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Mother Jerrie Mock became first woman to fly around the world with 1964 flight in Cessna 180

When 38-year-old mother-of-three Jerrie Mock piloted her Cessna 180 light aircraft down the runway in March 1964 for her planned round-the-world trip, she was fulfilling a lifelong dream.

Twenty-nine days and 22,860 miles later, the woman who was dubbed America’s ‘Flying Housewife’ by the world’s media landed back in Columbus, Ohio, to rapturous crowds.

She had become the first woman in history to fly solo around the world – beating her younger rival Joan Merriman Smith, who had opted to fly the longer route planned by aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart on her ultimately doomed attempt.

When she returned, Jerrie – who had worn a skirt and blouse while flying and put on high heels after landing – was honoured with an award at the White House by the then President Lyndon Johnson.

Her feat was echoed yesterday by 19-year-old British-Belgian teenager Zara Rutherford, who became the youngest woman to fly solo around the world.

The flight, which she completed in her Shark UL ultralight microlight, took 155 days after she became stranded in Russia for 41 days.

Jerrie, who had studied aeronautical engineering at Ohio State University passed away on October 1, 2014, aged 88.

When 38-year-old mother-of-three Jerrie Mock piloted her Cessna 180 light aircraft down the runway in March 1964 for her planned round-the-world trip, she was fulfilling a lifelong dream. Twenty-nine days and 22,860 miles later, the woman who was dubbed America’s ‘Flying Housewife’ by the world’s media landed back in Columbus, Ohio, to rapturous crowds 

Jerrie completed the feat in her 11-year-old Cessna 180. It is now on display at the Steven F Udvar-Hazy Center, Virginia

Jerrie completed the feat in her 11-year-old Cessna 180. It is now on display at the Steven F Udvar-Hazy Center, Virginia

The housewife decided to embark on her flight after discovering with her husband Russell that no other woman had yet done it.

The first man to fly solo around the world, Wiley Post, had done so in 1933.

Keen to get the recognition for her feat, Joan filed the paperwork so that she would be able to claim the world record if she was successful.

A few weeks later, Joan Merriam Smith – who had thousands of hours of flying under her belt, rather than Jerrie’s 750 – filed her own paperwork.

Because she had been the first to file the papers, it meant that Jerrie only needed to successfully complete her flight for her to be able to claim the record.

When she returned, Jerrie – who had worn a skirt and blouse while flying and put on high heels after landing - was honoured with an award at the White House by the then President Lyndon Johnson

When she returned, Jerrie – who had worn a skirt and blouse while flying and put on high heels after landing – was honoured with an award at the White House by the then President Lyndon Johnson

Her feat was echoed yesterday by 19-year-old British-Belgian teenager Zara Rutherford, who became the youngest woman to fly solo around the world

Her feat was echoed yesterday by 19-year-old British-Belgian teenager Zara Rutherford, who became the youngest woman to fly solo around the world

Her feat was echoed yesterday by 19-year-old British-Belgian teenager Zara Rutherford, who became the youngest woman to fly solo around the world

Her feat was echoed yesterday by 19-year-old British-Belgian teenager Zara Rutherford, who became the youngest woman to fly solo around the world

Jerrie took off from Ohio’s Por Columbus airport two weeks earlier than expected on March 19 in her 11-year-old Cessna plane, which she named Charlie.

Key moments in female aviation history  

1906 E. Lillian Todd is the first woman to design and build an airplane, although it never flew

1908 Madame Therese Peltier is the first woman to fly an airplane solo

1910 Raymonde de Laroche becomes the first woman in the world to earn a pilot’s licence

1912 Harriet Quimby becomes the first woman to pilot her own aircraft across the English Channel

1921 Adrienne Bolland is the first woman to fly over the Andes

1928 Amelia Earhart is the first woman to fly across the Atlantic

1932 Amelia Earhart is the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic

1938 Hanna Reitsch is the first woman to fly a helicopter and get a helicopter licence

1953 Jacqueline (Jackie) Cochran becomes first woman to break the sound barrier

1964 Geraldine Mock is the first woman to pilot a plane solo around the world

1980 Lynn Rippelmeyer becomes the first woman to pilot a Boeing 747

She had had new radio equipment fitted to the plane and any unnecessary fixtures had to be removed so that the additional fuel tanks – needed so the aircraft could fly over the open ocean – would fit.

Ahead of her, she had 21 stops, with her first leg being to Bermuda.

Writing in 2020, Jerrie’s granddaughter Rita Mock-Pike revealed that her grandmother heard the air traffic controller say as she left Columbus, ‘well, I guess that’s the last we’ll see of her.’

Jerrie is said to have remarked to Ms Mock-Pike: ‘I wasn’t entirely sure he was wrong.

‘I had never flown over open water before. And I was going to fly all the way around the world. But hey, I accomplished two out of three lifelong dreams. That’s pretty good for ‘just’ a woman.

After successfully reaching Bermuda, Jerrie made a 2,000-mile leap to the Azores in the North Atlantic.

There, the first problem arose: ice on her wings.

She later said: ‘When I was a student, I was told never to get into icing conditions if you don’t have a de-icer. There I was and there was not much I could do about it.’

Fortunately, the ice melted after Jerrie flew above the clouds.

Later, a blunder could have left her in very serious trouble. After arriving in Egypt, she thought had landed at Cairo’s airport but had in fact touched down at a military base and armed soldiers had surrounded the plane.

Thankfully, the men just directed her to the right airport.

After landing in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, soldiers appeared once again and this time searched the plane.

Jerrie recalled: ‘They thought I had a man hidden behind the gas tank.’ When they did no find a man, the soldiers applauded her.

The most serious issue Jerrie encountered was a burning wire she spotted while flying. In a cockpit filled with extra fuel, this could have had deadly consequences. Luckily she was able to put it out.

The housewife decided to embark on her flight after discovering with her husband Russell that no other woman had yet done it. Above: Jerrie stands outside her plane

The housewife decided to embark on her flight after discovering with her husband Russell that no other woman had yet done it. Above: Jerrie stands outside her plane

Keen to get the recognition for her feat, Joan filed the paperwork so that she would be able to claim the world record if she was successful. A few weeks later, Joan Merriam Smith (pictured) – who had thousands of hours of flying under her belt, rather than Jerrie's 750 – filed her own paperwork

Keen to get the recognition for her feat, Joan filed the paperwork so that she would be able to claim the world record if she was successful. A few weeks later, Joan Merriam Smith (pictured) – who had thousands of hours of flying under her belt, rather than Jerrie’s 750 – filed her own paperwork

Jerrie took off from Ohio's Por Columbus airport two weeks earlier than expected on March 19 in her 11-year-old Cessna plane, which was named Charlie

Jerrie took off from Ohio’s Por Columbus airport two weeks earlier than expected on March 19 in her 11-year-old Cessna plane, which was named Charlie

She had had new radio equipment fitted to the plane and any unnecessary fixtures had to be removed so that the additional fuel tanks – needed so the aircraft could fly over the open ocean – would fit

She had had new radio equipment fitted to the plane and any unnecessary fixtures had to be removed so that the additional fuel tanks – needed so the aircraft could fly over the open ocean – would fit

Writing in 2020, Jerrie's granddaughter Rita Mock-Pike revealed that her grandmother heard the air traffic controller say as she left Columbus, 'well, I guess that's the last we'll see of her'

Writing in 2020, Jerrie’s granddaughter Rita Mock-Pike revealed that her grandmother heard the air traffic controller say as she left Columbus, ‘well, I guess that’s the last we’ll see of her’

Jerrie is seen enjoying a glass of champagne with her father after completing the flight. Jerrie looks rightly delighted

Jerrie is seen enjoying a glass of champagne with her father after completing the flight. Jerrie looks rightly delighted

When Jerrie landed back home to her grand reception, she had beaten her rival, who had mechanical problems.

After being invited to the White House, President Lyndon B. Johnson presented Jerrie with the Federal Aviation Administration’s Exceptional Service decoration.

She went on to set several speed records but eventually gave up flying because of the expense of keeping a plane.

Jerrie died in her sleep at her home in Quincy, Florida, after being in failing health for months, her family said.

On the 50th anniversary of the completion of her flight just months before her death, a life-sized bronze statue depicting Jerrie holding a globe was unveiled at Port Columbus airport.

Ms Rutherford’s flight in her Shark microlight had been supposed to take three months but relentless bad weather and visa issues kept her grounded for sometimes weeks on end.   

On Thursday, rain, drizzle, sunshine and even a rainbow over Kortrijk airport exemplified the changing, often bad weather she had been facing all too often.

After she was escorted by a four-plane formation in a huge V across much of Belgium, she did a flyby of the airport before finally landing. 

When Jerrie landed back home to her grand reception, she had beaten her rival, who had mechanical problems. Above: Jerrie at the airport being welcomed by citizens

When Jerrie landed back home to her grand reception, she had beaten her rival, who had mechanical problems. Above: Jerrie at the airport being welcomed by citizens

The first woman to fly around the world, Jerrie Mock, stands surrounded by reporters next to her plane, 'The Spirit of Columbus,' upon landing in Cairo, Egypt

The first woman to fly around the world, Jerrie Mock, stands surrounded by reporters next to her plane, ‘The Spirit of Columbus,’ upon landing in Cairo, Egypt

After waving to the jubilant crowds, she embraced her parents and draped herself both in the Union Jack and Belgian tricolor flag.

‘Winter in Europe poses a lot of challenges,’ she said as she was held back for days on the last few legs of the trip. Then again, she had had to deal with -31 F in Siberia and 90 F in Indonesia. Fog, smoke from wildfires and even typhoons also held her back.

She stopped over in five continents and visited 52 countries in a journey which covered over 32,000 miles of land.

‘The people were incredible, everywhere,’ she said.

Rutherford’s flight saw her steer clear of wildfires in California, deal with biting cold over Russia and narrowly avoid North Korean airspace.

She flew by Visual Flight Rules, basically going on sight only, often slowing down progress when more sophisticated systems could have led her through clouds and fog.

‘It’s very strange being back here,’ she told a media conference, adding that, after an epic journey with stops in nearly 30 countries, she was looking forward to putting her feet up for a while in just one place.

‘I’d like to do nothing next week,’ she laughed. ‘It was harder than I imagined.’ 

Jerrie (pictured above in later life) died in her sleep at her home in Quincy, Florida, after being in failing health for months, her family said

Jerrie (pictured above in later life) died in her sleep at her home in Quincy, Florida, after being in failing health for months, her family said


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