Sunday 4 December 2016

Carol Vorderman turns back on TV to fly solo around the world

Countdown to takeoff: money has allowed me to chase my dream I want to encourage girls to follow theirs, says star

John Bingham

Published 08/11/2015 | 15:01

Carol Vorderman: preparing for takeoff on round-the world odyssey
Carol Vorderman: preparing for takeoff on round-the world odyssey
Vorderman at the controls

She has been an almost daily fixture on television screens for more than 30 years but Carol Vorderman has disclosed she is giving up full time presenting to follow a lifelong dream of flying solo around the world.

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Vorderman, best known as the mathematics brain on Countdown for more than two decades, said she had decided to become “semi-retired” to spend more time as carer to her 87-year-old mother and with her children.

But Vorderman – who says she studied aeronautical engineering at Cambridge because she wanted to be a pilot but was turned down by the RAF – is also preparing to fulfil a personal ambition of flying around the world in her own aeroplane.

She is hoping to retrace the route taken by her heroine Mildred Bruce, the aviation pioneer, after whom her Diamond DA-42 VI plane is named, to mark the 75th anniversary of the Air Training Corps.

The star, who made an estimated £15 million fortune through television and ventures such as diet plans, said money had “reopened the door of my dream”.

In an interview with the Mail on Sunday’s Event magazine she also argued that even in the 21st century women are still less free to use their brains than men – and that social media is making the situation worse.

 Girls are, she insisted, still being “taught that their value largely lies in how they look”.

 Even after decades helping popularise maths on screen, she said she was more likely to get on television to talk about dying her hair than educational issues.

“There are not enough girls studying science and maths,” she told Event.

“They do as well as the boys until the end of primary school, but then it all changes and our culture has a lot to do with that.

“If I want to go on telly and talk about education, no chance.

“If I want to do something about dyeing my hair blonde it's, ‘Oh yeah, off you go’.”

She added that social media is making matters worse for the younger generation who have “two characters – their real selves and the way they want to appear online” and feel under pressure to live up to a different persona.

 Vorderman, who gained her solo flying licence two years ago, said she saw the plan to go around the world as part of a wider role in encouraging girls to follow their ambitions.

Flying is in the family. Her Graham Duff is a former Red Arrows pilot and her daughter, Katie, was a member of University Air Squadron when studying at Cambridge.

She is still making plans, including seeking permission to enter Chinese airspace, and admits some concern about crossing the Middle East.

 “I'm going to allow two months," she said.

“If you said I had to go today then yes, I would be scared, because it is the unknown and I am not experienced enough.

“I am not ready for it, but I will make damn sure than I am ready in six months.”

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