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Gyrocopter touches down in Beaver County |

Gyrocopter touches down in Beaver County

| Saturday, June 20, 2015 12:04 a.m
Bill Vidonic | Trib Total Media
Norman Surplus, 52, of Northern Ireland arrives at the Zelienople Airport on Friday, June 19, 2015, as part of a cross-country trip in an autogyro. Surplus is trying to set a world record as the first person to fly across the world in an autogyro.
Bill Vidonic | Trib Total Media
Norman Surplus, 52, of Northern Ireland arrives at the Zelienople Airport on Friday, June 19, 2015, as part of a cross-country trip in an autogyro.

Members of the Condor Aero Club couldn’t contain their fascination as a Northern Ireland man dropped from the gray skies over the Zelienople Municipal Airport Friday in a bright yellow, two-seat autogyro.

Norman Surplus of County Antrim in Northern Ireland made the brief stop at the airport in Franklin, Beaver County, during a solo cross-country journey that began in Portland on June 1. He has been flying around the world in the autogyro, or gyrocopter, since 2010, working to set a world record for the first around-the-world journey in the craft.

“I’d help you, but I don’t even know where to push it,” club member Ed Sattely of Economy said as Surplus guided the autogyro into a hangar. Sattely then handed Surplus, 52, a can of Miller Genuine Draft to welcome him to Western Pennsylvania.

Surplus is using the trip to raise awareness about bowel cancer. He was diagnosed about 12 years ago and told that the odds for surviving weren’t in his favor. After recovering, he set out on the world record attempt. His journey was delayed for three years in Japan because the Russian government wouldn’t give him permission to fly there, Surplus said.

“I ate a lot of sushi there,” Surplus said, finally deciding to bypass Russia to continue the journey.

Flight club members peppered Surplus with questions about the aircraft specs, and he said he can fly about 7½ hours a day.

“You take off like a heavy jumbo jet,” Surplus said of the aircraft laden with supplies and extra fuel. “There are no aerobatics on takeoff with this aircraft.” By the end of the journey, Surplus will have traveled over 27,000 miles through 26 countries.

Surplus regaled club members with stories about surprises during the journey. In one, he said, he landed between two villages in India. About 200 villagers rushed toward him from one side, and when he turned, another 200 rushed toward him from the other village. Villagers eventually formed a circle around him, and slowly realized he had no ill intent.

“I know exactly what it’ll feel like to be a space alien,” Surplus said.

Condor flight club member Ross Edmondson of Franklin Park hosted Surplus for at least a night before Surplus resumed his journey, which has been hampered in spots because of stormy weather.

Surplus said he’s gratified to know that people are tracking his journey online as he flies alone.

“It’s like 1,000 people are sitting in the backseat,” Surplus said. “Everybody’s watching online at home, and it means you feel a little less lonely.”

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

Categories: News
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