Gone West

All of us here at Plane Tales were greatly saddened to read of the passing of record-breaking pilot and fly writer Jerrie Mock this week. Ms. Mock was the first woman to fly around the world solo, a feat she accomplished in 1964 flying a specially modified Cessna 180 named “Charlie.” (Charlie had a huge gas tank installed in the cockpit to make the trip).

Bizarrely, unaccountably, and unfairly she virtually disappeared from aviation history in the years following her accomplishment. We found out about her only thanks to the efforts of Phoenix Graphix who recently republished her out-of-print 1970 book Three-Eight Charlie that documented her flight.

Actually, “documented” is a poor choice of words, and does Ms. Mock’s fabulous book an injustice. “Documented” suggests a dry academic treatment. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The book is a delight from cover to cover. Ms. Mock is a wonderful storyteller who brings her flight alive in a way that makes you feel you are along for the ride in her cramped cockpit. Her observations on the different cultures she encounters spanning the globe are worthy of Margaret Mead, and the details the mind-boggling logistics involved in planning and executing a globe-spanning flight are amazing. The book also serves as an excellent time capsule of the golden age of general aviation before the era of the GPS and glass cockpit; and exposes some of the darker elements of the competitive world of aviation record setting and the way the media covers them.

Three-Eight Charlie is a book that demands a space on every aviator’s bookshelf. If you don’t have it yet, we recommend the hardcover 50th Anniversary Edition. It’s a beautifully executed volume with the quality and grace you’d expect from Easton Press, with a masterful layout of graphic extras that make the book a feast for the eyes as well as for the mind.

None of us ever had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Mock personally, but through her book her wonderful, adventurous, and spunky character came alive to all of us; and with her passing we feel like we’ve lost a member of the family.


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