you're reading...
Suite 101 Canada (Online Magazine - General Interest)

Nancy Bird Walton Australian Aviator

Nancy Bird Walton Australian Aviator

Australia’s Greatest Female Aviator and Living National Treasure

A love of life above the clouds took Nancy Bird-Walton around the world, fulfilling dreams that began in childhood.

Australian aviation pioneer Nancy Bird-Walton was named a Living National Treasure by the National Trust of Australia in 1997. She was one of Australia’s aviation pioneers, and the first female pilot in the Commonwealth to carry passengers.

Early Life

Born in Sydney in 1915, Nancy wanted to fly almost as soon as she could walk. “I had this reputation of climbing fences and trees and calling myself an eppy plane. You know, jumping off fences and waving my arms.”

Nancy left school early to work in her father’s general store in the country. “With my hard-won savings I bought myself a leather coat, helmet and goggles, because I was going to learn

Nancy was thirteen years old when she flew for the first time while at an air pageant. She paid the pilot a bit extra to do some aerobatics! “My sister said I came down a little green – but on the other hand it became the ruling passion of my life.”

Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith

Five years later that passion drove Nancy to take flying lessons, and not with any old instructor. Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith, the first man to fly across the mid-Pacific, had just opened a pilots’ school near Sydney, and Nancy was among his first pupils. She was so tiny she needed cushions to reach the controls!

Most women learnt to fly for fun, but Nancy planned to fly for a living. “When I got my licence, I had to think about doing something with it.”

Having a commercial license meant Nancy could carry passengers, but she needed wings. Family members came to the rescue, and bought Nancy her first plane, a Gypsy Moth.

Flying Tours

Nancy and a friend soon took off on a barnstorming tour, dropping in on country fairs and giving joy rides. It was the first time some people had seen a plane, let alone a female pilot. “They didn’t intend to go up. That was my job, or Peggy’s job, to persuade them to go up.”

While touring, Nancy met Reverend Stanley Drummond. He wanted her to help set up a flying medical service in outback New South Wales. Nancy bought a better-equipped plane, and began covering territory not yet reached by the Royal Flying Doctor Service. It was rewarding but lonely work.

“One of the things that came into one’s mind was the fear of being lost and never being found. You would have perished before being found in the summertime in that country.”

In 1936, Nancy entered an air race from Adelaide to Brisbane, and won the Ladies’ Trophy. “It was a wonderful opportunity for me to come from that back country and meet other flying people. You see, I was isolated out there. Nobody even spoke the same language.”

After working in the outback for more than four years, Nancy knew she needed a break from flying. When a Dutch airline company invited her to do some promotional work in Europe, she accepted.

World War II and After

World War II broke out soon after Nancy’s return to Australia. She began training women in skills needed to back-up the men flying in the Australian Airforce.

In 1950, she founded the “Australian Women’s Pilots’ Association”. Eight years later Nancy decided she wanted to fly again. Nancy was back in the pilot’s seat after a twenty year absence.

Her entry in a famous all-women race in America, called the Powder Puff Derby, made headlines. It was the first time a woman from overseas had competed.

Awards and Recognition

Throughout her life Nancy, supported charities, and people in need. This generous spirit earned her the Order of the British Empire in 1966. Ms Walton became a Dame of the Knights of Malta in 1977 and in 1990 was awarded an AO by the Australian government.

Although she never crashed a plane Nancy admitted flying, especially in those early days, was risky. Taking risks, she said, opens up opportunities.

She was also Commandant of the Women’s Air Training Corps from 1940-45, the founder and longtime president of the Australian Women’s Pilot Association and Emeritus Patron of the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

In October 2008, she attended the inaugural Australian landing of Qantas’ first super passenger jet the A380, named the Nancy Bird- Walton in her honour.

“There’s a wonderful quotation ‘whatever you can do or dream, begin it’.”

Nancy Bird-Walton died on January 13th 2009.

About Craig Hill

Teacher and Writer. Writing has been cited in New York Times, BBC, Fox News, Aljazeera, Philippines Star, South China Morning Post, National Interest, news.com.au, Wikipedia and others.


4 thoughts on “Nancy Bird Walton Australian Aviator

  1. Interesting!

    I want to follow your friends’ blog. Please tell me how to do so.

    Posted by chankaiyee2 | February 22, 2012, 13:59
    • Which friend, and which blog?

      Posted by Craig Hill | February 22, 2012, 15:54
      • The ones you mentioned who like my post “Ignore North Korea’s Bluffing and Treat It with Contempt”. You said that I might like their posts.

        Posted by chankaiyee2 | February 22, 2012, 16:48
      • Sorry Chan Kai Yee. I can’t recall the comment right at the moment, and can’t find it in my comments list. I also can’t see it on your post that you mentioned. Do you have a link to the comment I made?

        Posted by Craig Hill | February 22, 2012, 17:04

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

If you liked what you just read, click "Subscribe" to become a follower of the Craig Hill site. You will receive an email each time a new post is published.

Join 17,663 other followers

An archive of all my old posts

Follow me on Twitter

Most Recent Posts Post on My Blog About China: China News

Coronation Of Emperor Xi and the world thereafter

Coronation Of Emperor Xi and the world thereafter

A few days ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping‘s arrest news took social media by storm. The atmosphere was jubilant as if the whole world looked forward to Xi’s exit. The rumor turned out to be fake news; Xi’s third term looks secured. Xi Jinping is all set to snatch the historic third term in the […]

China is coming for your land

China is coming for your land

Drought has plunged water levels to the lowest in China in decades. The temperatures have also soared to record levels, and hydropower plants failed to meet the sharp rise in power demand. However, this is just a glimpse of the worst things to come. Floods, droughts, and record-breaking temperatures would have a catastrophic effect on […]

Chinese drones now almost a daily appearance over Taiwan

Chinese drones now almost a daily appearance over Taiwan

The Chinese military has intensified its drone incursions into the skies above Taiwan with almost daily flights of combat and reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) TB-001 drone was spotted crossing the median line of the Taiwan Strait, the de facto boundary between the island and China’s […]

India says disengagement along disputed area with China to be completed by September 12

India says disengagement along disputed area with China to be completed by September 12

India’s foreign ministry said on Friday that disengagement along a disputed border area with China will be completed by Sept. 12. Both countries began disengaging from the Gogra-Hot Springs border area in the western Himalayas on Thursday, over two years after clashes at the frontier strained diplomatic ties. The disengagement comes ahead of a meeting […]

How to make EVs without China’s supply chain

How to make EVs without China’s supply chain

Two electrifying moves in recent weeks have the potential to ignite electric vehicle demand in the United States. First, Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act, expanding federal tax rebates for EV purchases. Then California approved rules to ban the sale of new gasoline-powered cars by 2035. The Inflation Reduction Act extends the Obama-era EV tax […]

Anti-India forces: Techniques and agendas exposed

Anti-India forces: Techniques and agendas exposed

In the post-cold war era, India has moved from a policy of non-alignment to a policy of multi-alignment. This means that India has friendly relations with almost all-powerful and developing nations. Today India is carving out a unique path for itself. Such an approach provides prominence and exposes India to the harmful behind-curtain activities by […]

Taiwan’s Kinmen serves as a reminder of China’s aggression

Taiwan’s Kinmen serves as a reminder of China’s aggression

Taiwan’s frontline island of Kinmen was once again in the headlines when President Tsai Ing-wen paid tribute this week to the soldiers and civilians who “operated in solidarity and safeguarded Taiwan” 64 years ago. On Aug. 23, 1958 mainland Chinese troops attacked Kinmen in a key battle that marked the beginning of the Second Taiwan […]

Terrorism: The glue that holds China and Pakistan together 

Terrorism: The glue that holds China and Pakistan together 

The father of communism, Karl Marx, once famously said — “We have no compassion, and we ask no compassion from you. When our turn comes, we shall not make excuses for the terror”. This statement summarises how terrorism and communism go hand in hand. Maoist China alone destroyed between 44.5 to 72 million lives. During […]

‘New normal’ across the Taiwan Strait as China threat looms ever closer

‘New normal’ across the Taiwan Strait as China threat looms ever closer

China is attempting to establish a “new normal” across the Taiwan Strait, eroding self-ruled Taiwan’s territorial control and increasing the threat of a strike with each military sortie, officials and analysts say. Beijing has ramped up military maneuvers in the 110-mile (180-kilometer) wide stretch of water that separates Taiwan from mainland China — and the […]

When Beijing was burning, Xi was playing personal games 

When Beijing was burning, Xi was playing personal games 

A great fire destroyed Rome for six days in the summer of AD 64. Famous Roman historian of that time, Tacitus, recorded that 70 percent of the city was destroyed and half of the city’s residents were displaced. Roman ruler Nero was accused of being indifferent, ineffective, and careless. The end result of this neglect […]

%d bloggers like this: