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Joan Merriam Smith
Birth: Aug. 3, 1936
Death: Feb. 17, 1965
Big Pines
Los Angeles County
California, USA

Aviatrix; She was the first person to fly solo around the world at the equator, and the first woman to fly twin-engine aircraft around the world. Her flight was the longest solo flight ever undertaken in the history of the world at that time. As a child, Smith's first flight was with an airline in a Lockheed Constellation in which she was taken up to the flight deck and introduced to the pilot. From this experience, Smith fell in love with flying and decided that she too would fly one day. After reading a book on Amelia Earhart given her by an aunt, Smith dreamed of the day that she could not only re-trace Amelia's flight, but also finish it. At 15 years of age, and before she could drive a car, Joan Merriam learned to fly, and soloed after only nine hours. She obtained her pilot's license at 17 years of age, and her commercial license at 23, both (at the time) being the minimum ages at which these licenses could be granted. Smith became a flying instructor and flew commercially, doing charter flights and flying executive aircraft. In 1958, she married an officer of he US Navy, Lt. Commander M. G. (Jack) Smith, who was also a pilot and very receptive to Joan's will to re-enact Earhart's flight. In 1963, Joan finally purchased an aircraft suitable for the long flight, a twin engine Piper Apache N3251P, which cost her eighteen thousand dollars. She named it "City of Long Beach" in honor of the sponsorship she received from that city. Modifications were necessary and the seats were removed to make room for ferry tanks. The tanks and other modifications were to cost more than seven thousand dollars that Smith was forced to borrow from friends. Rivalry existed between another pilot, Geraldine "Jerrie" Mock, and Smith, whose flights took place simultaneously. Both women wanted to be the first woman to fly solo around the world. Smith decided to concentrate on the reenactment of Amelia Earhart's flight, and not to worry about speed and records. The press, in order to add drama to their reports and articles, would have liked to make a race of the flights between the two women pilots. Joan Merriam Smith did not make any official speed record in her famous flight, as Geraldine Mock had registered her intentions of setting a record with her flight, well before Smith. Although she had left 2 days before Mock, Smith arrived some 25 days after her; Mock had finished her flight on April 17th. Smith flew the 1937 Amelia Earhart route in her Rajay Turbocharged Apache, 27,750 miles in 56 days with 34 landings in her path around the world. In this flight she was caught in a Brazilian revolution, delayed in a tense situation in Indonesia, grounded by nose wheel problems in Guam and had to face a fuel tank leak and hydraulic failure. She overcame all of these difficulties, arriving back at Oakland, California on May 12, 1964. Joan Merriam Smith wrote two magazine articles: "I flew around the world alone", for the Saturday Evening Post, July 25-August 1, 1964, and "The longest Flight", for the AOPA Pilot, November 1964. She was awarded the Harmon Trophy (awarded annually to the world's outstanding aviator, posthumously in 1965. She also received the prestigious Trophée de la Ligue Internationale des Aviateurs, Trophée des Aviatrices. Smith died of injuries sustained when the rented Cessna 181 she was flying with a friend crashed near Big Pine, California, six weeks after she walked away unscathed from the crash of her own Piper Apache.  (bio by: Scott Wilson) 
 
Burial:
Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Cypress)
Cypress
Orange County
California, USA
Plot: 5027
 
Maintained by: Find A Grave
Originally Created by: Scott Wilson
Record added: Jan 01, 2007
Find A Grave Memorial# 17235826
Joan <i>Merriam</i> Smith
Added by: Ron Moody
 
Joan <i>Merriam</i> Smith
Added by: Scott Wilson
 
Joan <i>Merriam</i> Smith
Cemetery Photo
Added by: Donna Hancock
 
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-Anonymous
 Added: Sep. 14, 2015

- quebecoise
 Added: Aug. 3, 2015

- Joseph M.Petri
 Added: Feb. 4, 2015
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