Arctic Aerial Exploration
Antarctic Exploration
Australian record flights
equal flying rights for women!
Calbraith Rogers
Cobham and Hinkler
Byrd and Bennett
Wiley Post
Amelia Earhart
Howard Hughes
Kingsford Smith
Amy Johnson
Beryl Markham
Italo Balbo
Jimmy Doolittle

Amy Johnson - the complete aviator

In 1930 Amy Johnson became world famous overnight, when she became the first woman to fly solo to Australia

While Amelia Earhart captured the imagination and admiration of Americans, Europe had women aviators of its own to glory in, and two in particular became celebrated headliners during the 1930s. Amy Johnson and Beryl Markham were very different types of people in many ways, yet they became the source of endless fascination by a public that followed their personal lives as well as their exploits in the air. Amy Johnson was born in the port city of Hull, England, into a modest fishermanís family.

Early on she showed a fierce independence that took her through Sheffield University, then still a school largely for men. She became interested in flying at the age of twenty-five and used every bit of money she earned as a secretary to pay for flying lessons. She also showed a knack for  mechanical devices and apprenticed with an airplane mechanic, becoming the first British Woman to be granted an aircraft ground engineerís license.

In 1930 she decided to become the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia, and was intent on breaking Bert Hinklerís record for the flight. Johnson and her father managed to scrape together a small amount for the purchase of a Gypsy Moth, which she named Jason. The aircraft was entirely inadequate for so ambitious a flight, and ďJohnnie,Ē as she was called, did not have nearly enough flight experience.

She took off from Croydon on May 3 and completed the early legs of the flight in record time, beating Hinklerís London-to-Karachi time by an amazing two days. But the last portions of the flight did not go well (largely because of the plane), and when she arrived in Australia she had taken four days longer than Hinkler to make the flight. She was disappointed, but all of Australia and England cheered her for being the first woman to complete so hazardous a solo flight.

Amy Johnson may have been the most technically skilled woman aviator of the day, being the first woman to obtain a coveted ground engineerís license from the British Air Ministry.

The attractive aviatorís life would never be the same. Amy Johnson inspired songs and fashions, and drew the admiration of her public with her direct manner of speaking. In 1932 she married one of Englandís most celebrated aviators, James Mollison, providing a wealth of material for the front pages and the society pages. The marriage was a rocky one, though, partly because James was a flamboyant philanderer prone to bouts of drinking and partly because Amy turned out to be a more accomplished flier than her husband. Nearly every record James established was soon broken by Amy, sometimes flying the very same airplane (a de Havilland Puss Moth).

The wreck of the Seafarer in a swamp near Bridgeport, Connecticut, after Johnson and Jim Mollison completed the first trans-Atlantic flight by a husband-and-wife team in 1933

In an attempt to salvage their marriage, the couple attempted a round-the-world flight in a de Havilland Dragon biplane they called the Seafarer. The plane went down near the Connecticut coast (due, it seemed, to Jamesí flawed flying) and was demolished by local souvenir hunters. James returned to England, but Amy stayed in the United States and became a good friend of Amelia Earhart. In 1938 the Mollisons were divorced and Amy sought anonymity. She died in a 1941 crash while ferrying airplanes for the RAE.