Following their flight paths
I remember my first solo as if it was yesterday, as I’m sure most pilots do. The airplane felt significantly lighter, the right seat absent of an instructor. A first solo is a rite of passage for all pilots, and is full first of anxiety, and later pride. The first cross country solo comes next and before you know it you’re off to explore a new airport, getting there completely by your own navigational skills. As you leave the runway behind you, there are miles of sky between you and your destination. After my first solo cross country I couldn’t help snapping a few selfies – I was so proud of keeping my heading on track and finding all of my marked check points on the charts. Despite the title of ‘cross country’ a cross country in pilot terms is only 50 miles, can you imagine soloing around the world?
That is exactly what Jerrie Mock did in 1964 when she spent 22 days flying a Cessna 180 solo over 22,000 miles, making her the first woman to solo around the world. During Women Of Aviation Week 2014, we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of this courageous woman’s remarkable flight. Jerrie never did as expected of a female: As a child, she played cowboys and Indians with the boys on her side of the street because her mother wouldn’t allow her to cross it to play with the girls. People may not have thought it was appropriate for a little girl, but Jerrie ensured she belonged, just like when, years later and a mother of three, she proved she belonged in the sky.
Many females have expressed a feeling of belonging in the sky. It is often associated with another type of flight: aerobatic. As you strap on a parachute and buckle into a sleek, high performance aerobatic aircraft you can’t help but think about how to recover from a spin, or what to look for in a coordinated roll. I surprised myself on my first aerobatic flight: I didn’t mind spins at all and wanted to do as many as I could before I had to recover. By my next aerobatic lesson, I was flying all the way back to the airport upside down. Learning different aerial maneuvers offers a new set of challenges to pilots, but also pushes the importance of coordination and safety.
I am far from the first woman to perform loops in an airplane. That honor belongs to Lidia Zvereva. It just took one loop to put Lidia into aviation history. Her feat was accomplished in a Morane monoplane, the same type of plane that she assembled at a plant she ran with her husband. Her job was unconventional for a woman of her time, but she defied normality. The loop wasn’t her only first in aviation history, she was the first woman in Russia to earn a pilot’s certificate as well. In 2014, we are celebrating 100 years of female aerobatic pilots.
Women Of Aviation Week celebrates the women of aviation’s past, present and future. Jerrie Mock and Lidia Zverena set upon new flight paths and are role models I strive to live up to in the present. I hope that through my actions and participation in WOAW, it will inspire the women pilots of the future as these two women, and countless others, have inspired me.