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Amy JohnsonAmy Johnson

record-breaking pilot

Amy Johnson was born in Hull Yorkshire, England, on July 1, 1903. After graduating from Sheffield University, she became a secretary to a London solicitor. It was while living in London that she first became interested in flying.

After learning to fly at the London Aeroplane Club during the winter of 1928-1929, Johnson determined to succeed in some project which would demonstrate that women could be as competent in the field of aviation as men. Her first achievement was to qualify as the first woman ground engineer in the world.

Johnson and her DH Gypsy MothIn 1930, she decided to not only fly solo to Australia but to beat Bert Hinkler's record of 16 days in the process. After some initial disappointments in raising money for the attempt, Lord Wakefield, along with Amy's father, shared the 600 pound purchase price of a used DH Gypsy Moth, which she named "Jason." Setting off from Croydon, England, on May 5, 1930, Johnson landed in Darwin, Australia, on May 24. Although she failed to beat Hinkler's record, she became the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia. She received the Harmon Trophy for this achievement.

Johnson went on to record an impressive list of achievements:

  • July 1931, with co-pilot Jack Humphreys, set a record time for flying from England to Japan. (De Havilland Puss Moth)
  • July 1932, set a solo record for flying from London to Cape Town, South Africa. (De Havilland Puss Moth)
  • 1933, with her husband, Jim Mollison (whom she had married in 1932), flew nonstop from Pendine Sands, South Wales, to the United States. The plane ran out of fuel, however, and crash-landed in Bridgeport, Connecticut. (De Havilland Dragon Rapide)
  • 1934, with her husband, set a record for flying from England to India, as part of the England-to-Australia MacRobertson Air Race. They were forced to retire from the race at Allahabad due to engine trouble. (De Havilland Comet)
  • May 1936, set a new solo record for flying from London to Cape Town. (Percival Gulf)

Johnson and Mollison divorced in 1938.

After her commercial flying ended with the outbreak of World War II in 1939, Johnson joined the Air Transport Auxiliary, whose job was to transport Royal Air Force planes from base to base. On January 5, 1941, while flying an Airspeed Oxford to RAF Kidlington near Oxford, she crashed into the Thames estuary and drowned; she was the first member of the Air Transport Auxiliary to die in service.

The Ninety-Nines

World War II

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This page was last updated on September 26, 2015.

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