Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Last take off to Skies Unlimited

Australian Aviatrix Nancy-Bird Walton AO, OBE died today, aged 93. It is impossible to list her achievements; suffice it to say that she learned to fly at the age of 19, in a culture which discouraged and disparaged women from such things; that she gained a commercial licence, and used it, no easy feat, and again, a thing women of the time weren't supposed to do - they were "biologically unsuited".

And she was rightly proud to have never crashed a 'plane, although flying in an era when accidents were part of a normal day, and in bush flying, a tough environment. She would, I'm sure, be proud to be always remembered in all accounts as 'a lady'.

She founded the Far West Children's Health Scheme, flying where even the Flying Doctors didn't go. In 1950 she founded the Australian Women Pilots' Association, whose motto was 'skies unlimited'.

More here on the Hargraves site, and the ABC obituary.

Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) chief executive Nigel Milan said Ms Walton carried out some of the first medical evacuations in regional NSW.

"Nancy was one of a kind," he said.

Mr Milan said Ms Walton undertook one of the first air ambulance missions when she flew a medical evacuation in 1938 for a premature baby, Jack Stanmore, who had just been born at the Ivanhoe Hospital, in NSW's far west.

"Jack only weighed 1.5 kilograms and was not expected to live and the fledging Ivanhoe Hospital didn't have equipment to treat a delicate premature baby with breathing difficulties," he said.

"In April last year, Jack and his wife Ellie travelled from Dubbo to be reunited with Nancy at her Neutral Bay retirement home, and introduced her to their grandchildren, as part of the (RFDS) 80th anniversary celebrations."

From The Age.

It is an honour for Qantas to be allowed to have named their first Airbus A380 after her.

Rightly, she has been (and will continue to be) an inspiration for aviators everywhere, but particularly in her home country.

As is often said, we shan't see her like again.

Pic by 'Cloud Basher' from the Wabirdz forum. Heading photo of a 1930 promotional badge.

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