Bird in a Bi-Plane

The Plane and the Journeys

Tracey Curtis Taylor flies a Stearman bi-plane.

Re-creating historical flights of women pilots

Tracey with her plane the Stearman

Tracey prepares to take off

“Flying a vintage aeroplane and flying a light modern aircraft with a glass cockpit is as different as chalk and cheese. It is the difference different between riding a bike and being in a car. Back in 1930 there was no airspace. Amy Johnson had open skies. One of my difficulties is going through complicated airspace, international boundaries. Flying in an open cockpit, with stick and rudder is very different.
“A model light aircraft has instruments in a covered controlled environment. They are flying high riding the airwaves and can fly at night, on autopilot. I don’t have that. I have to be able to see the ground, no cloud, and must have forward vision. No night flying.

portrait amy Johnson and Tracey

Tracey in front of her heroine Amy Johnson

“It is very physical flying, a lot of noise, vibration, changing temperatures, I am flying 1000 feet above the ground, sometimes lower. I do have some modern instruments. I have a radio which Amy Johnson didn’t have. I have a GPS so they can track you through controlled airspace.   Though these instruments are a requirement, by choice I wouldn’t have them. I don’t like gadgets, modern technology doesn’t interest me.

The flying lady mascot on the bonnet of the rolls, Spirit of Ecstasy, inspired Tracey Curtis Taylor, to name the Stearman the Spirit of Artemis. She saw an advertisement for Artemis Fund Managers.  Artemis the profit hunter.

“It featured a World War II old airplane flying over a desert island. It seemed someone had a creative romantic view of adventure But I didn’t write for a year, because I knew I had to present a plan, a coherent business model. I found the Chief Executive of Artemis on the internet, and I wrote to him personally. “I saw your advertisement and it captures completely what I’m doing here, recreating the route of the first person to fly Africa, 1928 Lady Mary Heath.”
Within half an hour of sending the email, his PA phoned saying he wants to meet you. It was something which fired his imagination, and we made it happen. Artemis are philanthropic, big supporters of Tusk in Africa. Elephant conservation in Africa, became a cornerstone of the of the Artemis flight. It comes back to values. The partnership has to reflect the values of what you’re doing. It was about heritage, celebrating what the pioneers had achieved. It was about modern issues, like conservation in Africa.

Flying solo
“I was absolutely thrilled to get my flying license, it was such a huge effort to do. When you go solo, it’s always a profound moment. You’re so bloody frightened, you lie awake at night, I never actually thought I’d be a pilot. But I wasn’t a professional pilot, this is the point, although I’ve instructed for years, that’s different. I never trained to be a commercial pilot.

Having successfully flown from Cape Town to Goodwood in 2013, Tracey flew her vintage biplane to Australia. These flights recreate and celebrate Lady Mary Heath and Amy Johnson. On her flight to Australia, she visited many countries.

“Flying Africa, these expeditions, with an incredibly fantastic team, a whole network of support and sponsor ship. It is the best thing I’ve ever done. The plan is to complete the circumnavigation of the world in 2017. Finish the flight across America from Windsor in Arizona where we crashed.

Inspiring the next generation
“It’s about young people, reminding them what’s gone on in history, particularly focused around girls and women. Flying out to Australia, visiting the girls’ schools along the way, through Jordan, I was meeting girls and mentoring women’s groups, particularly in the middle East, Jordan, Saudi, on through Pakistan. It’s been very touching to see, in these countries, basic human rights, and glaring inequality, particularly in the Middle East. They love the aeroplane, and to hear about the endless stories to be able to tell them about the stories and the struggles that women have had historically. It surprised me how moved I was by it. I think that’s what I’d like to do going forward, to go back to these places.

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© 2017


© 2017




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