A contaminant found in the fuel of Gus McLeod’s Firefly appears to be sabotage. The mysterious incident has forced further postponement of McLeod’s planned pole-to-pole solo flight around the world.
“After an analysis of the contamination, and cutting the tanks open for inspection, the verdict is inescapable,” the Maryland pilot said. “The fuel was contaminated with a solvent that caused the fuel tanks to dissolve. This substance clogged fuel lines and injectors, ruined control units, stuck engine valves and created a mess that will take me most of the winter to sort out.”
A chemical found in the tanks apparently was paint thinner that had been used to clean the airplane. The partially-filled can had been left nearby when the cleaning job was finished, McLeod said. “To me, this seems like a crime of opportunity or a mischievous prank,” he said. “If it was a prank it was truly a sick one. It could have caused death or serious injury. If it was something else, your imagination is as good as mine.” An investigation is underway.
After cleaning and reassembling the engine, McLeod moved the airplane to “an undisclosed location.”
McLeod vowed that he will make the pole-to-pole flight in the spring. “This will not stop me,” he stated emphatically. “Fortunately, the poles are not going anywhere and they will be there this spring.”
McLeod is well known for his flight to the North Pole in a Stearman in 2000, and participation with his daughter in television’s “Amazing Race.” The North Pole flight was chronicled in a National Geographic Explorer television special and “Solo to the Top of the World” from Smithsonian Books, written by McLeod.