Finally a dream came true. My first visit to Japan did happen. I always wanted to experience the Japanese culture and of course see as much Japanese Gulfstreams as possible. In general it is a very nice country. The people are very friendly, everything is clean and well organized. As I did not rent a car I only used the public transport. After you know the tricks it is a convenient and easy way to travel around and not very expensive.
On the 29th of October 2014 I flew Brussels - Heathrow - Tokyo-Haneda arriving early in the morning of the 30th. My hotel for the whole stay was in Terminal 2. From my room (no. 7113) in the Haneda Excel Tokyu Hotel I could see the general aviation platform in the far distance. Noted was already one of the two Japanese Coast Guard GV's present. I decided to start spotting right away. I took the monorail from Terminal 2 to Tenkubashi and leaving the station I turned right. After a few hundred meters and crossing a busy road I could overlook the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB) platform and hangar. Besides the two Globals also one of the two GIV's could be seen.
If the aircraft are positioned in a good way taking pictures is not a problem. Just step on the fence bars along the road and shoot away. A lot of people passed by but nobody bothered. Following the roads closest to the airport fence in about 10-15 minutes the general aviation platforms and Japan Coast Guard (JCG) hangar can be reached. Taking pictures is possible at different locations but it depends on the position of the aircraft and the search for an opening to put your camera through.
After returning to the airport I positioned at the observation deck on top of the International Terminal. All arriving and departing traffic could be watched. The Coast Guard GV departed at 10:30 and returned at 16:30. The second JCAB GIV arrived at 13:45. This put me on my feet again for a second visit to the JCAB hangar by Monorail and some more pictures.
So this was my score after the first day:
One of the goals of this trip was the Iruma AB open house on Monday 3 November with a good opportunity to see the JASDF U-4's. On Friday I decided to give it a try already because normally there is some airshow flying display practice the days before the open house. And as a lot of Japanese people also visit the open house I would avoid the big crowds on Monday. I took a train from Haneda Airport to Iriso station near the air base. Perfect planning of these trips by train could be done by using Google Maps (routeplanner, public transport) and some directions provided by Bob. It took me about 2 hours in total. By the way also Sayamashi Station is a good end station near the air base. I asked the directions to the airport and started walking.
Suddenly 7 C-1's took off together with a U-4 which I could not read. The Gulfstream returned some 45 minutes later flying in formation with a C-1. Eventually I walked almost around the complete airfield (using the perfect Scramble Airfield guide) and enjoyed the action and the hundreds of Japanese photographers present. On the platform there were all the Gulfstreams I was looking for so no need for me to return to Iruma on Monday for the Open House!
So what did I see on this great second day:
31-10-2014 Iruma AB
On day three I decided to take a gamble and go hunting for the Japanese registered GII based at Nagoya Airport. I had no clue if it would be there or visible at all. From Haneda Airport I took the train to Shinakawa. From there I bought a ticket for the Shinkansen bullettrain to Nagoya. In total it takes about 2,5 to 3 hours from Haneda to Nagoya. When I arrived at Nagoya it already started to rain. I took a taxi and after explaining several times which airport I wanted to go (not the International Airport!) I reached Nagoya Komaki Airport in about 20 minutes using the tollway. At this time it was raining more and more so no ideal conditions for exploring the airport. But I was very lucky. When leaving the taxi in front of the terminal building I looked to the left and noted a Gulfstream like tail! Walking into a parking lot and peaking over a fence the GII was clearly visible in front of a hangar. I took a quick blurry, far distance picture and noted the titles (Diamond Air Service) and serial with my binoculars. I could not leave my camera out because it would have been soaked. The area where I saw the GII did look fenced tightly. So I do not think it could be reached any closer. But because of the rain I did not bother to explore the airfield any further. I took a taxi back to the railway station and the Shinkansen back to Tokyo. Mission accomplished!
At my return I also checked the General Aviation platform at Haneda.
Also today no sign of the second Coast Guard GV.
So after three days I had noted already 9 out of 10 Japanese Gulfstreams which exceeded my expectations. The two remaining days concentrated on some cultural visits to Tokyo city, some museums, Yokohama and the temples of Kamatra. Of course checking the General Aviation platform at Haneda also every day and hoping that the second JCG GV would appear eventually.
On the 4th of November I had to return to The Netherlands. Waiting for my delayed BA flight to Heathrow G550 N53M (5331) landed around 09:35.
Finally arriving at Brussels I managed to note the following before driving home.
After almost a week in Japan I only missed JCG GV JA501A of which there was no sign at all. I guess deployed somewhere else. But i'm not complaining! It was a great trip with my first Japanese registered Gulfstream, my 1200th G-frame, a Japanese GII and a total of 11 new airframes. Maybe I will return in the future for the missing one....
For an overview of the history of the Japanese Gulfstream fleet click here.