20 Years Ago: Murray Becomes First Woman to Circle Globe in a Helo

By S.L. Fuller | August 8, 2017
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Photo by Wikifan75

Jennifer Murray, 20 years ago, became the first person to pilot a piston-powered helicopter around the world and the first woman to fly a helicopter around the world. The Smithsonian Institute said that along with her instructor, Quentin Smith, Murray took to the sky in a Robinson Helicopter R44 May 10 and landed Aug. 8, 1997.

According to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), Murray had only been flying for three years with 600 hours when she set out to set the record.


“I loved flying from the very first moment and I love going places,” FAI quoted Murray as saying in 2013. “When I learnt that no woman had ever piloted a helicopter around the world and that only three men had ever done so — and they had all been flying larger, jet turbine helicopters with autopilot — the challenge was there. I was a woman and my helicopter was a small piston engine affair with no autopilot. The record was there for the taking.”

FAI said the route had the duo take off in England, make their way to Italy, then across the Middle East and India to South Asia. They then flew up to Russia, across the Bering Strait to Alaska, down to California and across the U.S. The last legs of the trip had the aircraft flying up the coast of Canada, through Greenland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands, before returning to England, according to FAI.

The R44, dubbed “G-MURY,” is on display at Smithsonian’s facility in Virginia near Washington D.C. The institute said the aircraft has flown around the world twice with Murray at the controls. She took flight again between May 31 and Sept. 6, 2000, and became the first woman to circle the globe solo.

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