wilderness LECTURES

Journeys in a Biplane – ‘Following the Female Pioneers of the Air’

Tracey Curtis-Taylor on 17/10/2018 19:30

price to be confirmed

Chemistry Theatre, University of Bristol
Tracey Curtis-Taylor. (c) T Curtis-Taylor

Tracey Curtis-Taylor was born in England but raised in British Columbia, Canada, until the age of ten when the family returned to the UK in the early 1970's. Tracey had her first flying lesson at the age of sixteen on a holiday to Canada and continued with her flying after she emigrated to New Zealand in 1983. Over the next six years she gained her private and commercial pilot's licences and qualified as a flying instructor. She joined the New Zealand Warbird Association and was trained by military pilots to fly WW2 training aircraft. But her real passion was the early bi-planes and open-cockpit flying, and a defining moment was when she bought a share in a replica WW1 single-seat fighter, the iconic Se5a, which famously fought against the Red Baron in his Fokker Triplane.


Tracey Curtis-Taylor during her USA transcontinental flight. (c) T Curtis-Taylor

Flying old aeroplanes fostered an interest in the early pioneers and the record-making solo flights of the inter-war period. In 2012 Tracey commissioned the restoration of a 1942 Boeing Stearman for the purpose of re-tracing Lady Heath's flight from Cape Town to England in 1928. Accompanied by a support aircraft and film crew, a documentary called 'The Aviatrix' was made of Tracey's flight in 2013 and was screened by the BBC. This was the forgotten story of Mary Heath, one of the most outstanding pilots of the late 1920's and the first person to fly solo from the Cape of South Africa in a light aircraft.

Continuing with this theme of celebrating the achievements of the female pioneers, in 2015 Tracey followed the route of Amy Johnson's solo flight to Australia which was another world first in 1930. In 2016 Tracey flew across America following the historic airmail route from west coast to east coast which took a second attempt a year later after she crashed in the Arizona Desert with an engine failure. Another documentary about Tracey's flying adventures and the pioneering story is in the final stages of completion.

Tracey's talk is about the story in history and the contribution that these remarkable women made to aviation; the universal dream of flight, and what it's like to fly a vintage aeroplane across five continents in the modern age.

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