February 5, 2004
As of press time, Gus still intends to take off tomorrow (Friday) at 11am from the international airport at Ushuaia to attempt the dangerous trip around the South Pole. His plan is to fly 3,700 miles non-stop for 30 hours over Drake Passage, around the South Pole and return to Ushuaia.
The takeoff may be tricky as the plane will be heavily loaded down with more than 350 gallons of fuel. Gus will literally be surrounded by fuel tanks making the plane weigh approximately 4,300 pounds. However, with a runway of 10,000 feet, he has plenty of room to reach takeoff speed. For safety, there will three men posted on the runway to monitor takeoff: at the start point one man will monitor the engine for enough rpms to begin the trip down the runway, at 1,000 feet a second man will monitor the progress, then at 4,000 feet the third man will give Gus the verdict: continue or abort takeoff.
Weather conditions will determine takeoff. Gus is being assisted by a meteorologist, formerly with the Argentine Air Force, who is an expert on Antarctica. If there are clouds at 11,000 feet or below in the Drake Passage, the flight is a no go. At the moment, conditions appear to be clear, but very windy … blowing at 80 knots, according to Gus.
Meanwhile, the mechanic has been waiting for a shipment of replacement gyros, but the package won’t arrive in time. Instead, the Argentine Air Force has offered assistance with repairing the existing instrument and locating an additional part he could use. In fact, Gus reports that the Argentineans have been extremely helpful with the entire project providing assistance with a command center, parts for the plane, and advice about the trip. Their succinct and emphatic advice: “don’t go.”
After talking to his wife yesterday, Gus has reversed himself and promised to wear the water survival suit as he crosses Drake Passage, a four and a half hour leg, the most dangerous section of the flight. He has even practiced putting it on and taking it off in the cramped cockpit.
When asked why he is so driven to make this journey now, instead of delaying his historic adventure for a more favorable time, Gus replied, “This is my shot. I have to try. I wish it wasn’t so tough on my family and so tough on me. But, you get what you get.”
For further information about Gus’ trip and for audio/visual materials, please visit http://www.gusmcleod.com. For more detailed audio transmissions, please contact Josh Brooks or Karl Stoll at 3 Roads Communications.
301-662-4121 x 111