On May 12, 1963, a crowd of about 3000 waited at Brisbane airport for the arrival of the “flying housewife”, as 36-year-old Californian pilot Betty Miller had been dubbed by the media. At 8.24pm, her Piper Apache plane landed and the excited crowd broke through the police cordon to get a closer look. “Gee! It’s good to be here,” said Miller from the window of the cockpit. The crowd responded with a joyous round of For She’s A Jolly Good Fellow.
Miller had made history by becoming the first female pilot to fly solo across the Pacific Ocean, covering a distance of 7400 miles (12,000km). Her flight had begun on April 30, when she departed from Oakland, California. Miller continued on to Honolulu, where she was delayed for four days, then stopped at Canton Island, Fiji and Noumea before reaching her final destination of Brisbane.
Her husband, Chuck, was confident of his wife’s success: “I’m not going to be worried about her … After all, I know what she can do. I taught her to fly.” Miller seemed more worried about her husband’s survival in her absence, saying: “I always cook Chuck’s favourite, Irish stew, at least three times a week … [he] reckons he hasn’t had a good home-cooked meal since I left.”
The following day, celebrations continued with a reception at City Hall. Miller gave acting lord mayor Norman Buchan a gold key from the mayor of Santa Monica and a silver plate from the mayor of Brisbane, California. She also visited Sir Charles Kingsford Smith’s plane, “I think I could fly it, but it sure would take a lot of hard work,” Miller said.