HAVING flown half way around the world in his little yellow flying machine, intrepid adventurer Norman Surplus is preparing to take on a travelling companion for the remainder his journey.
The daredevil pilot, who is currently in Japan awaiting clearance to continue his epic round the world flight, has already travelled over 8,000 miles and visited 18 countries in his bid to become the first person to circumnavigate the globe in a gyrocopter.
But the 49-year-old, from Bay Road in Larne, has now found his path blocked by the Russian authorities, who are refusing to grant him permission to fly over their airspace.
This bureaucratic blockade has thrown Norman’s expedition into serious doubt, as he must cross the Bering Sea before the short Arctic summer comes to an end. Otherwise, he will be forced postpone his adventure for the third year in a row.
Despite this massive setback, the Larne man remains hopeful and is continuing apace with preparations for the resumption of his record-breaking flight. And when he finally takes to the skies again, he will not be travelling alone.
Keeping Norman company will be none other than Dougie the Gastronaut, a mascot for UK-based online cancer charity Stomawise. Gastronauts are puppets supplied mainly to children who have had to undergo surgery that results in them using a stoma bag to collect bodily waste.
Norman, himself a survivor of bowel cancer, holds Stomawise and other such charities very close to his heart, which is why he is keen to help raise awareness for the cause.
The father-of-two said: “I underwent surgery and chemo treatment for advanced stage bowel cancer back in 2003. Although my treatment didn’t require me to be fitted with a stoma, it still made me much more aware of the types of practical difficulties faced by others in very similar situations.
“For young children it must be a particularly challenging time as they come to terms with and perhaps have to even relearn the practicalities of everyday life. Dougie and his Gastronaut colleagues have a very important role to play in helping with that learning process in a fun and creative way.
“I am very happy that Dougie has been chosen as the flying Gastronaut and I am sure we are going to have some great adventures together.”
Stomawise is currently raising funds to purchase several static caravans across the UK to help post surgical ostomates in their recovery. The objective of the project is to assist people re-build their confidence and self esteem after abdominal surgery and the formation of a stoma.
This is achieved by offering them a break from the day-to-day pressures of home where they can focus on their own needs.