New Delhi, Nov 24 (IANS) On a journey to recreate history, and to script a new one, British aviator Tracey Curtis Taylor, on a stopover in Delhi on her way to Australia to relive a flight made 85 years ago, said her mission is to inspire young girls to strive to achieve their dreams.
Taylor, a 53 year old aviator is flying solo in a vintage Boeing Stearman bi-plane from Britain to Australia.
At the Hindon Air Force base on the national capital’s outskirts where she touched down on Tuesday, the aviator 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 aim is to recreate the journey of AAmy Johnson, a pioneering English aviator who was the first female pilot to fly alone from Britain to Australia in 1930.
“The aim is to meet as many girls in as many schools… Everywhere I went, I found girls enchanted with the story of Amy Johnson,” Taylor said during an interaction at Hindon.
“The aim of the journey is to celebrate what women have achieved… The flight is a metaphor, the message is that girls may have all opportunity and support to achieve whatever they dream of in the field of their interest,” Taylor told IANS.
She started her journey on October 1, and has already 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.
She will stop next at Agra, Varanasi and Kolkata, before flying out to Myanmar, and expects to reach Australia in the beginning of 2016.
“India is halfway on my tour, I have never been to India before,” she said.
Taylor, who landed at Hindon Monday evening, on Tuesday interacted with school girls and later with women pilots of the Indian Air Force. The pilot appeared excited about India’s move to allow women in combat roles.
“Indian Air Force is a very respected air force, I am told its one of the best. It is great that they are allowing women in fighter roles,” she said.
Taylor once aspired to be a fighter pilot herself, but the Royal Air Force did not take women fighter pilots at that time.
“RAF did not take women at that time… So I went through civil aviation training, spent my own money for it,” she said.
Flying along with her at Hindon on Tuesday in the Tiger Moth was Squadron Leader Kamaljeet Kaur, who said both Taylor, and Johnson are an inspiration to her.
Taylor’s aircraft, named Spirit of Artemis, 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.
“I got this aircraft retrofitted in 2012 for flying across Africa, I got a bigger engine, mounted fuel tanks on the wings, and now it can fly upto six hours,” she said.
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.
However, the average flying she does in a day is four to five hours.
Moreover, Taylor flies from the backseat of the two-seater, and that means she has no clear straight view.
“I have to zig zag while taxiing the aircraft, I have to look from the sides,” she said.
An open aircraft also means direct exposure to weather.
“I faces dust storms, haze, when I cam over Delhi, I could not see anything,” she recounted.
“But this the old fashioned romantic flying and I enjoy it,” she said.
Asked about her decision to recreate Johnson’s tour, she said: “When you are flying vintage aircraft, you get attached to the people who flew them.”
She, however, also clarified that her tour is different from Johnson’s, who, in Taylor’s words “crashed her way to Australia”.
“She wanted to create a record. She got a fuel tank in her front seat and would pump the fuel by hand. She almost died many times.”
While Taylor has broadly followed Johnson’s route, she avoided flying over Syria and Iraq, and chose instead to fly over the Gulf countries.
Johnson, a pioneer in her own way, set numerous long-distance records during the 1930s. She flew in the Second World War as a part of the Air Transport Auxiliary and died during a ferry flight in 1941.
Taylor will go to Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia before crossing Timor Sea to Australia. Her plane would then be shipped to America and will be flown across the United States, a Boeing statement said.