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Flying like James Bond in gyrocopters, British pilots cross Russia to reach Pacific

By The Siberian Times reporter
29 May 2019

James Ketchell and Norman Surplus had been holed up in the planet’s coldest region but in ‘tough’ flight reach Magadan.

Norman Surplus and James Ketchell pictured in Tomtor, Yakutia

After being marooned in Yakutsk waiting for better weather, the British pair conquered the mountains of East Siberia to reach the Sea of Okhotsk on the Pacific coast. 

In two days of epic flying in their gyrocopters, they went from Yakutsk to Tomtor - close to Oymyakon, the world’s coldest settlement. 

‘Really pleased with today’s flight, & our decision to wait for a weather window really paid off! A great days flying,’ posted Ketchell, 37.

In Magadan


In Magadan


Map of the route

The British pair conquered the mountains of East Siberia to reach the Sea of Okhotsk on the Pacific coast. 

After one night they flew on to Magadan completely a crossing of the remote Suntar-Khayata and Chersky ridges.

‘That was a tough day... great flying though, made it to Magadan... woohoo! Thanks for all the incredible support everybody.’

But having hit the Pacific, they are finding there is a lot of Russia still to go. 

Way to Tomtor


Way to Tomtor


Way to Tomtor


Tomtor airfield


Norman Surplus in Tomtor


James Ketchell in Tomtor

In two days of epic flying in their gyrocopters, they went from Yakutsk to Tomtor - close to Oymyakon, the world’s coldest settlement. 

They will now head north and east towards Alaska, a journey longer than their momentous flight from Yakutsk to Magadan.

The pair set off from Britain in late March, aiming to be the first to go around the world in an open-cockpit gyrocopter.

The route covers 26,000 miles (41,850 km) and 13 countries.

On the way to Magadan


on the way to Magadan


on the way to Magadan


on the way to Magadan


on the way to Magadan

‘That was a tough day... great flying though, made it to Magadan... woohoo!'

They reached Magan airport near Yakutsk on 21 May but were stuck waiting for the perfect conditions they needed to cross the mountains.

Gyrocopters travel at up to 80mph (128 kph) and has a range of 800 miles (1,290 km).

Ketchell blamed ‘wintery conditions’ in late May for the delay. 

‘Just need to have the right weather as we have two BIG mountain days ahead of us,’ he said before leaving Yakutsk, capital of Yakutia.

in Yakutsk


in Yakutsk


in Yakutsk

They reached Magan airport near Yakutsk on 21 May but were stuck waiting for the perfect conditions they needed to cross the mountains.

Surplus, 56, said: ‘The weather ahead of us has been unusually unsettled in these past few days’.

He was concerned about ‘the fickleness of the weather systems in these parts’, before finding the window they needed.

Serial adventurer Ketchell has already rowed the Atlantic Ocean, climbed Mount Everest and cycled around the world.

Ketchell in Yakutsk


Surplus and Ketchell


Norman Surplus at local barbershop


Norman Surplus with his barber


Meeting with locals in Yakutsk

Norman Surplus and James Ketchell having a good time in Yakutsk.

In 2015, Surplus, from Northern Ireland, attempted to circumnavigate the globe in his gyrocopter but failed. 

Russia refused him permission to transit from Vladivostok to the Bering Sea and on into Alaska.

This time the pair are using a different route and are more hopeful of success. 

Ketchell posted that ‘this is my world record attempt to inspire 1,000,000 young people while raising funds for two charities - Kindled Spirit, who support and rehabilitate young victims of human trafficking and slavery, and Over The Wall, who run residential activity camps for children with serious health issues’.

His donation page

James Ketchell's web-site

FB page of the project

Surplus can be followed at his FB 

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