Having mentors and those who inspire you are key for making your goals happen. And for me, one of those mentors was Geraldine “Jerrie” Mock—the first woman who flew solo around in the world, in 1964. During my early planning for my solo flight around the world, I read Jerrie’s book “Three Eight Charlie.” Her determination for setting the record for solo female flight made a big impact on me and showed me that anything is possible if you set your mind to it.
In April 2014, I had the opportunity to meet my heroine. I still remember how nervous I was on the drive to Quincy, FL, where I had arranged to meet her through her grandson, Eddie. As I pulled up to the driveway, I saw a petite woman standing outside to greet me. At the age of 88, Jerrie was soft spoken and warm. She greeted me with a big smile and we embraced in a hug.
During the two hours that followed, we talked about her route, her aircraft, and how it felt to be a woman in aviation in the 1960s. It turned out that the first place Jerrie visited was Afghanistan. She shared Polaroid pictures from her trip of her sharing ice cream with children, the mountains and young girls on their way to school.
I asked Jerrie if she ever thought that 50 years after her solo flight a girl from Afghanistan would be knocking on her door saying she wanted to fly around the world. Jerri smiled at me and said she could only hope so.
Jerrie encouraged me in my journey and continued to offer her support and advice after we met.
A few months after our visit, Jerrie passed away. I was fortunate enough to honor her legacy during a special memorial in which I rode in a 1966 Cherokee 180 plane over the Gulf of Mexico with the publishers of Jerrie’s book. It was a wonderful way to pay tribute to her life and I hope to honor her legacy through my own flight.
This is why I tell young students how important it is that they seek out mentorships to gain the skills and support to reach their goals. It may feel scary to reach out to someone who is more experienced than you, but doing so can have huge payoffs.
As I plan this journey, I want to hear about your mentors. Who has inspired you, taken you under their wing and helped you grow?