30 Jan 2004

American Samoa extends special welcome to fundraiser pilot Polly Vacher

4:22 pm on 30 January 2004

Airport authorities in American Samoa pulled out all stops when British pilot Polly Vacher visited briefly during her round-the-world flight to raise funds for the disabled.

Work on the runway at Pago Pago International Airport, which would have shut the facility during the pilot's visit, was held off until she left.

Ms Vacher said she was delighted to receive such special treatment.

"I had heard over the plane radio that once I had landed, the airport was going to be closed for work on the runway, and I was anxious because I wanted to get to New Zealand because I'm meeting my husband in New Zealand, and when I arrived, the airport chief was there, and he said 'what time would you like to leave?' So I said, 'well, I'd like to leave at six o'clock tomorrow morning', thinking it was impossible, and he said 'we'll hold up work on the runway until you have taken off'."

During her overnight stay she was presented with various gifts from a Tourism official, before heading to New Zealand.

Ms Vacher is the first female pilot to fly over the North Pole and the Antartica in a single engine plane.