'Amazing Race' contestant makes College Park layover
by Meghan Mullan
Jan. 13, 2005
Barbara L. Salisbury/The Gazette
Local pilot Gus McLeod, who holds the world record for a flight he flew over the North Pole, spoke to a crowd of visitors at the College Park Aviation Museum Sunday about his piloting adventures. McLeod also recently competed in the CBS reality TV show 'The Amazing Race.'
A local aviation hero is back to promoting aviation and attempting record-setting flights after a brief stint on the CBS reality television show "The Amazing Race."
Gus McLeod, 50, of Gaithersburg, who made an attempt at his second world record flight in 2004 from the College Park Airport, was poised to try again this fall. But he put the journey on hold when he and his daughter Hera McLeod, 24, were selected to be contestants on "The Amazing Race."
McLeod, who holds a world record for being the first person to fly over the North Pole in an open cockpit plane in 2000, is an adventure pilot and a retired CIA agent. He was busy overseeing repairs to his experimental model single-engine airplane for his second attempt at circumnavigating the Earth by way of the poles when his daughter asked him to be on the show.
"I didn't want to do it," he said. "My wife talked me into doing it with my daughter."
Now McLeod said he is glad he postponed his trip to compete on the show because he realizes that having the time with his daughter was valuable. "Parents don't often see children like that. I had to treat her as an equal partner."
The show involves sets of teams traveling to destinations as far flung as Senegal and Hungary while competing in challenges and looking for clues. After each leg of the race, the last team to finish is eliminated. The team remaining at the end wins $1 million.
McLeod and his daughter were eliminated during the Jan. 4 airing of the pre-taped show after falling behind when a metal gate fell on Hera McLeod's head.
"We never could recovered after that," he said. "I feel bad about that."
Hera McLeod was knocked down and the duo fell 15 minutes behind the rest of the teams and failed to catch up while paddling across the Danube River or while eating a spicy Hungarian soup.
Despite the disappointing elimination, McLeod said the reality show experience was "extremely fun."
His favorite part of the program was when he went fishing in a dug out canoe in Senegal. He fished with locals who continue the traditional methods of their ancestors. "That was something really special--a task humans have been doing for 3,000 years," he said. "There was a human connection there that you miss as a seasoned traveler."
Now back at home in Gaithersburg, McLeod visited the College Park Aviation Museum Sunday and spoke to a standing room only crowd of about 100 fans and aviation enthusiasts.
Museum Director Cathy Allen said she was "not surprised" to see McLeod on a reality television show.
"Gus is a competitor in all areas of his life," she said. "He loves challenges."
Allen said it is good to have McLeod back promoting his love of flight in College Park. Since Sept. 11, 2001, aviation has suffered, Allen said. McLeod is one of the best speakers she said she has ever heard, and he enjoys reaching out to children.
"It's not just his amazing achievements," she said. "Gus wants everyone to understand about flying, what an honor and what a great thing it is."
Thanks for the article. I would never have placed Gus as such an adventurer given his, well, fitness level. I really liked this team and was sad when they were eliminated. Odd that 9/11 would affect aviation as a hobby. If anything, JFK Jr.'s death should have.
As I understand Gus gained a LOT of weight in preparation for his open-cockpit flight to the North Pole. He looks a bit thinner in the picture accompanying the article.
Originally Posted by gilberto
Hobby Aviation at the DC area's close in local airports was severly limited after 9/11, The airport in this article, College Park was one of those most affected by the restrictions and additional requirements put in place due to its proximity to the Capital, White House, Pentagon, etc.....
Thanks for the article! I don't really like how the article attributes their loss completely to the gate. It was not the gate falling on Hera that eliminated them per se. Getting the last ticket, yes, but is that completely the fault of the gate incident? They were slow and at the back of the pack to begin with. Plus, their choice of detour totally did them in. It is a significantly much better conclusion that their detour choice caused their elimination than the gate. Anyway, the whole thing is over, so sorry for belaboring the issue. My actual real reason for posting is to say how weird I think it is that Gus is from Gaithersburg, Maryland, and so is Courtney Kupets, 2004 Olympic Gymnast, silver and bronze medalist, and the most congenial gymnast ever to compete (severely biased).. it's not a commonly heard-of city.
Originally Posted by eny
The gate may have slowed G&H down, but I wouldn't say it made them lose the race. If you noticed your partner was hit pretty bad by something of that size, what would you do? Be like Johnathan and keep going, and leave your partner behind?
Nonetheless, I think it's right for them to put at least some blame on the gate, but at least they didn't flip out about it.
yeah, Gus and Hera themselves didn't unwarrantably blame anything for their loss, but I just felt the article misrepresented the situation a little.. I guess it's not a big deal really.
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