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Adventurer Norman Surplus encourages hope for sufferers

17 September 10 18:13
Norman Surplus at former US airbase in Philippines

Gyro-man Norman Surplus has urged cancer sufferers to see that life is still worth living after treatment.

Norman set off from Larne in March and has travelled almost 18,000 km to the Philippines.

The adventure sportsman and cancer survivor had to call "half-time" on his world record attempt because of the early onset of Winter in the far North of the Bearing sea.

He is now back in Northern Ireland.

Mr Surplus said delays earlier in his voyage - which included a splash landing as he tried to take off in Thailand in May - meant he had missed the summer window to cross the sea to Alaska.

His trusty autogyro is now sitting in the Philipines. The next leg of the journey will be up into the very cold Bearing Sea, North of Russia and on to Alaska.

"We'll set off again in late spring, because summer comes late in the far north," he said.

As long as the aircraft stays enroute, Norman said the break should not affect the record-breaking attempt.

However, the aerial odyssey is not just about breaking records.

"We're doing it to raise funds for cancer awareness charities. It's prompted by my personal experience of bowel cancer in 2003," he said.

He also hopes his trip will inspire those going through chemotherapy to see that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

"It's to send out a message of hope and encouragement to people to remain positive through those dark days. To show that there can be life worth living after treatment."

Norman said that the experience of flying solo half-way across the world was very similar in some ways to the trauma of chemotherapy.

"In chemotherapy you do things which are not normal, so it's like an adventure.

"The way I approached it was to take it on. Mentally I thought 'all right, I'll engage with this thing. I'll try and take an interest in it and try and treat it a bit like a wild adventure.'

"I didn't know the outcome at all. The prognosis at the beginning was very bleak. I only had a 40% chance of living 18 months."

"With the expedition, it's a similar mental exercise. You can't stop to think about what you're doing.

"You're 200 miles off shore in this very tiny aircraft with another 200 miles to go before the next bit of land. Plus you're flying solo and there's no autopilot."

He said his craft had "now flown a further straight line distance than any other autogyro in history, crossing some 16 consecutive countries".

Norman still has half a world of challenge ahead of him.

Next year his planned route will take him over Russia, into North America, past Greenland until he crosses the North Atlantic and finally completes his circumnavigation of planet Earth in Larne, County Antrim.

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