RECORD-breaking gyrocopter pilot Norman Surplus has finally touched down in Russia – without his little yellow flying machine.
The Larne man, who is attempting to become the first person to fly around the world in a gyrocopter, has been locked in negotiations with the Russian authorities for the past year as they continue to refuse him permission to fly over their airspace.
Since departing on his epic quest back in March 2010, the 49-year-old has travelled over 8,000 miles and visited 18 countries. But the expedition ground to a halt in summer 2011, when he found his path blocked by the Russians.
This bureaucratic blockade has meant Norman has had to put his incredible mission on hold for the third year in a row, as the encroaching Arctic winter will make his onward route across the Bering Sea impassible.
For the past year, Norman’s aircraft – which he affectionately calls Roxy – has been hangered in Japan while he awaits the clearance he needs to continue on his amazing journey.
Now, in a bid to get his expedition back on track, the father-of-two has travelled to Vladivostok in the Russian Far East to meet local officials face-to-face and plead his case.
Throughout his travels, Norman has always immersed himself in the local culture, and his visit to Russia has proven to be no different.
Having taken the opportunity to meet local navigators and flying club members, Norman was invited to fly some aerobatics in an ancient Russian built Yak 52 – an experience which the daredevil pilot described as “truly hair-raising”.
He has also been busy delivering a number of presentations about his journey so far and answering questions about his various adventures. Young people at a local English language school were delighted to hear about Norman’s exploits, especially as native English speakers are a very rare event in the area.
Speaking about the purpose of his visit to Russia, Norman said: “Since August 2011, my aircraft has been waiting in Japan for the necessary but very elusive Russian flight permission.
“Hopes were high this summer that the authorities would be minded to allow the flight to continue, but alas the summer came and went without getting the go ahead.
“Being a very small, open-topped aircraft, the weather window to transit across the Bering Sea is confined to only the briefest of Arctic summer months between late May and early September, and with winter again closing in we are forced to put the continuation of the record attempt on hold for yet another winter of waiting in Japan.
“This type of global world record attempt relies very much on the good natured, can-do engagement and participation of all the countries en route – in our case, 24 countries in total - and they all have to cooperate together to allow this last remaining type of aviation world record to finally be realised.”
Despite his ongoing battle with red-tape, Norman remains hopeful that a solution can be worked out in the coming winter months, so that by spring of next year, he will be in a position to continue his epic adventure.
“People can help our case by lobbying the Russian Ambassador in London to bring the situation to the attention of the Embassy,” Norman concluded.
To follow Norman’s adventures, visit his website www.gyroxgoesglobal.com