Monday, June 24, 2024

Our women with wings

Recent stories

A young Mary Bell first learned to fly at the age of 24 in 1927 and received her “A” pilot’s licence the same year. She was involved with the WATC, a female-driven volunteer organisation that provided support to the RAAF. When WW2 broke out, Bell and this group were involved in the push to form the WAAAF.

Nancy Bird-Walton took her first trial flight at age 16 and in 1933, she was the youngest woman in the British Empire to receive her commercial pilots licence and went on to become one of the most famous pioneers of women in aviation.

Nancy, along with fellow aviator Peggy McKillop, travelled the country working at fairs and race meetings. Nancy-Bird Walton AO, OBE was known as “The Angel of the Outback” and was the founder, patron and was elected first chair of the AWPA (Australian Women Pilot’s Association).

The association supports the interests of female pilots and advocates for equal treatment and pay for female pilots; it also has a financial support program for the training and further education of individual pilots, including a Lady Casey Scholarship.

These women pilots of all ages and experience became the core of a nationwide network that today, like then, aims to assist women to achieve their goals in aviation.

The Nancy-Bird Walton Memorial Trophy is awarded for the most noteworthy contribution to aviation by a woman of Australasia.

In 1936, aged 21, Nancy-Bird Walton won the Ladies Trophy at the South Australian Centenary Air race from Brisbane to Adelaide, in which our aerodrome here in Nhill played a part.

On Dec 2nd, 1936, Nancy-Bird and her sister arrived and mentioned her intention to fly in the Brisbane-Adelaide Air Race, and again on Dec 18th.1936 Nancy-Bird flew in, along with 50 other aircraft, to refuel at Nhill, a control point in the Brisbane-Adelaide Air Race.

Several pilots from the AWPA will be doing a ‘fly past’ at the Nhill Airshow. They will later fly to Mildura to attend the AWPA AGM to be held the following weekend.

Nhill also has another place in Australia’s aviation history, on June 26th, 1930 Amy Johnson arrived at 4pm after her solo flight from England to Australia, she was on her way to Perth and London and stayed with a local family in Nelson Street.

We can’t leave this topic without saying “Congratulations” to Lucy Dorrington on obtaining her Recreational Pilots Licence. The tradition of excellence in our Australian women pilots lives on.

Come and experience living history at the Nhill Airshow on April 13th 2024. For more information or tickets go to, or phone Jenny on 0417 014 278 or Rob on 0428 911 387. 

Nhill Free Press & Kaniva Times 6 March 2024

This article appeared in the Nhill Free Press & Kaniva Times, 6 March 2024.


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