Jerrie Mock, the first woman to complete a solo flight around the world, will be the 2015 inductee in the Paul E. Garber First Flight Shrine. The induction is part of ceremonies to be held on December 17th at Wright Brothers National Memorial. In 1964, at age 38, and the mother of three, Ms. Mock flew a single engine Cessna 180 christened the “Spirit of Columbus”, nicknamed “Charlie”, a total of 23,000 miles in 29 days, to become another “first” in the world of aviation.
Geraldine “Jerrie” Fredritz Mock was born on November 22, 1925 in Newark, Ohio. Her interest in flying started at the early age of seven when she had her first airplane ride, and declared she was going to be a pilot. She was eleven when Amelia Earhart launched her around the world flight, and every day after school, Mock tuned in the radio for reports on her idol’s progress, then the news of efforts to find her.
Ms. Mock studied aeronautical engineering at Ohio State University before getting married in 1945. Her husband was a licensed pilot, and she got her license in 1958. The couple had great experiences flying to Canada and other places, hearing radio conversations of pilots who were crossing the Atlantic, Ms. Mock decided “why not fly around the world!”
The couple spent two years planning; together they researched routes, maps, visited embassies arranging clearances and use of airports. She plotted her course with maps and a globe at her dining room table. An Air Force friend helped her chart her course. Finally on March 19, 1964, this Ohio housewife took off from the airport in Port Columbus, Ohio and began her dream trip. When she returned to her home airport on April 17, 1964, she had accomplished her goal of being the first woman to fly solo around the world, which was a dream that her idol Amelia Earhart died trying.
The trip was not without incidents. She extinguished a potential on-board fire, had severe icing, flew with long range radio dead, mistakenly landed at a secret military installation, experienced defective brakes and malfunctioning engine, but most of all she overcame the public’s doubt that a 5-foot tall “flying housewife” could be the first woman to accomplish such a feat. She later remarked that she didn’t consider her flight remarkable, “just lots of fun”.
In the “Spirit of Columbus” Mock set seven records. She was the first woman to fly solo around the world, the first woman to fly across the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, the first woman to do so in a single engine plane, the first woman to fly the Atlantic from the United States to Africa, and the first woman to fly the Pacific west to east. She set the female speed record for around-the-world, and established the speed record in a Type C1-c aircraft. She set more speed records later in a Cessna P106. The Spirit of Columbus was donated to the National Air and Space Museum where it remains.
On May 4, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson presented her with the Federal Aviation Administration’s Exceptional Service Decloration, and the Federation Aeronautique International awarded her its Louis Bleriot silver medal, making her the first American and first woman so honored.
In 1970 Mock published the story of her round the world flight in the book “Three-Eight Charlie”. She later retired, and after living in several places, moved to Quincy, Florida where she resided until her death on September 30, 2014 at age 89.
GERALDINE “JERRIE” MOCK, aviator extraordinaire.