Published on May 11th, 2022 | by Guy Warner0
Book Review – First Gyro
First Gyro by Norman Surplus 535 pages SB, £20.00 Surplus Art Publishing, ISBN 978-1-7399621-0-4 With a comprehensive accompanying free, on-line image, map and audio gallery at firstgyro.net
This is a remarkable story, well-written by a proud son of Larne, amply demonstrating his outstanding qualities, which may be described as an indomitable spirit, allied to dogged determination in the face of personal adversity, grit, perseverance and resourcefulness in dealing with the many challenges he encountered on his journey; supplemented by considerable technical and seat-of-the-pants flying skills. Even though it is over 500 pages long, the pace never flags, it is an easy and absorbing read.
Having survived cancer, Norman set himself the daunting and difficult task of being the first pilot to fly around the world in a gyroplane, in this case a Rotorsport UK MT-03, registered G-YROX or more familiarly, ‘Roxy’. It was powered by a Rotax 914 1500 cc piston engine, which could use either AVGAS or ordinary unleaded petrol. Its cruising speed was plus or minus 95 mph, depending on a tailwind or headwind, with a standard endurance of 3 hours, boosted to 7 hours by the addition of a fuel bladder strapped to the rear seat.
The text is written in diary format in an easily accessible style. The reader will soon feel that he or she is sitting behind Norman in the tandem-seat cockpit. It is a deeply personal story in which he reveals his innermost thoughts, fears, feelings of awe and delight, as well as describing the places, natural wonders, topography, land use, environments, animals and people he encountered. The original plan was to complete the project in a matter of months, instead – through no fault of Norman’s – it took 9 years in total. It may be divided into three parts – Northern Ireland to Japan 2010-11, West Coast USA to Northern Ireland 2015 and Northern Ireland to Oskosh, Wisconsin in 2019. This came to a grand total of 32 countries and 27,000 nautical miles.
He was faced with many difficulties: terrain, ocean crossings, extremes of heat and cold, cloud, rain and wind, sourcing fuel supplies, ditching and, not least, obstructive officialdom. Norman pays due tribute to his support team and to the many kind and helpful people he encountered. He was unwilling to be bamboozled by bureaucracy and gives copious evidence of his regarding ‘No’ as merely the opening of negotiations. As he writes, ‘It was 1% trailblazing and 99% sheer bloody-minded hard work,’ adding, ‘ at every turn, on every flight, it was always a journey into the unknown, I was on a voyage of self-discovery.’
Sadly, Norman did not live to see the publication of this book but has created a fascinating memoir, which I highly recommend to anyone with an interest in adventure, human endeavour and aviation.