Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Countdown Begins!

We have heard from Norman, who returned to Japan last week, about his preparations to resume the world's first circumnavigation by an Autogyro. He describes in his own words the hurdles he has to overcome, created naturally or by bureaucrats, to return to the air for his pioneering flight.

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At the end of May another arctic spring time approaches and with it we have, once again, a seasonal chance to fly across the Bering Sea from Russia to Alaska, my only available routing to get across the Pacific Ocean. For the second year running I am now poised to recommence and (hopefully) complete my circumnavigation attempt, to return home from the other side of the world. I have recently again travelled out to Shonai Airport, Yamagata Prefecture, N.W Japan where G-YROX (aka “Roxy”) has been waiting patiently “en route” for my return and from where we shall soon depart for the remotest, vast wilderness of the Russian Far East. This section of the flight is by far the most technically challenging given that the settlements to be visited are very isolated and without roads in the northern latitudes (no roads equals no vehicles and thus no need for fuel stations…), so working the logistics for food, accommodation and fuel are of prime importance at the moment. There are “airstrips” (of sorts…) in just enough of these settlements to allow a transit to be possible and thankfully in our favour at least a Gyro can perform very short take offs and landings using some fairly unprepared surfaces.

No alternate landing field from Japan to Vladivostok
The Russian Authorities are currently making final checks with the en route airfields to make certain that they are currently open, secure and available (after the long winter of isolation) and ready to receive our flight. Once we have the final go ahead from Russia then we have to wait for the Japanese Authorities to have their turn at playing with the “red tape” machine, to process my exit clearance to allow me to fly out of Japanese airspace. (This can be a fairly lengthy exercise, lasting several weeks, drawing on our previous experiences of flight applications…).

Finally, once the bureaucratic “made by man” permissions are all in order, I can then give some (considerable) thought to the physical “made by mother nature” permissions; primarily those of Climate and Weather patterns en route for the lengthy open water crossing of the Sea of Japan. As we have seen, the climate has already dictated a wait in Japan for 9 months since the last summer season, but the weather and crucially the wind (both strength and direction) will of course have the final say “on the day”. Our maximum operational range on longer flights is usually around 450 Nautical Miles. As the “crow flies”, the straight line distance airport to airport from RJSY (Shonai) to UHWW (Vladivostok) is “only” 442 NM however, with (man-made) en route airways corridor protocol and entry procedures for Vladivostok air traffic control the actual flight from Shonai will actually work out to be around 460 NM…

It therefore follows that although I have a considerable margin of fuel reserves (my absolute range with full tanks would be something more like 525 NM) this only translates to around an hour of extra endurance in the air. To encounter a strong headwind on a flight of this overall distance could easily add an hour onto the journey time and this, remember, is a flight across the sea with no alternate airfields en route. It is therefore vital that the predicted winds on the day are either a nice tailwind to give me a helping hand or, worst case, a cross wind which has minimal effect on journey time, for or against. Thankfully predicting the wind (at least in the short view of a day or two in advance) is a well practised science and one which gives reasonably accurate results.
Therefore, in dealing with the wind, as with the lengthy bureaucratic process, I may simply have to sit and wait for the correct conditions to occur….
Looking decidedly chilly, Norman prepares to do some engine runs at Shonai Airport, Japan this week.                    
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It is great to hear from Norman and we at the Gyrox Team are gearing up ready to bring you all the latest news as it happens from wherever Norman is during the final stages of his record setting flight.

The Gyrox Team
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