An article in the newspaper over the weekend caught my eye of Tracey Curtis Taylor who flew a 1940’s bi-plane from Cape Town to Cairo. She had been inspired by the record breaking flight of Mary Heath back in 1928; nearly 90 years on and yet the feat seems equally astonishing.
Curtis Taylor began learning to fly aged 16 years, and became a flying instructor. On moving to New Zealand from Canada, where she grew up, she became fascinated by vintage planes and, like myself, began to research the early pioneers and Lady Heath became her heroine.
Curtis Taylor had a plane restored to her specification including a GPS system; a 1942 Boeng Stearman in racing green with a top speed of 95mph, which she believed suitable for the demands of intense heat in Africa. Gaining sponsorship from Artemis Investments she named her plane ‘Spirit of Artemis.’
Setting off on November 2nd 2013 she flew from Cape Town, over Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan and Egypt, finally landing at Goodwood in West Sussex on New Year’s Eve. She felt the spirit of Mary Heath with her many times during the flight, notably swooping over the dispersing wild animals in Kenya and the Victoria Falls in Tanzania, for which she was reprimanded. Although officialdom caused many headaches, which seems no surprise considering the list of countries she crossed, it was the storms she faced on her return to Europe and was heading for the Britain that was her final nightmare. Nevertheless she was welcomed enthusiastically by family and friends in the country where she was born, Britain.
As in all my aviation biographies, Tracey Curtis Taylor is no exception. There is more to the lady than someone who loves the excitement of flight, overcoming all obstacles to reach her ambitions. So inspired was she by women she met in Africa, the way they worked and the conditions they endured, that she hopes to return to the Lewa Reserve in Kenya to do a documentary about them.
I’m sure there’ll be a book to look forward to in the future.
My next post will be about Lady Mary Heath and her flight back in 1928.