Marking 90th anniversary of Amy Johnson's debut solo flight

Thursday, 14th May 2020, 12:37 pm
Updated Thursday, 14th May 2020, 12:37 pm

This year marks the 90th anniversary of the start of the solo flight by legendary ‘queen of the skies’ Amy Johnson.

Amy Johnson was the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia in 1930.It was a remarkable feat for someone whose longest previous flight was about 200 miles.

She did this in a flimsy canvas and wooden Gipsy Moth biplane christened ‘Jason’ after the Johnson family business.

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Born in 1903 in Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire, Johnson was the daughter of Amy Hodge and John William Johnson whose family were fish merchants.

Johnson went to the University of Sheffield, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics

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 in January 1929, and a pilot’s “A” licence six months later.In that same year, she became the first British woman to obtain a ground engineer’s “C” licence.

Johnson was a friend and collaborator of Fred Slingsby whose Yorkshire-based company, Slingsby Aviation of Kirkbymoorside, North Yorkshire, would become the UK’s most famous glider manufacturer.

22nd June 1930: Amy Johnson arriving at Port Darwin, Australia, after her solo flight. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

Slingsby helped found Yorkshire Gliding Club at Sutton Bank, close to Johnson’s home town of Hull, and during the 1930s she was an early member and trainee.

Her father - always one of her most ardent supporters - bank-rolled her first plane. a secondhand de Havilland DH.60 Gipsy Moth G-AAAH and named it Jason after her father’s business trade mark.

Johnson achieved worldwide recognition when, in 1930, she became the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia.

Flying G-AAAH Jason, she left Croydon Airport, Surrey, on May 4 and landed at Darwin, Northern Territory, on May 24 - flying 11,000 miles.

Six days later she damaged her aircraft while landing downwind at Brisbane airport and flew to Sydney with Captain Frank Follett while her plane was repaired.

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.

Johnson next obtained a 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 people to fly from London to Moscow in one day, completing the 1,760 miles (2,830 km) journey in approximately 21 hours. From there, they continued across Siberia and on to Tokyo, setting a record time for Britain to Japan.

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.

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

On July 29 1932, Amy Johnson and Jim Mollison married.

In July 1933, Johnson together with Mollison flew the 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.

The aim was to take “Seafarer” to the starting point for the Mollison’s attempt at achieving a world record distance flying non-stop from New York to Baghdad.Running low on fuel and now flying in the dark of night, the pair made the decision to land short of New York. Spotting the lights of Bridgeport Municipal Airport in Stratford, Connecticut.

They circled it five times before crash landing some distance outside the field in a drainage ditch. Both were thrown from the aircraft but suffered only cuts and gashes.After recuperating, the pair were feted by New York society and received a ticker tape parade down Wall Street.I

n May 1936, Johnson made her last record-breaking flight, regaining her Britain to South Africa record in G-ADZO, a Percival Gull Six.

The same year she was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Aero Club.In 1938, Johnson overturned her glider when landing after a display at Walsall Aerodrome in England, but was not seriously hurt.

The same year, she divorced Mollison. Soon afterwards, she reverted to her maiden name.

She joined the Air Transport Auxiliary during World WarTwo, before being killed in action on January 5 in 1941.

East Riding Council is celebrating her first solo flight to Australia in 1930 in a number of ways.

Sewerby Hall and Gardens near Bridlington, where the Johnson family had a home, houses a permanent collection of Amy Johnson memorabilia, The house is closed due to the coronavirus.

However to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Australia flight, a video of the story of the flight has been posted on www.facebook.com/sewerbyhall Facebook site.

It can also be seen on the venue’s You Tube channel: https://youtu.be/O5Z71SnOIa8

Between now and May, 24 there are a series of posts on facebook, culminating in the unveiling of an online collection about Amy Johnson, which will be revealed on the anniversary of the final day of the flight, May 24.

In addition, East Riding Museums are posting up an image each day until May 24 on Instagram, using a significant object from the unique collection of objects related to

Amy Johnson at Sewerby Hall and Gardens.

Follow on Instagram @south_cave site.