Guest Author - Vance Rowe
The day was April 17, 1964 and Geraldine Mock became the first woman to complete flight around the world in an airplane and she did it with only 750 hours of flying time under her belt. Actually, there were two women who attempted it around the same time. The other woman, Joan Merriam Smith left for her flight two days before Geraldine Mock but returned twenty-five days later than Geraldine. As you may or may not know there were two other women who attempted to fly around the world such as Mildred Bruce in 1930 and Amelia Earhart in 1937. Bruce did fly around the world successfully but her plane was carried across the oceans by ships. She was, however, the first woman to fly from England to Japan and the first woman to fly across the Yellow River. Amelia Earhart attempted the feat but disappeared somewhere in the Pacific. Her disappearance is still a mystery today.
Geraldine Mock was the first and fastest woman to fly around the world solo, including over the oceans, solo. Her aircraft was a 1953 Cessna 180 and was fitted with two ferry tanks in the cab which gave her more fuel and a longer flying time. The total fuel on the plane with the tanks gave her 178 gallons and a range of 2400 nautical hours and twenty-five hours of flying time before refueling. Her flight was not without some problems though. Her husband installed an HF (High Frequency) radio in the plane and it didn’t work at first. She had to land in Bermuda because of high winds and while she waited for more optimal flying conditions, she had the radio fixed. It turned out that there was a wire that was disconnected. Then on her way to Casablanca in Morocco, Geraldine had to fight icing. Then on April 1st, she landed at a “secret” military base in Inshaas instead of landing in Cairo, Egypt. After a couple of hours of interrogation by the military in Inshaas, she was allowed to continue her flight and then landed in Cairo. She left Columbus, Ohio on March 19, 1964 and was hoping to be in Cairo by March 31.
All the while, her husband, Russell Mock kept her apprised of the problems that Joan Smith was having with her plane. Over the next few days, she was in Delhi and Calcutta, India, Bangkok and then landed in Manila on April 8. She had problems with the brakes and they were finally fixed here. She rested for a couple of days and then flew onto Guam Island and then onto Wake Island on April 12. Guam Island and Wake Island are both American territories. On April13th, Geraldine took off for Hawaii crossed the International Date Line and for that reason, actually landed in Hawaii on the same day.
From Hawaii she was off to California. It took her eighteen hours and a flight of 2400 S (Siemens) miles to arrive in Oakland. Her husband was there to greet her along with television cameras and a huge crowd of well-wishers. Joan Smith was in Singapore then. On April 17th, 1964, Geraldine Mock finally arrived back in Columbus, Ohio after stops in Tucson, Arizona, El Paso Texas, and Bowling Green Kentucky. It took her only thirty days and 158 flying hours to cover 22,858 miles.
She received many awards including the Gold Medal of the FAA by President Lyndon Johnson and the Louis Blériot Silver Medal from the FIA as well as medals and decorations from other countries. Although that she and Joan Smith both had said that they were not racing each other, Geraldine did do it the fastest and Joan did it to follow Amelia Earhart’s path. Joan Smith also had a lot of problems with her plane during the flight as well. In an interview when asked why she did it, Geraldine told the reporter that she did it to give confidence to the little pilot who is being left in the jet stream of the space age.
She set two official records with the FIA for this flight: Feminine record for speed around the world and speed around the world in Class C1-c. Her plane, ”The Spirit of Columbus”, or as she calls it “Charlie”, hangs in the Boeing Aviation Hangar at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C.
As for Joan Smith, she landed in Oakland, California on May 12, 1964, completing her solo around the world flight as well.