Jerrie Mock, aviator: First woman to fly solo around the world

President Lyndon Johnson presented her with the US Federal Aviation Administration’s Exceptional Service decoration in 1964, but despite the number of records she broke, few people knew of the flight or its historical significance

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The Independent Online

Geraldine “Jerrie” Mock, who has died at the age of 88, was the first woman to fly solo around the world.

She was 38 on 19 March 1964 when she took off from Columbus, Ohio in a 1953 Cessna 180 single-engine monoplane named the Spirit of Columbus. Twenty-nine days and 23,103 miles later she landed safely back in Columbus, 27 years after Amelia Earhart’s more famous, albeit unsuccessful, attempt to circle the globe.

President Lyndon Johnson presented her with the US Federal Aviation Administration’s Exceptional Service decoration in 1964, but despite the number of records she broke, few people knew of the flight or its historical significance. Her friend Mary Kelley, whose husband Bill funded a statue of her in Newark, said, “She was a quiet, reserved woman and never wanted the publicity. When he was raising money for her statue, Bill would have to explain to everyone who she was.”

The statue was unveiled last year; Mock’s younger sister, Susan Reid, had modelled for it wearing the skirt, sweater and leather shoes Mock had worn on her round-the world flight. Her publisher, Wendy Hollinger, said that she wasn’t fond of skirts, but wore one “because she thought it would be socially acceptable, especially in the Middle East.”

Born in Newark in 1925, she became fascinated by flying when she was seven years old and she and her father had the opportunity to fly in the cockpit of a Ford Trimotor airplane. She took an engineering course at high school – she was the only girl – and decided conclusively that flying was her passion. She left school 1943 for Ohio State University, where she was one of the first female aeronautical engineering students, although she left to marry. She didn’t begin flying until 1958, when she was 32.

In 1970 Mock wrote a memoir, Three-Eight Charlie, which was republished this year in celebration of her flight’s 50th anniversary. Spirit of Columbus is on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Virginia.

Geraldine Fredritz, aviator: born Newark, Ohio 22 November 1925; married 1945 Russell Mock; died Quincy, Florida 30 September 2014.

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