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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