Pilot completes biplane flight celebrating forgotten aviator

Pilot completes historic biplane flight

02 January 2014: A biplane pilot has successfully recreated a record-breaking solo flight first completed 85 years ago.

Mary Heath

Tracey Curtis-Taylor touched down at Goodwood in West Sussex on 31 December after a 7,000-mile (11,200-km), eight-week adventure from Cape Town, South Africa.

She followed the route covered in 1928 by pioneering aviator Lady Mary Heath.

Gruelling conditions

Flying in a vintage Boeing Stearman open-cockpit biplane, The Spirit of Artemis, ensured Tracey faced the same gruelling conditions as her daredevil predecessor.

But this time the journey could be followed mile by mile thanks to satellite technology provided by Inmarsat and partner Livewire Digital.

Live video, stills and audio – including footage from a chase plane and from cameras fitted in the cockpit and on the biplane’s wings – was transmitted via BGAN High Data Rate (HDR) to broadcasters and Tracey’s website using Livewire Digital’s M-Link solution. 

Superior video 

BGAN HDR offers superior video quality and a choice of channel streaming rates, enabling users to take advantage of the full bandwidth available from Inmarsat for the first time.

“It’s been a privilege to be part of Tracey’s adventure and to have been able to see her journey unfold live thanks to Inmarsat’s new BGAN HDR service,” said Inmarsat’s Director of Media, Martin Turner.

“The journey required simple, portable, reliable technology and we’re delighted Inmarsat was able to deliver the perfect solution for Tracey and her team.”

Strong headwinds

Experienced pilot Tracey, who works for historic aviation and air show organisations in the UK, took off from Cape Town on 2 November and was due to finish her journey before Christmas.

But poor weather and strong headwinds of up to 50 knots repeatedly kept her plane – which has a top speed of 95mph and a maximum altitude of 10,000 ft (3,050 m) – grounded.

A documentary about the flight, to be released later this year, aims to put Lady Mary Heath back in the public eye.

For a time one of the most famous women in the world, Mary led a life of firsts – including being an ambulance driver during World War I and pioneering women’s athletics, before turning her attention to aviation.

Inmarsat sponsorship: www.inmarsat.com
Cape Town to Goodwood: www.capetowntogoodwood.com