HE has flown 13,000 miles across more than a dozen countries in his attempt to become the first man to circumnavigate the globe in a gyrocopter.
He has crossed expanses of desert, raging forest fires, shark-infested waters, and even survived a crash landing in a lake that left him upside-down.
But there is one obstacle that intrepid pilot Norman Surplus just cannot seem to overcome – and that is bureaucracy.
Throughout the course of his epic journey, which started at Larne’s Sandy Bay back in March 2010, Norman has been swimming against the tide in a sea of seemingly never-ending red tape.
Faceless bureaucrats in numerous countries have been a constant source of frustration for the 48-year-old Larne man, forcing him to endure endless delays as he patiently waited for clearance to fly over their airspace.
These delays ate into Norman’s carefully planned schedule, and in September 2010 he had no choice but to put his expedition on temporary hiatus as the weather took a turn for the worse in the Philippines.
Having restarted his journey in May this year, Norman quickly found himself face-to-face with his old nemesis bureaucracy once again.
For the past two months, Norman and his little yellow aircraft – which he affectionately calls Roxy – have been grounded in Japan, awaiting clearance to leave the country’s airspace and also to enter Russia via Vladivostok.
Norman, who survived bowel cancer back in 2003, had called on his legion of loyal followers to make their voices heard by writing to the Russian Embassy and urging them to give him the permits he needed to carry on his expedition.
But it seems the campaign to get Norman back in the air has fallen on deaf ears, and for the second time since he took off from Larne, the father-of-two has been forced to call a temporary halt to his flight as wintry weather begins to set in.
A disappointed Norman wrote on his blog: “The Bering Sea has once again begun to pull its all enveloping, winter cloak of snow and ice around itself as an extremely efficient, protective deterrent against any would-be open-cockpit flyers who would dare to challenge it at this most volatile and changeable time of the year.
“Who would have thought when recommencing the circumnavigation flight in May this year that I would still be facing the prospect of seeking to over-winter Roxy in yet another far-off land only a few short months later? Yet that is exactly what has come to pass.
“This situation may change if the permission does now come through miraculously soon, but on current form it’s perhaps better odds to back me achieving all-out victory in the All Japan Sumo Wrestling Championships that are being screened on TV at the moment.”
After weeks spent soaking up the culture in the Far East, Norman will soon bid farewell to the friends he has made and return home to his family.
Roxy will be safely stored in Japan over the winter months, awaiting Norman’s return in spring 2012.