Sunday 4 December 2016

Gyrocopter record breaker, Norman Surplus, to complete historic flight

Published 05/08/2015 | 11:12

A cancer survivor whose record flight around the world in a gyrocopter was blocked by Russian spies is hoping for a Ride of the Valkyries return home.

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After a summer island hopping across the North Atlantic, Norman Surplus is hoping fellow aviation enthusiasts join him in formation flight as he crosses the Scottish mainland within days.

Six-and-a-half years of planning, flying and bureaucratic wrangling will culminate with the Northern Ireland man crossing some of the most treacherous ocean on the planet in his 5m lightweight aircraft from Iceland to the Faroes, the Outer Hebrides and home to Larne, Co Antrim.

Mr Surplus, 52, has visions of recreating the famous scene from Apocalypse Now as he covers the final miles with the epic Wagner music ringing in his ears.

"Lets say it's a triumphant cause celebre for our gyro community to celebrate, not necessarily for my own achievement but for the whole aircraft type in general," he said.

"To be able to have a large number of brightly coloured gyros flying in loose formation together would be a spectacular sight both in the air and lined up on the ground. If only the weather can behave and make it all possible on the day."

The gyrocopter became famous after an appearance in the James Bond film You Only Live Twice. But nobody has circumnavigated the globe in one.

While Mr Surplus's Atlantic crossing is a record of sorts, the refusal of Russian spooks in the FSB intelligence agency to allow him transit from Vladivostok to the Bering Sea and on into Alaska has left it bitter sweet.

Despite that Mr Surplus picked up nine records for gyrocopter flights during his journey, another nine are on the cards and he is bidding to be recognised in the UK for a round the world trip, albeit with mitigating factors.

"I have to try to remain philosophical and enjoy the flight for what successes and achievements it could bring, rather than overly dwell on what it could not be," he said.

Mr Surplus set off from Belfast in 2010 as part of efforts to raise awareness and money for cancer charities.

Over the next year he flew through 18 countries in Europe, the Middle East and east across Asia to Japan where t he gyrocopter was put in storage for three years.

In September 2014 G-YROX was shipped to McMinnville Oregon in the US where it was put on display at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, most of the time under the tail of the Spruce Goose, Howard Hughes' enormous wooden flying boat.

In June this year Mr Surplus once again took to the skies flying from Portland Oregon to Portland Maine.

From there he has travelled into Canada, including covering hundreds of miles of pristine forest, out to sea to Greenland and around the island's southern shores before hopping to Iceland from where he is preparing the final weather dependant stages to Stornoway and home.

Mr Surplus's aircraft is known in its various guises as an autogyro, gyrocopter or gyroplane.

Nowadays it largely plays second fiddle to the helicopter but fans herald the 92-year-old technology which uses less fuel as only the rear propeller is powered while the top propeller is driven, like a windmill, by rushing air which keeps the craft airborne.

Despite its apparent fragility Mr Surplus testifies to its durability.

He has flown around the Petronas towers in Kuala Lumpur six times, a rough North Atlantic summer, a 10,500 feet flight over Yellowstone National Park, forest fires in India and a detour to the Devil's Tower in Wyoming from the air.

Mr Surplus said the troubles were worse on the ground than in the air although he did recall an emergency landing on a highway in the Saudi desert after storms threatened, much to the amusement of the local petrol station attendants.

Press Association

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