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Perhaps one of the most famous female pilots ever, Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 1932.
When she began her journey from Newfoundland to Paris in a Lockheed Vega 5B, she kicked off a short career full of highlights. Her achievements included setting altitude records and becoming the first woman to fly solo across the Pacific Ocean. Reinforcing her legacy as one of the most influential women in aviation.
In 1937, as she attempted to make a record-breaking journey around the world, the Lockheed Electra in which she was flying disappeared. Her disappearance – and the fact that neither her body nor her plane has been confirmed to be found since she disappeared – remains one of the greatest mysteries today.
In October 1941, she joined the Air Transport Auxiliary, and was based in Hamble in Hampshire. Over the course of the war she flew over 1,000 planes of 76 different types, including Harvards, Hurricanes, Spitfires and Wellington bombers. Some of her flights were to relocate planes from Royal Air Force airfields to the frontline, and others were to ferry new planes from factories to airfields.
After the war, Ellis was seconded to the Royal Air Force and continued to ferry aircraft. She was one of the first women to fly the Gloster Meteor, Britain's first jet fighter. She later moved to the Isle of Wight.
In 1950, she became the manager of Sandown Airport, and Europe's first female air commandant. Mary Ellis managed Sandown for twenty years, during which time she also founded the Isle of Wight Aero Club.
A former ATA colleague, and well known women in aviation , Vera Strodl, was hired by Ellis as the chief flying instructor.
Settled in Hastings which was close to the Sussex Aero Club where she first worked as a waitress and cleaner in order to save some money for taking flying lessons. She was trained by an RAF veteran from the First World War, earning her pilot's ‘A’ License on 14 January 1937. Later that year, Strodl became an aircraft inspector with Philips & Powis Aircraft Ltd. based in Reading. She left the company for a position at Gloster Aircraft Company, as she wanted to learn about aircraft with riveted metal constructions. Over the next two years, she worked as an aircraft inspector and production test pilot.
In 1941, she volunteered for the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) where she had the job of ferrying many different types of new, repaired and damaged military aircraft between factories and airfields until the end of the war in 1945. It was dangerous work as the ATA female pilots were frequently targeted by German fighters but could also be shot down by British anti-aircraft batteries who sought to destroy German bombers. The pilots also risked flying into barrage balloons. Whenever she flew a new type of aircraft, she wrote its name on her leather flying jacket. The jacket can now be seen at Nordfyns Museum in Bogense.
Strodl came close to disaster on several occasions. Once she was reported missing and presumed dead when she suddenly turned up in the mess. Strodl's wartime logbook shows she flew some 200 different flights totalling 1,500 hours. Of about 500 ATA pilots, she was one of some 100 women in aviation and the only one from Scandinavia to fly for the RAF during the Second World War.
As an experienced aviator, Hughes was one of the first eight female pilots accepted into the Air Transport Auxiliary on 1 January 1940 and Hughes was the youngest female pilot to join the service.
Hughes initially flew Tiger Moths from Hatfield Aerodrome , Hertfordshire and soon Hughes had more than 600 hours' experience ferrying aircraft around the country. Though small in stature, she ferried all types of aircraft including heavy four-engined bombers such as the Short Stirling.
She became both a senior pilot and the only woman qualified to instruct on all types of military aircraft then in service.
Hughes continued to fly after the war, using her talents as an instructor. She was featured in "The Eagle Special Investigator Meets Joan Mills in 'Special Investigator Flies Solo'" in the 1953 book Eagle Special Investigator. In the 1960s, Hughes served as a flying instructor with the Airways Aero Association, first at White Waltham Airfield, and then at Booker Airfield.
In early 1964, due to her low weight and considerable experience, Hughes was recruited for testing a near-replica of the 1909 Santos-Dumont Demoiselle monoplane, ultimately flying it for the shooting of the 1965 film Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines.
She also flew replica World War I aircraft for the film The Blue Max (1966) and a Tiger Moth bi-plane for the live-action flying shots in Thunderbird 6 (1968). In the latter film she ended up in court as it was alleged that she had flown under a motorway bridge in a dangerous manner. The case was abandoned after they heard that she had flown, rather than taxied under, the bridge because this was the safest choice.
Anna Leska was born on 14 November 1910. Her father was an engineer and a pioneer of Poland's arms industry. Her younger brother was Colonel Pilot Kazimierz Leski, codename "Bradl", an intelligence officer in the Polish Home Army.
From the age of eighteen, she trained to pilot gliders, hot air balloons and aeroplanes at the Warsaw Aeroclub and the Aeroklub Pomorski (Pomeranian Aero Club), eventually earning her A and B glider pilot licence and qualifying as a balloon pilot. From 1938, she was a member of the Warsaw Aeroclub.
She was called up for auxiliary military service, appointed a wartime Podporuchik(second lieutenant) and assigned to the Staff Squadron of the Air Command Eskadry Sztabowej Dowództwa Lotnictwa. On 22 September 1939, Leska managed to escape in an RWD-13 aircraft from a German-controlled airfield in Okęcie, from where she witnessed the bombing of Warsaw.
The Polish aircraft has been hidden in the surrounding forests to protect the fleet from attack and had been camouflaged between the trees. Pilots were instructed to move the planes out of the forest between air raids, and take off rapidly without waiting for the engine to warm up. Leska later described her escape flight as "taking off from an undug potato field" in an air raid.
Bessie Coleman was an early American civil aviator. She was the first African-American women in aviation and first Native American to hold a pilot license.
She earned her license from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale on June 15, 1921, and was the first Black person to earn an international pilot's license. She was one of the incredible pioneering female pilots!
In 1930, Amy Johnson became the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia, undertaking the journey in a de Havilland Gypsy Moth. Additionally, she was the first woman in the world to qualify as an aircraft engineer.
During World War II, she joined the Air Transport Auxiliary.
Johnson died in 1941 when the plane she was piloting crashed into the sea under poor weather conditions. She is one of the most well know, and inspirational female pilots.
In early July 1940 she became one of the first women pilots to join the British Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA), remaining with the ATA until 30 November 1945. She commenced her ATA career by delivering primary training aircraft such as the Tiger Moth, progressing to the Miles Master and North American Harvard.
During her ATA service she graduated to fly all categories of wartime aircraft and was one of the first dozen women to qualify to fly four-engined heavy bombers. She was the first woman pilot to deliver an Avro Lancaster bomber and also flew 222 Handley Page Halifaxes and 109 Short Stirlings. On 26 October 1942 she was introduced to US First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt as the first woman pilot to be trained on four engined bombers, during Roosevelt's visit to the ATA at White Waltham Airfield in Maidenhead.
By that point, Curtis had already flown 90 different types of aircraft. Her final ATA rank was as First Officer.
Postwar, she became a technician and flight test observer at the A&AEE military aircraft test establishment at Boscombe Down, moving later to Fairey Aviation where she was a senior flight development engineer. She took an active part in British air racing, flying various aircraft including her Wicko and a Spitfire XI. She was a founding member of the British Women Pilots' Association. She qualified to fly helicopters in October 1992 and continued to fly aircraft until voluntarily "grounding" herself in 1995.
In 1936, Markham made a solo flight across the Atlantic , from England to North America.
When she decided to take on the Atlantic crossing, no pilot had yet flown non-stop from Europe to New York. On 4 September 1936, she took off from Abingdon, southern England.
After a 20-hour flight, her Vega Gull, The Messenger, suffered fuel starvation due to icing of the fuel tank vents, and she crash-landed at Baleine Cove on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada.
She became the first person to make it from England to North America non-stop from east to west and was celebrated as an aviation pioneer.
Markham chronicled many of her adventures in her memoir, West with the Night, published in 1942.