Around the World in an Autogyro for Social Networking and Bowel Cancer

Photo from Norman's JustGiving page.

Northern Irish pilot and cancer survivor Norman Surplus is back home in Larne, Northern Ireland, after surviving a crash in Thailand and making it to the Philippines.

He’s flying his amazing yellow autogyro, the G-YROX, around the world. You can help by following his progress on his Facebook page and donating to his effort. News about the voyage:

During take-off from a small airstrip at Nong Prue in Thailand, Norman and his gyro fell out of the sky. Thankfully Norman wasn’t hurt but his trusty GYROX ended up in a bad way. It took a while but repairs to the aircraft were eventually completed and a very relieved Norman set off once again on his journey. He reached the Philippines before red tape and bad weather called a halt on his progress for this year. He’s now back in Larne but come Spring 2011, he’ll be back in the Far East to restart his flight from where he left off.


The autogiro, autogyro or gyroplane, in case you don’t know, is that funky thing that’s neither a plane nor a helicopter; the rotors only provide lift after the vehicle is up to speed.

Apparently, one has never been flown around the world. Surplus left Northern Ireland on March 22 of this year, and traveled across Europe, to Greece, Crete, Egypt, Pakistan, Burma, etc. etc. etc.

If you’ve never flown in a small airplane, let me tell you that this kind of journey would be a mind-boggling feat even in a market-tested small civilian craft. The G-YROX is much smaller than a typical civilian plane; it is open-cockpit and is about the smallest thing I can imagine flying in short of a rocket pack. The craft is a two-seater, but he’s traveling solo. Surplus points out that it is structurally sound without the cockpit and body; it’s basically a metal framework.

If the photo above doesn’t drive home to you just how tiny this craft is here’s a screencap of Surplus wheeling the thing down the driveway at his home in Northern Ireland. To me, it looks kinda like a 1980s-era Honda Goldwing painted bumblebee colors.

So…can we all agree that Mr. Surplus survived bowel cancer with his intestinal fortitude very much intact, Pacific crossing or no Pacific crossing?

Surplus says in the wonderful short video on Vimeo (which I couldn’t get to embed):

It’s the only type of aircraft in existence that has never been around the world. It’s only been in the last ten years that we’ve had [an autogyro] that is capable of flying around the world. Notably, physically, the range of the aircraft has had to be extended to get across the great expanse of the North Atlantic. We’re going to be doing that by adding some special fuel bags to the back seat.

According to his Facebook page:

He has experienced highs and lows, flown over some of the most inhospitable places on Earth and seen sights that most can only dream about, but what makes this circumnavigation so special is that it is the first one where Facebook has been intimately involved. Norman has been using the power of Facebook to not only nurture interest in the flight but also to create new friendships with people who have been ready and willing to assist Norman when he arrives in their part of the world.

This has created a global community of fans and followers, who now have, via this page, a place to share their experiences about Norman and his adventure, meet other like minded people and catch up on the bits of information, news and photos that don’t make the main Norman and GYROX pages.

So feel free to share this page with your friends and if you have something you would like to post, that is directly related to this page, please do so by all means.

That Facebook page, again, is right ‘chere, and the trip has an offical website at The site promises the ability to track Norman’s progress around the world using SPOT GPS, which sounded pretty awesome, but it’s apparently down while he’s back in Larne.

The G-YROX is a Rotorsport MT-03 Gyrocopter, which runs on a 100-horsepower engine and travels up to about 100 miles an hour. You can find more information at the Rotorsport UK website, which claims that gyrocoptering is the fastest-growing aviation sport.

Craft roughly similar to Surplus’s (without the Transatlantic fuel bags) can be found used for around £75,000 in ready-to-fly condition.

There’s a great 1-minute video of him arriving in Pattaya, Thailand, from Pattaya People Media:

Here’s even cooler video of Surplus in Cairo — cooler because it underlines the painstaking nature of travel like this. Check out the blur of birds immediately overhead at 0:29. Not to spoil the suspense, but he does finally get off the ground at about 2:10.

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