Amy Johnson was the first woman to have flown solo from England to Australia in May 1930. In 1936 just over seventy years ago she also achieved a record breaking solo flight from England to South Africa.
She was born on July 1st 1903 in Kingston - upon - Hull England. Her father had a thriving fish business, he was also a Methodist and the family were brought up in the faith. Amy was the eldest of four girls. She was very bright and was able to go to university, which was quite uncommon in those days. She obtained her BA degree in economics and worked as a secretary as she found it hard to get a job worthy of her skills. Then one fine day she came across a notice saying "London Aeroplane Club Private" she ignored the word private and went in with an overwhelming desire to learn to fly. She not only obtained a private pilots license in 1929, she also obtained an engineers license the following year. A few months later she made her first solo flight from England to Australia. In order to do this she had to convince people it was possible for a woman, who hadn't been flying long and on a journey that was not proven, this seemed some undertaking. But she got the backing of the oil company Castrol and her father who gave her the financial support to be able to do it. There was not only her lack of experience; this was also unfamiliar territory for her. There would also be many hazards such as bad weather, mechanical problems and so on and on top of all that she was also trying to beat the record of flying solo to Australia in a light aircraft. Although she failed to achieve that record what she did achieve as the first woman to undertake the journey solo was quite an incredible feat. She didn't stop there either. By the end of the year she had also obtained her commercial pilots license. At the beginning of 1931 she attempted to fly solo from England to China but due to bad weather the attempt failed.
Then in July she successfully flew from England
to Japan and it would be the first flight to take this route.
In July 1932 she married the aviator James Mollison and around four months later she completed a record breaking flight from England to South Africa. In July 1933 she and her husband did a transatlantic flight from England to America. It was the first non - stop flight from the two countries.
In October 1934 she attempted
a flight again with her husband from England to India but engine problems prevented it from being successful.
After her record breaking flight flying solo from England to South Africa in May 1936, a dramatic change was about to occur. In 1937 another female pilot Amelia Earhart disappeared while attempting to fly around the world. The shock had such an effect on Amy Johnson that she stopped flying for two years. Her marriage to James Mollison ended in 1939 they had undergone difficulties within their marriage. Her return to flying was not easy having achieved so much from it; she had received a number of awards for what she had accomplished. Because of this nobody really wanted to take her on perhaps because she had done so much and become so well known and admired. Not only did she find fame hard to cope with, people may have rejected her for being famous or used her fame for there own means of making money. That together with the fact that she was also a woman in a mans world made finding employment hard. However she did find that she was able to do good and important work during the Second World War. In 1940 she joined the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) this was an organization that was set up so pilots could ferry any aircraft from the factory to the airfields that were operational. It was during one of these ferrying missions that Amy Johnson died. What exactly happened on that fateful day 5th January 1941 remains a mystery. It could have been bad weather, she could have been shot down as it was 1941 and during the war. All that is definite is she died that day and her body was never discovered. Like so many she died serving her country. Amy Johnson had also made the world realize through her determination that women could achieve at certain things as well as men and that women pilots didn't have to occur purely in the rich people's playground.
© Children's Web Magazine 2006