Times caption: Tracey Curtis-Taylor has been brought down by a campaign to withdraw a trophy she won for an expedition over Africa [TIMES PHOTOGRAPHER RICHARD POHLE]
A piece in yesterday’s Times, emphases ours:
A woman pilot known as the Bird in a Biplane was brought down to earth with a bump yesterday after losing a battle to retain a trophy she won for an expedition over Africa.
Tracey Curtis-Taylor, 56, told The Times that she was resigning from the Light Aircraft Association and would re-register her vintage aircraft overseas in protest.
The row has divided pilots as Ms Curtis-Taylor and her allies accused detractors of being “out-of-date misogynists” [J4MB: Not to be confused with up-to-date misogynists] while critics denounced her for making false claims about her achievements.
The argument began after Ms Curtis-Taylor paid tribute to the celebrated 1920s aviator Mary Heath in 2013 by flying from Cape Town in South Africa to Goodwood in West Sussex in a 1942 Boeing Stearman plane.
The next year she was awarded the Light Aircraft Association’s Woodhams Trophy for her achievement. She was then stripped of the prizein 2016 after the expedition’s logistics manager, Sam Rutherford, accused her of claiming that it was a solo voyage when she was frequently accompanied in her two-seater plane by her mechanic, Ewald Gritsch.
She was said to have described her expedition as a “solo flight” at a public event in Herne Bay in Kent and failed to correct similar claims in the media, including a documentary shown on BBC Four. Ms Curtis-Taylor admitted that she had been wrong to describe her trip as a solo expedition but said that it was a one-off mistake and not the basis of the award.
Yesterday she and her allies put forward two motions at the association’s annual general meeting at Sywell Aerodrome in Northamptonshire, either of which would have returned the award to her.
One proposed by Stewart Jackson, vice-president of the association, described the 2016 decision as “vindictive [and] irrational” and blamed the board for “errors of judgment”. It added: “Injustice was done. Let’s admit we made a bad mistake that made — and will continue to make us, if we don’t do the right thing — look like an out-of-date club of misogynists.”
Voters in the association, which is 95 per cent male and has an average age of 61, were untroubled by the risk to their image. [J4MB: Excellent news.] They voted against the motion by 389 to 82, with 87 per cent of votes being cast remotely. A second motion with more moderate wording was also voted down, by 277 to 202.
Ms Curtis-Taylor said that she no longer wished to have anything to do with the association and would be registering her vintage Ryan Recruit plane in America. “It’s ignorance. It’s discrimination. This is how women have been closed out of aviation,” she said. [J4MB: “This” being what exactly? An expectation of honesty from women?]
“I’ve been a member for 14 years [but] they do not value what I’m doing. I am finished. This was two years of trying to right a wrong but the bigger struggle [to promote women in aviation] goes on.”
Mr Rutherford, a former army officer who fell out with Ms Curtis-Taylor during the Africa expedition, said that he had warned her not to accept awards.
“I contacted her twice. I said: ‘Keep going with whatever you’re doing but if you’re offered awards, please decline them.’ ” He admitted that he had engaged in an online campaign to encourage people to vote against her. “It’s fairly clear that both sides of the argument have been very active in trying to rally support,” he said.
“I’m all for more women coming into aviation — my wife and my daughter fly. They don’t need some sort of false support for that. It reduces the real achievements out there.”
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