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Jerrie Mock: Record-Breaking American Female Pilot

Originally published on HistoryNet.com. Published Online: June 12, 2006 
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'As the plane turned onto the taxiway, three trucks full of soldiers careened around a corner from another taxiway and slammed to a stop within inches of the plane,' wrote Geraldine Frederitz Mock. Guns in hand, the soldiers leaped from the trucks and surrounded the airplane. Accustomed to seeing military planes piloted by men, the Egyptians were apparently staggered when they saw a woman at the controls of the 1953 Cessna 180, dubbed Spirit of Columbus and nicknamed 'Charlie.' In the cockpit was Mock, a 38-year-old mother of three from Bexley, a Columbus, Ohio, suburb.

It was 1964, and 'Jerrie' Mock — who would later chronicle her adventures in the book Three-eight Charlie — was on the sixth leg of her historic flight around the world. During her flight from Tripoli to Cairo, she had accidentally landed at a secret military base instead of at the Cairo airport. Despite that incident — which ended peacefully — and several other scary moments (ice on the wings, sand in the engine and an antenna motor that burned out), Mock would eventually return to Columbus Airport on April 17, becoming the first woman to fly around the world solo. She completed the trip in 29 days, 11 hours and 59 minutes. Upon landing, she was greeted by Ohio's Governor James A. Rhodes and a mob of fans. Dubbing her 'Ohio's Golden Eagle,' Rhodes proclaimed April 18 Jerrie Mock Day.

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Geraldine Frederitz grew up at a time when young girls were expected to play with dolls and learn household chores. But because she wasn't allowed to venture across the street to the area where most of the other girls in her neighborhood lived, she actually ended up playing plenty of boys' games like cowboys and Indians, and decided those were much more fun. Although her mother refused to buy her little girl the toy train she so much desired, she eventually gave up the idea of teaching Jerrie to knit, a chore the child loathed.

At school, Jerrie refused to learn embroidery and resented the fact that the boys were allowed to go to mechanics class but she was not. When she was around 12, Jerrie was surprised to learn that women could only work for five hours in factories before taking a break, under Ohio's Women's Protective Laws. In a Columbus Dispatch article, she later said, 'I was never going to abide by man-made laws that said women couldn't do something.'

Frederitz determined early on to go well beyond the narrow boundaries of her hometown. 'I was stuck in a little town called Newark, where no one went anywhere,' she later recalled. 'I also grew up in an age where there was no television and you could only learn about the world from geography books. I had no idea what it was like in other parts of the world but I wanted to be different than everyone else and find out.'

Frederitz caught the flying bug at age 7, when she took her first ride in a Ford TriMotor with her parents. Even though the ride only lasted 15 minutes, it made quite an impression. She told everyone who would listen that when she grew up she would fly around the world. Flying may have been in her blood. Her mother's maiden name was Wright, and Mock had heard she might have been related to the Wright brothers in some way. 'I remember my aunt telling me about how she got invited to tour the Wrights' bicycle factory,' she later recalled. The youngster was also impressed by Amelia Earhart's highly publicized feats. As a result, Jerrie took a preflight course during her high school years (the only other female in the course dropped out after the first session).

Marriage to Russell Mock in 1945 and motherhood temporarily interrupted Jerrie's flying dreams and ended her college education. She had been attending Ohio State University, the only woman then enrolled in its aeronautical engineering program. In addition to raising a family, for five years Mock co-produced an educational television program for local schools.

When Mock finally took her first flying lesson in 1956, it was immediately obvious that she was a natural pilot. She soloed after only nine hours and 15 minutes of instruction. In 1958 she earned her license. Mock learned to fly by landmark navigation, since at the time pilots were not legally required to fly with radios. She quickly became dissatisfied with the simple routes most Ohio pilots flew and was later disappointed to learn that no one in Columbus could teach her how to fly across oceans. 'I plotted more complicated routes to fly than experienced pilots,' she recalled. 'Even the old-timers asked me how I navigated.'

In 1961 Mock became the first woman licensed by Ohio to manage an airport, Price Field in Columbus, a job she held for about a year. On Sundays she was there alone, which meant fueling airplanes, tying them down, and even doing despised household chores like making coffee. 'The male instructors did not like a woman telling them what to do,' Mock recalled. 'I did not worry about it and ignored them.' Mock also managed Logan County Airport in Lincoln, Ill., for a few months to help out a friend, flying back and forth from Columbus to do so.

Although she only had 700 flying hours before she embarked on her round-the-world adventure, most of that time was spent flying long distance — to the Bahamas, Canada and Mexico. In contrast, Mock later met an instructor who had accumulated thousands of hours of flying experience but none of it was long distance. While flying to Mexico, she had to learn the hard way that radio stations could go off the air. It prepared her for similar conditions on her world flight.

Several years after earning her license, Mock told her husband that she was bored with being a housewife and wanted to do something exciting. He jokingly suggested she fly around the world. The joke stopped when Mock contacted the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) in 1962 and found out that a woman had never flown solo around the world. She had taken it for granted that a woman had already done so. After all, that was Amelia Earhart's intent in the 1930s, when she and navigator Fred Noonan disappeared in the Pacific. It immediately became Mock's goal.

Mock soon discovered that in Columbus, U.S. Air Force personnel were the only people who knew what was needed to get her started. They agreed to help her out on an unofficial basis. She also received valuable information from two brothers — mechanic John Peck at Price Field, who had been Eddie Rickenbacker's personal mechanic, and Robert Peck, an engineer at Purdue University. Brigadier General O.F. 'Dick' Lassiter of the Strategic Air Command (SAC), a family friend, also gave her advice.

Next year, the Columbus Dispatch agreed to be a sponsor (thanks to her husband's advertising connections) and to fund most of the trip. Then she needed to plot a route, gain permission to fly across countries, and have observers and timers appointed by the NAA at each stop to document landings and takeoffs for establishing official records. 'I visited each embassy in Washington, D.C., to get clearance,' Mock later recalled. 'The actual flying was a lot less complicated than putting together all these little details.'

Most important, a single-engine airplane had to be modified to make a round-the-world trip. Mock's 11-year-old Cessna 180, with the Federal registration number N1538C, was equipped with a new engine, an airline-type compass, twin radio direction finders, dual short-range radios and a long-range high-frequency radio system with a trailing antenna. The passenger seats were replaced with huge gas tanks (the fuel tank installation alone cost around $4,000).

The plane had to be flown to Wichita, Kan., for these modifications, and before Mock could even begin her historic flight, she had to fly back to Columbus, an additional 1,000 miles, since she had to fly around a restricted area. 'I also had to fly to Florida to get the high-frequency radio installed, since no one in Columbus knew how,' recalled Mock, 'and fly to Muskegon, Mich., where they built the Continental engine.' When she finally took off from Columbus, at 9:31 a.m. on March 19, 1964, it would be another 1,000 miles or so to reach her next stop, Bermuda.

For a time it seemed that another female pilot — Joan Merriman Smith of Long Beach, Calif. — had beaten Mock to the punch. Smith took off two days ahead of Mock to fly around the world, challenging the Ohio pilot. Now the flight had become a race, which meant Mock could not take the time to sightsee en route as originally planned. Each time she touched down at her latest destination and was ready to go exploring, her husband would track her down and demand she get back into the air as soon as possible. She had a race to win, and luck was with her, not her challenger. Smith ran into mechanical and logistical problems, completing her globe girdle well after Mock's (it took Smith 50 days). 'After I returned home, I remember reading a newspaper story about Smith shopping in Singapore,' recalled Mock.

To Mock, the long hours alone in her plane were a picnic compared to the administrative and logistical problems she often faced on the ground. Red tape and language barriers on stops abroad sometimes forced Mock to spend more hours on the ground than in the air. At the Cairo airport, for example, Egyptian officials didn't believe she was a pilot and not just a passenger — refusing at first to stamp her visa without a boarding ticket.

Despite such problems, and her husband's urgings, Mock did find the time and energy to fulfill some of her childhood dreams along the way. She saw an elephant up close in Sri Lanka and rode a camel in Egypt near the Sphinx. She also got to meet some notable personalities, including Pakistan's most famous woman flier, Suchria Ali, a commercial glider pilot and instructor for the Aero Club who came to Karachi's airport to see her off. When she landed in Guam, Mock was greeted by an enthusiastic crowd that included a general, an admiral and a band — and she was invited to stay in the governor's mansion.

Mock's flight was monitored by the NAA and the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), which certified it as a round-the-world speed record for aircraft weighing less than 3,858 pounds. Mock also became the first woman to fly from the United States to Africa via the North Atlantic, the first woman to fly the Pacific in a single-engine plane and the first woman to fly both the Atlantic and Pacific alone. During her flight, Mock established another first that did not go into the record books: She became the first woman to land a plane in Saudi Arabia.

After completing her round-the-world flight, Mock never again flew Spirit of Columbus. Cessna gave her a 206, and her old 180 was stored in the Cessna factory in Wichita until the firm donated it to the National Air and Space Museum in 1975. It was displayed in the General Aviation gallery until 1984, and is now stored at the Garber Preservation, Restoration and Storage Facility.

Mock continued to break records, a total of 21 for speed and distance in all. In 1965 she broke the speed record for a closed course of 312 miles and with a plane weighing less than 2,200 pounds, flying 205 mph in an Aero Commander 200. In 1966, just one week shy of the second anniversary of her global flight, Mock broke the nonstop distance record for a woman after a 4,550-mile flight from Honolulu to Columbus that took 31 hours. Governor Rhodes was again at the airport to greet her when she landed. Three Russian women had set the previous record of 3,071 miles in 1938.

In 1968 Mock broke another world speed record, flying from Columbus to Puerto Rico and back in 33 hours. The next year she shattered nine world speed records while delivering her Cessna 206 (the same one given her after her world flight) to a priest in New Guinea to use for his missions. Lae, New Guinea, the last place Mock flew to in her career, was also the last place Earhart took off from before she disappeared in July 1937.

Mock decided to give up flying after 1968 because it would be too expensive to continue flying around the world to all the exotic places she still wanted to go. 'Anything else would have been anticlimactic,' she pointed out.

Surprisingly, in later years Mock pointed out that her round-the-world flight was not actually her most memorable. Several months after that journey, she became one of the few women to fly at supersonic speeds, thanks to an Air Force pilot who gave her a ride in a McDonnell F-101 Voodoo jet fighter. The jet reached a speed of 1,038 mph (Mach 1.7), and Mock briefly handled the controls. 'Fantastic,' Mock told a Columbus Dispatch reporter. 'I didn't want to come down.'

Mock received the Federal Aviation Agency's Gold Medal for Exceptional Service on May 4, 1964, from President Lyndon Johnson, and a year later became the first woman, and first American, to earn the Louis Bleriot Silver Medal for aviation — the award for breaking an existing record of a light plane under 1,000 kilos (2,200 pounds). She received numerous other regional and national awards in recognition of her aviation accomplishments, as well as keys to 10 cities and 18 honorary memberships (including in the 87th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron of the U.S. Air Force). In 1979 she was inducted into the Ohio Women's Hall of Fame.

Despite all that fulsome recognition, Mock tended to downplay her achievements. 'I just went out to have fun and to see the world,' she said matter-of-factly in one interview. But she did write about her achievements in the book Three-eight Charlie, in which she recorded her impressions of all the publicity she received. When she landed in Columbus after her round-the-world flight, for example, she was overwhelmed by the crowds of people and being in the spotlight. 'It didn't seem right that these people should say such wonderful things about me,' she wrote. 'I had just had a little fun flying my airplane.'

Despite her modesty, Mock has said she believed that more women took up flying after her 1964 venture. And decades later, long after she retired and moved to Florida, she is still receiving mail from women who say her accomplishments have changed their lives. One recent letter came from a Newark woman in her 50s who said Jerrie made her realize she did not have to be 'just a housewife.'

Another Columbus woman remembers Jerrie Mock's impact on her own life. 'I followed her flying career closely, even though I was just a kid,' recalled Terry Fogle. 'I thought it was so cool that she was such a fearless woman flying everywhere in her little plane.'

 


 

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This article was written by Laurel M. Sheppard and originally published in the July 2005 issue of Aviation History. Additional reading: Three-eight Charlie, by Jerrie Mock.

For more great articles subscribe to Aviation History magazine today!


39 Responses to “Jerrie Mock: Record-Breaking American Female Pilot”


  1. 1
    Maria Charday Evans-K says:

    This woman had a hdream and accomplished it. It's not just any one its a Female. I thik that we should honor her

    • 1.1
      Susan Fredritz Reid says:

      Maria,

      I am Jerrie's sister and I agree that she should be honored. Her airplane is in the Smithsonian, in Washington, DC, but there is nothing in her hometown of Newark, OH to honor her accomplishments.

      A group of us are raising money to build a life size bronze statue of Jerrie to be placed in The Works: Center for History, Art, and Technology, in Newark.

      Tax free donations may be made to The Licking County Foundation, P.O. Box 4212, Newark, OH 43058-4212.

      Thank you for you comment and interest.

      Susan Fredritz Reid

      • 1.1.1
        Georgia says:

        I am thirteen years old and am currently doing a project on the amazing Jerrie Mock! The criteria for the project is breakthrough women, that is why I chose her! Is there any chance I could get in contact with her via email?

        Thanks so much!

  2. 2
    Dalay Latasha Niq Boyd says:

    All I have to say if you dont work hard you wont accomplish your dream not at all

  3. 3
    Nicole Ben says:

    This a very good website to learn about History

  4. 4
    Andrea says:

    This lady is truly amazing. I have been in contact with her for roughly 3 years now, and she is almost like a long distance grandmother to me. I am determined to tell her story to as many people as I can so that they too, can appreciate her impressive accomplishment.

    • 4.1
      Susan Fredritz Reid says:

      Andrea,

      Jerrie enjoyed her long distance relationship with you, also, as I did.

      Susan

  5. 5
    Abby says:

    I am ten years old and doing a report on Geraldine Mock I would like to get in touch with her but do not know how. thank you

    • 5.1
      Susan Fredritz Reid says:

      Abby,

      It is now early two years later, but I hope you were able to get in touch with Jerrie, my sister.

      Her address is 343 East King Street, Quincy, Florida 32351. I just talked with her and she would enjoy hearing from you.

      Susan Fredritz Reid.

  6. 6
    Abby says:

    I got to talk to Ms. Mock she is wonderful. I wish she was able to still fly. She told me some wonderful stories. I felt like I was flying too.

    • 6.1
      Susan Fredritz Reid says:

      Abby,

      I was so interested in your comment that I answered it before I read your next remark.

      She is wonderful and an inspiration to other young people and anyone who has a dream.

      Susan Fredritz Reid

  7. 7
    Margaret Reynolds says:

    Jerrie Mock is an inspiring person. I am happy to see that people are enjoying her story. I served in the USAF in the late 70s and was amazed at the animosity men held against women in the military. I grew up believing that anything was possible for women. I did not fly planes but loved being associated with the air-based branch of the military. I would love to talk with Ms. Mock. Would you please tell me how I can locate her?
    Thank you!

    • 7.1
      Susan Fredritz Reid says:

      Dear Ms. Reynolds,

      Are you the Ms. Reynolds with whom I talked about writing a book about Jerrie? I am Jerrie's sister and very proud of her accomplishments.

      Jerrie's airplane, the Spirit of Columbus, is in the Smithsonian Institute, but there is nothing to honor her in her hometown of Newark, Ohio. A group of us are raising money to build a life size bronze statue of Jerrie to be placed at The Works : Center for History, Art & Technology, in Newark.

      Tax free donations can be made to The LIcking County Foundation, P.O. Box 4214, Newark, OH 43055.

      Thank you for your interest.

      Susan Fredritz Reid

    • 7.2
      Susan Fredritz Reid says:

      In my previous reply, I gave an incorrect zip code. Tax decuctible donations to the statue fund shoulde be addressed to Licking County Foundation, P.O. Box 4212, Newark, OH 43058-4212. In the memo line, indicate "Jerrie Mock Statue Fund".

      Thank you,

      Susan Fredritz Reid

  8. 8
    sasha says:

    Where is a full view photo of Geraldine Jerrie F. Mock?

  9. 9
    david helms says:

    what a fascinating lady. does anyone know where I can possibly get an address to contact her? thanks for a reply.

    david

    • 9.1
      Tom McFadden says:

      David,

      Please see the replies to other posts from Jerrie Mock's sister, Susan Reid. You will find an address and also information about a fund raiser to create a statue in honor of Jerrie.

      Tom McFadden, Granville, Ohio

  10. 10
  11. 11

    [...] of Columbus." Another woman, Joan Smith,  was also attempting to fly around the world and Mock's husband urged her to fly faster even though the two women weren't in competition with one [...]

    • 11.1
      John says:

      Is there any hope of a reprint of Three-Eight Charlie? We're coming up on the 50 year anniversary of Mrs. Mock's flight, I've got a bunch of people I would love to give the book to.

      I don't even know who holds the publishing rights now.

      • 11.1.1
        Susan Fredritz Reid says:

        John, Jerrie is having her book reprinted! Hopefully it will be available by February 2013. Keep checking this website for information about it. I am Jerrie's sister.

      • 11.1.2
        Rachel Neer says:

        That's so exciting!

  12. 12
    Andrew says:

    I too would love to get a copy of Three-Eight Charlie. My grandpa was Jerrie's cousin so it only seems right to have a copy of her book. From what I can find, a copy of the book is currently going for upwards of $200. Also, they misspelled her maiden name in this article. It's spelled: Fredritz

    • 12.1
      Susan Fredritz Reid says:

      Andrew, I would love to get in touch with you. You can email me at golfcat@windstream.net. I am Jerrie's sister, and your cousin.

    • 12.2
      Rachel Neer says:

      My grandmother was Jerrie's cousin…who was your grandfather?

      • 12.2.1
        Susan Fredritz Reid says:

        Rachel,

        Sandy and Dick Fredritz are the son and daughter of Carl and Thelma Fredritz. Carl was the younger brother of my father, Tim Fredritz. Their parents were Andrew and Anna. My daughter and I are working on the Fredritz family history. We would love to talk with you.

      • 12.2.2
        Andrew Hunter says:

        My grandfather was Paul Fredritz. He passed away in 2009. He lived in Vanlue Ohio. Paul's Father was John Fredrtiz. John's parents were Andrew and Anna.

  13. 13
    Rachel Neer says:

    My grandmother was fond of Jerrie. She too was a Fredritz. She was Sandy Fredritz before she married. My grandmother has recently passed, but I have taken to researching my family and the many things that they have done. I hope to be able to write Jerrie and find out more about her accomplishments and family, to be better able to construct my family tree for myself. My grandmother did quite a lot of genealogy work and I look forward to learning more.

    • 13.1
      Susan Fredritz Reid says:

      Rachel, I would love to hear from you. I am Jerrie's sister and your cousin. My email is golfcat@windstream.net. I knew your grandmother and her brother, Dick, as well as their parents. Let's get together. I am sorry for your loss.

      • 13.1.1
        Tricia says:

        Susan
        I am anxious to talk with your sister. I have convinced a children's book author friend of mine to write a picture book for children about your sister and she would very much like to talk to your sister. She will be in Florida visiting family in December as well.
        Could you please email me? tricia@teamjennings.net

        Thank you.

  14. 14
    Wendy Hollinger says:

    50th Anniversary Edition of Three-Eight Charlie will launch at WAI Nashville! I will be in the Chapter Booth Saturday, March 16th from 10:30-12:30. The book is beautiful … gold embossed cover, 280 color pages chock full of her flight plans, weather reports, and memorabilia. Price is $50 for this Limited Edition. Please help me get the word out! (I have donated all services and funded the printing, so need your support to get Jerrie's story out and recoup my investment in this labor of love.) Visit the Chapter Booth and purchase your copy! It will also be available at Sun 'n Fun and Airventure Oshkosh (booth locations to come), and will be available for purchase online at 38Charlie.com by April.

  15. 15
    Wendy Hollinger says:

    Three-Eight Charlie, by Jerrie Mock, is now available as a limited, numbered, 50th Edition. Visit http://www.38Charlie.com for information and to purchase.

    • 15.1
      Wendy Hollinger says:

      @Tricia:

      Susan Reid's email has changed. It is now

      golfcat110@gmail.com

      In the meantime, I am in contact with Jerrie, and will touch base with her and get her permission to provide you with her phone number.

      Please feel free to contact me if I can support your children's book effort – I am responsible for the new 50th Anniversary Edition, just released.

      Wendy Hollinger
      wendy@phoenixgraphix.us

  16. 16
    Wendy Hollinger says:

    Greetings all!

    The sculpture of Jerrie Mock will be unveiled at The Works in Newark, OH on Saturday, September 14, 2013 at 2:00. Please spread the word! For people who fly, EAA will provide shuttle service from the local airport (Newark-Heath / VTA).

    We are also raising money to place a statue in Port Columbus International Airport, and hope to do that on the 50th Anniversary of her return – April 17, 2014, but we need to raise the funds to do so. Please visit http://www.38Charlie.com or contact me directly to learn how to donate, or if you have questions of suggestions. I want to connect with anyone that is connected to Jerrie's flight, her plane, or her story, to include in the eBook version of Three-Eight Charlie, which will be created down the road (after we recoup our investment in the limited edition collector's hard back referenced in posts above.)

    I have responded to Georgia directly, as we can't post Jerrie's phone number on line. However, I am sure she'll be delighted to speak with a young lady doing a report on her!

    Wendy Hollinger
    wendy@phoenixgraphix.us

  17. 17
    Judy Tackett says:

    I am glad to hear that Jerry is being honored this Friday along with other famous Ohio women. I will be there to support her. Jerry was a great source of inspiration for me It is my understanding that the stature will be placed at the Columbus Airport.

  18. 18
    Wendy Hollinger says:

    Judy: What event are you referencing this Friday?

  19. 19
    Wendy Hollinger says:

    Judy: Perhaps this is what you were referencing…

    Jerrie Mock is being honored as one of SUNNY 95's 20 Outstanding Women this Friday, January 24, 2014. Details are at
    sunny95.com/events/sunny-95s-20-outstanding-women-celebration-event/

  20. 20
    Jose lucas says:

    I can't find anywhere the book three eight charlie. Would like to buy 3 units, to give as a gift to brazilians friends, who already are fans and admire mrs mock



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