By Dan Sewell, AP
CINCINNATI, Ohio — Recounting her history-making adventure 50 years later, Geraldine “Jerrie” Mock plays it down as an enjoyable way to see the world.
The native of Newark, Ohio, became the first female pilot to fly solo around the globe when her single-engine Cessna 180 dubbed Spirit of Columbus landed in the state’s capital on April 17, 1964. She had covered more than 23,000 miles (37,000 kilometers) in 29-plus days while making stops in such exotic locales as the Azores, Casablanca, Cairo and Calcutta.
“You call it an accomplishment. I just call it having fun,” Mock, now 88, said by telephone from her home in the small north Florida city of Quincy.
“Scared? Let’s not use the word scared,” she said, laughing. “Airplanes are meant to fly. I was completely confident in my plane; I trusted it completely. I had plenty of gas, a good engine. You just kind of used your head.”
But 27 years after female aviation pioneer and Mock’s childhood hero Amelia Earhart’s disappearance in the Pacific, her flight had plenty of harrowing moments.
“Amelia Earhart was an inspiration to me … She wasn’t really on my mind during the flight,” said Mock, who recalled that she was most alarmed when she noticed a burning wire while flying over a desert in the Middle East. She switched it off and the wire cooled down, as she considered what might have happened had the fire spread in a plane loaded with extra fuel for her trip.
She also had radio and brake problems, was grounded in Bermuda by rough weather and landed by mistake at an Egyptian military base. Armed soldiers quickly sent her on the right way to the international airport, she said.
While dubbed “the flying housewife” at the time, the suburban mother of three studied aeronautical engineering at Ohio State University, had flown for years and had been planning her flight for months, working with an Air Force friend and other aviation experts and officials. Her husband, Russell Mock, also a pilot, worked in advertising and helped line up The Columbus Dispatch newspaper and other sponsors.