Amy Johnson was famous because she set many flying records in her career as an aviator. She was determined to show that women can be as good as men in the aviation field.
In 1930, Amy Johnson decided she wanted to be the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia, and also wanted to break Bert Hinkler’s record for the flight of 16 days. She got financial help from her father and Lord Wakefield, a man who had many charitable causes and liked to help people set speed records.
She bought a single engine Gypsy Moth aircraft and named it “Jason” after her father’s business trademark. Johnnie, as she was called, set off on her record-setting flight from Croydon on May 5, 1930.
She landed in Darwin on May 24th, completing 11,000 miles solo. She was the first woman to fly solo to Australia. For this accomplishment, she was given the Harmon Trophy and a CBE (Commander of the British Empire). She also received a number one civil pilot’s license from Australia.
Being famous did not slow her down, literally, and the next year, she and her co-pilot, Jack Humphreys, flew from London to Moscow in 21 hours, breaking another record.
They continued their flight all the way to Tokyo, and set another record for the fastest flight from London to Japan. The plane they were flying was a de Havilland Puss Moth. She was married that same year, 1932, to a pilot, Jim Mollison from Scotland.
She then set yet another record by flying from London to Cape Town, also in a Puss Moth, breaking her new husband’s record. In 1934, they flew to India in a DH Comet in record time. In an attempt to save their rocky marriage, they tried to fly around the world, but went down near the Connecticut coast.
Amy stayed in the United States while James returned to England. She became friends with Amelia Earhart. In May 1936, Johnson made her last record-breaking flight, regaining her Britain to South Africa record, in a Percival Gull Six, in May of 1936. The Mollisons were divorced in 1938.
During the war, Amy joined the Air Transport Auxiliary. This was a group of pilots who flew planes from factory airstrips to Royal Air Force bases. It was during one of these flights that her plane went down and she drowned before help could get to her. The date was January 5, 1941.
Amy Johnson was born in the town of Kingston-upon-Hull, in England, on July 1, 1903. She studied at Sheffield University, a school mostly for men. When she was 25, she wanted to learn to fly, and saved all that she could from being a secretary to pay for the lessons.
She received her license in July of 1929 and, because she was also very mechanically minded, became the first British woman to receive an aircraft ground engineer’s license.
The British Women Pilot’s Association gives an annual scholarship to help women pilots further their careers. It is called the Amy Johnson Memorial Trust Scholarship.
Songs have been written about her; one of them is "Flying Sorcery" from Al Stewart’s “Year of the Cat” album.
In 1974 a statue of Amy was unveiled on Prospect Street in Kingston-upon-Hull, her birthplace. There are several streets named after her, both in England and Australia, and there is the Amy Johnson Building on the campus of the University of Sheffield. A primary school is named after her on Roundshaw Residential Estate, which was formerly the Croydon Airport.
The KLM McDonnell Douglas MD-11 aircraft is named Amy Johnson.
Amy Johnson broke many records and stereotypes for women in her lifetime, as she was determined to show that women can be as good as men in the aviation field.