Geraldine “Jerrie” Fredritz Mock was born on November 22, 1925 and was the first woman to fly solo around the world back in 1964. Jerrie Mock first flew with her father in the cockpit of a Ford Trimotor airplane and when she began high school, took an engineering course of which she was the only girl. She graduated from Newark High School in 1943 and went to Ohio State University to study aeronautical engineering but left her studies and married her husband, Russell Mock in 1945.
While flying cross-country with her husband, she enjoyed listening to other pilots on the radio en route to various destinations but eventually, she began planning her own flight because she “just wanted to see the world”. She began flying lessons in 1956 and earned her pilot certificate in 1958. By 1962, she accumulated over 700 flight hours, but had no over-water experience. It was that year when she began planning her flight around the World and decided that she would take the same route as Amelia Earhart’s last flight. Jerrie had a 1953 Cessna 180, a rugged single-engine four-seat airplane officially named Spirit of Columbus which she modified in order to be able to circumnavigate the Globe. Firstly, she installed a new 225 hp engine, as well as twin radio direction finders, dual short-range radios, a long-range radio, and a new compass, then she added Two ferry tanks replaced the passenger seats inside the cabin, bringing the total fuel onboard to 178 gallons, giving her endurance of 25 hours and a range of 2400 nautical miles.
Mock’s trip began on March 19, 1964, when she departed Columbus, Ohio and started to fly towards Bermuda, where she arrived after 6h38m and discovered that All Flights to the Azores were canceled due to bad weather. Despite the danger, she decided that even if she couldn’t land, the remaining fuel would be enough to reach Europe. On March 26th, after 13h:04m and 2,254 miles she arrived in Santa Maria, Azores and departed to Africa just a little over 24 hours later. After 5h34m she arrived in Casablanca, Morocco where people “celebrated my arrival with French champagne, and then went out for a Moroccan dinner in a restaurant that had been an officers’ club. Outside it was just drab… Inside, it brought to mind a gleaming black-and-white tile. Carved Moorish pillars spiraled to the high ceilings. A string trio played on a raised platform at one side. But the shaves of the instruments and the eerie sounds coming from them were vastly different from ours at home”. From Casablanca, Jerrie Mock went to Bone, Algeria, where she arrived after 6h 30m, in total traveling over 5000 miles until now. On March 31 she landed in Tripoli, Libya where a mechanic repaired a starter solenoid that was causing problems, with the only part she brought with her, and left Cairo, Egypt, “the ancient land of the Pharaohs”. Before landing in Cairo, Jerrie accidentally landed at a top-secret Egyptian airbase, later learning that the Russians were having a meeting with the Egyptian Air Force there but after making sure that she was not a spy she was able to land where she had to. On April 3rd, Jerrie flew through a sand storm but managed to arrive at Dhahran, Saudi Arabia after 7h30m and 1173 miles flown from Cairo. There she was welcomed by several men on bronze steps, wearing white robes, who wanted to see the first flying housewife to enter that area and to make sure that there was nobody else with her. From Dhahran, she flew to Karachi Pakistan where she landed on April 4th after some problems with the magnetic compass. From Karachi Jerrie flew to Delhi, India where she was able to see a “beautiful city of parks and flowers and ornate structures’ ‘. After the stopover in Delhi she flew over India and after 5h32m she arrived in Calcutta but enjoyed the flight over Ganga River and villages of India. After departing India, Mock went to Bangkok, Thailand where she arrived after 4h15m of flight, summing up over 11500 miles of flight in total noting that she “continued along at 7,500feet, clear of mountains and also clear of clouds. Before leaving for Manila, at 3:30 a.m.went with Mrs. Watanasupt to the communications building where she was able to send a story to the Columbus Dispatch. Then she departed Bangkok around 8:00 and even though she had a VFR plan for 7.500ft, soon after take-off, Jerrie realized that it wasn’t possible to maintain the VFR, because of a cloud at that altitude. From Manila, she went on towards Guam, where she landed on April 11th, 11h39m later.
In Guam, “A big crowd of people swarmed around the place as soon as the engine was turned off, and I wondered what had happened… a band started to play. Welcoming hands were thrust into the cabin… As my foot touched the ground, an excited voice said “Welcome to the United States ‘. The crowd cheered”, noted Jerrie Mock in her book about this adventure. She was on US soil 6000 miles away from home and was amazed to discover that a U.S. Navy band signed for her.
Many people believed that the trip from Guam to Wake Island would be the most difficult because of the tiny 4 miles long island and 9,800foot long runway but navigation-wise, it was the easiest. From Wake island, she went on to Honolulu, Hawaii where she arrived after 15h46m where she visited the FAA Air Traffic Center, inside the extinct Diamond Head volcano crater and saw the radar and control system rooms. Jerrie Mock got back on US continental soil on April 15th 1962 after a 17h38m flight from Hawaii to Oakland, California, gathering 20716 total miles flown. From Oakland she went on to Tucson, Arizona and noted that “it was good to be flying in the United States” again and to see all the mountain valleys or canyons without being disrupted by the radio. From Tucson, she went to El Paso, Texas and from there to Bowling Green Kentucky.
On April 17th, after 23205.9 Miles, over 29 Days, 11Hours, 59 Minutes and 38 seconds she arrived back home in Columbus, Ohio where a crowd gathered and broke the police cordon to be able to run toward her plane. Someone opened the airplane door and she was able to get a kiss and a hug from her sons Roger and Gary, her daughter Valerie and her husband Russ. There were also other relatives and friends, men from Cessna Aircraft Continental Motors, Champion Spark Plugs and Dave Blanton who equipped Charlie. She noted: “ Governor Rhodes spoke at the ceremony commenting on Jerrie’s great achievement. Bull Shulte, deputy administrator of the FAA, topped it off by reading a telegram of congratulations from President Johnson ”. Mel Tharp from the Columbus Dispatch presented her a gold pendant necklace and a golden globe that had a ruby mounted in the position of every place where she landed. After almost a month, it was all over, Jerrie was home.
In the end, the airplane was studied to see what was its condition and to discover what problems it had in order to make safer airplanes in the future. On May 4th, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson presented Mock with the Federal Aviation Administration’s Exception Service Decoration. Her self-described status as “the flying housewife” notwithstanding, Mock had thoroughly prepared for the flight and accomplished it in a professional manner, trouble-shooting as necessary and handling bureaucracy and diplomacy with firmness and grace.
Ms. Mock gave up flying in 1968 because it got too expensive, her marriage ended in divorce, her son Gary died in 1990 and her son Roger died in 2007. Valerie Armentrout, her daughter, was asked if her mother was disappointed that her fame had been fleeting. She said:” Disappointed? No, not at all. She didn’t do what she did for fame or fortune. She liked the idea of what was going on in other parts of the world, and she wanted to see it for herself.”
Jerrie Mock died on September 30, 2014, at age 88 in Quincy Florida but her legacy will continue to last.