2. THE FLIGHT
The year 1964 will remain famous in the chronicles of aviation thanks to two solo flights around the World done by two woman pilots.
We remember that the solo flight done by the Honorable Mrs. Bruce in 1930 was not exactly a true flight around the world because of the technical limitations of her aircraft. The two 1964 'around the world flights' were the first true such flights flown by women pilots : Geraldine Mock and Joan Merriam Smith.
Mrs. Bruce had only forty flying hours when she started her world flight. Her aircraft, a Blackburn Bluebird, with folding wings, did not have the range to cross the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and these were crossed aboard ocean liners. Another woman pilot to attempt to fly around the world was Amelia Earhart-Putman, but she was unsuccessful. Amelia left Lae in New Brittain, North of New Guinea in 1937 for Howland Island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, on board her Lockheed Electra, accompagnied by her navigator Fred Noonan. Her mysterious disappearance is still unexplained today and has created much speculation : as she did not arrive on Howland Island, after exhausting all her fuel, did she perish in a forced landing at sea ? …. or was she captured by the Japanese who were extending their sphere of inffluence in that part of the Pacific Ocean ? The mystery surrounding her disappearance contributed to her fame.
After having had several jobs, Geraldine (Jerrie) Mock, née Fredritz (born on November 22, 1925 in Newark, Ohio) became manager of the Colombus Airport (Ohio). She had married Russell Mock in 1945 and they had 3 children. In 1962 Jerrie complained to her husband of having nothing interesting to occupy her , she wanted to go somewhere; she had already learnt to fly. Almost as a joke Russell replied « Why don't you fly around the world ? ». Jerrie took him at his word, and after studying an atlas, she commenced to organise her flight in earnest. She discovered that only men had flown around the world and that there were no such records made by females. With only 500 flying hours at this time, she proceded to obtain an Instrument Rating to enable her to fly in all weather conditions (IFR). By the time she was ready, she had clocked 750 hours.
Jerrie used a 1953 Cessna 180, registered N1538C, and christened « The Spirit of Colombus ». The aircraft was affectionately dubbed "Charlie", and was jointly owned by Jerrie and her husband, along with a friend. It was a high wing machine with conventional landing gear (tail wheel). Two ferry tanks were fitted in the cabin, bringing the total fuel on board to 178 gallons, giving her an endurance of 25 hours and a range of 2400 Nautical Miles. An HF radio set was fitted for longe range radio communications. The engine, donated by the firm Continental, had been cutom built, tested, dismantled, reassembled and tested again four times.
As Jerrie prepared for her flight, she heard of another woman pilot, Joan Merriam Smith, who was also planning to fly solo around the world. Joan planned to retrace Amelia Earhart's ill fated flight. Jerrie Mock was the first of the two women to register her intentions to fly solo around the world with the NAA (representing the FAI in the US). Rules of the FAI stipulate that only one pilot at a time can apply to make an attempt to set the same record.
Although the two women pilots insisted they were not racing against one another, Russell Mock pushed his wife to fly faster, not wanting her to be caught by Smith who had dreamt of being the first woman to fly solo around the world, and to finish, where Amelia Earhart had failed.
Jerrie Mock regularly sent her impressions of her flight to the Colombus Newspaper for publication. Pilots setting world records are required by the FAI to keep a log of the flight, and these logs are kept in the archives of the FAI in Lausanne, Switzerland. The following is an extract of Jerrie Mock's log.
Jerrie Mock left Colombus on March 19, 1964. Her flight was not without incident, as her HF radio failed to work, and a strong cross wind at Kindley Air Base in Bermuda proved very difficult. While staying in Bermuda to wait for better wind conditions, Jerrie had the HF radio repaired (one wire had been disconnected), and she learned from her husband that Joan Smith, who left two days prior to her, was stuck in Suriname (in ex-Dutch Guyana), with a leak in one of her ferry tanks.
At night, on March 26th , Jerrie took off for Santa Maria in the Azores. She had to make an instrument landing. On the 28th, she was on her way to Casablanca in Morocco, and had to fight a lot of icing. Here Jerrie visited some American friends. Russell told her that Smith had left the Americas and was on her way to Africa. Jerrie's aircraft developed problems with the brakes and the tail wheel
Jerrie landed in Bône in Algeria on the 30th March, with her husband still pushing her to go faster. On the 31st, when Jerrie had hoped to have made it to Cairo, she reached Tripoli in Lybia. She was on her way again on April 1st, but unfortunately Jerrie landed at a 'secret' military airport at Inshaas by mistake, instead of at Cairo. After two hours of interrogation, she was finally permitted to continue on to Cairo.
The following day, Jerrie visited the pyramids, and had a camel ride. She left Cairo for Dhahran on the 3rd April, and for Karachi in Pakistan on the 4th. In the meantime, Smith was arriving in Dakar. On the 5th, Mock reached India, and although her husband wanted her to fly on to Calcutta, Jerrie prefered to stop in Delhi. She was in Calcutta on the 6th , Bangkok, Thailand on the 7th , and on April 8th, Mock crossed the Sea on her way to Manila in the Philipines.
At last Jerrie was able to have the brakes repaired. Her husband was still trying to get her to go faster, but she was tired and badly in need of a rest. Jerrie landed on Guam Island on the 11th April, and on Wake Island on the 12th. These islands are American territories.
On the 13th April, Jerrie took off for Hawaii, crossing the International Date Line on the way, and thus arriving in Hawaii on the same date. Then came the long leg from Hawaii to California, where she landed at Oakland after a leg of more than 2400 S Miles and a flight of more than 18 hours. Her husband, who had lost 18 pounds he beginning of the flight, was there to greet her, along with journalists, television cameras and a huge crowd. Smith was in Singapore that day.
Jerrie finally arrived home in Colombus on April 17th, after stops in Tucson, Arizona ; El Paso in Texas ; and Bowling Green in Kentucky.
Jerrie Mock was congratulated on her flight, and received awards and recognitions. President L.B. Johnson awarded her the Gold Medal of the FAA, and many other countries awarded her medals and decorations. The FAI presented her with the prestigious Louis Blériot Silver Medal. Jerrie Mock was interviewed by radio and television stations from all over the world, and in one such interview, when asked : "Why did you do it ? ", she answered : " I did it to give confidence to the little pilot, who is being left in the jetstream of the space age. "Jerrie Mock had covered 22 858 miles in 30 days, and had flown 158 flying hours.
She set two « offical » records with the FAI :
Geraldine Mock did not fly N1538C again, as the Cessna Company gave her another Cessna in exchange for the Spirit of Colombus which was then put on display in their factory in Wichita, before being given to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington. The aircraft is now (2011) hanging form the ceiling at the Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport. Jerrie continued to fly her new Cessna, a C P206, N155JM, in which she set many speed and endurance records, all the way to Porto Rico, and Rabaul in New Brittain. Joan Merriam Smith completed her flight and landed in Oakland on May 12th.
Jerrie Mock was very thorough in her pre flight preparations, taking some eighteen months to get ready, including studying the route she was going to take, and checking out the aircraft and all the equipment necessary for the flight. This can't be compared to the preparations (or lack of them), made by Mrs. Bruce, who set off on her world flight only six weeks after obtaining her pilot's licence.
One must admire Jerrie Mock, a woman of small stature, for flying a powerful "tail-dragger". Even today, there would be few "macho" pilots capable of flying such a machine around the airfield, let alone solo around the world. She only had an ADF and Dead Reckoning as navigation aid.
CarolAnn Garratt (L) and Geraldine Mock (R).
This was written in 2007. Since, I had the great pleasure of meeting Geraldine Mock in March 2012 after the
Earthrounders Florida Meeting near Orlando.
Mrs Mock lives alone in a very nice house, full of artifacts from Asia. She is now 87 years of age and very lucid. She recalled how she did beat Joan
Smith at securing a record licence for the 'round the world flight.
Last update :May 16, 2012
Copyright © Claude Meunier 2000, 2012