Dodged Muggers and Terrorists, Overcame Bureaucrats, Set Record
-- Beaten by Monsoon
By Aero-News Senior Correspondent Kevin R.C. "Hognose"
We just got the word
that the Global Eagle world flight came to an end -- in October. At
Aero-News we were pummeled this way and that by the events of 2004,
and we didn't get the press release. We don't think there was a
press release, actually, as the demoralized Global Eagle team
trickled back to their day jobs. So it was news to us, and no one
had mentioned it at the rotary forum.com web site (where I hang out
sometimes), so we reckon it's probably news to you, too.
After a hiatus between June and October, forced by rampaging
Indian monsoons, Global Eagle pilot Barry Jones planned to return
to a diminished goal: he was now going to take the gyro to
Australia, still an awe-inspiring distance to fly in an open
gyroplane. "The change of plan for Expedition Global Eagle was as
hard a pill to swallow as the day I crashed Eagle 1," Barry posted
in a European gyro pilots' forum, before he returned to India.
"Those who are very close to me know only too well how much of an
impact the cancellation of the World Flight had on me personally
and how desperately we fought to make something of the Expedition
by pressing on to Sydney."
But he was caught
between the Scylla of Canadian winter and the Charybdis of his
promise to return to his military duties in 2005 (many of his team
members were also soldiers on sabbatical, compounding the problem).
A Sydney flight had echoes of the great MacRobertson race, and had
the benefit of being possible -- barely -- in the time available.
If everything started going right.
But everything kept going wrong. When he finally caught up with
his Magni VPM 16 gyro in Guwahati, India, the monsoons got one
last, devastating lick in: his gyro had been immersed in
floodwaters. The avionics and engine control unit were ruined. Even
the flight controls, which are mechanical, didn't feel right.
Repairs on site were not practical, and the team pulled the plug on
The odds were always against success. Every obstacle in the air
and on land and sea seemed to rear up in front of British Army
Warrant Officer 2 Barry Jones ("Beej" to his friends), a seasoned
helicopter pilot who was going to do something no-one has ever
done: a world circumnavigation by gyroplane. He had problems with
regulatory Jobsworths in England, their counterparts in the
Byzantine bureaucracy of India and everywhere in between, delays
that cost him key staff members, threats from terrorists that
forced a rerouting, a mugging, a mission change, a crash, being
made to exchange his modern gyro for an older one, and more
complexities and hazards than a James Bond film festival. Barry can
forevermore introduce himself as "Jones. Barry Jones," after
arry's catalog of
problems included "...a forced landing in the Alpine Mountains, a
number of technical faults, a number of additional landings due to
strong winds across the Mediterranean Sea and a carefully crafted
political situation to allow me to cross Israel into Jordan.
...Sand Storms in the Saudi desert ... the ‘mother of all
Sand Storms’ in western India but not before the
‘mother of all sea crossings’.... some long flights and
some very scary ones... and of course I was on a ‘weight loss
program’ throughout...." the last comment being a reference
to the digestive tract problems that plague travellers.
The "mother of all sea crossings" from Muscat (Oman) to Karachi
(Pakistan) is a record, and almost certainly the longest over-water
flight of all time in a gyroplane (no one has ever crossed the
Atlantic or Pacific in one of these machines -- Barry had hoped to
be first). Barry was forced away from the logical shorter crossing
of the Persian Gulf by the tense situation along the Pakistan/Iran
The problems included the intransigence of the British CAA/PFA,
which banned the use of the original planned aircraft, the latest
Magni M16 V2000, on the grounds that it was not approved. The PFA
continues to sanction the worst deathtraps in the air, and bans
some of the safest rotorcraft, in its willful ignorance -- but
that's a story for another time. Barry and the Global Eagle team
were also pestered by immature computer hackers, who in one case
broke into his own account, spreading chaos among his supporters.
But what finally did Global Eagle in was the monsoon that just
would not quit.
Now, as Barry (right)
prepares to get back into the swing of flying Army helicopters,
while presenting his adventures to school kids, he can reflect on
what he did get right.
He did make it from Middle Wallop in the England to Guwahati,
India. That his travelogue makes one very uninterested in tourism
to Guwahati doesn't distract from the accomplishment.
He showed that a gyroplane can be a practical & safe means
He pointed the way to improvements that will need to be made in
gyroplanes to increase their value as transportation and utility,
not merely sport, aircraft.
He set that overwater record, and possibly some others.
He raised the profile of gyros worldwide.
He, and the Expedition Global Eagle staff, are disbursing
remaining funds to charity, just as they'd have done if
And he did it all safely.
All in all, not a bad record of accomplishment. And while he
disclaims any designs on further high-profile flight, I suspect
that we haven't heard the last of WO2 Barry Jones.