Recreating the flights of famous women aviators | Tracey Curtis-Taylor

“Flying over the Grand Canyon, jaw dropping wonderful flying, wonderful filming that day, then the engine lost power at high density altitude, very frustrating.”

Tracey Curtis-Taylor

Tracey and Amy Johnson

This fantastic quest. There is a key to everybody’s life and you just have to find it. For me it turned out to be old aeroplanes, in a way that I never expected. It is actually the biggest surprise in my life when I look back, I never really had any sense that it would come to this. It is intrinsic to me.”

Tracey flies a Steaman, a vintage biplane. You will notice that the pilot sits in the second seat, which is fine for looking over the side when flying , but visibility not so good on the ground. Having successfully flown from Cape Town to Goodwood in 2013, Tracey Curtis-Taylor next took on the challenge of flying her vintage biplane to Australia. These flights recreate and celebrate Lady Mary Heath and Amy Johnson. On her flight to Australia, she visited many countries.

In my working life, I never call it a career, it seems like I had a succession of fantastic jobs and then I just learnt on the hoof with it.”


Inspiring the next generation

It‘s about young people, reminding them what’s gone on in history, particularly focused around girls and women.  Flying out to Australia, visiting the girls’ schools along the way, through Jordan, I was meeting girls and mentoring women’s groups. They love the aeroplane. To be able to tell them about the stories, the struggles that women have had historically. It surprised me how moved I was by it. I think that’s what I’d like to do going forward, to go back to these places.

I’ve always had a sense of history, I love reading about colonial history particularly. The scramble for Africa. I’ve been reading that book for 10 years. Now having flown to Australia, having visited visited all these countries, I want to understand what happened. The Russian empire. The British empire . Those are the struggles that interest me, because they shaped so much of the modern world.

The plan is to complete the circumnavigation of the world in 2017. Finish the flight across America from Windsor in Arizona where we crashed. Flying Africa, these expeditions, this is the best thing, with an incredibly fantastic team, whole network of support and sponsor ship. The best thing I’ve ever done. All my early years, I was very determined. I had great longings. I was obsessed by horses. Out on the moor, the horse was just my release, a way to freedom. Back in Canada, one day there was as sign at the side of the road, 20 minutes introductory flight in a Cessna. The instructor, this poor chap who was Austrian, just couldn’t get rid of me. I was there with him for 4 hours We took a charter trip of politicians to Vancouver island in a bigger plane.  My friend was getting more and more worried, I had just disappeared.”


The first difference for girls, I was aware of was at school when the boys could join air cadets, the boys in our class were doing navigation O levels, and gliding.

There’s a huge drive to encourage more women into the aerospace industry. It starts with that basic education into STEM subjects. ”

For me it starts much younger than that. You need very small children exposed to the idea of flight. I think everyone is excited by the idea of flight When I was 6 my cousin bought a little balsa wood plane with an elastic band that you wind up.   The pair of us would spend hours flying a little windup plane and he would send me up into trees, to get it..”

All female air traffic controllers at Marka airport, Amman Jordan

Gender differences.

My father used to take to me to airshows. They are the biggest outdoor event next to football.  If you get children before they become polarised or sexualised then give them these things. Let them understand how it works.

I can’t believe that girls are any different to boys. I know that some boys have a natural affinity to engineering, no doubt about it. I’ve seen it . Having taught flying to both men and women as well , I’ve seen how men men and women respond differently in the cockpit.   Whether it is or testosterone whether it is biological thing, women just don’t seem to have the innate confidence that men do.   You have to be brave, you have to make brave choices . Amy Johnson had a huge amount of determination, she had that quality of stamina.

I was visiting the girls’ schools along the way, to Australia. I was meeting girls and mentoring women’s groups particularly the middle East. Jordan, Saudi on through Pakistan. Its been very touching to see, in these countries the basic human rights, and glaring inequality, particularly in the middle east.We have huge opportunities.

I’ve just lived according to my desire, my sense of adventure my love of mobility and freedom, those two things have been very important to me I’ve made choices, not bogged down with families or domestics.”


There’s a time for everything. That’s the other thing for young people. they never tell you how much time you’ve got. There’s always this sense of urgency . There’ so much out there, pace yourself through it.  It’s not just about one career, every job I’ve had has been a different life. I’ve had many lives in many countries incredibly rich and diverse. That’s what we want to convey to people.   It is all out there. It is so magical.   Yet we’re bombarded by the war, the violence, the terrorism, the hatred that’s the awful part. Don’t get blinkered in your approach When you’re out in the world you have to get out and live it. There are amazing people and amazing opportunities.”

To read more about Tracey go to


About the author

City Eye became interested in Overlooked and Overshadowed women, both in contemporary times and through out history. The former would include the women passed over for the Nobel in favour of their male colleagues. The later would be the wives of famous men, such as Mrs. Mandela. Her study of women written out of history, led her to interviews with interesting and inspirational women, (and some men). Extracts will be published in the articles. In no way is this men versus women, as to who is better. Simply that an overly macho, military, testosterone fueled environment, mainly men, needs the balancing attributes, often, though not exclusively, assigned to women: caring, conciliation, communication. Find out more: City Eye Blog ©christina

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