Amy Johnson was a pioneering English pilot who was the first woman to fly solo from London to Australia.
She set many long distance records during the 1930s and flew in the Second World War as a part of the Air Transport Auxiliary, losing her life during a ferry flight.
Amy was born on 1st July 1903 in Kingston upon Hull, the eldest of four daughters. She was introduced to flying in 1929 and gained her pilot’s “A” Licence at the London Aeroplane Club. Later that year, she became the first British woman to obtain a ground engineer’s “C” licence.
Amy achieved worldwide recognition when she became the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia. Flying G-AAAH Jason, she left Croydon on 5th May 1930 and landed at Darwin on 24th May, a total of 11,000 miles.
In July 1931, she and co-pilot Jack Humphreys became the first people to fly from London to Moscow in one day, continuing the journey across Siberia and on to Tokyo, setting a record time for Britain to Japan.
In 1932 she married Scottish pilot Jim Mollison and they attempted more world records including flying a de Havilland DH.88 Comet named “Black Magic” as part of the Britain to Australia MacRobertson Air Race. But by by 1936 the marriage was in trouble and she divorced Mollison, reverting back to her maiden name.
Amy’s Final Flight…
In 1940, during World War 2, Johnson joined the newly formed Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA), which transported Royal Air Force aircraft around the country. V3540 was the last plane that Amy Johnson flew, a Mk.II Airspeed Oxford. As a member of the ATA she was delivering the Oxford from Prestwick to RAF Kidlington, but she stopped overnight with her sister Molly in Blackpool. On 5th January 1941, setting off from Blackpool, the weather conditions were very poor. The flight should have taken about 90 minutes, but four and a half hours later, lost and running out of fuel, she baled out over the Thames Estuary.
Despite being sighted by some ships in a convoy and a gallant rescue attempt her body was never recovered. Tragically, the Captain of a Royal Navy escort ship Lt Walter Fletcher, who dived into the freezing water to try and rescue her also later died later from exposure.
A memorial service was held for Amy in the church of St. Martin in the Fields on 14th January 1941. As a member of ATA with no known grave, she is commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission on the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede.