Sheila Scott, an actress-turned-aviator who held more than 90 flying records, died Thursday of lung cancer at the age of 61, her literary agent said.
Scott, who listened to Rachmaninov and Beethoven on long-distance flights, learned to fly at the age of 32 and became the first solo flier to cross the North Pole. She also held the record for the longest solo flight ever made, an around-the-world voyage of 31,000 miles.
“People often say to me, ‘Oh, you must have been so alone flying hundreds of thousands of miles, often in appalling weather conditions,’ but when you’re in the sky you don’t think of things like that,” Scott told the London Sunday Times four years ago. “Flying solo can be a spectacular experience--wondrous cloud formations, romantic sunsets or cruel tendrils of black cloud, cold and eerie.”
Born in Worcester, England, Scott became an actress at the age of 18, appearing in repertory theater and later in films and on television. She was married in 1945 to Rupert Bellamy. They were divorced in 1950.
She learned to fly in 1959 on a dare and worked for her British and U.S. commercial licenses by racing and flying in long-distance rallies.
In 1966, Scott became the first Briton to make a solo round-the-world trip when she flew a Piper Comanche plane 31,000 miles in 33 days--189 flying hours with 32 stops. In 1971, during her second global flight, she became the first solo pilot over the North Pole.
She wrote three books recalling her flying experiences and in 1968 was made an officer of the Order of the British Empire.