Johanson Secures Fuel, Heads To New Zealand

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Australian pilot Jon Johanson, who was stranded last week at Antarctica's McMurdo Station when he was unable to refuel, left Antarctica Sunday, thanks to some help from a fellow aviation adventurer. British pilot Polly Vacher had stored a cache of fuel at McMurdo for her round-the-world flight in her Piper Dakota, but ran into logistical glitches and had to scratch her McMurdo stop. Vacher gave about 100 gallons of fuel to Johanson, which should enable him to fly on to New Zealand in his RV-4. He was due to arrive in Invercargill about 4 p.m. Monday local time (11 p.m. EST Sunday). According to Vacher's Web site, the donation to Johanson was made "on the understanding that he will now work tirelessly for Wheelies on Wings, the Australian equivalent to Flying Scholarships for the Disabled." Johanson made an unscheduled stop at McMurdo last Monday after higher-than-forecast winds forced him down. Officials in Antarctica, not wanting to encourage such unscheduled adventuring, declined to share weather information with the pilot, NZCity News reported yesterday. Johanson was receiving weather reports via friends in Australia, and was expected to take off as soon as the weather allowed; yesterday was stormy. Johansen's misadventure also caused a bit of a diplomatic storm between New Zealand and Australia. New Zealand shares the McMurdo site with the American scientific team and was fully behind the decision to deny Johanson fuel. Kiwi and U.S. officials there consistently criticized Johanson for his lack of planning for the flight and there was also a suggestion that he never really intended to fly as far as Argentina because he knew he didn't have enough fuel. Visit http://www.southpolestation.com/ for updates on his progress.