British Adventurer Crashes Vintage Biplane in Arizona

Source: <a href=Facebook page." title="Source: Facebook page." width="800" height="450" />
Source: Facebook page.

Tracey Curtis-Taylor, a 54-year-old British adventurer, was flying her World War II vintage biplane across the U.S. when it crashed in the Arizona Desert. She was flying a classic airmail route from Seattle to Boston. Her 1942 Boeing Stearman, named the Spirit of Artemis, developed difficulties and lost power between Winslow and Phoenix.

In January, the “Bird in a Biplane” – as she is known – flew the plane 14,600 nautical miles from the UK to Australia. She passed over 23 countries and made around 50 refueling stops as she retraced Amy Johnson’s famous 1930 flight. The current challenge was for her to fly 4,700 nautical miles on a transcontinental airmail route from Seattle to Boston from the 29th of April to the 30th of May.

“I am stricken to announce that my flight across the USA has been cut short following a crash in the Arizona desert,” she wrote on her Facebook page. “Firstly, I am fine and unharmed, as is Ewald Gritsch who was with me. I would like to thank everyone for their best wishes and support.  The plane had experienced a partial loss of power after takeoff, after reaching a height of about 50 feet. The Spirit of Artemis then started to sink, but thankfully there was open desert to the south. I did a gentle left turn and then leveled off.”

“It hit the ground and rolled forward about 20 feet, but then the right wheel struck a dense sage root mound which tore off the right landing gear and threw the plane on to its left wing. It then cartwheeled tail over the nose in a cloud of sand and dust. I am devastated by all of this and profoundly sorry that I won’t be able to finish the flight, at least not this year.”

She hopes to have the plane repaired in time to be ready for the Farnborough Air Show in Hampshire in July. Curtis-Taylor flew from Cape Town to Goodwood in West Sussex in 2013. That transcontinental trip was part of her attempt to circumnavigate the world.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE