A Story Over 50 Years in the Making

At age 27, Joan Merriam Smith set out to become the first woman to fly solo around the world. Inspired by Amelia Earhart, since the age of 15 it had been Joan’s goal to complete the exact route that Amelia Earhart had planned.

Joan Merriam Smith prepping for her world flight at Aztec Aircraft in 1964

As luck would have it, just five weeks prior to her world flight departure, Joan would unexpectedly learn about Ohio-based housewife Jerrie Mock’s ambition to also become the first woman to complete an around-the-world solo flight. Joan and Jerrie’s simultaneous flights around the globe would spark an international media sensation. But how did two such carefully planned flights, and of such magnitude, come together only two days apart?

Following a treacherous and unprecedented adventure around the world in a twin-engine plane from March – May of 1964, Joan would go on to become the first person in history to fly solo around the world at the equator, the first person to complete the longest single solo flight around the world, and the first woman to fly a twin-engine aircraft around the world, among other accolades. To put her accomplishment into context, to date there have technically been just ten women who have completed solo flights around the world.

However, less than a year following Joan’s historic world flight, she was involved in two suspicious back-to-back plane crashes, including one that took her life in February of 1965. Joan died with her biographer, Trixie Ann Schubert, a foreign news correspondent who had just returned from an Associated Press assignment reporting behind the Iron Curtain in Russia.

At the time of their deaths, Trixie was wrapping up a book about Joan’s first-person account of flying around the world solo. Ultimately, it was never published. It wouldn’t be until over 50 years later that the draft manuscript was discovered by Trixie’s granddaughter—the book’s author—who was curious to learn more about the past.

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