Durban – look up for a vintage green flying machine

Tracey Curtis-Taylor, a female aviator who is flying her open cockpit Boeing Stearman – Sprit of Artemis – from Cape Town to Goodwood, will be flying over the skies of Durban in a post World War II Boeing Stearman now retracing the footsteps of pioneer aviator, Lady Mary Heath who in 1918 became the first pilot, male or female, to fly a small, open-cockpit biplane from Cape Town to London.

The Boeing Stearman was has no modern instruments and, as it is an open cockpit plane, flight plans are subject to the weather – this is patient flying at it’s best.

Weather permitting, Curtis-Taylor leaves Port Elizabeth on 3 November. It is difficult to give an exact estimate of when she will land in Durban as her flight plan is entirely dependent on good weather patterns.

Curtis-Taylor is following in the footsteps of Mary Heath and on her flight will cover 7000 miles in 32 legs over 6 weeks alone in an open cockpit plane.

Curtis-Taylor’s South African overnight stops will include:

  • Cape Town
  • Port Elizabeth
  • East London
  • Durban
  • Pietermaritzburg
  • Johannesburg
  • Pretoria

Her support crew of seven, including pilots, an engineer and media crew travel alongside her in a Cessna Caravan – they take off after Tracey, catch up to her, do some filming and then race ahead to the next stop to set up for her landing.

The only contact that Tracey has with the ‘outside world’ is via radio – no GPS, autopilot, air stewards or comfort breaks.

At the end of her first leg and landing in Port Elizabeth the first words out of Tracey’s mouth as she brought her Boeing Stearman to a halt in slot B9 at the Port Elizabeth Airport were; “You guys live in an amazing country, I just experienced an amazing sight of whales frollicking in the water below me as I flew up your stunning coastline!”

The Spirit of Artemis has a top speed of 95 mph, an operating ceiling of 10 000 feet and a range of 450 miles. Tracey is, where possible, flying her plane at around 200 feet above the ground in order to “experience the beauty of Africa”.

The cockpit and fuselage of Tracey’s biplane are fitted with cameras – one filming her fly and her commentary and one pointing down towards the ground that captures the achingly beautiful scenery of South Africa and Africa. Footage from these will form the basis of an exciting documentary film which will be produced on Tracey’s return for release in early 2014.

Her credo is a simple one; “Flying has defined my life and, if it defines my death as well, then so be it”

Read about Lady Mary Heath here: Lady Heath – PE Winner of first aerial race

Tracey Curtis-Taylor and Phetogo Molawa

Whilst in Port Elizabeth Tracey Curtis-Taylor met with helicopter pilot, Captain Phetogo Molawa

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About Alan

The one with a "My Complex" - incurable but fun. Grumpy, Cynical, Wise and Idiotic. I can also be found HERE.