Take flight, my friends!
The TALE: Tehachapi Art, Literature and Entertainment
February 19, 2022
At 19 years old, dual citizen of both Belgium and the United Kingdom, Zara Rutherford is the youngest woman to fly solo around the world and the first to circumnavigate the world in a microlight aircraft.
COVID restrictions denied her the ability to explore at stops in places like Costa Rica, Egypt and Singapore and she says it was bitter cold flying over Siberia. The fires in California forced her to change flight plans and make an unscheduled stop in Seattle. China refused to let her fly over its land and she had delays in both Russia and Alaska. Bad weather hounded her and multiple complications added eight extra weeks to her flight plan. However, she victoriously accomplished her goal of flying around the world.
Not the “Around the World in 80 Days” that Jules Verne promised in his 1872 publication, but Rutherford did m anage the world flight in 199 days. Pretty good for a 19-year-old who only started flying at the age of 14 and received her license in 2020!
Humans have been intrigued by flight since the earliest stories of Icarus and his son, who while using feathered wings put together with wax, fell when flying too close to the sun. The Wright brothers actually managed 12 seconds in the air in their first flight in 1903. Amelia Earhart was one of the earliest women pilots, who like Zara Rutherford, flew planes. It was at a time when women had the challenge of more than gravity in order to follow their dreams. So many wonderful books are written about her, my favorites being the ones specifically aimed toward young readers. Books like “Amelia” presented in the Little People, Big Dreams series. It doesn’t hurt to learn about people who challenge both themselves and society, and to know that sometimes victory can also be shrouded in loss. Hopefully someday we will know what became of Amelia on her last fateful flight. Amelia’s story has yet to be finished.
Another famed woman pilot, Beryl Markham, made history with her solo flight from England to North America. On September 26, 1936, Markham took off from Abingdon in southern England and crash landed in Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia due to icing of her fuel tank vents. But her non-stop flight from the east to the west made her an aviation pioneer. She wrote her own story in “West with the Night,” published in 1942. Mary S. Lovell added to Markham’s story with a biography titled “Straight on Till Morning.” More than just an aviation story, the biography opens up Markham’s rather untraditional life, her spirit that led her to fly across the Atlantic, and also about her love of horses, her youth growing up in Kenya with her father and embracing and loving life to the fullest on her own terms. If you like historical biographies, immerse yourself in Beryl’s life from Kenya, around the world and back again to her beloved South Africa.
To understand the enormity of how aviation has changed our lives, read the book “Pioneering Aviation in Kern County 1910-1945” by Barbara H. Schultz. An aviation historian herself, Schultz offers, along with a rich collection of vintage photographs, a look into the history of aviation in our own Kern County. It started with linen and wood aircraft flown by “birdmen” performing aerial tricks above amazed spectators. It must have seemed surreal in 1910, to a world so grounded to the earth. Schultz shows how the skies opened up to both death defying and reality based opportunities.
From entertainment to purpose, flight quickly found itself dealing in mail delivery and travel, and later, crucial military endeavors and protections. The path of mankind changed forever when no longer land bound. Schultz lays out the building of airfields in Kern County, highlights the pilots (both men and women) who participated as aviation grew in leaps and bounds. Even Amelia Earhart made a landing at the Taft Airport in 1932. In 1934, our own Tehachapi Airport became part of the Kern County airport system and has since become a haven to pilots traveling the many miles up and down our large state. Schultz pulls together a wealth of aviation information. If flight fascinates you, her book will fill in the many historical details and the practical to detailed stories of California in flight and the people involved.
Air, land and seas become a wonderful mix in the adventures of flight. Humans took to the air and never looked back, which is an example to us all, an encouragement to keep pushing forward and opening ourselves up to a wealth of still-available new possibilities. It helps to read about others facing a mix of challenges, explorations and pioneering as examples to not limit ourselves. The sky’s the limit, some say. But you know what? The skies have not limited us at all!
*Midge Lyn’dee is a fictional character used for the purpose of entertainment though the reviews are real and sincere.