Aiming high: Irishman attempts world-record flying feat


A NORTHERN Ireland businessman has embarked an attempt to break a world record by flying a gyroplane around the world.

Norman Surplus (47) took off yesterday from Larne, Co Antrim, with the cheers of hundreds of well-wishers behind him. He aims to fly 27,000 miles, stopping off in 25 countries, and thus becoming the first person to circumnavigate the world in a gyroplane.

After high-fives with many banner-waving youngsters, Mr Surplus said emotional goodbyes to his wife Celia and young children Felix and Petra before climbing on board.

Mr Surplus only took up flying gyroplanes after he recovered from bowel cancer, which was diagnosed in 2003.

“The trip is designed to promote hope and encouragement for cancer sufferers across the globe. I want to say there can be a life worth living beyond the very real challenges of cancer treatment,” he said.

The dangers of the record attempt are evident. In January, when Englishman Martin Bromage was trying to fly a light aircraft from England to Australia, he crashed in thick fog and drowned a few hours later, near France.

Mr Surplus has been planning the adventure for more than two years. “The first gyroplane flew in 1923, that’s 87 years ago, and to date no autogyro pilot has flown around the world and it’s the last type of aircraft in existence yet to do so,” he said.

He will fly his yellow two-seat tandem aircraft over deserts, mountains, oceans, and some of the most remote places on the planet.

The length of the trip was extended due to a detour to avoid China, where there are difficulties with military airspace. He will be solo all the way apart from 11 days spent flying over Russia, when he will be obliged to have a Russian guide as his back-seat passenger.

The flight will take him from Europe towards Pakistan and India. He will fly over Thailand and the Philippines, along the east coast of Asia, before travelling to Alaska and over the US. He plans to arrive back in Northern Ireland in July.

“I’m planning to do about 300 miles a day. But with adverse weather and hold-ups in bureaucracy trying to get permissions to land, it will be hard to keep to a strict timetable,” he said.

Mr Surplus had successfully crossed the Irish Sea by 2pm yesterday. His trip can be followed in real time on the internet.

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