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Thu, Sep 08, 2011

G-YROX Stalled By Russian Bureaucrats

Enthusiasts Again Lobby Embassies To Allow Circumnavigation Attempt

The attempt of an Irish cancer survivor to become the first person in history to circumnavigate the globe in an autogyro is again at risk for being interrupted for the winter.

Norman Surplus set out from a field near his home in Larne, in Northern Ireland, on March 22, 2010 for what was expected to be a four-month crossing of 26 countries and some daunting stretches of open water. His open-cockpit MT03 gyroplane, G-YROX, is powered by a turbocharged Rotax 914 engine, so it has some reserves for high-and-hot operation, and a large fuel bladder in the passenger seat was designed to allow range of up to 800 miles. An accomplished sailor, Surplus commissioned the creation of a special water survival suit for an extra margin of safety while crossing the Bering Sea and North Atlantic in his single-engine piston aircraft.

The trip started well, although it required some ad-libbing to get around bureaucrats without established procedures for light sport rotorcraft. But the biggest delay Surplus faced came after a forced ditching in a lake in the the Philippines last summer, when the conditions and aircraft load proved a bit much even for the 914. The machine was quickly retrieved and saved with help from some locals, but Britain's CAA held up approval to fly until it could dispatch its own inspector to sign off on repairs to the MT03's stainless steel mast. The resulting delay cost Surplus the chance to cross the Bering Sea during the seasonal weather window. So, he pickled the aircraft in the Philippines, spent last winter at home, and went back in the spring of this year to try again.

Problems have continued. China flatly refused routing through its airspace, so a Japanese route became the only option. In Japan, light gyroplanes are limited to designated ultralight fields, and must stay within a 9 km radius of their base, in contrast to the scope of Surplus's 43,000 km mission. A concerted worldwide effort which included contact with Japanese embassies in many countries by other enthusiasts finally yielded permission to fly the length of Japan's island chain, which was quickly completed in July.

But now, red tape is again threatening to force a hiatus for a second winter. In a September 3 blog post, the G-YROX support team explains, "The problems, once again, are all down to bureaucracy and the inability of the Russian authorities to issue the required permits that would allow Norman to fly up the east coast of the Russian mainland before making the treacherous crossing of the Bering Straits and reaching the aviation-appreciative shores of Alaska, USA."

The team reports civil aviation officials in Russia can't act without approval from the military, which still sees "a spy in every corner," and has openly stated it is not interested in allowing the journey to enter Russian airspace. It's hard to miss the irony, given the recent resumption of intentional violations of the airspace of other countries by Russian bombers. Surplus's support team is again hoping an appeal to supporters, like the one which lit up the phones at Japanese embassies around the world, will be equally as effective in dealing with Russia.

The September 3 blog posting concludes, "Considering what he has been through it will be a shame that some faceless pen pushers will end this epic, brave and unique journey that has inspired so many and kept the world on the edge of their seats for so many months.

"But even so, Norman is still upbeat and being a man who never gives up, still has an optimistic view on the events. There has been a massive assault on the world’s media over the last few days by Norman and the G-YROX team, in the hope that with enough public backing the Russian authorities may change their stance and finally give Norman the permits he so urgently needs."

FMI: www.gyroxgoesglobal.com

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