Hey guys!! As mentioned in one of my previous posts, I’m going to have a series on this blog all about famous people who originally came from Hull and today’s post is all about Amy Johnson. Amy Johnson was the first women to fly solo from England to Australia and although she didn’t beat Bert Hinkler’s record (the first person to fly solo from England to Australia), she is known as one of the most influential and inspirational women of the 20th century. She is one of my idols because despite seemingly not being able to achieve her dream, she still followed it and ultimately she succeeded and became a famous, inspirational female pilot.
Amy was born 1 July 1903 and was the eldest of four sisters who grew up in Hull. Her father ran a fish export and import business there. She studied at Sheffield University where she came away with a degree in economics before a failed love affair convinced her to try living in London. She worked as a typist for a solicitor’s firm until one Sunday afternoon where she found herself with nothing to do, she decided to travel on a bus to Stag Lane Aerodrome in North London. She was entranced by the primitive biplanes as they landed and took off. This was the start of her spending all the time she could at the aerodrome.
Image source here
By 1929, Amy had recieved a ground engineers “C” license and her pilots license. Her first aircraft was eventually purchased with funds from her father and oil magnate Lord Wakefield after her efforts to raise the money herself didn’t work. Amy named £600 previously used Gypsy Moth (G-AAAH) “Jason” after the family business trademark. After this, Amy set a goal of flying solo from England to Australia and beating Bert Hinklers record and began to plan for the trip. She plotted the most direct route by placing a ruler across the map and made the decision to dare some of the world’s worst terrain which would force her to fly the open cockpit for at least eight hours per journey. It was so important for her to keep to her route so she could accumulate fuel at every stop and this would massively help her to succeed.
Amy set off from Croydon which is in South London on 5 May 1930 and landed in Darwin, Australia on 24 May which is a total distance of 11,000 miles!! Amy faced a few challenges on her journey when she was forced to land due to a sandstorm in the Iraq desert and when she had a bumpy landing in India due to the monsoon and ripped a hole in Jason’s wing which stole her chance of beating Bert Hinkler’s record. However she did eventually succeed in achieving her goal and she received a hero’s welcome when she arrived both in Australia and England.
After her world famous flight, Amy shot to fame and found that women all over were asking hairdressers for an “Amy Johnson wave” and “But the engine was wonderful” which was the loving way she’d described Jason became a catchphrase. That was not the end of her flight career. In July 1931 she set an England to Japan record with Jack Humprehys in a Puss Moth which followed onto her 1932 solo flight from England to Cape Town and her flight there again in 1936 where she set a record. She married Jim Mollison, a Scottish Aviator in 1932 and embarked on some other flying adventures with him, one in which they flew from England to India in record time. The couple divorced in 1938.
This was all before the start of the second world war which ended Amy’s commercial flying and started her commitment to the Air Transport Auxiliary which saw her fly aircraft from factory airstrip to RAF bases. It was whilst doing this that she died on 5 January 1941 when she crashed into the Thames Estuary. Several tributes were made to her after her death. Harry Ibetson’s statue of Amy was unveiled in 1974 in Hull and the building for the department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering at Sheffield University was named after her. Last year was the 75th anniversary of Amy Johnson’s death so in commemoration 60 moth sculptures were placed mostly in Hull and the surrounding area with some going out as far as Australia because that was where Amy flew to. The moths were significant because of the gypsy moth which was Amy’s aeroplane and they bore beautiful patterns on their wings which are linked to Amy in some way. Some of them were sold on however some can still be found around Hull.
Amelia Grace a.k.a Amelia in Hull