Gyrocopter man refuels in desert
Published 15/04/2010 | 12:07
A remote filling station in the middle of the Saudi Arabian desert had an unusual customer when a Co Antrim pilot trying to circumnavigate the globe in a gyrocopter was forced to make an unscheduled landing.
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 challenge after beating cancer, 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 had already completed a remarkable journey before he started.
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.