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May 2010 Newsletter

by John M. White |

Beryl Markham, Famous Aviatrix, Horse Trainer and Author
In addition to authoring her best-selling memoir, West With the Night, Beryl Markham was the first woman to receive a horse trainer's license in Kenya, and was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic east to west. Raised in Kenya by her British father, young Beryl enjoyed a unique freedom to roam the surrounding countryside and befriend native children. Born in Ashwell, Rutland, England on October 26, 1902, Markham moved to Kenya with her parents, Charles and Clara Clutterbuck, when she was four years old. At the time, Kenya was British East Africa, and Charles had purchased farmland in Njoro, near the Great Rift Valley. It did not take long for Clara to tire of the isolation, however, and she soon returned to England with Beryl's brother Richard.Markham's upbringing involved two conflicting cultures, that of upper-class European colonists and of the poverty-ridden native tribes. She hob-nobbed with nobility and speared wild game with her friend Kibii, a child of one of the families that worked on the farm. She learned skills that were essential to survival in the African bush and grew up to be adventurous and a fierce competitor.

 

Although Charles experimented with various crops on the farm, the most profitable commodity was racehorses. He became a successful breeder and trainer, furnishing Thoroughbreds for races in Nairobi, 70 miles from Njoro. Beryl learned horsemanship and business skills from her father, and after he was forced out of business and left Kenya for Peru, she decided to make her own living in the man's world of horse racing. Markham was in her early twenties when she received the first horse trainer's license issued to a woman under English Jockey Club rules. A year later, her talent was confirmed when one of the horses she trained won the prestigious Nairobi St. Leger race. Her horse-training success thrust Markham into Nairobi's upper-class social circles where she met the wealthy Englishman, Mansfield Markham. They spent most of their brief marriage in England where Beryl gave birth to a boy. When the marriage ended, Beryl returned to Kenya, leaving her former mother-in-law to raise her son. Back in Kenya, Beryl began a relationship with Denys Finch Hatton, a prominent big-game hunter who was just ending an affair with writer Karen Blixen (whose life was featured in the film Out of Africa). Hatton, also an experienced pilot, took Beryl flying. Thrilled by the experience, she determined to learn to fly and made her first solo flight just a few weeks after Hatton's fatal crash of his Gypsy Moth. A year and a half later, she became the first licensed female commercial pilot in Kenya and embarked on a career scouting game from the air and flying passengers, supplies and mail into the Kenyan bush. Bery was always looking for her next adventure and was quickly caught up in the fervor of air races and distance records. She set her sights on the dual record attempt of being both the first pilot to fly from Europe to New York and the first woman to cross the Atlantic east to west solo. John Carberry, a wealthy Irishman who owned a Kenyan estate, offered to loan her the Vega Gull he was having built for his entry in the Cape Race. The Messenger was outfitted with six fuel tanks to accommodate the “waterjump” into the prevailing winds. After much planning as well as flight and physical training, Markham set off into rainy skies and stormy weather on September 4, 1936. Twenty hours after taking off from Abington, England, she crash-landed The Messenger in a bog on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. The fuel tank vents had iced over causing fuel starvation. Although short of her New York goal, Beryl had succeeded in her attempt at first east-west Atlantic crossing by a woman and was hailed as a celebrity upon arrival in New York. Her fame followed her back to England where she continued to enter races. Markham went to the United States looking for an engine for an around-the-world attempt. She was here during Amelia Earhart's ill-fated attempt. Beryl remained in the States and married Raoul Schumacher with whom she collaborated on West With the Night, published in 1942 (it is sometimes argued that he was the real author of the book). When they divorced, Beryl returned to Kenya and training racehorses. Between 1958 and 1979, she had six winners of Kenya's biggest race, the East African Derby. West With the Night sold well when it was first published, but it soon faded from public memory amidst more pressing current events. In 1982, George Gutekunst, a restaurateur from California, read a collection of Ernest Hemingway's letters and came across a flattering account of Markham's memoir.. Intrigued by the rare praise from Hemingway, Gutekunst read the work himself and persuaded North Point Press to re-issue the book in 1983. It became a best-seller, bringing much needed income to Markham late in her life—she was living a meager existence in Kenya. She died in Nairobi in 1986.
Great Poems: "Pilot's Poem"
Someday we will know, where the pilots go When their work on earth is through. Where the air is clean, and the engines gleam, And the skies are always blue.

 

They have flown alone, with the engine's moan, As they sweat the great beyond, And they take delight, at the awesome sight of the world spread far and yon. Yet not alone, for above the moan, when the earth is out of sight, As they make their stand, He takes their hand, and guides them through the night. How near to God are these men of sod, Who step near death's last door? Oh, these men are real, not made of steel, But He knows who goes before. And how they live, and love and are beloved, But their love is most for air. And with death about, they will still fly out, And leave their troubles there. He knows these things, of men with wings, And He knows they are surely true. And He will give a hand, to such a man 'Cause He's a pilot too. by Author Unknown
What's New

FAA Concerns Over Aircraft Heaters

A study by Wichita State University regarding maintenance of aircraft mufflers and CO (carbon monoxide) in the cockpit has resulted in the FAA issuing a Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin. SAIBs are not mandatory, but it is well worth while for any aircraft owner to review this bulletin and decide whether further action is appropriate for their aircraft. The study revealed that exhaust system mufflers with over 1,000 hours of flight time were particularly vulnerable to cracks, which in turn could result in carbon monoxide entering the cockpit and endangering the lives of the pilot and passengers. Carbon monoxide causes headache, dizziness, fatigue, and at elevated doses, death. Exhaust system failures in general aviation (GA) aircraft can result in CO exposure. When this occurs in an aircraft, the end result could be an accident. In an effort to improve safety in general aviation aircraft operations the FAA issued the SAIB, and has suggested a simple pilot and mechanic checklist to make sure that your exhaust system is sound and will not endanger you or your passengers. You can read more and download the checklists at Carbon Monoxide and Pilots.
Photo of the Month
     Beryl Markham, Famous Aviatrix, Horse Trainer and Author
John M. White, Editor Each month we bring you informative, educational and entertaining articles about all things aviation. You can find more timely and current articles here at our blog: All Things Aviation Check Out Our Newsletter Archives
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