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Gyro Splashdown

Pilot undeterred by take-off accident

Gyrox
Gyrox aloft in Thailand shortly before its crash in Nongprue. Courtesy: gryoxgoesglobal

Combs
Michael and Michelle Combs at Wittman Field Thursday (May 6) after arriving from Chicago. The flight is expected to travel over 19,000 miles once the the Combs complete the project in Hawaii. Photo by Mary Jones.

Combs
Michelle Combs (center) documents media coverage of their trip while EAA Vice President, Membership Adam Smith (left) admires the multitude of onboard gadgetry that records every aspect of their flight. Michelle created Itsneverevertoolate.com and they have made social media a cornerstone of their outreach. The Combs estimate that 125,000 people a day follow their progress through Facebook alone. Photo by Mary Jones.

May 6, 2010 — Norman Surplus encountered a major setback last week (May 1) in his bid to circle the globe in an autogyro when he was forced to ditch his heavily laden aircraft in a lake after attempting a takeoff from Nongprue, Thailand in cross-winds and high temperatures. Norman, who departed Northern Ireland in late March and planned to be on the journey for four months, has vowed to make repairs and complete his mission.

For a brief moment last week there were actually three simultaneous long-distance flights in light aircraft under way: Surplus’ gyro flight; another circumnavigation attempt by two Swiss airline pilots in a pair of Flight Design CLTS aircraft on a westward circle of the globe; and the Flight for the Human Spirit by Michael Combs, EAA 877079, who aims to visit all 50 states in a Remos GX. Combs stopped in Oshkosh on Thursday morning at Wittman Regional Airport, where he was greeted by EAA officials. EAA helped him reignite his dream to fly.  Read more

Many pilots in the light plane world extol the virtues of their craft; like how much fun is to fly on a quiet summer evening. But what entices these pilots to take their aircraft, which are not known for their utility, on performance-busting, long-distance adventures?

“Each new story about another long distance adventure flight brings a little envy because I have no such flight in my immediate plans,” said EAA Light Plane World Editor Dan Grunloh. “Four years ago I flew 850 miles on a trip that took 14 flying hours - I learned it is the uncertainty and unexpected challenges along the way that truly make it an adventure.”

That sense of adventure, challenge, and - for the people involved in these current attempts - inspiration and awareness is what propels them on their journey. For example, Surplus is raising awareness and money for cancer, while the Swiss pilots, Yannick Bovier and Francisco Agullo, hope to benefit the environment by highlighting efficiency in general aviation. Combs is hoping to show that dreams never die.

Global Gyro Flight Goes Swimming
Hours after the Swiss had embarked on their global attempt, Surplus ran into trouble on takeoff from Nongprue, Thailand, and had to ditch in a lake. The craft and an uninjured Norman were rescued from the water within a half-hour. With the help of locals the aircraft and onboard belongings were soon drying in the sun and the engine was already running within two hours of the crash.
 
“I couldn’t turn right because there was a grove of coconut palms. On the other side there was a shallow lake so the best option was to try and go over the lake,” Surplus said in a e-mailed statement. “We just did not have the energy in the rotors to stay above the water and the aircraft tumbled over and ended upside down. I came out like you would from a canoe.”

Before his crash, Surplus had set a total distance record for an autogyro of 7,118 miles by the time he arrived in India. Surplus is flying an MT-03 tandem autogyro which has carried him across nearly two continents. He has made several challenging flights that have carried him over mountain ranges, such as the Hajar in Oman, and extended water crossings, including the Mediterranean Sea, and the Gulf of Oman.

As Norman proceeded across Pakistan and India, he was characterized in the Irish media as a tongue-in-cheek alternative to the volcanic ash-induced travel crisis in Europe billowed out of control. The Gyrox team says that the trip will continue in a few weeks once repairs are made. Be sure to follow Norm’s progress and discuss his trip on Oshkosh365.

Sport Pilot Rule Revives Dream Halted by Heart Ailment
Michael Combs had a dream to become a pilot, but a heart ailment nearly ended his life. Combs recovered and following the passage of the 2004 Sport Pilot rule, and with help from his local EAA chapter, his dream to earn his pilot certificate was renewed. Last month Michael embarked on a journey to visit all 50 states in a Remos GX light sport aircraft.

“Flying was one of my dreams since I was a little kid and I putting it off. After some health problems in 2003, I thought my dream was finished,” Michael said as he talked with EAA Vice President of Membership Adam Smith during a stop in Oshkosh on Thursday (May 6). “Obviously that dream has been fulfilled; now I want to bring 20 million people with me. So far we have reached half of them.”

EAA RadioEAA Radio’s Mike Morgan (Stuck Mic) caught up with Combs during a stopover in Indianapolis and spoke with him about his 40-day tour, “Flight for the Human Spirit.” Listen to part one.


Swiss Pilots Launch World Flight Attempt in Two LSAs

At the same time Norman Surplus’ global adventure encountered trouble, Swiss pilots Yannick Bovierand Francisco Agullodeparted Sion airport in Switzerland as they headed west for their own around-the-world flight. Exactly 100 years after the first Swiss flights, Agullo and Bovier have launched AZIMUT 270 - an homage to Swiss Aviation Pioneers. Like their countrymen at Solar Impulse, their journey is being made to inspire and to promote ecological flight in general aviation aircraft.

Agullo and Bovier are flying a pair of modified CTLS aircraft from Flight Design that feature 100hp Rotax engines and extended fuel tanks, which they will need since the planned route will traverse the South Pacific. At this writing, their flight had reached Brazil after skirting the eastern coast of Spain and western coast of Africa before making their Atlantic crossing. Stops in the United States include Miami, Dallas, Las Vegas, and Monterrey, California.

Sport Aviation June Issue: How to Fly Across the Atlantic
Ocean crossings have always been alluring to pilots. In the early days of flying, crossing these vast bodies of water was part of discovering the potential of the airplane. These days crossing an ocean is more about personal adventure and accomplishment. In the June issue of Sport Aviation we’ll explore many of the aspects of flying “Across the Pond” - what route to take, what to take in your airplane, what training is available, and what time of year is best.

 
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