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Historic task for daring stunt pilot

By Bryony Jones, CNN
  • Catherine Maunoury is a former world champion aerobatic pilot
  • As director of France's Air and Space Museum she hopes to revitalise the collection

Paris (CNN) -- Stunt flyer Catherine Maunoury is no stranger to a tough challenge -- her daring aerial moves have twice seen her take the women's title at the World Aerobatic Championships.

Now the pilot faces a new test: Reviving the fortunes of France's Air and Space Museum, just meters from the very runway where she takes off to fly in displays.

Museum director Maunoury performed before a home crowd at the Paris Air Show this week, taking off from the same airfield where aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh landed at the end of his first transatlantic flight.

"For me it's great to be able to fly and to work here -- it has such history, it is famous, of course, for its links with Charles Lindbergh," she told CNN.

"I am lucky that it is so historical, but also so alive, with shows like this going on." And it is these aspects she wants to link at the Air and Space Museum, where she hopes to bring past, present and future together in a new home close to Lindbergh's hangar.

Maunoury learned to fly as a teenager, and was just 17 when she gained her pilot's licence.

"I started flying at 15, and I've never stopped," she said. "My father was a doctor, but also a pilot, and he helped me to learn."

Her aim then was to become a stunt flier, and it has been her passion ever since.

"I learned to fly so I could do aerobatic flying - I always wanted to do it. I started entering contests, and winning."

Mother-of-two Maunoury went on to win the French aerobatic flying championships 10 times and was twice named world champion, in 1988 and 2000, while also working as a long-haul cabin crew member for Air France.

"Obviously I couldn't have children in the years I was taking part in competitions," she joked. "You can't do everything at once, after all!"