Saturday, May 24, 2014

Aviatrix Amy Johnson and the Flight to Australia

Amy Johnson in India
Image by Wikimedia User Dabbler
On May 24, 1930, American aviatrix Ami Johnson safely landed in Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia after a 18.000km flight, becoming the first woman pilot to fly solo from England to Australia.

Amy Johnson earned her Bachelor if Arts degree in economics at the University of Sheffield. She was introduced to flying and gained the "A" pilot licence in 1929, followed by the "C" licence shortly after. She was highly supported by her father and he also helped her to purchase her first plane, which she named "Jason". She managed to fly from England to Australia in 1939 as the first known woman all by herself. On 5 May the pilot left London and landed in Darwin on 24 May. She flew about 18.000 km and immediately received great attention for her achievements. Johnson received the Harmon Trophy, which is usually awarded annually to the world's outstanding aviator, female aviator, and aeronaut.

In July 1931, Johnson and her co-pilot Jack Humphreys, became the first pilots to fly from London to Moscow in only one day. They completed the 2,830 km journey in approximately 21 hours and from there, they continued across Siberia and on to Tokyo, setting a record time for flying from Britain to Japan. The flight was completed in G-AAZV de Havilland DH.80 Puss Moth, named "Jason II". Only one year later, the pilot set a solo record for the flight from London to Cape Town, South Africa in a Puss Moth, "G-ACAB", named Desert Cloud. Her next flights were as a duo, she flew nonstop from Pendine Sands, South Wales, to the United States.However, their aircraft ran out of fuel and crash-landed in Bridgeport, Connecticut. In the accident, both pilots were injured, but received a ticker tape parade down Wall Street.

Johnson was promoted to a First Officer around 1940, when she joined the Air Transport Auxiliary, which was responsible for transporting Royal Airforce aircraft around the country. Only one year later, the brave pilot flew an Airspeed Oxford for the ATA from Blackpool to RAF Kidlington near Oxford. She went off course in adverse weather conditions and it is assumed that she ran out of fuel. Johnson bailed out as her aircraft crashed into the Thames Estuary. Her parachute was spooted as she went down into the water and it is known that she was still alive at that point. However, conditions were poor and the woman faced a very heavy see and a strong tide. Also, snow was falling and it was intensely cold. During an attempt by a near by boat crew to rescue her, she died and her body could never be recovered. The circumstances under which the woman died are still quite a mystery. The exact reason for the flight is still a government secret and there is some evidence that besides Johnson and Fletcher, who attempted to rescue her, a third person was also seen in the water and also died. Who the third party was is still unknown. In 1999, it was officially reported, that Amy Johnson may have been shot down. Tom Mitchell, from Crowborough, Sussex claimed that "he reason Amy was shot down was because she gave the wrong colour of the day (a signal to identify aircraft known by all British forces) over radio". Apparently, it became clear that it was Amy Johnson, who flew the plane only at the next day and Mitchell said that "the officers told us never to tell anyone what happened".

At yovisto, you may be interested in a historical video documentation on Amy Johnson.



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