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Mike Carter, The Observer

James Bond-style gyrocopter pilot gives up on dream of flying over eastern Russia

By The Siberian Times reporter
05 June 2015

Three year wait for permission which never came. 

Three years after first seeking entry to the air space of eastern Russia, he aborted this leg of his trip and transported his plane by sea to the west coast of America.  Picture: Surplus Art

Northern Ireland man Norman Surplus hoped  to go round the world in his flying machine, but he failed to get approval from the Russian authorities. 

Three years after first seeking entry to the air space of eastern Russia, he aborted this leg of his trip and transported his plane by sea to the west coast of America, before continuing his epic adventure. 

He had wanted to fly from Japan to Vladivostok, and then up the Russian coastline to Chukotka before crossing the Alaska. 

Friend Aleksandr Lameko, a Russian pilot who was helping him negotiate with the authorities, said the initial indications had been positive but approval was never granted. 

Norman Surplus and Roxy


Norman Surplus and Roxy


Norman Surplus and Roxy

Mr Surplus could not fly directly to Alaska from Japan because the gyrocopter - an open cockpit low altitude rotorcraft - has a maximum range of 600 miles. Pictures: Surplus Art

After three years Mr Surplus, 52, could wait no longer to complete his dream flight, in which he was raising money for charity. It is believed that the Russian Defence Ministry and FSB secret service resisted his application.

'The FSB called me and gave the impression they didn't want to help,' said Lameko. 'I told them it would be a great shame if the expedition was ended by Russia after passing through 18 countries. 

'I said to them: 'This is the 21st century and you don't need to look for spies in every corner. They just started saying it was a restricted zone, and what if he falls in the taiga?'

Hopes a senior official would intervene on the pilot's behalf were to no avail.

Mr Surplus could not fly directly to Alaska from Japan because the gyrocopter - an open cockpit low altitude rotorcraft - has a maximum range of 600 miles.

'The red tape of officialdom makes the actual flying of the aircraft feel like the most easy aspect of this journey,' he said.

Norman Surplus and Roxy


Norman Surplus and Roxy


Norman Surplus and Roxy

Norman Surplus continues his journey from Oregon on June 3. Pictures: Surplus Art 

Earlier he complained: 'We are simply left in the dark wondering why such a potentially advanced country, which can put the first man into space after all, has seemingly such a guarded and restrictive attitude to opening up its lower airspace.'

Surplus, a wind farm director, claimed the Russian requirements 'go far in excess of the more standard requirements asked of the flight in all the preceding 18 countries so far'.

He had flown 13,000 miles and overflown 18 countries - including the pyramids in Egypt and the deserts of Saudi Arabia - before being grounded in  April 2011 in Japan awaiting permission from Russian officials. 

The gyrocopter, which first flew in 1923 and predates the helicopter, is the last remaining type of aircraft that has yet to fly all the way around the world.

A version of the aircraft called Little Nellie was famously flown in the 1967 Bond movie 'You Only Live Twice'.

Norman Surplus


Norman Surplus

'Good luck, son'. Norman hugs his mother, Northen Ireland, March 2010.  A year later his Gyrox is spotted in Thailand. Picture: Norman Surplus Facebook 

In June 2012, he bemoaned:  'Sitting here, constantly waiting for news from Russia, it is very easy to form the impression that the bureaucrats are thinking that by simply ignoring us for long enough, we will be forced to give up, pack up and go home and stop bothering them.'

A patient man, he didn't give up until this week, when he restarted his flight in Oregan, crossing the US to Maine, and will then fly up the east coast of Canada and then to Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and the Hebrides in western Scotland. 

He hopes to be home in Northern Ireland next month. He was inspired to take on the challenge after surviving bowel cancer in 2003, and his aim was to  raise awareness of the illness.

He calls is a 'journey full of highs and lows'.

Comments (3)

At least my countryman asked for permission, Vladimir doesn't ask for [permission to violate other countries airspace with his warplanes. What a cheek, refusing James (the name is) Bond.



PS. This refusal was definitely not "From Russia with Love"!
Jaker, Dundalk
10/06/2015 10:48
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Unbelievable. This is a typical reaction from an authoritarian paranoid government. Spy satellites can detect much more than this man could've done from his 'copter. Yes, it's Russia's decision but it sound irrational.
jaycee, south africa
07/06/2015 17:31
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LOL !! "What if he falls into the Taiga?" That's lovely. Hahaha.
E. Espinosa, Edmonton, Alberta Canada
06/06/2015 03:51
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1

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