In 2011, pilot Norman Surplus was stymied in his attempt to become the first person to circumnavigate the globe in a gyrocopter. The problem wasn’t thunderstorms or forest fires or crash landings — although he did experience all of the above. The problem, as with so many things in life, was government bureaucracy.

A snafu with Russian air space authorities ended Surplus’ 2011 bid for glory, but the intrepid aviator is flying friendlier skies this week as he sets off on the first leg of a record-breaking voyage across the United States, Canada and North Atlantic. The 7,500-mile journey will ultimately land Surplus back in his home country of Northern Ireland.

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Surplus will be making the journey in a single-engine gyrocopter, sometimes called an autogyro — a low-speed aircraft first designed and successfully flown in 1923. Gyrocopters generate thrust from an engine-powered rear facing rotor, while the larger unpowered top rotor generates lift by way of autorotation.

Norman Surplus

Suplus’ retro-tech endeavor recalls the early days of open-cockpit aviation, when speeds were relatively low but danger was always high. In his 2011 round-the-world attempt, Surplus traveled through 18 different countries over the course of several months — more than 13,000 miles in total. He flew over deserts and forest fires and once crash landed in a lake in Thailand.

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The North American journey will hopefully be less eventful. Norman is set to depart this morning from McMinnville Municipal Airport in Oregon. The actual record attempt will start from the nearby Tillamook Airport, after which Surplus will travel over Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Maine, Massachusetts and Maine.

The Canadian and North Atlantic legs of the journey will commence thereafter, as details concerning airspace and logistics are worked out.