Pi­lot aims to be first Chi­nese woman to cir­cle globe

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By TUO YANNAN in Paris tuoy­an­nan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Not ev­ery­body gets to ful­fill their dreams, but 31-year-old Chen Jingx­ian, a lawyer from a small­town­inSichuan­province, is well on the way to liv­ing hers — to­bethe­firstChi­ne­se­woman to fly around the world.

To make the dream sweeter, Chen is aim­ing to win a prize of 1 mil­lion yuan ($150,000) for a cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion by a fe­male Chi­nese pi­lot.

Fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of fa­mous pi­lots like Charles Lind­bergh and Amelia Earhart, Chen de­parted Cleve­land, Ohio, in a sin­gle-en­gine Beechcraft Bo­nanza on Aug 1. She stopped in New York, Bos­ton, Canada, Green­land and Ice­land, fi­nally reach­ing Paris. There, she spoke to China Daily with her stuffed toy cat namedEbony, and her sup­port crew, which is ac­com­pa­ny­ing her on the plane.

After Paris, she plans to touch down in Spain, Italy, Greece and Egypt, tra­verse Saudi Ara­bia to Dubai, and hop from In­dia through Thai­land to China. She is still ap­ply­ing for per­mis­sion to land in China. After a brief stop in her home­land, she plans to head for Ja­pan and Rus­sia be­fore re-en­ter­ing the US by way of Alaska.

The feat is a huge un­der­tak­ing for a woman who had never been to a big city un­til she at­tended a univer­sity in Bei­jing Chen Jingx­ian, at the age of 18. There, she read Night Flight and Wind, Sand and Stars, books about avi­a­tion by leg­endary French pi­lot An­toine de Saint-Ex­u­pery, au­thor of The Lit­tle Prince.

“His ex­pe­ri­ence made me want to know how to fly and what it’s like to fly around the world,” Chen said.

Chen­es­ti­mates it will take45 to 60 days to com­plete her trip. To make ends meet, she has bor­rowed money from fam­ily and friends. Chen, who jok­ingly de­scribes her­self as a “week­end pi­lot”, is a cor­po­rate lawyer who di­vides her time be­tween Shang­hai andNewYork.

She left Bei­jing in 2011 for New York to get a mas­ter’s in law. There, she set about learn­ing to fly on week­ends. With 300 fly­ing hours un­der her belt, she started ap­proach­ing rental com­pa­nies to get a plane. After many re­jec­tions, shemet with AirZChar­ter and T& GF­ly­ingClub, run by Richard Rohl.

“I was very skep­ti­cal about the let­ter Chen sent me at the be­gin­ning,” Rohl re­calls. Im­pressed by her de­ter­mi­na­tion, he asked stu­dent pi­lot Amanda Lin­coln to meet Chen. The school­teacher hit it off with the Chi­nese lawyer.

“From the first meet­ing, we con­nected be­cause we share the same love for fly­ing,” Lin­coln said. “Fe­male pi­lots are rare com­modi­ties, not only in the US, but also in­ter­na­tion­ally. She is le­git­i­mate, ed­u­cated and de­ter­mined.

“Che­nis not only a role­model to me, she is also set­ting a good stan­dard for other women to reach out and achiev­ing their high­est dreams.”

Lin­coln, as well as Rohl and his fa­ther Larry — both pi­lots who will be Chen’s emer­gency back­ups— be­came part of her sup­port crewin the air­craft.

The prize money was put up by Chen Wei, from Chang­sha, Hu­nan prov­ince, who was the firstChi­nese pi­lot to cir­cum­nav­i­gate the globe, in 2011. He flew a So­cata sin­gle-en­gine tur­bo­prop 40,200 kilo­me­ters through39c­itiesin21­coun­tries.

“Meet­ing a young woman like Chen, who is very per­son­able and in­tel­li­gent, and shares this same dream, was won­der­ful,” Larry said. “She made me look back at my­self when I was her age.”

His ex­pe­ri­ence made me want to know how to fly and what it’s like to fly around the world.” fe­male pi­lot


First to fly around world: Four Dou­glasWorld Cruiser air­craft with eight US crew­men set out from Seat­tle, Washington. Three of the air­craft com­pleted the cir­cuit in 175 days.

First solo trip: Wi­ley Post from the United States takes 7 days, 18 hours to ac­com­plish the feat.

First non­stop: US Air Force team­com­pletes the cir­cuit in 94 hours, 1 minute. Their plane was re­fu­eled in flight four times.

1933— 1 949— 1964—

First woman solo: Geral­dine Mock be­came the first woman to fly solo around the

world. Her sin­gle-en­gine Cessna 180 was called the Spirit of Colum­bus.

First non­stop, non­re­fu­el­ing flight: Voy­ager, a light­weight air­craft with a front ca­nard wing, was flown by Dick Ru­tan and Jeana Yea­ger. They made the trip in 9 days, 3 min­utes, 44 sec­onds.

First Chi­nese men’s solo: ChenWei fromChang­sha, Hu­nan prov­ince, be­came the first male Chi­nese pi­lot to cir­cum­nav­i­gate the globe in a So­cata TBM 700 sin­gle-en­gine tur­bo­prop.

1986— 2011—


Chen Jingx­ian with two mem­bers of her sup­port crew, Larry Rohl (right) and Richard Rohl in front of their air­plane in France.

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