Golden Age Pioneers - Amy Johnson





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Published on Apr 20, 2008

Amy Johnson was born July 1, 1903, in Hull Yorkshire and lived there until she went to Sheffield University in 1923 to read for a BA. After graduating, she moved on to work as a secretary to a London solicitor where she also became interested in flying. Amy began to learn to fly at the London Aeroplane Club in the winter of 1928-29 and her hobby soon became an all-consuming determination, not simply to make a career in aviation, but to succeed in some project which would demonstrate to the world that women could be as competent as men in a hitherto male dominated field.

Her first important achievement, after flying solo, was to qualify as the first British-trained woman ground engineer. For awhile she was the only woman G.E. in the world.

Early in 1930, she chose her objective: to fly solo to Australia and to beat Bert Hinkler's record of 16 days. At first, her efforts to raise financial support failed, but eventually Lord Wakefield agreed his oil company should help. Amy's father and Wakefield shared the 600 pound purchase price of a used DH Gypsy Moth (G-AAAH) and it was named Jason after the family business trademark.

Amy set off alone in a single engine Gypsy Moth from Croydon on May 5, 1930, and landed in Darwin on May 24, an epic flight of 11,000 miles. She was the first woman to fly alone to Australia.

In July 1931, she set an England to Japan record in a Puss Moth with Jack Humphreys. In July 1932, she set a record from England to Capetown, solo, in a Puss Moth. In May, 1936, she set a record from England to Capetown, solo, in a Percival Gull, a flight to retrieve her 1932 record.

With her husband, Jim Mollison, she also flew in a DH Dragon nonstop from Pendine Sands, South Wales, to the United States in 1933. They also flew nonstop in record time to India in 1934 in a DH Comet in the England to Australia air race. The Mollisons were divorced in 1938.

After her commercial flying ended with the outbreak of World World II in 1939, Amy joined the Air Transport Auxiliary, a pool of experienced pilots who were ineligible for RAF service. Her flying duties consisted of ferrying aircraft from factory airstrips to RAF bases.

It was on one of these routine flights on January 5, 1941, that Amy crashed into the Thames estuary and was drowned, a tragic and early end to the life of Britain's most famous woman pilot.

While flying an Airspeed Oxford from Blackpool to RAF Kidlington near Oxford, she went off course in poor weather. She drowned after bailing out into the Thames estuary. Although she was seen alive in the water, a rescue attempt failed and her body was never recovered. The incident also led to the death of her would-be rescuer, Lt Cmdr Walter Fletcher of HMS Hazlemere. She was the first member of the Air Transport Auxiliary to die in service. Her death in an Oxford was ironic as she had been one of the original subscribers to the share offer for Airspeed.


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