Amy Johnson was a pioneering British aviator who was the first female pilot to fly alone from Britain to Australia.
Let’s find out some fun facts about her!
1. Amy Johnson was born 1 July 1903 at 154 St. George’s Road in Kingston upon Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire.
2. She was the eldest of the four daughters of John William Johnson, a member of the family fish merchants firm of Andrew Johnson, Knudtzon and Company, and Amy Hodge, granddaughter of William Hodge, Mayor of Hull in 1860.
3. Johnson was educated at Boulevard Municipal Secondary School (later Kingston High School) and the University of Sheffield, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics.
4. She then worked in London as secretary to a solicitor, William Charles Crocker. She was introduced to flying as a hobby, gaining an aviator’s certificate, No. 8662, on 28 June 1929, and a pilot’s “A” Licence, No. 1979, on 6 July 1929, both at the London Aeroplane Club under the tutelage of Captain Valentine Baker.
5. In that same year, she became the first British woman to obtain a ground engineer’s “C” licence.
6. Johnson obtained the funds for her first aircraft from her father, who would always be one of her strongest supporters, and Lord Wakefield.
7. She purchased second-hand de Havilland DH.60 Gipsy Moth G-AAAH and named it Jason after her father’s business trade mark.
8. Johnson achieved worldwide recognition when, in 1930, she became the first woman pilot or aviatrix to fly solo from England to Australia. Flying G-AAAH Jason, she left Croydon, south of London, on 5 May and after flying 11,000 miles (18,000 km) damaged her aircraft on landing at Darwin, Northern Territory on 24 May.
9. The aircraft is preserved in the Science Museum, London. She received the Harmon Trophy as well as a CBE in George V’s 1930 Birthday Honours in recognition of this achievement, and was also honoured with the No. 1 civil pilot’s licence under Australia’s 1921 Air Navigation Regulations.
10. Johnson next obtained de Havilland DH.80 Puss Moth G-AAZV which she named Jason II. In July 1931, she and co-pilot Jack Humphreys became the first to fly from London to Moscow in one day, completing the 1,760 miles (2,830 km) journey in approximately 21 hours.
11. From there, they continued across Siberia and on to Tokyo, setting a record time for Britain to Japan.
12. On 29 July 1932, Amy Johnson and Jim Mollison married.
13. In 1932, Johnson married Scottish pilot Jim Mollison, who had proposed to her during a flight together some eight hours after they had first met.
14. In July 1932, Johnson set a solo record for the flight from London to Cape Town, South Africa in Puss Moth G-ACAB, named Desert Cloud, breaking her new husband’s record.
15. Her next flights were with Mollison as a duo. In July 1933, they first flew G-ACCV, named “Seafarer,” a de Havilland DH.84 Dragon I nonstop from Pendine Sands, South Wales, heading to Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, New York.
16. Their aircraft ran out of fuel and crash-landed at Bridgeport Municipal Airport (now Sikorsky Memorial Airport) in Stratford, Connecticut; both were injured.
17. After recuperating, the pair were feted by New York society and received a ticker tape parade down Wall Street.
18. The Mollisons also flew, in record time, from Britain to India in 1934 in G-ACSP, named “Black Magic”, a de Havilland DH.88 Comet as part of the Britain to Australia MacRobertson Air Race. They were forced to retire from the race at Allahabad because of engine trouble.
19. In May 1936, Johnson made her last record-breaking flight, regaining her Britain to South Africa record in G-ADZO, a Percival Gull Six.
20. In 1938, Johnson overturned her glider when landing after a display at Walsall Aerodrome in England, but was not seriously hurt.
21. The same year, she divorced Mollison. Soon afterwards, she reverted to her maiden name.
22. In 1940, during the Second World War, Johnson joined the newly formed Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA), whose job was to transport Royal Air Force aircraft around the country – and rose to First Officer. Her former husband Jim Mollison also flew for the ATA throughout the war.
23. On 5 January 1941, while flying an Airspeed Oxford for the ATA from Prestwick via Blackpool to RAF Kidlington near Oxford, Johnson went off course in adverse weather conditions.
24. Reportedly out of fuel, she bailed out as her aircraft crashed into the Thames Estuary.
25. The crew of HMS Haslemere spotted Johnson’s parachute coming down and saw her alive in the water, calling for help. Conditions were poor – there was a heavy sea and a strong tide, snow was falling and it was intensely cold.
26. Lt Cmdr Walter Fletcher, the commander of Haslemere, dived into the water in an attempt to rescue Johnson.
27. Fletcher failed in the attempt.
28. As a result of the intense cold he died in hospital days later.
29. In 2016, Alec Gill, a historian claimed that the son of a crew member stated that Johnson had died because she was sucked into the blades of the ship’s propellers, although the crewman did not observe this to occur, but only supposed that it might.
30. This claim has not been verified as Johnson’s body was never recovered.
31. A memorial service was held for Johnson in the church of St. Martin in the Fields on 14 January 1941. Walter Fletcher was posthumously awarded the Albert Medal in May 1941.
32. As a member of ATA with no known grave, she is (under the name Amy V. Johnson) commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission on the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede.