Who was the first British woman to fly single-handed across the world from England to Australia?

AMY JOHNSON 1903 – 1941

Aged only twenty seven years, Amy Johnson became a celebrity after her exciting solo flight to Australia in 1930.

Landing at Port Darwin she was described as looking sunburnt and tired but smiling. Wearing khaki shorts and a green sun helmet she was soon flying on to Sidney. From there she flew to Brisbane where she had a mishap on descent as her plane side-slipped, struck a fence and crashed.

Amy’s flight to Australia was only the first of many other record breaking flights that she undertook both alone and with her flying partner, Jim Mollison.

And the crash in Brisbane was only one of many reports about her in the newspapers in addition to her flying achievements.

An admirer once pushed through the crowds who’d turned out to greet her and stole a kiss. Immediately Amy slapped the man’s face and gave him a bloody nose.

Another kiss that achieved notoriety was when she landed at Achikawa aerodrome in Japan after completing her record breaking flight from London to Tokyo via Moscow and Siberia. Amy was embraced enthusiastically by General Gaishi Nagaoka, the man with reputedly the longest moustache in the world!

Amy was born in Hull and her fish-merchant-ship-broking family supported her through university and into her flying career. She gained her pilot’s licence in 1929.

Amy was married to Jim Mollinson in 1932 but they divorced after a few years.

Her attempts to be employed in commercial flying didn’t lead to much work but on the outbreak of WW2 Amy signed up for the Air Transport Auxiliary which flew aircraft for the Royal Air Force from one base to another.

It was on one such flight in January 1941 that in terrible weather conditions Amy crash landed into the Thames estuary and was killed.

She’d been advised against flying that day but had bravely said she would take the aircraft above the clouds and could manage. The plane had sufficient fuel for four and three quarter hours flying. It was reported by the authorities that at exactly that time since her departure she was spotted bailing out of her plane over the sea.

Her scheduled flight was supposed to have been entirely within Oxfordshire so there was confusion as to how she’d ended up so far off course.

Once in the sea, efforts were made to rescue Amy. In the process a naval officer, Lt – Commander Fletcher, also lost his life making a valiant attempt to save her. Amy’s body was never found and subsequently there was some speculation that she became caught up in the propellers of the very ship that was attempting her rescue.

Photo credit: Public domain via Wikimedia Commons