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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

Lasting tribute approved for Co Antrim record-breaking gyrocopter pilot Norman Surplus

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has approved a lasting tribute to record-breaking gyrocopter pilot Larne man Norman Surplus.

It was proposed by Coast Road Ulster Unionist Councillor Maureen Morrow at a council meeting at The Braid in Ballymena on Monday evening.

Cllr Morrow put forward a motion asking that the main hall at the Sandy Bay Centenary Pavilion be dedicated to the memory of the late Norman Surplus.

Mr Surplus had completed a book about his travels, ‘First Gyro’ about a week before he passed away in April. The former entrepreneur, video game designer and lifeboat second coxswain had been suffering from bowel cancer.

The 59-year-old had completed his round the world trip in an autogyro in 2019, becoming the first person to have completed a trip of this magnitude in this type of aircraft travelling 27,000miles and visiting 32 countries.

Norman’s first attempt was in 2010 taking off from Sandy Bay in Larne when he got as far as Japan before Russian authorities refused to allow him entry.

The undeterred father-of-two spent years battling for clearance – appealing directly to president Vladimir Putin – in a bid to continue his quest for the record and eventually completed the full circumnavigation in the summer of 2019.

Cllr Morrow told the meeting that Norman, a past-pupil of Larne Grammar School, had a keen interest in outdoor pursuits.

She recalled that he had initially expected his adventure on what he described as his “motorbike in the sky” to take four months to complete instead of nine years.

“It was a world-first, bringing camera crews to welcome him home,” she said.

Cllr Morrow went on to say that Norman was a founder member of the Harbour Community Group lobbying council for a “community space at the harbour” over many years “highlighting community need” with elected members and was delighted when he saw plans for the new Sandy Bay Pavilion at Tower Road on display.

“He was even more delighted to attend the first meeting of the Harbour Community Group after the pavilion had opened and was particularly pleased with the community space that had eventually been created.

“I think that the dedication of the main hall in the Sandy Bay sports pavilion to the memory of Norman Surplus and the work he did through the local community group and as a memorial of his record-breaking round the world flight, situated beside where he took off and landed, would be very appropriate.”

The motion was seconded by party colleague Larne Lough Cllr Keith Turner who said:

“Throughout history, the way to recognise outstanding achievement has been to name public places after those who have succeeded where others have failed and to fulfil a dream whilst defeating the odds.

“I sincerely hope members will agree that Norman was such a pioneer and he deserves to have his name preserved for posterity and his name at Sandy Bay will inspire more people to perform feats for the community of derring-do.”


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