British pilot begins epic journey to emulate aviation pioneer Amy Johnson
Published 01/10/2015 | 06:30
An adventurous British aviatrix has embarked on a 13,000-mile solo flight from Britain to Australia in a vintage open cockpit biplane.
Self-styled "Bird in a Biplane" Tracey Curtis-Taylor, 53, set off in her 1942 Boeing Stearman Spirit of Artemis aircraft from Farnborough, Hampshire.
She will fly across 23 countries, making 50 refuelling stops over the next 14 weeks, before finally arriving in Sydney on January 6 2016.
Ms Curtis-Taylor will follow in the slipstream of Amy Johnson, the pioneering British aviator who became the first woman to fly solo from Britain to Australia in 1930.
Before starting her flight, Ms Curtis-Taylor said: "For my whole life, I have been moved by the achievements of pioneers like Amy Johnson.
"My own flight to Australia is the realisation of a burning desire to fly my beloved Boeing Stearman around the world following in their footsteps.
"It has taken 30 years to arrive at this point, and now I not only have the desire to do it but also the resources and a huge network of support behind me.
"I am very, very grateful for this. It feels as if I am finally breaking free of the shackles of life and fulfilling a destiny which was always meant to be."
More than 150 friends and supporters, including Prince Michael of Kent, The Avengers actress Dame Diana Rigg and Johnson's niece Judy Chilvers, waved Ms Curtis-Taylor off.
Dame Diana said: "Tracey is doing this in the spirit of all those lady aviators of the past and that is what I love about her, that quality of recognising the endeavour of what has gone before and mirroring it in this era.
"There are lots of people doing extraordinary things, but Tracey is doing something extraordinary in what is virtually a man's world and I think we have to stress that.
"Her knowledge of not just the plane but the engine is extensive and she can hold her own with any man."
Her route will take her across Europe and the Mediterranean to Jordan, over the Arabian desert, across the Gulf of Oman to Pakistan, India and across Asia.
She hopes to recreate the essence of Johnson's era of flying, with an open cockpit, stick and rudder flying with basic period instruments and a short range between landing points.
But she is not unfamiliar with this form of flying. In 2013, she flew 8,000-miles solo from Cape Town to Goodwood, West Sussex, to recreate the 1928 flight of Lady Mary Heath.
A small support crew will travel in a light modern aircraft to record her journey to Australia, and day to day news will be posted on an interactive website.
Her first day of flying will see her stop off in Le Touquet, France, before continuing on to Charleville in the Ardennes.
She said her first major stop will be Istanbul, which will mark the moment she will leave Europe and where she will learn about Turkey's first female combat pilot, Sabiha Gokcen, aged 23.