Helicopter Pilot to Cross Globe by Poles
Nov. 19, 2003
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) _ After setting records for helicopter flights around the world, a 63-year-old woman said she will now try to become the first helicopter pilot to circumnavigate the globe via the North and South Poles.
Jennifer Murray made her comments during a stopover in Rio de Janeiro _ about one-fifth of the way along in her unprecedented journey.
If Murray succeeds it will be her third aviation record.
In 1997, she won a spot in the Guinness Book of Records as the first woman to circumnavigate the globe in a helicopter. Her flight raised $100,000 for Save The Children, an American nonprofit helping orphans around the world.
In 2000, she gave aviation history another milestone _ becoming the first woman to fly a helicopter solo around the world _ without an autopilot.
Murray and co-pilot Colin Bodill, 52, hope to reach the South Pole in their cherry red Bell 407 helicopter on Dec. 17, the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers' first powered flight. They began their 32,000-mile journey in New York on Oct. 22 and hope to return by April 14.
Murray said when they tried to register the South Pole flight as a possible aviation record, the World Air Sports Federation told them they didn't believe it could be done.
``We wouldn't have set out if we didn't think we had a sporting chance of getting back. I have a brand new one-day old granddaughter and I have every intention of getting back to see her,'' said Murray, a grandmother of four.
Helicopters cannot normally operate in the thin air of the high South Polar plateau. The first helicopter flight there was only in 1999, when the chief of the Chilean Air Force, Fernando Rojas Vender, flew an S-70 Black Hawk helicopter there from Punta Arenas in southernmost Chile.
Bodill said he believed advances in aviation technology have made the flight easier today, but he acknowledged the challenges _ heavy winds, ice crystals and flying at high altitude.
Helicopters ``don't operate well at high altitudes and flying to the South Pole means flying at 10,000 feet over 600 miles,'' Bodill said.
The U.S. Antarctic Program, which operates the Amundsen-Scott Station at the South Pole, uses cargo planes to fly staff and equipment in from the coastal bases.
The pair had fuel drums dropped at various points along the way to allow for refueling and they have their own search and rescue team ready should they experience any problems.
Murray was born in Providence, R.I., and moved to England with her family as a youngster. Bodill is from Nottingham, England.
She began flying at age 54, after her husband purchased a share of a helicopter but didn't have time to learn to fly it.
The pilots will make 160 stopovers on their journey to spotlight the conservation work of the World Wildlife Fund.
During their stopover in Rio, they planned to visit a program to save the endangered golden lion tamarin monkey at the Poco das Antas nature reserve, about 80 miles outside the city.
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