Gyrocopter pilot faces Russian ‘wall of silence’

Norman Surplus has once again been forced to temporarily call off his global record attempt. INLT 52-607-CON
Norman Surplus has once again been forced to temporarily call off his global record attempt. INLT 52-607-CON

DETERMINED adventurer Norman Surplus has vowed to continue his efforts to become the first man to circumnavigate the global in a gyrocopter, despite being forced to postpone his expedition for the third year in a row.

The 49-year-old, from Bay Road in Larne, has been in Japan since May awaiting clearance to continue his round the world flight. Having travelled over 8,000 miles and visited 18 countries in his little yellow flying machine, Norman has found his path blocked by Russian authorities, who are refusing to grant him permission to fly over their airspace.

This bureaucratic blockade has meant Norman has had to put his record-breaking mission on hold yet again, as the encroaching Arctic winter will make his onward route across the Bering Sea impassible.

But the father-of-two remains steadfast in his determination to succeed and is continuing apace with preparations for the resumption of his record-breaking flight.

Speaking from Japan, Norman told the Times: “We have made a fresh application via the British Embassy in Moscow to be allowed to fly at least as far as Vladivostok before the winter commences. From there, I am hoping to meet with some local pilots and find a Russian navigator who can then assist in helping the flight across to the Bering Sea, however this will not now be until the spring time 2013.”

The Larne man also spoke of his ongoing difficulties with the Russian authorities and his seemingly never-ending battles with red-tape.

“It has been a very frustrating summer of submitting applications and re-applications to the Russian authorities to allow the flight to proceed, but the worst aspect has been that the Russians are very poor at giving any feedback to our ongoing efforts,” he added. “We are simply met with a wall of silence the majority of the time and as such you never quite know if you are doing the right thing or speaking to the right people.”

Norman first set out on his expedition from Larne’s Sandy Bay back in March 2010, and has so far blazed a trial across half the globe. 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.

However, the single most difficult aspect of his entire expedition has not been endured in the air at all, but rather the “ongoing bureaucratic nonsense” he has encountered.

He added: “You could liken the experience to a round the world yachtsman being caught in the doldrums, that sector of the mid-ocean where the dependable trade winds fall away and the hapless sailor is trapped for many days/weeks in light, variable and fickle winds, always unsure of when they might escape its clutches and get under way properly once more.

“My own experience this summer has been a very similar feeling, only instead of blaming Mother Nature for my ongoing incarceration I have to blame Mother Russia. However, Mother Nature must always give up her grip of the doldrums in due course and as frustrating as it may be for the sailor held at the time, at least they are certain of the fact that their current stalling conditions cannot last for ever. I on the other hand do not have that same calming reassurance.

“But I am determined to not let some man-made bureaucratic process have the last say. It would be different if there was some technical or weather barrier that could not physically be overcome – it would be obviously very disappointing but it would also be fair enough, as you cannot argue with Mother Nature.

“Something that is a purely man-made barrier could easily become no barrier at all, given the right persuasion. This is what I continue to hope for,” Norman concluded.

Keep up to date with Norman’s adventures at his website