Arguably Britain’s most famous aviatrix, Amy Johnson, was born July 1, 1903, in Hull, Yorkshire. Following her graduation from Sheffield University in 1923, she moved to London, where her interest in aviation began. It was not long before her hobby gave way to an all-consuming determination to prove women’s competence in the field.
She qualified as the first British-trained female ground engineer, and was the only woman in the world to do so at the time.
In early 1930 she set her sights on a solo flight to Australia to beat Bert Hinkler’s record of 16 days. Her initial efforts in raising financial support failed, but eventually her father and oil magnate Lord Wakefield came through with the 600 British pound purchase price of a used de Havilland Gipsy Moth. The aircraft was nicknamed Jason after the family business trademark.
Amy set off alone from Croydon on May 5, 1930, and landed in Darwin on May 24—a flight distance of 11,000 miles. She was the first woman to fly solo to Australia and came home to a hero’s welcome.
In July 1931 she set off again, this time with Jack Humphreys in a Puss Moth, for a record-setting England to Japan flight. In 1932, she flew solo from England to Cape Town, and then again in 1936, to set another record from England to Cape Town in a Percival Gull.
The early 1930s also saw her fly nonstop in a deHavilland Dragon from South Wales to the United States with her husband Jim Mollison in 1933. The two also competed the England to Australia air race, flying nonstop in record time to India in a de Havilland Comet in 1934.
Amy served as the president of the Women’s Engineering Society from 1935 to 1937.
She joined the Air Transport Auxiliary in 1939, ferrying aircraft from factory airstrips to Royal Air Force bases. It was on one of those routine ferry flights that Amy crashed into the Thames Estuary and was presumed drowned on January 5, 1941.