Record-Setting RV-4 Pilot Wins Honors

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An Australian pilot who was criticized for recklessness two years ago has won one of aviation's highest honors. Jon Johanson, 49, was awarded the Federation Aeronautique Internationale gold medal for attaining 48 FAI world records, flying an RV-4 he built himself. "Jon's hard work, meticulous planning, initiative and commitment when building his own small aircraft were supremely demonstrated when he flew it over distances and terrains that would have challenged the most intrepid and skilful aviators in much larger, industrially produced aircraft," FAI secretary general Max Bishop said. However, officials at the joint U.S.-New Zealand McMurdo Base in Antarctica were less than enthusiastic when Johanson made an unscheduled visit there in 2003. McMurdo doesn't stock supplies for wayward adventurers so officials there refused to sell him the 400 liters of avgas he needed to continue his flight over the South Pole. He eventually got the gas from British adventurer Polly Vacher, who'd arranged to have the fuel shipped to McMurdo before abandoning her flight there. McMurdo officials were mildly critical of Johanson's unwelcome appearance. "The pilot should have made the decision to abandon his original flight plans much sooner when faced with these weather conditions and returned to Invercargill in New Zealand," a base spokesman said in a news release at the time.