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Adventure Aviator Gus McLeod Sets Course for Home Delays Pole-to-Pole Circumnavigation

Marambio Station, Antarctica
February 18, 2004

Today, adventure aviator Gus McLeod departed Marambio Station, Antarctica crossed Drake Passage, and landed in Ushuaia, Argentina. He will then set course for the U.S. and his home state of Maryland. After two valiant attempts to reach the South Pole, McLeod has conceded that logistical matters and weather problems are insurmountable at this time. However, McLeod, 49, remains determined to be the first person to circumnavigate the world pole-to-pole in a single engine plane. He already holds the record for his historic flight to the North Pole in April 2000 in an open cockpit plane.

“It’s disappointing to come all this way only to turn back. But, I’ve learned a lot on this trip and will be even more prepared to cross the South Pole at a later date,” said McLeod. “One way or another, I’m going to complete this mission.”

During his journey McLeod faced a few harrowing moments:

  • While flying over Cuba, the plane’s electrical system became erratic and disabled his navigational devices. With assistance from Cuban air control McLeod returned to Florida for electrical repairs.
  • During the flight from Panama City to Peru, McLeod was ordered to land in Ecuador where he faced a tribunal who believed his flight had been classified as a military operation.
  • Upon departing Peru, McLeod discovered that the fuel cap was not secured on one of his wing tanks and he was losing fuel rapidly. He reduced the loss by lowering one wing at an angle until he could land.
  • The trip from Santiago, Chile to Ushuaia, Argentina was cut short when fuel from the auxiliary tanks stopped flowing to the engine at 13,000 feet. Without power McLeod quickly switched the fuel valve back to the main tanks and the engine came back to life. He then made a cautionary landing in Rio Gallegos, Argentina, only 180 miles from Ushuaia.
  • McLeod crossed Drake Passage four times. During one crossing he was in the midst of 90 mph crosswinds that were creating 50 foot swells in the sea, making rescue attempts impossible in the event of an emergency.
  • During his second attempt to the South Pole, McLeod narrowly escaped two emergencies. First, on take off from Marambio, the plane was so heavy with fuel it descended towards the sea before gaining enough speed to increase altitude. Second, while attempting to climb above icy conditions McLeod ascended to 10,000 feet where the plane lost power and descended to 3,000 feet before regaining control.

McLeod, who received an honorary doctorate from Florida Atlantic University and has been nominated to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross, plans to return home quickly to reorganize his flight. Later this year, McLeod intends to reverse his route by flying to the North Pole first and then making his way to the South Pole when weather conditions are more favorable.

McLeod’s flight began ceremoniously on December 29, 2003 in College Park, MD in the Firefly, an experimental aircraft donated by Korean Aerospace Research Institute. During the month of January, the plane was outfitted with additional fuel tanks, electronics and mechanical improvements at Velocity aircraft in Sebastian, FL. By January 23, the work was completed and McLeod departed Florida.

During his flight to Antarctica, McLeod made stops in Panama City, Panama; Ecuador; Tumbes, Peru; Lima, Peru; Arica, Chile; Santiago, Chile; Rio Gallegos, Argentina; then Ushuaia, Argentina where he staged his assault on the South Pole.

On February 7, McLeod made his first attempt to reach the South Pole. However, his plane, the Firefly, became covered in ice forcing him to turn back. He landed safely at the British Antarctic Survey research station at Rothera near the Antarctic Peninsula before returning to Ushuaia, Argentina.

One week later, on February 14, McLeod departed Ushuaia to make a second attempt across Antarctica. Meanwhile, members of the Ushuaia support team had headed for home. He reached the peninsula to make a stop at the Argentine research station in Marambio. From there he headed for the South Pole, but 90 miles later was again faced with icy conditions that forced him to return to Marambio. With weather conditions worsening, his support team gone, and lacking permission to land at the Antarctic U.S. research base at McMurdo, McLeod has elected to return home and try again later this year.

McLeod’s adventure is being produced for a television documentary by 3 Roads Communications Inc. of Frederick, MD, the producers of the public television series Legends of Airpower.

For more information, see http://www.gusmcleod.com.


Hilary Burke
3 Roads Communications Inc.
241 East Fourth Street, Suite 202
Frederick, MD 21701
tel: 301-662-4121 x 112
fax: 301-662-4661

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