Pioneering 1930s aviator packed her gun, no radio
Tue May 24, 2005 12:22 AM BST
LONDON (Reuters) - When Amy Johnson became the first woman to fly solo from Britain to Australia in 1930, the intrepid aviator carried a pistol but no radio, documents released on Tuesday show.
Although there was public support for her attempt to break the then record of 15 days for the flight, set by a man, her bid was not warmly welcomed by all in officialdom.
"Adventuresses like Miss Johnson should be protected from themselves and not permitted to venture alone upon such a dangerous undertaking for purely selfish needs," sniffed a British diplomat in an internal note.
The document was among a collection of papers released on Tuesday for the first time by the National Archives.
"No radio apparatus or camera will be carried, but Miss Johnson will take a Browning pistol and 100 rounds of ammunition for use in emergency," said a wire circulated to British diplomatic missions in countries on her route.
A rookie pilot who had been flying less than a year, Johnson still had no plane to fly less than a month before she was due to take off for the 10,000 mile trip.
"Miss Johnson has not yet obtained financial back-up. Please hold (flight approval) up till we hear further from her," an Air Ministry memo dated April 10, 1930 shows.
Johnson eventually got hold of a single-engined De Havilland Moth and took off on May 5. It took 19 days to complete the epic journey, leaving her four days shy of the record.
Johnson went on to undertake numerous solo flights in the 1930s. She was killed when she crashed into the Thames Estuary in 1941.
Her body was never recovered and there were suggestions she was on a secret wartime mission or even that she was shot down by British gunners who mistook her aircraft for an enemy bomber.