WMU News

British aviator stops at WMU on trip around the globe

July 29, 2003

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. -- A British woman attempting to become the first solo pilot to fly a single-engine plane around the world via the North and South poles will make a three-day stop in Battle Creek at Western Michigan University's College of Aviation.

Polly Vacher, dubbed "pole-to-pole Polly" by the British press, will fly into the W.K. Kellogg Airport Monday, Aug. 4, and will stay until Aug. 6, meeting with members of the community and visiting three British students who are studying at WMU this summer as part of a scholarship program for which Vacher is raising funds.

Vacher left England's Birmingham International Airport May 6 on her 35,000-mile journey, which will cover more than 35,000 miles across 30 nations and all seven continents. Her eight-month trip is designed as a fund-raising effort for the Royal International Air Tatoo's Flying Scholarships for the Disabled. In 2001, she completed her first solo flight around the world and raised nearly $300,000 for the same cause.

Three recipients of the scholarship program began studying at WMU's College of Aviation earlier this month. Last year, three other British students spent six weeks at the University through the same program.

The 59-year-old music teacher from Drayton, near Abingdon, Oxon, has been flying for less than 10 years. She embarked on her "Wings Around the World II" trip with a sendoff from Britain's Prince Charles and a departure escort from Hurricane and Spitfire aircraft from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

Vacher is flying a Piper Dakota aircraft that has been painted black and orange to conserve heat and show up against the ice caps of the two poles. On the wings of her aircraft are displayed "Wing Names" of individuals who have pledged donations to the scholarship program. The newest additions to that roster are due to be added to the wings when Vacher stops in Oshkosh, Wisc., for the July 29-Aug. 3 fly-in of the Experimental Aircraft Association. She will travel to Battle Creek at the end of that event.

Vacher's path around the globe, dubbed the "Voyage to the Ice" route, has never been undertaken solo in a single-engine aircraft. She came over the North Pole from England via Norway. She will fly over the South Pole during the region's short summer sometime between November and February, depending on weather conditions.

The married mother of three says her current trip will be her last attempt to circumnavigate the globe, as she has promised her husband and three sons that this will be her final long-distance flight. To prepare for this undertaking, she completed extensive arctic survival training.

Vacher's journey is being followed closely in the United Kingdom, and a film crew sponsored by Britain's famed Channel 4 will be in Battle Creek to cover her visit as part of their overall chronicle of her attempt to circumnavigate the globe. The crew will also be filming the three students currently studying aviation at WMU through the Flying Scholarships for the Disabled program.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 269 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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