On 24 May 1930 aviatrix Amy Johnson flew into Darwin and the record books.
Amy Johnson’s aviation record
AFTER 19 DAYS of flying, 26-year-old British aviatrix Amy Johnson touched down in Darwin 88 years ago to world acclaim. She had just become the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia.
Born on 1 July 1903 in Hull, England, Amy completed a degree in economics in 1923 and worked as a secretary for a London solicitor for the next six years. She became interested in flying in 1928 and took lessons at the London Aeroplane Club, earning her pilot’s licence in 1929 after completing 85 flying hours.
Less than a year later, she embarked on her epic, record-breaking 11,000mile (18,000km) journey to Australia. Before that flight, Amy hadn’t even flown over the English Channel.
Convinced women pilots could be as proficient as men, however, Amy set off from London in her de Havilland DH60 Gipsy Moth on 5 May 1930, following a route that two Australian lieutenants, Ray Parer and John McIntosh, had previously attempted unsuccessfully.
Amy encountered several serious hurdles during the trip. Her first major obstacle came en route to Baghdad, Iraq, when she encountered strong winds and low visibility, which forced her to land in the desert and wait for conditions to clear. She also damaged her plane landing in Rangoon, Burma (now Yangon, Myanmar), and again in Surabaya, Java. Despite these setbacks, The Northern Territory Times reported that when she landed in Rangoon “she was two days ahead of Bert Hinkler’s record”. Hinkler had flown from London to Darwin in 16 days, but further delays for Amy meant she failed to break that record.
Her flight was, however, a momentous achievement in aviation and her arrival in Darwin was greeted with intense local and international media attention.When she later returned to the UK, Amy was welcomed home by the then British Prime Minister
Ramsay MacDonald and made a Commander of the British Empire.
“What Amy did for the aviation industry was, she gave an enormous lift to the women pilots around Australia,” Australia’s first female helicopter pilot, Rosemary Arnold, explained to Australian Geographic. “She really turned the corner for them.”
Amy went on to create and break a string of flying records during the 1930s and, like other successful aviators at that time, was feted like a movie star.
In the years that followed, Amy famously married and divorced fellow aviator Jim Mollison, with whom she made several celebrated flights.These included flying in record time from Britain to India in 1934 as part of the London to Melbourne Air Race.
In World War II she flew for the Air Transport Auxiliary, piloting planes from factories to airbases. Sadly, Amy died in 1941 while attempting to deliver a plane in poor weather conditions, bailing out into the Thames River estuary. Her body was never recovered, and the details of her death remain a mystery.