Aviator completes epic flight in vintage biplane with Sydney Harbour flyover

Sat Jan 9, 2016 3:02am EST
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By Christopher McCall

SYDNEY, Reuters () - British aviator Tracey Curtis-Taylor flew her open-cockpit biplane across Sydney Harbour and landed at the city's international airport on Saturday, completing a three-month journey from England to retrace a pioneering feat of early aviation.

The 53-year-old aviator set out from Farnborough on Oct 1 to follow the flight path of legendary aviator Amy Johnson, who in 1930 became the first woman to fly solo between Britain and Australia.

"I need a drink," Curtis-Taylor told waiting media as she climbed from her 1942 Boeing Stearman and was handed a glass of champagne.

"Seeing all the most iconic landscapes, geology, vegetation, just the best view in the world," she said. "Very few people get to fly it like I just did."

Braving sea spray and smog in her "Spirit of Artemis", a reconditioned piston-engine plane, Curtis-Taylor crossed 14,000 miles (22,000 kilometers) and 23 countries using 8,000 liters (2,100 gallons) of fuel.

She had struggled to secure supplies of "avgas", or aviation gasoline, not readily available at many modern airports, and relied on a support plane that followed behind.

"In doing something like this you have to be absolutely self-sufficient," Curtis-Taylor told Reuters in an interview before her arrival. "We have done something like 54 stops and that is what takes the time."

Her challenges included scrounging for fuel with the help of Aborigines after an impromptu landing in the Australian outback, and spending a day scraping salt off her propellers after flying over the Timor Sea.   Continued...

British aviator Tracey Curtis-Taylor pilots her biplane past Australia's Uluru rock formation during her historic England-to-Australia journey, in this handout picture taken January 6, 2016. REUTERS/ Handout via Reuters