Saturday, December 27, 2014

All at Sea - Part Two

This is the second part of Norman's Christmas and New year blog post 2014 in which he describes what has been happening to and what will be planned for the Gyrox Goes Global adventure. In part one he described how 3 years of stalemate ended with his decision to forego the 'full' circumnavigation attempt as any hope of flying across the Pacific using Russian airfields as stepping stones to Alaska was dashed by the 'powers that be' in Russia. 
In this part, written by Norman, we find out how 'Roxy' finally left Japan, where she is now and what Norman has planned for 2015...

Moving Times

My first goal was to move the aircraft from Shonai Airport – as I was not permitted to fly Roxy over to North America, the next best thing was to order up a shipping container and send her over there by sea.
Firstly the logistics of shipping an aircraft by this method threw up some challenges…by consultation with Gerry Speich back at Rotorsport UK, we knew that by removing the mainwheels and rotorhead the MT-03 is capable of fitting into a standard 20 foot shipping container, however the big unknown was how to maneuver the aircraft into the container without any wheels in place….this would remain a concern until we actually had a go at getting it in the box…more of this later on…!
Prior to that we had to organize the move of the aircraft from Airport to Seaport…fortunately Shonai Airport is only about 30 minutes drive from Sakata Seaport and so with the help of Kudo Masanobu (Shonai Airport) and Endo Hirofumi (Nippon Express) we devised a plan…
Roxy gets her final roll-out at Shonai Airport.
The first job was to hire a flatbed truck (of the type used to transport cars that have broken down). The truck was allowed to enter ‘airside’ at the airport and we were able to quickly roll Roxy up onto the trucks rear loading ramp and secure in place for the journey. 
Roxy is loaded onto the flat-bed truck and Norman receives airport stickers from the management.
A lovely ceremony was held outside the Airport building to mark the aircraft's final departure after her 3 years of enforced residency, a somewhat bitter sweet experience as you can imagine, given that my real aim had been to fly her onwards rather than proceed on the back of a truck. 
Norman receives a 'Good Luck' banner from the airport staff.

Norman and Roxy with the airport and operations staff

Norman and Roxy with the Shonai Airport Fire service who have hosted Roxy for the last 3 years.
The journey to the Sakata Seaport went smoothly, with just the odd look of curiosity from fellow road users and passers-by!
After 3 years, Roxy is finally on the move again.

Taking the coastal road to Sakata Sea Port.
Unloading the Gyro was easily done inside one of the large cargo holding sheds at the port and a quick discussion followed with the Nippon Express ‘stuffers’ (for that is what you do when loading a container at the docks - you literally ‘stuff’ the goods into the box) about how to load up the shipping container the next day.

Roxy arriving at Sakata Seaport
When it came, the next day proved to be quite dramatic! Our primary objective was to get the Gyro to fit in the box…there was no problem in length or width but the mast on a MT03 gyro is normally much higher than can fit in through the door frame of a standard 20 foot shipping container. We had already removed the Rotor blades at the airport and to now further reduce the overall height I removed the whole Rotor Head assembly from the mast head. Next the main wheels and brake caliper assemblies were also removed and replaced with small trolley wheels (think supermarket trolley size). 
Roxy looking very odd with her new main undercarriage wheels!
This gave the Gyro a very odd appearance, almost scraping its belly along the floor but it had the desired effect of reducing the overall height whilst keeping some degree of maneuverability in order to roll the aircraft into the container. The big question now was  were the trolley wheels small enough in diameter? There was only one way to find out for sure; we rolled Roxy to the slight ramp to enter the container and initially we tried pushing her in nose first…the front end fitted but alas the mast section was still about 5 mm too high for the doorframe!
There's always Plan B
We all looked at each other a little aghast and with rising trepidation we hauled her back out and tried again, this time going in tail first. The slight ramp up into the container kept the nose wheel lower than the raised container floor and this meant that a favourable angle was kept on the mast as it approached under the doorframe…and with much whooping and hollering, in a lovely controlled manouvre, much like a limbo dancer performs, the mast gracefully slid under and inside the doorframe with only 3 mm to spare!!
3 millimeters more and Roxy would still be in Japan :-)
A big relief all round as those 3 mm prevented the need to use a special container with a higher roof (which are all twice as long at 40 feet, the addition of which would have easily added over US$1000 to the overall shipping costs!

With Roxy now safely inside the box all that remained was to chock the suspension bow/airframe, load in the boxes of spare parts, blades and other assorted ‘luggage’ and lash everything down with copious quantities of cargo strap tape. 
Roxy and assorted 'luggage' being battened down for the long sea voyage.
After one last check inside, the very last, almost ceremonial, act was to close and lock the doors followed by affixing a special security seal that we would only remove again in America. 
The next time these pair will be together is on the other side of the Pacific Ocean!

Time for one final photo call...Kudo-San, Norman, Roxy and the Nippon Express 'Stuffers'
All boxed up and ready to go, I couldn't resist taking a marker pen and signing a small GYROX label on the front door….almost as proof to myself that it would definitely be the same box that would arrive at the other end!!    
Norman gets the job of sealing the container

Kudo-San double checks and it is time to start then next chapter.
The Aircraft's journey across to America was slightly convoluted, as is the vagaries of international shipping routes…First, a small feeder container vessel took our box from Sakata Port, Yamagata Prefecture, Japan, directly to the large international hub seaport of Busan in South Korea, then from Busan it was a direct sailing across the North Pacific to Tacoma Port near Seattle. From there our box was trucked by road some 200 miles south to arrive at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon. (just south of Portland). The Museum very kindly offered to put Roxy on temporary display over the winter period and this proved to be a great help in the ongoing and ever present logistics of keeping the aircraft both Secure and Airworthy at all times…there surely cannot be many lucky Gyros that find themselves in hangers that are not only strictly Temperature and Humidity controlled, but also in the company of some of the world’s most iconic aircraft, including the huge Howard Hughes ‘Spruce Goose’ Hercules flying boat, a fine example of a B17 Flying Fortress, an X-15 Rocket plane and a Mach 3 Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird (one of only 32 that were ever produced).    
The container with Roxy inside, arriving at the Evergreen Air and Space Museum
The Arrival

I arranged to meet the Container as it was delivered to the Museum; however my plans were a little compromised by a delay in Customs clearance entering the USA at Tacoma. Customs, in their wisdom, decided to hold onto our box to conduct a random x-ray check using a huge machine that can scan the contents of a whole container without opening it…However, soon enough, after several extra days delay, the sight of our box arriving on the back of a big American haulage truck soon brought a smile to our faces. The next immediate problem we faced was how exactly to get the aircraft out of the box again!

When we loaded in Japan, we had the advantage of having the Container down on the ground. It was comparatively easy (apart from the limbo dance element) to simply roll the aircraft up a slight incline and into place. Now we were faced with a new dilemma, the box was now elevated, sitting high on the back of the road truck. One option would have been to rent a crane to lift the box down to ground level, but on further discussion with Terry, the resident ‘go to’ man and head ‘Fixer’ at the Museum, we opted for a slightly more creative approach. By strapping a small flatbed trailer onto the forks of the resident forklift truck we were able to construct a rough and ready form of ‘elevating platform’ on which to roll the gyro out at container level and lower gently to the ground. 
Where there's a will...

There's a way...Roxy is slowly lowered back to the ground.

A job well done!
As can be seen in the photos, all went very smoothly with the able assistance of the Truck Driver and 2 of Terry’s groundsmen crew. 

2 days of reassembly followed, to return the aircraft to flight worthy status and this was in turn followed by a comprehensive check flight around the open fields surrounding the Museum. 
Roxy starting to look normal again, especially with proper wheels back on.

Getting up high to affix the rotors, but still being dwarfed by Howard Hughes' behemoth!
All too soon it was time to roll Roxy into the 2nd of the two huge display halls at the Museum and with the Museum now closed to visitors for the day, we were able to line Roxy up for a few very exclusive photo shots with some of the other ‘residents’ before proudly placing her in her winter-time display spot…Roll on the Spring time again!!
The Hughes H-4 Hercules 'Spruce Goose' may dwarf Roxy but our little autogyro has flown 10,000+ more miles than her new neighbour.

Roxy stands proud next to a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress

Roxy meets some impressive new friends...on the left is the nose of a F101 Voodoo, in the far corner is a F4 Phantom, hovering above that is a S61 Sea King and immediately behind the well traveled Gyro is P51 Mustang...and we mustn't forget the many space vehicles that make up the backdrop!

An enthusiasts dream...Roxy will be cuddling up to the world's fastest conventional aeroplane...the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird! 

There are many superlatives that can be said about the SR-71, but that is also true for our little friend Roxy :-)

Extremes...the world's furthest flying autogyro with the world's biggest single seat fighter (F101 Voodoo) both underneath the worlds fastest rocket powered aircraft, the amazing X-15 which reached 4,500 mph!

In Closing

I hope everyone has a very happy and fun filled festive season for the end of 2014…and with the difficulties of Russian Bureaucracy now safely behind us, I also hope that 2015 can finally be the year that we successfully complete the whole Gyrox Goes Global adventure.
When we started out on this Journey back in 2010, no one could have predicted the many twists and turns of how this Gyro-saga has finally played out across the surface of the globe. With the prospect of some very exciting and adventurous flying ahead (a record setting US Coast to Coast flight, followed by the first attempt of crossing the Atlantic Ocean by an Autogyro), I hope that everyone reading this can once more pick up again and follow the journey online, right through to the finish point back at Sandy Bay Playing fields, Larne Harbour, Northern Ireland.

Best Festive Wishes and a Happy New Year to all,


Norman and G-YROX/Roxy
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from all of us at Gyrox Goes Global

1 comment:

  1. Good luck Norman, for a safe journey home to Larne in 2015