Nancy Bird Walton AO OBE (1915-2009)

January 14, 2009 at 7:37 pm | Posted in writing | 11 Comments
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Nancy-Bird as she liked to be known was a childhood hero of mine. Imagine the joy of a ten year old discovering a famous aviator whose name was Bird. She was the first woman in Australia to gain a commercial pilot’s licence (in 1934 at the age of nineteen). She pioneered a rural air ambulance service which in the 1930’s involved landing a tiger moth airplane in open fields. The list of her achievements is long and wondrous. She was named a National Living Treasure in 1997 and last year Qantas named their first Airbus A380 super jumbo ‘Nancy-Bird Walton’ as a tribute to her amazingness.

She was five feet zero inches tall and she passed away yesterday at the age of 93, coincidentally the same day I posted my piece doing away with the word ‘gravity’.  The other thing that has stayed in my mind all these years about Nancy Bird Walton is that she was the first person I can remember discussing  feminism. Before I heard her talking about the irrelevance of gender the issue had never appeared in my mind. So I will always be grateful that the first voice I heard discussing it was her sane and wonderful one.

Here’s to you Nancy Bird-Walton, defier of gravity. Thankyou.

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11 Comments »

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  1. heartfelt condolences paul on the passing of a woman of historic conviction and thankyou for introducing her, bless her new journey
    to the highest wonders amen

  2. she certainly lived a long full influential life

    very thoughtful touching tribute

    there are no coincidences

  3. Yes, thank you for the introduction and the tribute.

    It is fitting that “gravity” is revived in her honor.

    The photographs are as beautiful as your words.

  4. Short women rock and she sure was one of the greatest we’ve produced.

  5. What an inspirational woman. May she soar to the very heavens themselves.

  6. There was a British one too but I can’t remember her name. I remember I bought the stamps that they’d printed her on and stuck them all on an envelope and sent them to myself. Amy someone? Your memory is a lot better than mine. It’s lovely when people are recognised in such a way as this Paul.

  7. ‘the engine is the heart of the aeroplane, but the pilot is its soul’.no person embodied this saying more than nancy. A wonderful character who has made some incredible achievements, i reccommend ‘flying sheilas’ documentary, recently released and a fitting tribute to nancy with her very last interviews, She will be missed!

  8. Thank you for this. I never heard of her because the US is so egocentric we only focus on our own heroes.

  9. they just posted her obit in the LA Times—yours is so much better…i wish they’d published yours too

  10. I just saw another tribute to her. What a wonderful story. A new documentary out that i saw on flyingsheilas.com. A tale about a number of Australian lady pilots showing what they saw when they went to work. This grand lady was the first of the 8 or so Flying Sheilas. inspirational

  11. […] You can read the piece of prose this became here. Nancy Bird Walton AO OBE (1915-2009). […]


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