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Cancer survivor plans historic round-the-world trip in an autogyro

By Lesley-Anne Henry

His name’s Surplus. Norman Surplus. The 47-year-old father-of-two intends to circumnavigate the globe in his own ‘Little Nellie’.

The ambitious 27,000-mile expedition due to start later this month will see cancer survivor Mr Surplus fly over 26 countries in an autogyro — the aircraft made famous in the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice.

The 115-day journey will take him from Sandy Bay in Larne, across Europe, past the Egyptian Pyramids, over Saudi Arabia, over India, Asia and Russia, along the Canadian Rockies into the USA, round the tip of Greenland and through Iceland before finally flying home via the Faroe Islands.

If successful, the Larne man will become the first person to fly an autogyro round the world.

He said: “The trip is designed to promote hope and encouragement for current cancer sufferers across the globe. Also, I want to say that there can be life worth living beyond the very real challenges of cancer treatment.

“I had cancer in 2003 and I had surgery and chemotherapy in 2004. While I was recovering from the surgery I was watching daytime television and saw repeat of a restoration programme where they were repairing an old autogyro. I did a bit of research and found that there was a school in Cumbria where you could do your pilot’s licence. So I thought, if I get through the treatment, there’s something I’d like to try and do.”

Mr Surplus, a wind farm company director, is confident his bid will succeed.

Cruising at about 200m above the ground in an open cockpit craft measuring just 5m long by 1.5m wide would not be the easiest or most comfortable way to traverse the globe. But being cooped up for about six hours a day is nothing compared to the logistics of organising the expedition.

“The flying is really the easy bit,” he said. “It’s getting everything else gathered up, the visas and the different money that’s giving me the headaches.

“The main breakthrough has been getting permission from the Russians to fly across the far east part of Russia. We have to get across that bit of Russia to get to Alaska and it’s the only way to get over the Pacific.

“They said yes in principle that I could do it, but I need to be able to speak Russian on the aircraft so the British Embassy found a volunteer to sit in the back.”

Mr Surplus added: “I’ll also be wearing a special flight suit for the trip so in case I did have to ditch in the Atlantic or somewhere I’d have my dry suit on with a personal locater. I’ll be carrying a life raft as well. I’m the second coxwain on Larne Lifeboat so I’ve had plenty of survival training, but hopefully that’s not going to be needed.”

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