March 13, 2014
Quick, name the most famous female aviator of all time? Of course your answer was Amelia Earhart, a revolutionary figure in aviation with a tragic story to boot. However, I contend that Jerrie Mock should have been in your decision set. Wait ... Jerrie Who?
In 1962 Mock, an airport manager in Columbus, OH, and a 500-hour private pilot, was looking for a challenge. Her husband suggested, "Why don't you fly around the world?" and her dream was born. Two years, 250 hours in the logbook, and an instrument rating and Jerrie Mock was ready to make history. She was not alone, however as she was racing against time and competitor Joan Merrian Smith to become the first woman to successfully fly solo around the world.
During her 22,860-mile journey Mock battled fatigue, equipment problems including radio malfunctions, rough engines, and electrical fires. The weather was another complication with legs flown through icing conditions, sandstorms, thunderstorms, and excessive heat all adding to her challenges. There were also moments of pilot error; on March 31, 1964 while enroute from Algeria to Cairo she misidentified an airport, accidentally landing at a secret military airport resulting in hours of interrogation before she could continue her journey.
March 19, 2014 will mark the 50th anniversary of the start of her historic flight. Over the next 29 1/2 days, she logged 158 hours in her 1953 Cessna 180 Skywagon nicknamed "The Spirit of Columbus" enroute to the record books. Upon returning to Columbus on April 17 she had set two official records according to the International Air Sports Federation (FAI): Female record and speed around the world.
Unofficially she set five additional records:
- First woman to fly solo entirely around the world
- First woman to fly from the US to Africa via the North Atlantic
- First woman to fly across the Pacific in a single engine aircraft
- First woman to fly the Pacific from west to east
- First woman to fly both the Atlantic and the Pacific
The story of Jerrie Mock, Three Eight Charlie, was originally published in 1970 but had since gone out of print and was very difficult to find. As part of the 50th celebration of this flight, Phoenix Graphix Publishing Services has released a new, colorful edition of Three Eight Charlie and it can be purchased on their website. I originally read her book in 2006 and look forward to re-reading her historic tale. I highly recommend her story, not only a tale of an amazing aviation accomplishment but balanced with interesting stores of her time on the ground at each checkpoint.
Asked now about her accomplishment Mock humbly commented, "I was just having fun, it was no big deal." Shortly after completing her flight she had stated, "I hope...that somewhere here and there my just doing something that hadn't been done will encourage someone else who wants to do something very much and hadn't quite had the heart to try it." I sure hope revisiting this accomplishment will help inspire a whole new generation!
Amelia Rose Earhart (no relation to the famous Amelia Mary Earhart who disappeared July 2, 1937) is part of this new generation of inspired aviators. She will be attempting a flight around the world in a Pilatus PC-12NG later this year. I asked her about her inspirations and she commented, "Jerrie was clearly ahead of her time when it came to her adventurous spirit and passion for flight, and she serves as the perfect example for young women looking forward to a future in aviation. Unfortunately, we are still right around 6% when it comes to the amount of pilots that are women, but I am confident that we can increase those numbers over time. Jerrie led by example, not only telling others to go out and seek their strongest passions, rather she lead by showing us what a life filled with flight can lend toward adventure. Jerry is a true pioneer and it is an honor to have her as a role model."
I am hopeful the 50th anniversary of Mock's flight and Earhart's 2014 adventure will inspire more aviation adventurers and increase interest in aviation for girls around the world.
Be sure to check out this Jerrie Mock photo gallery from the Columbus Dispatch and the official Three Eight Charlie website. Also follow Amelia Rose Earhart's around-the-world flight at FlyWithAmelia.org.
June 1, 2007
I have always been a fan of aviation adventures and have recently been caught up in following Barrington Irving's World Flight Adventure. Irving is looking to be the first person of African descent and to be the youngest person ever to fly solo around the world.
Barrington grew up in the inner city of Miami and was 15 years old when he met an United Airlines pilot that got him excited about flying. He began spending his free time at the airport, working to pay for his flight lessons. Aviation has been his passion ever since. In 2005 he founded Experience Aviation a nonprofit organization that looks to inspire the young people and encourage those interested in pursuing careers in aviation. You can learn all about the organization on their website.
Irving has flown over 14,000 miles already in "Inspiration" his trusty Columbia 400 and has another 6,000+ miles to go. The next leg will likely be his most challenging. According to Irving's blog he is in Hong Kong waiting for storms to clear to allow him to make the challenging flight across the North Pacific to Shemya, Alaska. The next leg of the flight will take nearly 12 hours to cover the 1,520 nautical miles. You can view a map tracking his flight progress on the Experience Aviation website. Judging from the satellite imagery he shared on his blog I have a feeling he might be grounded for another few days while the weather pushes off to the East.
If you are intrigued by Irving's flight you should also check out Three Eight Charlie the story of Jerrie Mock's flight around the world. She was the first woman to fly solo around the world. I created a Google Map Mash-up of her route a while back.
July 30, 2006
This weekend my wife and I drove up to Oshkosh, WI for the EAA Airventure 2006. Every year since 1970, Wittman Regional Airport serves as the location of one of the aviation world's premier events. It has been estimated that three quarters of a million people attend the show and over 10,000 aircraft fly in for this week-long event. During the week the control tower prides itself as being the busiest in the world.
We set-up a tent in Camp Scholler which is on the EAA grounds and open to EAA members. It was a very hot weekend and when we arrived at 10pm to set-up camp the temperatures were still easily in the 80s.
We got up early and headed over to the EAA Museum to hear Dick Rutan talk about being the first person to fly around the world non-stop. As my readers know, I am amazed by people who have pushed the envelope of flying; like Jerrie Mock's circumnavigation of the world in 1964 or Steve Fossett's trip around the globe this past year which was the first in a jet.
It was nearly twenty years ago that Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager flew around the world without stopping or refueling in their Voyager Aircraft. Dick talked about the five years it took to take the idea and develop an aircraft that could accomplish this amazing flight. The aircraft was designed by his brother Burt Rutan; who recently designed SpaceShipOne the first civilian spacecraft to travel to space and return safely. It took them five years of hard work, dedication and some luck to build and test an aircraft that would be able to make such a flight. Dick spoke of the many close calls they had during the 9 day, 3 minute, and 44 second flight.
Dick explained the importance of events like AirVenture to inspire people to push the limits of our world. He mentioned that before Chuck Yeager flew "Bell X-1" through the sound barrier, it was questioned whether man could build a flying machine that could travel as fast as the speed of sound. It took a man with courage and a pioneer attitude to prove it could be done.
Dick and his brother were inspired by aviation at a young age and worked with a single focus to prove that an plane could be designed and built that could allow someone to fly around the world non-stop. Since then his brother Dick helped design SpaceShipOne, the first civilian spacecraft to travel to space and return safely. Dick hopes he can inspire the youth of America to become the pioneers of the future and that they may develop the ability to travel faster than the speed of light.
At Airventure there were over 5,000 forums and discussions throughout the week. This was the only one that my wife and I attended but it had to have been one of the best of the show. It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to meet Dick after his very entertaining and enlightening talk.
After leaving the museum we headed to the farthest end of the show where the ultra-light airstrip is located. There we enjoyed watching six or seven ultra-lights flying in the pattern. Some looked like Go-Carts with a propeller dangling from a hang-glider. But they flew so gracefully that I decided at some point I will have to give this type of flying a try.
From there we walked along the flight line looking at many of the nearly 10,000 aircraft that flew in for the event. It is just an amazing sight to see the thousands of planes lined up in rows off the main runway. We enjoyed seeing a ton of neat experimental aircraft along with traditional aircraft like the Cessna 172. At the far end of the main runway was an area where all the warbirds were parked. We spent nearly an hour walking through the amazing collection of planes from World War I era to present. I noticed one of the t-34 trainers of the Lima Lima Flight Team with whom I enjoyed a flight with last summer.
After seeing almost all of the planes on display we checked out the exhibit areas. I checked in with the FAA and AOPA and provided them some updated contact information which saved me a few phone calls. I also had the opportunity to check out Microsoft's new Flight Simulator X which comes out this fall. While walking through the exhibit area we saw Chuck Yeager standing next to his P-51 Mustang, Glamorous Glen III.
At 3:30 the airshow kicked off with a ton of great acts. I especially enjoyed watching all the warbirds flying. The World War II bombers never look like they will be able to lift off the runway. It is always a treat to see those historic planes take to the sky. I especially enjoyed Mike Goulian's acrobatic performance in the Castrol Extra.
If you are an aviation enthusiast and have never been to AirVenture you are missing out. Check it out next year July 23 - July 29, 2007. Until then you can check out some of my photos on Flickr.
February 5, 2006
I recently posted about Jerrie Mock's record-setting flight around the world. When she completed her 29 1/2 day flight that covered over 23,000 miles she became the first woman to fly solo around the world. I have been captivated by this story. Since I prefer pictures over words I decided to make a Google Map that shows the route she flew and lists each checkpoint along the route. I also provide the time it took to fly the leg and the miles flown per leg. I hope the map and my recent post drives you to your nearest library to check out the book about her flight - Three-Eight Charlie.
- View a small version of the map (optimized for 800x600 screen resolution).
- View a larger version of the map.
February 2, 2006
Do you know who the first woman to fly solo around the world was? Up until a few weeks ago I could not have answered that question. Many mistakenly answer the question with Amelia Earhart, but she sadly was lost after completing 75% of her journey and she had a navigator along with her.
The correct answer is Jerrie Mock, a 38 year old woman from Ohio. I just finished reading about her historic 1964 flight. She flew over 23,000 miles in 29 days through terrible conditions including: sandstorms, thunderstorms, icing, rain and excessive heat. Her only companion on this flight was Charlie, a Cessna 180 Skywagon with an FAA Registration of N1538C (November one five three eight charlie) and title the Spirit of Columbus.
I learned about Jerrie Mock from Dan Pimentel "Av8rDan" who had the exclusive movie rights to Jerrie's story and developed a screenplay based on his research and interviews. You can learn more about his screenplay project on the Three Eight Charlie website or the project blog.
After reading about the project I decided I needed to learn more so I went to the library and checked out Jerrie's book on the historic flight, Three-Eight Charlie, which was an enjoyable read. During her flight she had to battle fatigue, equipment problems (radio malfunctions, rough engines and electrical fires) in addition to the afore mentioned difficult weather conditions. If all that was not enough to make it exciting, Jerrie has to leave earlier than planned as another woman aviator decided to make a race of it.
It was interesting to learn about the state of aviation in the 60s from her perspective, as Jerrie visited 14 countries including places like: Casablanca, Calcutta, Bangkok, Cairo and Wake Island that had varying levels of sophistication towards aviation. She did a nice job of balancing stories about the flights themselves with tales of her time on the ground at each checkpoint. The trip was filled with exciting moments that concluded on April 17, 1964 when she flew into the history books by completing the 29 day, 23, 206.36 mile journey around the world.
I encourage you all to check this book out of your library. Then spend some time checking out Dan's sites about Three Eight Charlie and Jerrie Mock. I would love to see this story be told on the big screen!