphy's Law, this first flight was delayed as a heavy rain storm crossed the area. It was strange that the whole of Japan was rain free except for that patch of sky over Shonai Airport!
The weather radar shows Japan is clear except for the area where Norman is. 
At least the airport staff let Norman wait out the rain in the airport office where he was able to keep warm and enjoy the hospitality as well as being supplied with cups of coffee.
Norman watches the rain outside the airport office window, flight suit and hot coffee at the ready.
But the rain did clear and it was a relief for Norman to finally don the famous red flying suit, start the engine and set the rotor turning and for the first time in many months Roxy taxied out to take to the air again.
Norman taxies Roxy out onto the rain-soaked taxiway at Shonai. Note the piles of snow still hanging on.
And, as though there had been no long term storage at all, Roxy lifted off for the first time this year. Not ideal conditions and the Japanese aviation rules kept all flying within the airport zone boundary but Norman put Roxy through her paces with some extreme manoeuvres aimed at testing all airframe and engine specifications. 
Norman and Roxy take to the skies for the first time this year.
This type of flying gave the assembled Japanese media and press who had arrived to chronicle the first flight, an impromptu airshow and hopefully helped the cause of the Autogyro for local flying. 
Following an hours test flying Norman brought Roxy gently back to earth and following a press interview tucked Roxy up for the night, happy in the knowledge that she had performed perfectly and that there were many more flights to come.
Roxy arrives back at Shonai after a successful test flight.
One interesting titbit of information followed Norman's return to his hotel for the night. While he was in the middle of sending photos and information about yesterdays flying back to us at team HQ, Shonai was struck by a mild earthquake! Norman in his indomitable way joked about how much the building was swaying...

Norman will be flying each day (weather permitting) from now until and including the 30th March.
Expected times for flying each day are...

02:30 to 03:30 UTC (GMT) and
06:30 to 07:30 UTC (GMT)

Make sure you check into the on-line tracker to see his flights live, link below.
We will give updates and hopefully more photos of the flying each day.
The Gyrox Team
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Monday, March 26, 2012

No Flying Yet!

For those who were expecting to see Norman and Roxy flying today and have been watching the Spot tracker for some kind of movement, we have an explanation, sent from Norman himself, as to why there is a hold-up and for once we can tell you that it is not caused by bureaucracy!

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Update on What is Happening

The Weather in Tsuruoka and at Shonai Airport has taken a decided and sudden turn for the worse...
Consider this first picture, taken just after I had put the Rotor back on Roxy a couple of days ago - you can see the arrival of the regular ANA flight from Tokyo in the background and the big piles of rapidly melting snow...
However now take a look at the conditions we were faced with  yesterday - supposedly one of the first days that I have permission to fly…this is the same ANA flight at its stand (and was subsequently delayed because of the severe snow storms). While standing in the hanger we actually heard Thunder up above! - this was actually a very snowy thunderstorm…
So it was little wonder that Roxy and I have had to sit it out for a little while longer before taking to the skies...
Norman and Roxy raring to go, but still firmly stuck on Terra Firma as guests of the Shonai Airport Fire Service.
 …the good news is the forecast is improving n the next few days so keep an eye on the tracker….


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We will of course keep you updated with any news of any flying as and when it happens,
The Gyrox Team
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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Roxy re-awakens after long Japanese Winter Hibernation

Following a very long Japanese winter we at the Gyrox team can now happily announce that things are starting to happen in the Land of the Rising Sun. Norman has sent us an important update detailing the efforts to get Roxy ready for the resumption of the circumnavigation. This is what he has to say...

I am very pleased to announce that Roxy (aka - the current long distance FAI World Record holding MT-03 Autogyro G-YROX) is this week planning a return to the (hopefully) clear blue skies of NW Japan after a lengthy enforced winter Hibernation period.
The aircraft has been waiting patiently in Japan for the onward route through to the Bering Sea (via the Far East of Russia) to thaw after the long Arctic winter. Great care has been taken to keep the aircraft fit for purpose with the engine given regular exercise every few weeks during the snowy conditions that have seen several metres of snow fall in this relatively remote region of Japan’s Yamagata Prefecture. Roxy however has been tucked up safe and sound in a small alcove in the back of the fire station building at Shonai Airport.

Now with spring rapidly approaching, the time has come to prepare for the coming flying season and we will now see a flurry of activity around the airport during the next two weeks. Through the winter, to assist in taking up the least amount of room in the fire station, the rotor blades were removed as can be seen in the photograph below which was taken during a recent engine run…note also the now melting snow in the background…
Shonai, Japan - Feb 2012 and the engine starts first time!

The blades will be cleaned and inspected prior to putting them back on the rotor head and the aircraft thoroughly checked over prior to embarking on a series of short flights around the immediate vicinity of the Airport. Flight restrictions from the Civil Aviation Bureau will likely mean that the aircraft will be confined to flights within approximately a 3 km radius of the airport boundary, however considering that this is a highly capable and manoeuvrable Autogyro aircraft (and not a Jumbo Jet), this amount of space is ample to provide all the airspace needed to perform the requisite flight checks. Indeed it could even be said that an Autogyro could easily perform all its manoeuvres actually within the confines of the airport boundary fences!

The plan is to allow the aircraft permission to fly 1 hour in the morning and 1 hour in the afternoon each day between the 23rd & 30th of March. However not all of these time sessions will be needed for check flights and local weather or other air traffic may have further limiting implications. It is expected that Roxy will exercise for about 5 hours in total during the week. The intention is to have the Satellite Tracker active during the these short flights, to allow the testing of the online tracking page and to allow our many European followers to practise their skills at getting up in the middle of the night to watch, live, a little yellow aircraft buzz about on the other side of the planet!! (Though of course, some may just elect to check on the overnight progress at a more leisurely pace, over the usual morning cup of coffee some hours later instead…)
Norman gives a thumbs up to the newly awakened Roxy.

It is such a rarity for this type of Aircraft to be allowed permission to fly in Japan that it may cause some considerable interest locally. On our first arrival in Shonai (inbound from Oki Island last July) I simply made a straight in approach to the airport and was cleared to land immediately. The aircraft was heavy with the circumnavigation luggage and generally, in these circumstances after a long sea crossing of many hours and into an unfamiliar airport, I will make a very steady and straightforward approach and landing (so as to not unduly worry the Air Traffic Officer on duty in the Control Tower). The gathered reception committee waiting to greet my arrival that day therefore saw very little of the unique flight characteristics of this aircraft while it was in the air. There was no need to stop, mid air and perhaps descent vertically, no need for tight turns, steep practised forced landings perhaps across the runway rather than along it, touch and go fly pasts and a host of other manoeuvres that would look quite odd to any spectator who is used to observing the motion of a more conventional aircraft (or even a helicopter…). By putting the aircraft through its paces (though always remaining fully within in its normal flight envelope - as UK Autogyros are not allowed to perform any “aerobatic” manoeuvres) next week, local Japanese onlookers will be treated to an impromptu display of a flying machine that will take to the air like no other aircraft they have ever seen!
**Ganbaro! is the Japanese rallying cry that means “go on, you can do it, we are with you!”           
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The Gyrox Team will make sure that where possible we will announce flying times and make sure links to the Spot Tracker appear on the various GGG sites and we hope everyone is feeling the excitement we are at the thought of Roxy and Norman taking to the skies again soon.
The Gyrox Team
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