First Man to Fly to North Pole in Open-Cockpit Plane, Now Attempts to Be First to Circumnavigate Both Poles in Single-Engine Plane
December 29, 2003
Gustavus (Gus) McLeod, who made history in 2000 when he became the first pilot to fly to the North Pole in an open-cockpit plane, took off today from College Park, MD, trying to become the first person to successfully circumnavigate the globe, crossing both the North and South Poles, in a single engine aircraft. McLeod is pinning his hopes on a tiny one-of-a-kind plane called the Firefly, which barely accommodates his 6’2”, 250 pound frame. Designed by Velocity Aircraft of Florida, and modified by Korean Aerospace Research, the Firefly features a forward canard wing configuration similar to the one used by the Wright Brothers. The propeller is in the rear.
McLeod, who has been planning this 30,000 mile journey for three years, is making the flight to honor the pioneers of aviation, especially his childhood heroes, the Tuskegee Airmen. He had planned to leave on Columbus Day, and arrive home before December 17th, in time to take part in the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers first flight in Kitty Hawk, NC. Those plans had to be revised when a snowplow at BWI airport damaged the plane he had originally intended to fly, a vintage Beech 18. The dream could have died then and there, but McLeod would not give up. After several months of negotiations with the Koreans, a deal was finally struck in time for McLeod to be able to attempt to transverse Antarctica while it’s still summer there.
The trip is expected to last about two months. The toughest leg will probably be Antarctica, which will require McLeod to fly for 27 hours straight, without a break, over the planet’s most desolate terrain, where temperatures are likely to reach more the fifty degrees below zero. At least three other fliers have attempted this feat in the last year alone, and all either crashed or turned back because of the inhospitable conditions they encountered in Antarctica.
McLeod’s adventure is being produced for television by Three Roads Communications, Inc., of Frederick, MD, the producers of the public television series Legends of Airpower. “Gus is a great inspiration to all of us,” says Three Roads president, Russ Hodge. “He shows people that they are capable of making their dreams come true.” For more information about Gus McLeod contact Josh Brooks at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.gusmcleod.com, which will be updated by a team from Florida Atlantic University shortly after the New Year’s Holiday.
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