MANHATTAN (CN) — The first Chinese woman to fly a single-engine plane solo around the world claims an industry organization defamed her and diminished the “special quality” of her achievement by propping up a younger pilot’s publicity stunt.
Julie Wang aka Wang Zhen claims she became the first Asian woman to circumnavigate the globe solo, when she completed the trip in 155 hours over 18 flight days, on Sept. 16, 2016.
Represented by James Frechter in New York County Supreme Court, Wang claims her signal honor was ripped from her by the Ninety-Nines Inc., which attributed the feat to Saki Chen, chair of the Ninety-Nines’ China chapter, who completed her circumnavigation in 58 days, landing in Cleveland, Ohio on Sept. 26, 2016, ten days after Wang finished.
Wang claims that the Ninety-Nines, a female aviators organization, adopted “a deliberate and calculated strategy of falsely misrepresenting to the public and supporting and assisting Saki Chen that she, not plaintiff Wang, is the first Chinese woman to pilot an aircraft around the world, in order to obtain all the emoluments of a success she never earned at Julie Wang’s reputational and financial expense.”
The only defendants are the New York-New Jersey Section of the Ninety-Nines Inc., and Ninety-Nines Inc.
Wang claims the Ninety Nines decided to support Chen’s claim to celebrity “at any cost, without regard to the truth, and without regard for plaintiff’s rights and bona-fide, record-setting accomplishment.”
After Chen landed at Cleveland, Wang says, she “went on an internet publicity rampage deliberately, maliciously, and falsely representing herself” as the first Chinese woman to fly solo around the world — even though Chen flew with two male safety pilots onboard for assistance.
Wang seeks at least $100,000 in damages for each sponsorship opportunity she lost or will lose. She claims Ninety Nine’s false statements constitute defamation because they “falsely and tortuously undermine” her professionally and damage her reputation and commercial interests. She also accuses the Ninety Nines of negligence, tortious interference and conspiracy to commit unfair competition.
Chen’s flight earned the cover of the January/February 2017 issue of 99 News aviation magazine, which called her “the first Chinese woman to launch a flight to circumnavigate the globe in a single e-engine piston airplane.”
Chen’s flight also was featured in a Chinese BMW commercial video, and in Chinese Elle and Cosmopolitan magazines.
The Ninety Nines, founded in Valley Stream, N.Y. in 1929, elected Amelia Earhart as its first president in 1931. Today they are based in Oklahoma City.
Representatives from the Ninety-Nines did not respond to a request for comment.