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‘Pakistan is the highlight of my travels’

‘Pakistan is the highlight of my travels’

KARACHI: Little schoolgirls resembling dolls in their pretty dresses all had their eyes focused on that little green dot in the sky as it got bigger and bigger. There were cheers and clapping all around when the British/New Zealander pilot, Tracey Curtis-Taylor, landed, took off her goggles and cap and waved to them before jumping out of her vintage open cockpit biplane (1942 Boeing Stearman), named Spirit of Artemis, at Karachi airport on Tuesday.

And then they noticed another person in the front seat of the plane, too, and thought he was the pilot of the plane until it was explained that the pilot in this kind of a plane sits in the rear seat. The fellow in the front, Prince Nikolaos of Greece in this case, was a passenger.

Karachi is the second stop of the pilot and the passenger, hosted here by Engro Corporation in collaboration with Habib Bank Limited and the Dawood Foundation, in Pakistan after their arrival in Gwadar on Monday.

Before landing here, Tracey, 53, started her journey from Farnborough, England, flew across Europe and the Mediterranean to Jordan, over the Arabian desert and across the Gulf of Oman.

From Pakistan, she will leave for India on Wednesday and then on to Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia before crossing the Timor Sea to reach Australia by Jan 5, 2016. After her arrival in Sydney, the plane will be shipped to America and flown across the US to complete the world flight in 2016.

Tracey is on the world tour, covering some 23 countries, to pay homage to Amy Johnson and her epic solo flight to Australia in 1930. “When Amy Johnson landed here on May 10 in 1930, this was India. The world is a very different place now,” said Tracey during a media conference soon after her arrival in Karachi.

“I am not flying in isolation. I have the honour to fly with Prince Nikolaos of Greece.

“Amy Johnson was creating a record when she set out to complete her journey within 15 days but did it in 19 by literally crashing her way into Australia. I am keen not to repeat that exercise,” she laughed.

“We are also making a documentary as we travel. So there is another plane with the documentary crew travelling along with us,” said the pilot, who also has an interest in geology, mapping and aerial photography.

“It has taken us a couple of months to get here and while planning this journey 18 months ago, I had been informed that the security situation here may be an issue. But my welcome here and at Gwadar, earlier, has shown me otherwise. I wasn’t expecting such a big welcome. Your love is heart-warming. Pakistan is the highlight of my travels. I have been meeting as many people as possible on my journey, especially women. Though this is a very short stay, I will certainly come back here. I want to meet girls and encourage them to join aviation,” she said.

Prince Nikolaos, who had earlier visited Pakistan twice, informed the media that they started their journey from Farnborough, England, on his birthday. “This is Tracey’s birthday gift for me. This is my third time in Pakistan. All over, wherever I go, I tell people of beautiful Pakistan. Still, people there wonder why I went to Pakistan and here, too, people wonder why I am back. But it is your hospitality that keeps bringing me back here,” he chuckled.

Princely Jets chairman Ghouse Akbar, Air Vice Marshal Salman Ahsan Bokhari, Engro chairman Hussain Dawood and British Deputy High Commissioner John Anthony Tucknott also spoke on the occasion.

Published in Dawn, November 18th, 2015

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