1903 – 1941
Famous for her mysterious death, Amy Johnson was also a key figure in the ATA at White Waltham.
After gaining a BA degree at Sheffield University, Amy tried a number of jobs but was unsettled, and had her heart set on a career in aviation. In 1928 she joined the London Aero Club and became the first woman to be trained as a ground engineer.
Lord Wakefield’s oil company sponsored her 11,000 mile solo flight to Australia in 1930, in a DH Gypsy Moth called Jason, which was paid for jointly by her father and Lord Wakefield. Amy was the first woman to achieve this.
In 1932, Amy married another pilot, Jim Mollinson, and they flew non-stop in a DH Dragon from Pendine Sands, South Wales to the USA in 1933. In 1934, she flew to India. Amy and Jim were divorced in 1938.
At the outbreak of World War 2, the MOD requisitioned White Waltham aerodrome, and it was used by the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) to deliver planes from the storage bases to the airfields. Amy volunteered for the ATA and was based at White Waltham.
Mystery enshrouds her death in 1941. The plane she was flying, an Airspeed Oxford, crashed into the Thames estuary and her body was never recovered. It was rumoured that she had been shot down by enemy fire or was on a secret mission.
In her birthplace of Hull, the Amy Johnson award is presented each year to a child who has shown great courage; and an annual award in her name, an annual British Women’s Pilots Award is presented as an Amy Johnson Memorial Trust Scholarship to help lady pilots further their career.
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Johnson in her Gipsy Moth leaving Australia for Newcastle, 14 June 1930 – Photo: Age Newspaper