Wednesday 7 December 2016

Round-world gyrocopter pilot forced to land in desert

Published 13/04/2010 | 11:36

Norman Surplus landed his gyrocopter near a garage in the desert of Saudi Arabia because of an impending storm. Photo: PA
Norman Surplus landed his gyrocopter near a garage in the desert of Saudi Arabia because of an impending storm. Photo: PA

A remote filling station in the middle of the Saudi Arabian desert had an unusual customer yesterday when a Co Antrim pilot trying to circumnavigate the globe in a gyrocopter was forced to make an unscheduled landing.

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Norman Surplus, 47, who is attempting to become the first person to fly round the world in the flimsy forerunner to the modern-day helicopter, needed to find a landing spot in a hurry to avoid an impending storm.

The entrepreneur, who decided to take on the madcap challenge after beating cancer, certainly took the petrol pump attendants by surprise when he touched down.

But despite major communication problems at the outset, the father-of-two soon struck up a good rapport with the station's owners, who invited him in for tea and allowed him to camp overnight.

"I camped there for the night and drank sweet Arabian tea," said Norman.

"They could not speak English and I cannot speak Arabic but we communicated well enough."

Norman has clocked up nearly 3,500 miles since leaving his hometown of Larne last month.

No one has ever managed to circle the world in a gyrocopter, also known as an autogyro, which was made famous by an appearance in the James Bond film You Only Live Twice.

While Norman has another 24,000 miles of solo travel ahead of him, the businessman turned have-a-go pilot had already completed a remarkable journey before he even started the challenge.

Five years ago his outlook was bleak when he was diagnosed with cancer. But after months of treatment he beat the disease and is now intent on breaking a world record, raising money and awareness for cancer research along the way.

He still needs sponsors to help him complete the challenge. Email gyroxgoesglobal@gmail.com for more information.

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