Max Conrad made aviation history in the Antarctic, 'with a little help from his friends'....the Puckered Petes...
I don't know if Max actually made it to the Pole that season. He was
flying down from South America and ran into problems at Palmer Station. He was
going to try again the next season by coming via CHCH. I haven't got all the
facts yet, but that would probably
explain his starting in 68 and his cards being postmarked in 70 unless someone
flew the postcards to the Pole for him and got them cancelled and put into the
mail system. I know that sort of thing has been done in the post for philatelic
By the way these post cards were pre-sold at $2.00 each. He had hundreds of them on his acft when he left Punta Arenas.
Billy-Ace 'Max Conrad's Piper Aztec'
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'Captain Elgin Long's like effort
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by Salomon Borten (Argentina)
[Ms. received 18 Jan. 1969]
ON THE 21st of September, 1968 a local newspaper had a brief notice that "The Flying Grandfather", Max Conrad, was to start a fantastic flight around the world, passing over both poles and covering a distance of more than 55,000 kilometers in a Piper Aztec plane named St. Louis Women.
This will be Conrad's longest solo flight during 40 years of astonishing the world with his aerial accomplishments. This 65-year-old pilot will try to establish a record for a flight over the poles and wants to establish a speed record between each pole and the equator. He will leave St. Louis, Missouri on November 1, 1968 in a direct flight to Calgary; from there to Anchorage, Point Barrow, Tromso, Paris, Casablanca, Abidjan, Rio de Janeiro, Buena Aires, Punta Arenas, and then to Antarctica, touching at Adelaide Island, Byrd Station, South Pole Station, McMurdo Station, Christchurch, Brisbane, Tarawa, Honolulu, San Francisco and, finally to complete the circle at St. Louis where he hopes to arrive for the Christmas holidays.
My heart started to beat faster when I read that he was going to stop in Buenos Aires. Just like any other Antarctic philatelist, I was thinking about the possibility of sending a few covers to be canceled during his Antarctic flight, but it was necessary for me to await his arrival. Also, I did not know if there would be any special covers or any kind of cachet. On 29 November 1968, Max Conrad arrived at Buenos Aires and landed at Don Torcuato Airport, Province of Buenos Aires. Without giving it much thought, I headed my car in the direction of the airport where I had my chance to talk with "The Flying Grandfather". We had lunch together, exchanged words about his flight, why he was called "Grandfather", and his reasons for attempting such a risky flight. Also a few anecdotes and jokes. He told me that he has 10 sons and 26 grandsons, and that he flies because "I have an airplane and not a rocking chairs" I watched him fixing the skis he will use when landing his plane on the snow in Antarctica. The skis had been in Buenos Aires since 1966 when he came here in the company of a mountaineer, W. N. Sayre, with the idea of making a similar flight. However, Inasmuch as he could not count on any logistical aid from Argentine polar ships because of the intensive Antarctic campaign in progress at that time, he abandoned the project.
On the present flight, he is carrying souvenir postcards (5,000 buyers at $2 a piece) which he intends to have canceled at Pole Station.
An interesting incident he related concerned the occasion last November when he had to land on the drifting ice island T-3, in the Arctic Ocean. To avoid the possibility of his wheels sinking in the snow, he had to deflate his tires, and that is when he hands became frozen to such an extent that he still has not completely recovered his sense of touch. At the Don Torcuato Airport he was assisted by an Argentine mechanic, Luis Angel Damnotti, whom he has known since 1966. This mechanic understood not one word of English nor did Conrad understand Spanish, but arrangements concerning the airplane were
carried out to perfection: they used sign language.
Upon asking him if he had a cachet referring to his flight and getting a negative answer, I promised him one. Before he left on 10 December 1968, I gave it to him, as well as a stamp pad with green ink. I also gave him some franked covers to post to me from different points in the Antarctic. As a sign of gratitude, he wrote me a letter of special greeting to the members of the ASPP [see ICN 14/4].
On 17 December 1968 I read this news item which saddened me: Max Conrad left Punta Arenas enroute to Adelaide Island but due to a storm he had to return to Punta Arenas." On the 21st of December I received the first cover sent from Punta Arenas dated 16 December On 23 December I read with pleasure the news that he had arrived at Palmer Station, meaning that he had changed his route and instead of landing at Adelaide Island, he landed 350 km further north. This flight from the continent (Chabunco Airport) took 9 hours and 14 minutes. At Palmer his plane was completely overhauled to be ready for the next leg of the trip to Byrd Sta.
On the nose of Conrad's airplane (N 123 LF) there is an inscription: Let's Fly. God grant that he is lucky on the remainder of his trip.
A POSTSCRIPT: [Ms. received 14 Feb. 1969.] No mail in addition to that already mentioned has been received by me up to this point. While I was at Palmer Station and Argentine Islands with the 1969 Lindblad Antarctic Expedition in January, I inquired of the Conrad mail but they couldn't give me any information about it. Also, while the Aquites was in Punta Arenas prior to the departure of the Lindblad cruise for the South, I visited with the chief of the flight tower at Aeropuerto Carlos IbaSez del Campo (Aeropuerto de Chabunco), and he read me the following:
11 December - Max Conrad arrived Punta Arenas.
I5 December - Max Conrad departed for Antarctica. Had to return, bad weather.
21 December - Recommenced flight. Landed at Palmer Station from where he departed for Adelaide Island. (It is a short hop.) He stayed there until he departed for Deception Island where he took off skis and returned to Punta Arenas. (One of the reasons for the interrupted flight was because he was not able to get 100-octane gas; they had only 80octane in Antarctica. He had to have 100-octane to fly with skis and without skis he could not land at Byrd or Pole Stations and comply with U.S. Navy requirements.)
15 January - Returned to Punta Arenas.
15 January - Departed Punta Arenas on direct flight to Santiago de Chile. A news item from Lima in a Buenos Aires newspaper says that Conrad continued from Santiago de Chile to Panama without stopping in Lima. This item was published 21 January.
Although all the details of Conrad's interrupted journey are of great concern to polar enthusiasts, it is of particular interest to note that the Chilean flagship, A.P. Piloto Pardo, provided continuous radio signals which permitted Conrad to keep on course.
Conrad indicated that he would try again next year by flying from the North Pole to New Zealand and then to McMurdo en-route to the South Pole.
Conrad was grossly disappointed in his own failure when he learned that two AWOL Sailors from VXE-6 had flown an open cockpit ultra-lite aircraft from Chile to Byrd Station. The two third class petty officers had to abandon their flight to the South Pole because they could not get the correct octane rating AVGAS for the ultra-lite at Byrd Station. The sailors then walked on to McMurdo. All of this was in the dead of winter and the only things the sailors had to sustain themselves with was a jar of Tang and a jar of peanut butter. Another source reported that Conrad had tried to bribe the sailors into transporting his 5,000 by subscription souvenir postcards to South Pole. When he learned of their aborted flight to the Pole he was ultimately relieved that the two sailors had refused to carry the postcards due to space limitations in the ultra-lite.
Whooda thunk it....