Roxy takes to the skies again after winter hibernation

Norman Surplus carrys out an engine test on Roxy at Japan's Shonai Airport back in February. INLT 13-602-CON
Norman Surplus carrys out an engine test on Roxy at Japan's Shonai Airport back in February. INLT 13-602-CON

DAREDEVIL Larne pilot Norman Surplus has returned to the cockpit of his beloved autogyro after an extended winter break.

The intrepid adventurer, who is attempting to become the first person to circumnavigate the globe in a gyrocopter, is preparing for the resumption of his epic quest following a six-month delay.

Norman set out on his incredible journey from Larne’s Sandy Bay back in March, 2010 and has so far flown 13,000 miles across more than a dozen countries.

He arrived in Japan last summer, but he was grounded for eight long weeks trying desperately to obtain permission from the Russian authorities to fly over their air space and continue on his journey before the freezing winter set in.

Unfortunately, that clearance did not come in time, leaving Norman with no choice but to abandon Roxy and return home to await the spring thaw.

And now, the determined father-of-two, who survived a bout with bowel cancer back in 2003, has returned to the Far East to make final preparations ahead of the resumption of his expedition.

Norman will now put Roxy through her paces by carrying out a series of short test flights.

The Larne man wrote on his online blog: “I am very pleased to announce that Roxy is this week planning a return to the (hopefully) clear blue skies of Japan after a lengthy enforced winter hibernation period.

“The aircraft has been waiting patiently in Japan for the onward route through to the Bering Sea via the Far East of Russia to thaw after the long Arctic winter. Great care has been taken to keep the aircraft fit for purpose, with the engine given regular exercise every few weeks during the snowy conditions that have seen several metres of snow fall in this relatively remote region of Japan’s Yamagata Prefecture. Roxy, however, has been tucked up safe and sound in a small alcove in the back of the fire station building at Shonai Airport.

“Now, with spring rapidly approaching, the time has come to prepare for the coming flying season and we will now see a flurry of activity around the airport during the next two weeks.

“Through the winter, to assist in taking up the least amount of room in the fire station, the rotor blades were removed. The blades will be cleaned and inspected prior to putting them back on the rotor head and the aircraft thoroughly checked over prior to embarking on a series of short flights around the immediate vicinity of the airport.

“Flight restrictions from the Civil Aviation Bureau will likely mean that the aircraft will be confined to flights within approximately a three-kilometre radius of the airport boundary, however considering that this is a highly capable and manoeuvrable aircraft, this amount of space is ample to provide all the air space needed to perform the requisite flight checks,” he added.

Norman has not yet given a firm date for the resumption of his expedition. After leaving Japan, he aims to fly over the vast wilderness of eastern Russia, then cross the Bering Strait to North America.

From here, he will travel coast-to-coast across the USA, hop across to Greenland and head homewards to Sandy Bay and the end of his amazing journey.