Jerrie Mock Goes West

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Geraldine "Jerrie" Mock, the Ohio aeronautical engineer, adventurer, pilot and media-described housewife who became the first female pilot to fly solo around the world, died Tuesday. Mock was at her home in Quincy, Florida, and died in her sleep. An experienced pilot, she completed the record-setting solo flight on April 17, 1964, in her single-engine Cessna 180, which she named the "Spirit of Columbus," after her hometown. Following the flight, Cessna gave her another 180 in return for her airplane, which is displayed at the Smithsonian Udvar-Hazy museum. During the celebration of the 50th anniversary of her flight, a life-sized statute depicting her holding a globe was placed at the Port Columbus, Ohio, Airport, from which she began and ended her historic flight.

Treated somewhat condescendingly by the media, Mock nevertheless made waves with her accomplishment—on landing in Saudi Arabia, she got out of the airplane in front of a large silent crowd that waited expectantly for the "pilot" to emerge. When they realized she was the pilot, the crowd erupted in cheers. Without an advance team to visit the planned stops ahead of time and operating on a limited budget, Mock dealt with massive bureaucratic red tape, sometimes taking hours to simply get fuel, plus foul weather and various mechanical problems with the airplane. In interviews after the flight, Mock said, "Nobody was going to tell me I couldn't do it because I was a woman." As an engineer, she often explained the details of the various modifications made to the airplane to carry enough fuel for the trip (leaving very little room for her in the cabin) and simply how an airplane worked, once getting exasperated with a questioner. "Airplanes are meant to fly. I was completely confident in my plane," she said. Mock's obituary states that she did not want a funeral service and reports that her desire for her body to be cremated and her ashes scattered from an airplane flying over the Gulf of Mexico will be honored.