Tennis Adventurer returns after 'magical' gyrocopter challenge around the world

Adventurer returns after 'magical' gyrocopter challenge around the world

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Adventurer James Ketchell has become the first person to fly solo around the world in an open cockpit gyrocopter – despite almost being struck by lightning.

Sir. Ketchell, 37, of Basingstoke, departed from Popham Airfield in Hampshire on March 31 in the small plane, similar to what was seen in the James Bond movie You Only Live Twice.

He completed the 24,000-nautical mile, 175-day journey Sunday, and landed in front of hundreds of wellwishers.

Earth around on gyrocopter trip
James Ketchell celebrates after landing at Popham Airfield (Andrew Matthews / PA)

"It's quite overwhelming, it's magical," Mr Ketchell told the PA news agency after landing.

“I have seen many amazing sights in the last six months. One of the best is probably to fly into Popham.

"It's an incredible feeling, and I just hope that I can reach my challenge and inspire as many people as I can."

His Magni M16C gyrocopter runs at 70 knots with a range of only 700 miles and its cockpit is open to the weather.

His journey took him across Europe, Russia, Canada, the United States and the Atlantic, en route to Greenland and Iceland, before his last staging in the Faroe Islands.

But at one point in Canada it could all have been in danger.

Sir. Ketchell said: "I was almost struck by lightning and had to try an emergency landing on the road."

He said he was glad it rained on Sunday when he landed, as it allowed people to understand some of the challenges he faced.

“It shows people that flying around the world is not so easy.

"People had a little better understanding of what I've been trying to achieve."

Earth around on gyrocopter trip
James Ketchell becomes the first person to circumcise the world in a gyrocopter (Andrew Matthews / PA)

During the tour, Mr Ketchell, a British scout ambassador, set himself the goal of speaking at a school in each country he visited to help motivate the young people.

Describing visits to schools in Siberia, he said: “The look on the faces of these children, big eyes staring at me with their mouths open as I told these stories as they were translated, was a truly magical feeling and all the tension went away.

"This is what this is all about."

Sir. Ketchell described how he spent his teenage years depressed and lacking confidence, and how a serious motorcycle accident caused him to turn his life around.

He said: "With the advent of social media, teens are now afraid to do anything in case they are hung up, pulled and held together because they are concerned about their image.

"I'm trying to get my message that" don't worry about anyone else and get out there and do your thing and your life will be free. "

His challenge is to raise money for Kindled Spirit and Over The Wall children's charities, and donations are available at: http://bit.ly/JamesKetchelldonate

He said: "It's all a massive blur to be honest, the fact that I have literally flown around the world – it has not sunk in, it will probably take a while to feel really good, it has been magical.

Around the world's gyrocopter challenge
The first people to congratulate him were his parents John and Trish Ketchell (Andrew Matthews / PA)

“The highlights have undoubtedly been the people I have met, I pay forward favors the rest of my life, and it doesn't matter what country I was in, what language they speak, people have been so helpful, people have been amazing . "

He added: "As soon as you get up in the little gyro and you start flying over remote Russia, Siberia, Greenland, it blows your mind how big this planet it is and you can feel quite small.

“Wildlife has been incredible, I've seen massive black bears running around Siberia, seen whales, to name it.

"I've flown 20 ft from the ground, it was just incredible and there are no other planes that you can do, it's magical, you can really immerse yourself in the surroundings, you can smell the water, seaweed on the beach if you could Bottle that experience, you would make a fortune. "

He said the main challenge had been the required concentration levels during the flight for many hours.

He said: "This project is tremendously mental, you can never relax, you are always on the cusp of thinking about the next flight, always watching the weather.

"What people don't realize is that the concentration levels are really high when you're flying, it's like flying a motorcycle in the sky, you're fully exposed to the weather because it has no cockpit, it's mentally drained, it is a cumulative build up of fatigue, in that sense this is the hardest thing I've done. "

The circumnavigation follows his previous "ultimate global triathlon" which saw him rooting across the Atlantic in 2010, climbing Everest in 2011 and cycling 28,969 km (18, 105 miles) around the world in 2013.

When asked what is next, Mr Ketchell said that no human has ever bypassed the earth by air, land and sea.

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