Northern Ireland

Larne pilot takes to the final leg of round-the-world trip

Norman Surplus
Image caption Norman Surplus began his round-the-world trip in 2010

"Pack light and pack tight" - the mantra of a County Antrim man getting ready to set out on the final leg of a round-the-world flight in an autogyro.

Nearly 10 years after he first began his mission, it was fitting that Norman Surplus left from his home town of Larne.

Mr Surplus will fly across Russia and complete what would be the first circumnavigation of the world in an autogyro.

On Monday, he took to the skies.

In August 2015, when he landed back in Larne, he set the record for single-handedly piloting his autogyro across the Atlantic Ocean.

He had previously flown across Europe, the Middle East, Asia and North America.

However, due to flight path restrictions imposed by Russia he was not able to fly across that country and complete the circumnavigation of the world.

Now he has the permissions to fly across the country and complete the trip.

"General aviation in Russia has opened up a little bit and so it now seems to be possible, although I'll to hold my breath until we're in," he told BBC News NI.

"From here I'll set off and fly to England, north of Holland, Germany, Poland, Lithuania and then to Estonia," he added.

He will meet up another gyro pilot who is attempting a world record - James Ketchell from Basingstoke - and together they will fly across Russia.

"That's the plan and hopefully it'll come to pass," he said.

'He'll be grand - he always is'

When he began this adventure more than nine years ago his son and daughter Felix and Petra were both in primary school.

"Before, I was so much younger and I didn't really completely grasp the idea. I have faith in him," said Petra.

"He'll be grand. He always is," she added.

Felix said he would be interested in following in his father's footsteps.

Image caption A farewell hug with son and daughter Felix and Petra

"I would like to learn myself. It's fantastic. It sort of feels like you're flying.

"In a plane you have a window but in an autogyro you just look down and it's just perfect clearness. It's really cold though," he said

Ahead of Mr Surplus lies 5,000 miles of Russian landscape, flying west to east and spanning seven different time zones.

The Russian authorities have given him a 30-day-window in May. He hopes to have it done in 17 days.

However, he knows it will be tough.

"I have to carry a lot more equipment as it's quite heavily forested, so you have to prepare for every eventuality," he explained.

"I have a sleeping bag, emergency bivy tent, carry mat and anything I need to survive if I have to land out there somewhere.

"There is not a lot of room in the gyrocopter.

"You have to squeeze it all into a tight space.

Image caption Mr Surplus takes to the sky in Larne on Monday

And the trip will also be a test of willpower.

"It's very much like flying a motorbike, so imagine sitting on a motorbike without stopping for six hours and concentrating the whole time because you're flying.

"It's a mental challenge as much as a physical one," he said.

With his survival suit on, propeller powered up and a final wave of the hand and he was off, hoping to complete what could be the first and longest running flight around the globe.

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