“You haven’t failed until you stop trying”

What sort of woman learns to fly a helicopter in her fifties, creates records by twice flying around the world East to West, nearly gets killed during a circumnavigation via the Poles and eventually achieves her ultimate goal? Peter Morrell meets the inspirational Jennifer Murray to find out.

Jennifer and Colin

Jennifer and Colin

Jennifer

Jennifer

Jennifer in polar gear

Jennifer in polar gear

Jennifers Robinson R44 Image - Smithsonians National Air and Space Museum

Jennifer's Robinson R44 Image - Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum

Greenland

Greenland

En route Greenland

En route in Greenland

The Angel Falls

The Angel Falls

Crater of Mount Pinotubo

Crater of Mount Pinotubo

Iceberg Anatarctica 2007

Iceberg Anatarctica 2007

Jennifer on iceberg

Jennifer on iceberg

The South Pole

The South Pole

It all started when Jennifer’s husband, Simon, a successful businessman, bought a half share in a helicopter. Rather than just be a passenger, she decided to learn how to fly it. Her instructor Quentin Smith had enthused about flying his helicopter to Moscow. This led to the germ of an idea for both of them to fly around the world, this dream was realised in 1997 making Jennifer the first female to achieve this incredible feat.

The machine Jennifer flew was a piston engine powered Robinson R44, which is now on display at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum in the U.S. Frank Robinson, the designer and manufacturer of the helicopter, only thought the pair would make it to Pakistan.

Now bitten by the flying bug the next mountain to conquer was a solo flight around the world. Jennifer successfully completed the journey in 2000, followed all the way by Colin Bodill who incredibly followed in an open cockpit microlight plane. A year later Jennifer and Colin took part in the London to Sydney air race, setting a world speed record for helicopters.

Her next challenge was to fly round the world, but via the North and South Poles. But before that sponsors had to be sought and a new, more powerful Bell Helicopter acquired. Again Jennifer’s determination shone through and with sponsors in place and a new helicopter a bold and brave attempt was made in 2003.

While Jennifer was flying to the South Pole her equally adventurous husband was trekking to the Pole with explorer Pen Hadlow. Simon was 63 and became the oldest person to complete this feat.

The journey was made with co-pilot Colin Bodill, microlighting companion on her solo flight. After successfully getting to the Antarctic, rendezvousing with husband Simon on the way, Jennifer and Colin made it to the South Pole.

Making their way back disaster struck, white-out weather conditions forced the helicopter down but soft snow had fooled their ground radar and they crash landed, wrecking their machine and severely injuring both of them.

A search and rescue team managed to get to them and they were miraculously saved. The entire story is vividly told in Jennifer’s book, Broken Journey which I would highly recommend.

While many people would have given up at this point Jennifer and Colin planned a second attempt, so again sponsors were needed together with a new Bell helicopter. The dream was realised, in 2007 they succeeded in the pole to pole circumnavigation of the world creating even more records in the process.

As well as amassing world records for all of these adventures Jennifer was also raising lots of money for charities like Save the Children and Operation Smile. And Jennifer’s endeavours have continued, from running ultra marathons to her latest venture,  illustrating her daughter Christy Powell’s books, including ‘News from the Nail Bar’ and, launching later this month, ‘The Spoilt Brat’s Guide’, a series of interactive ’3D’ travel iBooks.”

I was intrigued to meet Jennifer to find out what gave her the motivation to achieve these incredible tasks and hopefully inspire you to set and reach your own goals in life.

My first impression is that Jennifer is a devoted, wife, mother and grandmother and that this is a bedrock on which to build. Secondly that she grabs opportunities rather than be a passive observer, many women would only ever have been a passenger in their husband’s helicopter.

Thirdly that setting a goal and then having the determination to see it through to the end is an essential quality. The phrase that sticks in mind when we met was Jennifer’s comment “You haven’t failed until you stop trying”.

Finally you must keep setting targets that are both physical and spiritual. I doubt if any of you will ever fly a helicopter around the world but there are many other life goals that may be difficult in other ways, but to reach them will give a real sense of achievement.

I personally found our meeting uplifting, many people when they are in their 50s give up but Jennifer is an inspiration and proves that there are always new heights in life to scale irrespective of age.

Jennifer has written three books about her aviation adventures, all  available on Amazon

Now Solo – The second East/West circumnavigation
Click here… to find out more and to order

Broken Journey – the first Pole to Pole attempt
Click here… to find out more and to order

Polar First – the beautifully illustrated account of the second, successful Polar expedition
Click here… to find out more and to order

For more information on Jennifer and Colin and their adventures visit www.polarfirst.com

Jennifer’s illustrations can be seen on her daughter’s website – www.christy-powell.com

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