Jennifer Murray, 56-year-old grandmother and hooked helicopter pilot since she took up the controls two years ago, is about to get herself into the Guinness Book of Records and raise charity money to boot by flying a chopper around the world. This energetic woman says that, apart from being great fun and a challenge, the trip will aim to educate by putting her and her co-pilot's progress on the Internet daily, and through footage that may eventually find its way into a film or documentary. Of course, this trip will be memorable for the pilots, and the sense of achievement and excitement is obvious. Mrs Murray does not hide the fact that she is doing it mostly for fun: 'The great thing is it's a really wonderful adventure.' Is it churlish to ask whether, as a fund-raising venture, it is justified? First, Mrs Murray estimates the 'hideous' cost of the three-month, 48,000-kilometre journey at about $2 million. Even with sponsorship from British Petroleum which is providing the necessary fuel and a lot of help, plus others that she hopes to draw in, Mrs Murray is likely to have to pay a lot herself. She is adamant that all money given to the Save the Children Fund on the back of her trip will go straight to the charity. But if the aim was just to raise money, she agrees she could simply hand over the cash she will spend and not fire up the engines at all. Then, there is the impact she could have on the people she flies over and the environment she passes through. The burning of the fuel is a minor concern, but there is the chance of an accident which would not only risk her safety, but that of people, flora or fauna unlucky enough to be in the way. The chance of harming people on the ground is 'infinitesimal', she says. 'We are likely to cause far less damage than a bigger aircraft could. We are looking to bring more pleasure than grief.' Comparisons with Richard Branson's failed round-the-world balloon flight this month come to mind, although Mrs Murray is unlikely to have to take such drastic action as the British entrepreneur. Faced with an allegedly deadly dive by the balloon into mountains, Branson and his team threw 'everything movable', he said later, including fuel and oil canisters, off the machine before crashing to the Algerian desert below - luckily, kilometres from any village. The canister and balloon were retrieved from the desert, and Branson's Virgin headquarters in London says there are contingency plans to prevent balloons in trouble coming down in populated areas. Representative Mo Foster says far from being arrogant, the balloon trip aimed to carry out experiments on ozone in the atmosphere and advertise a great British export. Neither Mrs Murray nor her trip are in the Branson league. But she admits it is a vanity to do the trip. 'Oh yes, it's a huge self-indulgence.' She is able to afford such a venture as a textile designer and artist married to Simon Murray, former managing director of Hutchison Whampoa and now Deutsche Bank boss in the Asia-Pacific. Mr Murray's extensive connections in China could come in useful to organise flight clearances, where the authorities have not yet responded to requests, she says. And of course, he can always tap his former boss, Li Ka-shing, for a spot of sponsorship or to boost the charity funds. From her magnificent house on The Peak, she describes taking her small Robinson piston-engined helicopter to friends at North Cape in the Arctic Circle in June 'for a weekend at Midsummer Night'. The trip became a two-week, 8,000-kilometre test run for the global journey. Mrs Murray got the flying bug when her husband proposed buying a part-share in a four-seater helicopter in Britain - the latest fad among the better-off youngsters in England, she says. 'It isn't as crazy as it sounds. You can get a decent little two-seater for about GBP45,000 ($540,000) and share it between four of you,' and the high running costs can be covered by renting out the chopper when they are not using it. The original plan was to do the world flight next year with Mr Murray in another helicopter. But the logistics are hard enough for one, she says: she has spent the past four months full-time on the arrangements and there is still much to do before take-off on May 10. In fact, with 600-hour flying time clocked up in two years, she now has about six times as much experience as her husband. 'I go up there and that whole world is so brilliant.' The flying machine will have cameras on the wings and tail rotor and videos will be made. But Mrs Murray will not be spending all her time snapping pictures, either in the air or on the ground: in each three or four-hour flying time, there is a huge workload of instrument-checking. Down on the ground there are the 25-hourly oil checks, the 50 and 100-hour servicings. She must remember, she laughs, not to land in France where everything stops for lunch: 'I can see one is going to do one's nut in some places.' All being well, the flyers break their trip in Hong Kong on June 24 for a certain ceremony: then they continue on July 2 to China. Governor Chris Patten and his wife Lavender, and Chief-Executive designate Tung Chee-hwa, are good friends, she says: 'We hope to be waved in by the Guv and waved out by CH.' The journey will not be the easiest of helicopter flights. The chopper has no auto-pilot; it cannot fly above the clouds so she and 32-year-old co-pilot Quentin Smith must come down in bad weather; and, she says, cargo space is limited. 'The most difficult stretch is over Greenland and Iceland, because the weather can change so quickly and dramatically so we have to wear survival suits,' she says. Because of tight weight requirements, personal luggage will not be in the craft for that stretch. Other places of concern are the Timor Sea between southern Indonesia and Darwin, renowned for head winds that come from nowhere - 'and of course it's shark-infested waters'. 'The water crossings are always . . . well, you are glad to see the land again,' she says. But the vehicles are very reliable, she claims. Even with engine failure, it is a myth that helicopters fall from the sky. 'It's like a sycamore leaf. You've got tremendous air pressure and auto rotations. You just float down,' Mrs Murray says. One commentator described her as a plucky lady and said it was none of our business if that is what she wanted to do, a point with which we heartily agree. It will be a great adventure and we wish her well. But ventures to raise charity money or command real awe usually involve a test of stamina or endurance, from disabled swimmers achieving a few widths of a pool to solo trudges across Antarctica. Mrs Murray has already run the London Marathon and taken part in the gruelling 100-kilometre Trailwalker twice. In a bygone age of exploration, Western groups - which they nearly always were - treated those they met on their journeys with contempt and trudged across expanses the same people had known for years, reporting their 'discoveries' to acclaim back home. But they suffered great hardship and undoubtedly increased the sum of human knowledge, in particular producing maps of areas never systematically recorded. Now that there is little left to map, modern-day explorers either leave their well-publicised rubbish on Mount Everest or those with the urge to be the 'first' are left to find increasingly unusual ways to do it: hence the moves towards the hi-tech and high-cost journeys that can go into the record books. Mrs Murray's trip is not the first but will be the fifth circumnavigation of the globe in a helicopter. The first was done in 1983 by Ross Perot Jr. However, her trip will be the first by a woman and in a smaller, harder-to-fly craft than has been used before. Mrs Murray says she wants people to share the trip through pictures on the Internet and television. But if she is honest, she is doing it for herself. The sponsors and the charity will benefit from the publicity, but gathering charity funds is perhaps also a way of easing the conscience over the indulgence of it all.