Thursday, October 31, 2013

Curtis -Taylor Gets Ready for Epic Flight from Cape Town

*Stop press: take-off delayed until tomorrow  (Saturday November 2) because of low cloud and high winds in Cape Town.
* See TV news clip at 

Said Mary Heath in her book "Women and Flying": "The distance from Cape Town to Croydon is between 8,000and 9,000 miles, but the total mileage of my flight was nearer 10,000 miles as I did not fly a direct route, even from Pretoria to Cairo, owing to a deviation to Nairobi".
In all, she only flew for 27 days on her trip because of ground delays. "It was impossible to obtain information of the route for more than 1,000 or 1500m miles ahead, and so I found it necessary to fly a lap of the journey and then sit down and wait until I got permission to fly further."
She also had to find fuel. Sir Charles Wakefield of Castrol had laid down oil for her all along the route "but I found I could have obtained it everywhere even without this." She would buy any motor spirit she could find "sometimes at the price of 5s 6d per gallon".
Four years ago, someone asked Tracey Curtis-Edwards what she would really, really like to do with her life.
"I'd like to fly the length of Africa," she said on an impulse. In a day or two, that dream will come true when she sets off to fly from Cape  Town to Goodwood in England, recreating  a route first undertaken by the pioneering Irish aviator Lady Heath in 1928.
"Yes I'm nervous but I have a good team and a beautiful  plane. We've certainly had a few moments  already - most notably when the plane arrived and was held up in customs," she said at the launch of the flight in Cape Town yesterday.
Tracey's obsession with  Africa dates back to an overland trip she made many years ago. Her interest in aviation came from her journalist father. "We moved to Canada  when I was a child and my father bring us to all the air shows.  After the family came back to England my twin sister and I returned to Canada. She went to shopping - and I went to the airfield!"
The overland tip in Africa came after that. "I couldn't persuade my sister to come with me that time - but she went to New Zealand and I followed her there." In New Zealand, Tracy again found herself at the airfield and her love affair with the old planes of the early 20th century began.
"The romance of flying is tied in with these old planes - and that's all I fly. There is such a sense of freedom when you fly one of beautiful old machines. There's nothing like it."
Back in England, Tracey was the only female pilot  flying the gorgeous old machines held in the Shuttleworth Collection. So with the idea of a flight over Africa firmly in mind, she knew what she was looking for and invested in a 70-year old Stearman biplane 18 months ago.
When  fund management company Artemis came on board as title sponsors,  the plane was renamed "The Spirit  of Artemis" and painted in racing green.
Last year, Tracey got a taste of what she can expect in the next seven weeks when she helped fly an Antimov from Russia to Cape Town along the west coast. Along the way, they hit  the taking of hostages in Algeria, a political stand-off in Nigeria that saw the crew unable to leave their hotel and a constant struggle to find fuel with one delay lasting three weeks.
This time, the logistics are all in place for her flight up the east coast of Africa, which will be filmed all the way for a documentary by Nylon Films.
Let the adventure begin!

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