Tracey Curtis Taylor at Air Force Station Hindan in Ghaziabad IAF women pilots
Tracey Curtis Taylor at Air Force Station Hindon in Ghaziabad IAF women pilots

By Brig. VK Atray

New Delhi. 24  November, 2015.  This is the story of another woman flying high and creating history.  British female aviator Tracey Curtis-Taylor landed safely today at Hindon Air Force Base near Delhi in her classic 1942 Boeing Stearman , an open cockpit  vintage biplane, called Spirit of Artemis, on her way from U.K. to Australia with stopovers at 50 locations, across 23 countries, before finally arriving in Sydney on January 6 2016.

Curtis-Taylor has undertaken the flight to celebrate the pioneering days of early aviation in the 1920s and 1930s, and especially the achievements of revolutionary British aviator Amy Johnson. A celebrity of her day, Amy Johnson became the first woman to fly solo from Britain to Australia in 1930.

Tracey Curtis-Taylor while her halt at Hindon said, “For my whole life, I have been moved by the achievements of pioneers like Amy Johnson. My own flight to Australia is the realization of a burning desire to fly my beloved Boeing Stearman Spirit of Artemis around the world following in their footsteps.”

 An IAF Tiger Moth vintage aircraft and Tracey's Boeing Stearman flying in formation at Air Force Station Hindon
An IAF Tiger Moth vintage aircraft and Tracey’s Boeing Stearman flying in formation at Air Force Station Hindon

A small support crew is travelling in a light modern aircraft to record her journey to Australia, and day to day news is being posted on an interactive website. Throughout the flight to Australia, Tracey Curtis-Taylor will be stopping in a number of cities to engage with the local communities, with a particular focus on women and women aviators. Commemorating the fact that Amy Johnson was the first president of the Women’s Engineering Society, she will promote the achievements of women in every sphere around the world, especially their historic and contemporary role in aviation and engineering.

“We are proud to welcome Tracey Curtis-Taylor to India. Boeing’s sponsorship of Tracey’s adventure stems from an admiration for history and spirit of accomplishment captured in this epic journey, which is an example to a new generation of aviation enthusiasts,” said Pratyush Kumar, president for Boeing India. Tracey’s flight in the 1942 Boeing Stearman will reach Australia in early 2016, a year in which we will celebrate our centennial and our own onward journey of achievement into Boeing’s second century of aviation,” remarked Kumar.

At the Hindon Air Force base she interacted with women pilots of Indian Air Force and also flew along with IAF’s vintage Tiger Moth aircraft, with which her machine has a striking resemblance. Taylor’s aircraft, named, is an open two-seater plane which was used in the Second World War era as a primary trainer, vulnerable to weather and with limited fuel carrying capacity.The restorations on the aircraft include a Lycoming 680 radial engine with 300 hp, and has top altitude of 10,000 ft., with a cruise speed of 90 mph.

“It’s fitting that Tracy landed at Hindan Air Base where the C-17 Globemasters of the Indian Air Force are stationed. This is a unique moment where one of the oldest and one of the newest Boeing aircraft are together at the same base. Tracy’s visit to Hindan also highlights the long relationship that Boeing shares with the Indian Air Force which began when the Harvard Trainer was used to train pilots,” said Dennis Swanson, vice president, Boeing Defense, Space & Security India.

Tracey's Boeing Stearman vintage air craft
Tracey’s Boeing Stearman vintage air craft

Since the journey began on October 1, Tracey has travelled nearly 13,000 miles across Europe and Mediterranean to Jordan, over the Arabian Desert and across the Gulf of Oman to Pakistan. In India, she had a stopover at Ahmedabad before coming to Delhi and will stop next at Agra, Varanasi and Kolkata, before flying out to Myanmar.

Weather has been greatest hindrance specially in Saudi Arabia which had sand storms & high humidity and this reduced the visibility, informed Tracey. She found problem in flying at Hindon too which had restricted visibility of 1-2 kms.

For someone who aspired  to be a fighter pilot Tracey  is impressed that Indian Air Force is allowing women in fighter roles. She recalled that this wish of hers couldn’t be fulfilled because Royal Air Force did not take women fighter pilots at that time.