Long Haul Flight

On this day… “November 24th, 1930: Ruth Nichols is the first woman pilot to fly on a transcontinental air flight. She flies from Mineola, New York to California in a Lockheed-Vega. The journey takes 7 days.”


Day 1: Took off from Mineola (with my two-month old daughter, my babysitter fell through at the last minute). Was overtaken on the runway by four male pilots, all of whom shouted at me because I was driving within the speed limit. Hadn’t realised that my route took me over Manhattan, so I parked the plane in Times Square. Went to Macy’s and bought three pairs of shoes, a handbag and a coat that is two sizes too big for me, but was on special offer. It was too dark to take off by the time I finished, so I had to spend the night in New York.

Day 2: Flew as far as Chicago. While trying to reverse my plane into a parking bay at the terminal I bumped into the plane beside it, knocking it against the next one and setting up a domino-effect of planes tipping over to one side. The airport had to be closed for the day.

Day 3: Flew to Detroit. Realised I had read the map wrongly and was flying in the wrong direction. Flew out of Detroit. By nightfall had reached Chicago again but when I asked for permission to land they threatened to shoot me down. Spent the night in a field in Wisconsin.

Day 4: Discovered that I had a flat tyre, and had to wait, in a field in the middle of nowhere, for eleven hours until a man passed by who could change it for me.

Day 5: Needing to re-fuel, I spotted a small town below and landed. I found myself in Toto, Kansas, the only Amish community in the entire State. Twenty of us had to push the plane to a gas station in Kansas City.

Day 6: Since they’d been so helpful, spent the day giving joy-rides to the Amish, none of whom had ever been in a plane before. Flew a loop-the-loop for them, and all of their hats and bonnets fell off.

Day 7: Reached California (I don’t know where exactly, did I mention I can’t read maps?). Landed the plane while changing the baby’s nappy, finishing typing my blog about the journey, ironing the outfit I was going to wear to meet the press, planning my husband’s dinner (he hasn’t eaten since I left home, he doesn’t know how to open the fridge), giving an interview to XQPZ radio, sketching plans for a re-design of the cockpit and taking a congratulatory call from President Hoover.

Women may not be the fastest drivers, but we sure know how to multi-task.


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