Did you know on this day back in 1903, one of Britain’s greatest female pilots was born?
Amy Johnson (1 July 1903 – 5 January 1941) was a pioneering English aviatrix that set numerous long-distance records and became a leading role model for women around the world.
Born in Hull, to a wealthy fish merchant, she was educated at Hull’s Boulevard Municipal Secondary School and graduated in 1925 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Sheffield University.
She was introduced to flying as a hobby, gaining a pilot’s A Licence No. 1979 on 6 July 1929 at the London Aeroplane Club under the tutelage of Captain Valentine Baker. In that same year, she became the first British woman to obtain a ground engineer’s ‘C’ licence.
Her father was one of her strongest supporters. With funds from her father and Lord Wakefield she purchased a second-hand de Havilland Gipsy Moth she named “Jason”, and with Jason she achieved global recognition when in 1930 she became the first woman to fly solo from Britain to Australia, covering some 11,000 miles.
Only a year later in July 1931, she flew with co-pilot Jack Humphreys from London to Moscow within one day. This was a journey, never achieved before. They continued to Siberia and on to Tokyo, smashing another record time for flying to Japan from England in a de Havilland Puss Moth.
Amy set a solo record from London to Cape Town in 1932, and further record duo flight with her husband Jim Mollison in 1934 as part of the Britain to Australia MacRobertson Air Race. Her last-record breaking flight was made in May 1936 flying again from London to South Africa.
Amy Johnson tragically lost her life on 5th January 1941 when the Airspeed Oxford aircraft she was flying from Blackpool to RAF Kidlington went off course and crashed into the Thames Estuary. She was flying in very poor weather conditions and was way off course. Her body was never recovered. Even today there still remains much controversy over the cause of the crash, although in 1999 it was reported she was shot down after failing to give the correct identification code during her flight.
She was a remarkable role-model in the engineering and aviation world inspiring people across the globe.
“I am an ordinary woman who did extraordinary things. The first to qualify as a ground engineer. The first to fly to Australia single-handed. A million people lined the streets of London when I came home. I waved to them from an open-topped car like the queen, the queen of the air.” Amy Johnson
A collection of souvenirs of her was donated by her father at Sewerby Park, Bridlington and The Science Museum, London also has an archive.
To celebrate the life and achievements of Amy Johnson, look out for the Amy Johnson Memorial Air Show at Herne Bay this year on Saturday August 15th. The show will feature the world famous Red Arrows and the Battle of Britain Memorial Team amongst other must-see attractions.