STEARMAN EXPEDITIONS AROUND THE GLOBE
1. South Africa to England
2. England to Australia
3. Across USA
1. SOUTH AFRICA to ENGLAND
A historic flight in an award winning biplane
Chapter 1 - The Construction
This Boeing Stearman biplane is destined to perform a true adventurous journey....to fly the old Imperial Airways routing from South Africa to England, around 10.000 miles across two continents, jungles, deserts and other climates.
In 1928 Lady Mary Heath, an English Aviatrix was the first person to fly this routing, what later became the Imperial Airways route, solo in her biplane.
In 2013, 85 years later, Tracey Curtis-Taylor, a pilot with a lot of experience flying historic airplanes all over the planet and an active display pilot, will recreate this flight in a specially restored Stearman biplane. She will depart Cape Town with a film team in trail, to overfly places like the Victoria-Falls, Serengeti, Kilimanjaro, the Sahara desert and Mediterranean sea on her way to England. An "Out of Africa" experience in its true meaning...
We have completely restored and especially modified this classic Boeing Stearman biplane for the challenges of this flight from Cape Town to England.
The phase of restoration & construction
Chapter 2 - Airborne again…
Finally the ship is ready for the initial test-flights...
After this Stearman had mastered its first "long range flight" from our Austrian/Hungarian base to England, piloted by Tracey Curtis-Taylor, the airplane was on display at one of the largest airshows worldwide: THE ROYAL INTERNATIONAL AIR TATTOO, where the airplane was awarded with the first prize for its technical quality and appearance...
After these exciting days the airplane returned to its new home at the Shuttleworth Collection, where it is on display among rows of other beautiful airplanes, milestones of aviation history.
The Shuttleworth Collection is one of the oldest and most famous collections of airplanes covering the first half century of powered flight, from around 1900 to 1950. The museum's truly rare airplanes are kept in immaculate and moreover flying condition, being presented at airshows on a regular schedule.
Chapter 3 - Getting ready for the journey…
In September 2013 Tracey flew the airplane back to our Central European base. She departed the "Goodwood Revival", just after the airplane won another prize for its appearance and minutes before a severe storm shut down the area. A stormy departure for an unknown adventure...
After some intense maintenance in our workshops we disassembled the Stearman and shipped it to South Africa.
Airplane & Pilot are loaded in the container and ready for shipping..
We are heading south as well to re-assemble and test-fly the airplane in South Africa.
A month later...The arrival in Cape Town...
Assembly of the airplane....
Meanwhile we have successfully completed our first test-flights around the Cape of Good Hope and to Stellenbosch.
Over the following weeks we will accompany the adventurous flight of Tracey Curtis-Taylor, providing her with all the required technical & piloting support on her flights across Africa...
Chapter 4 - CAPETOWN TO GOODWOOD
An epic journey all across Africa & Europe
Tracey's departure in Cape Town at the 2nd of November 2013
South Africa's east coast
Full service included...
From South Africa to Botswana..
Scheduled maintenance in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe..
Crossing Zambia and the Congo region for Tanzania..
High over Africa, heading for the Serengeti to see Africas wildlife in low level flight..
Maintenance in Kenya after days of exciting bush flying...
Flying over Uganda, South Sudan & Sudan: From the jungles to the desserts of Northern Africa...
When flying across Africa we experienced some expected and unexpected "adventures & problems", which are part of the game on such an expedition.
But several situations up Africa, escalating in the countries of South Sudan and later Sudan, created some "exciting moments" due to various problems with safety and filming, and in the end the team decided not to fly via Libya, as fights were erupting along our planned routing.
Finally arriving in Egypt....
Maintenance on a military base near Cairo
After crossing the Mediterranean Sea and flying half of wintertime Europe a quick pit-stop in Hungary for another scheduled maintenance...
On the last day of the year 2013, after a journey of 10.000 miles, two month and 110 hours of flight, flying in the summertime heat of tropical climates & deserts, at high pressure altitudes above 10.000ft and in low level just a few feet above the ground, long distances over water, across high mountain ranges and deep jungles, in the storms of wintertime Europe, flown by Tracey in the Spirit of Artemis, they are landing safely at their final destination, Goodwood airfield in England....
The Pilot and her Stearman having a reason to celebrate!
This journey had been accompanied by a Cessna Caravan case-plane from Phoenix Aviation in Nairobi, which was carrying the professional film team of NYLON Film Company in GB. This company will produce a documentary about the two historic flights, 85 years apart...
Here is their trailer of this trip across Africa:
And some more short films, showing the beauty of this planet & aviation as well as the the perspective when Tracey flew the Stearman biplane over stunning landscapes:
Chapter 5 - And the adventure will continue...
Also in future times it will be our pleasure to take care of this special biplane. Not just to keep it in good shape for the airshow seasons to come in England, but also to be ready for any future adventures Tracey is planning.....
To be continued…
2. ENGLAND to AUSTRALIA
The next expedition took place in 2015/16. Over a period of 3 1/2 month Tracey was flying the Spirit of Artemis from England to Australia, covering a distance of more than 14.000 NM.
A hard lesson learned from Africa was not to put the logistics into the wrong hands. So additionally to the technical tasks we supported Tracey with all the flight planning, fuel positioning and logistics from Europe to Australia.
The Spirit of Artemis leaving the south coast of England...
The plane & pilot in France
A maintenance stop at our base in Hungary. From here the chase plane, a Pilatus PC6 with Swiss pilot and English cameraman, is joining the Stearman.
The chase plane did not just serve as a filming platform, but also carrying up to 500L of fuel for the Stearman, which was not available in certain countries, like areas of the Arabian Desert, Pakistan, Myanmar, etc.
Loading the emergency equipment...
Parked in the rain and fog of Romania...
Some great days in the historic city of Istanbul
On invitation of the RAF we spent some days at the RAF base in Cyprus. This would be the sea rescue helicopter and its crew, comming to our help when experiencing an engine fail or other problems over the Mediterranean Sea.
Old biplanes and radial engines need constant love and care, here at RAF Akrotiri.
Over the Mediterranean Sea heading to Israel
Accompanied by a Hebrew speaking military (F16) pilot in his Stearman we were allowed to fly a low level tour across all of Israel. Here dashing along the coastline near Tel Aviv..
The stunning landscape around the Dead Sea...
Overflying the cliffs of the Dead Sea before skimming along the water surface in a few feet, together with the Israeli Stearman....more than 1300ft below Mean Sea level...
During the layover in Jordan the team was invited to visit the historic site of Petra.
Flying between the dunes in Saudi Arabia.....
Preparing for a fuel transfer from the drums in the chase plane to the Stearman...
Tracey and some of her friends in Riyadh, whom she invited for a flight in the Spirit of Artemis.
Dubai, where Tracey spent a week at the Dubai Airshow, presenting the Boeing Stearman by invitation of Boeing.....
Epic rock formations in Pakistan.
The chase plane in the heat of the desert, supplying fuel and oil for the Stearman and water for all of the crews.
The wonderful palaces of Jaipur, seen from the air and the ground...
Invited by the Indian Airforce to the Hindon Air Force Base in Delhi and ready for some formation flights together with their historic airplanes.
The 2000 pagodas of Bagan in Myanmar
Phang Nga Bay in Thailand
Lots of events around Tracey and the Spirit of Artemis going on in Singapore
Malaysia, sunny and tropical on ground and tropical thunderstorms brewing in the air...
The chase plane has done its job and is turning back to Europe from Bali...
Fuelling from Jerry cans in Eastern Indonesia.
Heading across the Timor Sea to Australia...
The remains of a WW II bomber at Truscott, our first stop in Australia.
The northern Australian outback in rather green colors, after a tropical cyclone over Darwin brought rain down as far as Alice Springs..
The Spirit of Artemis over Uluru, Ayers Rock
Maintenance at Ayers Rock
Chasing avgas or, where not available, automotive fuel at some aboriginal villages in the outback. Everyone was more than helpful to invite us in for a drink and fill our jerry cans for the Stearman....what a wonderful continent.
Salt lakes in central Australia
The Opera House and Harbour Bridge of Sydney!
As this airplane does not have the range to cross the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, we did it like most of the early pioneers of aviation, who were circling the globe in the 1920s and 30s. We disassembled the airplane in Sydney and shipped it to Seattle....
Over the time some more films were added, showing the perspective of Tracey and the Stearman flying over stunning landscapes on the way from the UK to OZ:
3. Across AMERICA
Following the old airmail routings from Seattle along the West Coast to San Francisco and LA. Then turning east on the Transcontinental Airmail Route from LA to NY.
In springtime 2016 the Spirit of Artemis is arriving in Seattle, rolled out from the container in which it crossed the Pacific.
We were invited to do the assembly and test-flying at the Historic Flight Foundation, in the best and most authentic company of airplanes you can imagine.
Celebrating the Boeing Centennial with an invitation at the wonderful Boeing Museum in Seattle
Reaching the Grand Canyon after great flight along the West Coast down to San Francisco and LA, heading then east to the Grand Canyon.
We had extraordinary moments flying between the rock-formations of Monument Valley....
.....Lake Powell and the Grand Canyon. That area was classic hot & high flying, at high temperatures and (density) altitudes above 8500ft.
A somersault in the dessert:
Just after take-off from Winslow Airport in Arizona, the engine lost power due to fuel contamination. At sea level this sudden RPM drop could have been in limit for a shallow circuit around the field. But at the density altitude of 7000ft the remaining power of this engine was not sufficient to stay in the air.
On landing in the desert the right landing gear struck a dense sage bush mount, and when the gear was torn off the airplane cartwheeled.
Pilot and passenger could just step out normally without a scratch (!), which is also a compliment to Lloyd Stearman's aircraft design: Hundreds of similar crashes had happened in Stearman airplanes, mainly when in use as crop dusters or bushplanes, and most times the occupants were saved or escaped unharmed due to the great construction of the airplane. Beneficial had been the fact that on all of our Stearman restorations we incorporate a number of safety modifications.
Despite the good safety record of Stearman airplanes, engine failures (due to contaminated fuel and various other causes) happen frequently in aviation, with historic as well as modern airplanes. This is the reason why in modern commercial aviation you have two or more engines installed. But the museums in Winslow and other places are full of pictures like these from the old days of Airmail Operation. A kind of "re-enactment" we did not plan in this intensity.
On the one hand it could have happened above more suitable terrain for landing, but on the other hand it could also have happened over the jungles of Asia, the stretches of sea Tracey was crossing or other places where survival would have been questionable. That is the inherent risk when doing adventurous expeditions like Tracey in the Spirit of Artemis.
A picture like in the old days of Airmail operation, when crashes happened every so often...... this is the original 1920s Airmail hangar in Winslow, Arizona, one of the few still around.
Charles Lindbergh stopped here regularly, when flying the mail. From these air mail services the first passenger transports and consequently the airlines evolved.
Like the predecessors in the 1920s and 30s the Spirit of Artemis will be repaired and continue to fly the US Transcontinental routes and other expeditions on various continents.
A few weeks after the crash the Spirit of Artemis arrived in our maintenance base in Hungary.....a sad moment, but big motivation for everyone of the team to get it flying again, possibly in time for Farnborough 2016.
Between these pictures are many night and weekend shifts, all in all several thousand workhours, by a dozen of our engineers.
Here you see the airplane repaired, with new covering and painting, standing on a new landing gear, ready for assembly...
Less than two months after the crash the Spirit of Artemis is reborn a second time!
The first testflight...
...and a happy pilot during the first test-flight.
Once more Tracey flew the Boeing Stearman across Europe, reaching England just in time to take part in the Farnborough International Airshow 2016.
Like the years before this happened on invitation of Boeing, celebrating 100 years of Boeing Airplane Company in 2016.
In 2017 we shipped the airplane back to LA and assembled it there.
Tracey took off from Santa Monica Airport, circling over the Pacific shoreline and then heading East. Tracking again the old Airmail route "coast to coast", stopping at Winslow for a warm welcome, after several weeks and numerous stops at historic places, she finally landed with her biplane at Republic Airfield on Long Island, NY.
And Tracey's expeditions around the globe in this wonderful, old biplane will continue...
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