Recently I was blessed to have the honour of spending a day and a half with a hero of mine- aviator Tracey Curtis Taylor aka ‘Bird in a Biplane’. Tracey has organised and piloted multiple flight expeditions with historic aircraft across Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia and America and has devoted her life to the art of flying and inspiring others with her passion. She is a pioneer of aviation both today and of yesteryear.
Tracey has completed multiple transcontinental routes in her biplane, the Boeing-Stearman "Spirit of Artemis". These ‘journeys of a lifetime’ (she has lived many) have been pinnacles of a life filled with achievement and success. Achieving both her personal and commercial licences, gaining her instructor rating and also participating in aerobatics and formation flying- there is no holding Tracey back. She is equally motivated and compelled to inspire and encourage others, especially women, to achieve their dreams and goals.
In addition to being immensely talented, she is also just an incredible person, her experiences have filled her with a knowledge and enthusiasm for the world and our inhabitants which is optimistic, educated and endearing. It was a delight to be able to talk with her in depth about life, her loves and living dreams.
Her latest movie is to be released this year in 2019, trailer below.
‘BIRD IN A BIPLANE’
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA to GOODWOOD, ENGLAND. 2013
In 2013, Curtis-Taylor flew Spirit of Artemis in an eight-week journey, covering over 13,000 km, from Cape Town, South Africa to the Goodwood Aerodrome in West Sussex, England. The journey comprised a total of 38 legs and 110 basic VFR flying hours, and followed the 1928 flight of Mary, Lady Heath, from Cape Town to Cairo, Egypt, travelling over Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Sudan. The journey took five years to prepare for, including finding a biplane which would cope with the heat of Africa.
FARNBOROUGH, ENGLAND to SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA. 2015-16
On 1 October 2015 Curtis-Taylor departed from Farnborough, England, flying in Spirit of Artemis, arriving in Sydney Australia on 9 January 2016. The journey was inspired by pioneer aviator Amy Johnson, who flew solo from England to Australia in 1930. The flight path was across 23 countries in 50 legs. She was accompanied by a small support crew in a modern plane who documented the journey for her movie.
Several stopovers were scheduled into the flight, often with the aim of introducing Curtis-Taylor to local communities and to inspire others, particularly women. In Dubai, the plane was part of the Boeing display at the Dubai Airshow in the United Arab Emirates, while Curtis-Taylor was a keynote speaker at the International Aviation Women's Association conference.
In Pakistan Curtis-Taylor was hosted by Squadron Leader Saira Batool of the Pakistani Air Force, and visited a school in Karachi with female Pakistani mountaineer Samina Baig to speak about their adventures and to inspire the children. In Singapore, she met with girls and women involved in the UN Women programme Girls2Pioneers.
US TRANS-CONTINENTAL FLIGHT. 2016-17
In spring 2016 Curtis-Taylor started a US Transcontinental Flight, with multiple stops along the historic US Airmail Routes, flying from Seattle to Los Angeles and the Transcontinental route from LA to NY. The trip was cut short by a crash in the desert, at Winslow, Arizona, due to a loss of engine power. The NTSB investigation reported that "a gray / tan liquid was drained from the carburetor". She and her co-pilot were uninjured but the Boeing Stearman was badly damaged. It was airlifted from Phoenix to Hungary, where it was rebuilt in time to attend the 2016 Farnborough International Airshow, which celebrated Boeing's centenary year. She returned with her Boeing Stearman to LA in June 2017 and finished the flight across the USA with a finale at the American Airpower Museum at Republic Airport NY. This completed her World Flight, flying across five continents. On both US tours the Stearman biplane was shipped across the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, as it does not have the fuel range or instrumentation to cover such distances.