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Wed, Dec 10, 2003

Good News and Bad News For Jon Johanson's New Polar Flight Record

... 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 Pole.

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 hours.

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 Zealand.

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 South Pole.

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 the universe.

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...



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