... And The Bad News Is That He's Stuck At McMurdo
First The Good
News: On Monday 8 December, Australian pilot, Jon Johanson
became the first pilot to fly a homebuilt, single engine aircraft
over the South Pole. It is believed that he is also the first
person ever to fly a fixed wing aircraft solo over the South Pole
on a long distance flight.
Jon set this new world record during a non-stop flight from
Invercargill, New Zealand to overfly the South Pole before landing
at the joint US(McMurdo)/NZ (Scott)Base in Antarctica.
He flew his special RV-4 aircraft, call sign VH-NOJ, that he has
already flown three times around the world including over the North
His aircraft was modified for this history-making flight with a
specialized engine and increased fuel capacity.
The total flight distance was 3,345 nautical miles and took 26.5
The flight has taken
years of planning. Jon is delighted to have made it this week, in
time for the centenary of powered flight on 17 December 2003.
Jon's flight is an amazing effort, worthy of recognition in the
history of aviation as a true endurance flight in an experimental
aircraft. He has re-created the pioneering spirit that led to that
first powered flight a 100 years ago.
Jon left his home town of Adelaide South Australia quietly on
Saturday morning for a 10 hour flight to Invercargill, New
Jon took off for his record flight on Sunday, at 5.30pm Adelaide
time (8pm in New Zealand). He planned to fly direct from
Invercargill to the Antarctic, over the South Pole and then to
Ushuaia in Argentina.
But headwinds were much stronger than forecast. With airports
few and far between in the Antarctic, Jon changed his destination
to fly to McMurdo after overflying the South Pole. Jon remains at
McMurdo /Scott Base unable to depart until he can get more fuel.
The Australian Government is currently negotiating with relevant
US/NZ authorities to assist.
Last week Jon made a final test flight, setting a new class
record Round Australia, flying the designated course from Adelaide
via Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Townsville, Darwin, Port Hedland
(fuel stop), Carnarvon, Perth and back to Adelaide. His elapsed
time was 38.5 hours which included only one stop of 1.5 hours. This
record breaking flight was just one of the flights in the extensive
test program undertaken during the planning for the flight over the
All the work on Jon's aircraft was done at Parafield Airport in
South Australia, mostly self-funded by Jon with some help from a
few key sponsors who were willing to support Jon's vision with
their products and services.
And The Bad News: Johanson may lose his
airplane if cooler minds don't prevail at McMurdo Station, where he
remains at this hour without enough fuel to fly home.
McMurdo Station is located on the southern end of Ross Island,
an island of volcanic origin approximately 45 miles wide and 45
miles long. Large Emperor and Adelie penguin rookeries and Skua
rookeries are located on the island--it is NOT the garden sport of
Johanson's unexpected landing has left him stranded with no fuel
to fly home... and McMurdo's policy is to NOT help out...
ostensibly to avoid "encouraging tourist flights" to the base. If
the airplane is left to the elements out there, he'll lose it,
that's for near-certain. It is a BRUTAL environment--even at this
time of year.
ANN Readers are urged to call their elected reps and members of
the National Science Foundation to put some pressure to bear so
that Johanson can borrow some 20-30 gallons of fuel to get home.
Based on the politics involved here, it's going to take the
"highest authority for the McMurdo station director to be told he
has to help."
We'll keep you up to date...