Monday, March 31, 2014

Geraldine “Jerrie” Fredritz Mock, Phi Mu

Photo courtesy of "The Aglaia" of Phi Mu
In honor of Women’s History Month, the NPC blog is featuring biographies of Panhellenic women who have been influential historical figures. Our final post spotlights Geraldine “Jerrie” Fredritz Mock, who was initiated as a Phi Mu at The Ohio State University, where she studied aeronautical engineering. The first woman to fly solo around the world, she had always been fascinated with flying and married a pilot; her husband only encouraged her to pursue her interest in aviation. She received her private pilot’s license in 1958 and decided she wanted to see the world in 1964, leaving for her worldwide flight in March that year.

 Mock encountered several difficulties in her journey around the world. Shortly after leaving from Columbus, Ohio ¾ where she lived with her husband and their three children ¾ she realized that her long-range radio was not working properly. When she landed at her first stop in Bermuda, she found that her brakes were also not working as well as they should have been. She had the radio fixed in Bermuda and made additional stops in Morocco, Tripoli, Cairo, Manila, Saudi Arabia, Guam, Honolulu, California, Arizona, Texas and Kentucky before arriving home in Columbus 29 days, 11 hours and 59 minutes after she left.

Her flight set a total of seven records. Twenty-seven years after Amelia Earhart’s mysterious disappearance, Jerrie Mock became the first woman to fly solo around the world, the first woman to fly around the world in a single-engine plane and the first woman to fly over both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. She also set a record for the fastest flight around the world for Class C1-c aircraft, among several other records. Her plane, the Spirit of Columbus, was re-acquired by Cessna after her flight and was displayed at the Cessna factory until 1976, when Cessna donated it to the Smithsonian Institute. Today, the Smithsonian displays it at the Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C.

After her record-setting flight around the world, Mock continued to fly and set several more world records. She was presented with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration Exceptional Service Decoration in 1964 and was awarded the Louis Bleriot Silver Medal by the Féderation Aéronatique Internationale in 1965.