"My Life Was Three Dimensional Before, It Became Four
by ANN Correspondent Aleta Vinas
Record-setting aviatrix Jennifer Murray shared a few of her
aviation adventures with the crowd at the Women in Aviation
Conference. Her basic message to the crowd of achievers -- never
"Women in Aviation is a huge force and it's growing all the
time." Murray notes. The energy at the conference impressed
Murray. She notes the attendees are focused and will do well in
Murray came into flying by default. "I was, for 54 years, a
happy passenger" Murray said. Then her husband "who is rather
impulsive" bought a half share in a helicopter. Neither were pilots
and her husband informed Murray "I haven't got time to learn, so
When the instructor
pilot figured she was there to take the "wives course", Murray was
looking at a challenge. "After that first flight, I was really
hooked. My life was three dimensional before, it became four
Murray liked going places and challenges. She found out only
four men had circled the globe in a helicopter and it was in jet
turbines with autopilot. Murray had a Robinson R-44 and 300 flight
hours. In 1997, she decided a woman should make the trip, it would
be in her R-44 and she would be the woman. She was not totally
crazy... she would have Quentin Smith -- her instructor, and a
world-class helicopter pilot -- with her as co-pilot. Not many in
the aviation world had the confidence Murray did.
Murray even spoke to Frank Robinson, as she was hoping for a
brand new helicopter, Robinson gave her a 1 in 5 chance of
"You won't get to Pakistan." Robinson told her. Murray later
sent him a postcard on her stop in Pakistan.
Her flight was a success, and Murray had her first entry into
the Guinness Book of Records as the first women to circumnavigate
the globe. For an encore she decided to make the flight solo. She
achieved her solo flight in 2000 and made the Guinness Book of
With two round the world flights under her belt, Murray decided
to make the trip the hard way around -- via the Poles. The pilots
would experience the hottest and coldest regions on Earth and
everything in between in one long trip. In 2003 Murray and Colin
Bodill set out on their attempt around the Poles.
Just 58 days into the trip, they crashed in whiteout conditions.
Murray described it "like hitting a brick wall driving a car at
60mph." Murray received superficial injuries but went into shock.
Bodill received a broken back, internal injuries and a split liver.
He was resigned to his fate but was intent on saving Murray.
The temperature was -50 degrees Centigrade and they were 2,000
miles from anywhere. Modern technology was their savior, their
trackerbox pinpointed their location and they were rescued. In 21
hours the two were in Chile with Bodill on the operating table.
"You've got to find another helicopter" were some of Bodill's first
words to Murray after the ordeal.
Quitting was not on the agenda. With the support of their
families, they had another go.
Bell provided a brand new 407 even though as Murray said "we'd
just trashed one." Murray believes their motto made the difference,
"you haven't failed until you stop trying." Planning each flight
required about three years worth of research and seeking sponsors.
"Getting to that start line is one whole big exercise in itself."
said Murray. December 5, 2006 the duo started their second attempt
via the Poles.
Second time was the charm for the duo, and in five and half
months they went into the record books again. The flight was by no
means uneventful -- with narrow weather windows, huge stretches of
open water, auto-rotating through holes in the clouds (risking
icing) but Murray has books that tell the tales; Now Solo and
Murray adds signs of global warming were evident on her trip,
even though some stations were reporting the worst weather in
years, photos taken in 2003 on the first attempt and then taken
again in 2007 showed marked differences, from snow covered to no
Part of Murray's goal on these flights was to raise funds and
awareness for two childrens' charities; SOS Children's Villages and
Operation Smile. SOS provides family style care for orphaned and
abandoned children. Murray and Bodill visited several of the SOS
Children's Villages during stops on their journey. Operation
Smile's surgeons perform surgery to repair childhood facial
Just over a week ago, Murray received notice from the National
American Helicopter Society. By unanimous vote she and Bodill would
receive the Frederick L.Feinberg Award. The award is given for
outstanding achievement during the preceding year.
"That's about it for my global circumnavigations and quite
obviously I've got to be now looking at the moon." With Murray's
tenacity, there's no doubt she'll make it.
(Some photos shown courtesy of J. Murray, and Polar