Tracey Curtis-Taylor persists.
The British pilot set out from Seattle, WA, on May 2, 2016, to fly her World War II-era Stearman biplane across the United States. The flight was among events marking The Boeing Company’s 100th anniversary.
Curtis-Taylor’s previous adventures included a 110-hour, 8,077-mile flight from Cape Town, South Africa, in 2013, and a 16,777-mile flight in 2015-2016 from Farnborough, Great Britain, to Sydney, Australia.
On May 11, 2016, after flying over the Grand Canyon, Lake Powell and Monument Valley – “…one of the most spectacular experiences of my life,” she said – Curtis-Taylor stopped in Winslow, AZ, to refuel.
Shortly after taking off from Winslow, the Stearman’s’ engine experienced a partial power loss and stopped climbing. Power lines were directly ahead. Curtis-Taylor had fly toward the ground; the plane hit sage brush which tore off the landing gear, cartwheeled 306 degrees, and was heavily damaged.
The wrecked Stearman was shipped back to Hungary, where it was rebuilt. It was shipped earlier this year to Los Angeles, and then to Winslow, where she resumed her cross-continent trip.
Curtis-Taylor had agreed to be featured speaker at the 2016 National Stearman Fly-in in Galesburg, and kept that engagement.
During last year’s Fly-In, Curtis-Taylor and another Stearman pilot, Marie Spear of Salem, WI, became friends. And Curtis-Taylor pledged to return to Galesburg in 2017.
Spear and Curtis-Taylor kept in contact, and hoped to do some flying together. “Tracey invited me to fly a leg with her and I thought ‘why not into Galesburg?’,” Spear said.
The plan came together Saturday, July 1. Spear and her husband Pete, also a Stearman owner, and Stearman pilot Tye Hammerle, Kenosha, WI, flew to Creve Coeur, MO, to meet Curtis-Taylor. Her next stop was Galesburg.
The reunion in Galesburg was low key. Curtis-Taylor resumed her cross-country flight on July 4, heading to Stark County, IN.
Marie Spear has been a pilot since 1997. “It’s all Pete’s fault,” she said. “Our first date was in his Stearman.”
She bought her own Stearman in October 2014, and has logged about 150 hours in it. Her trip home Monday was the first time she’s flown from Galesburg to Kenosha without Pete or Tye accompanying her in their Stearmans.