Nancy Bird, London, 1939 / by unknown photographer via
Nancy-Bird (Walton), (16 October 1915 – 13 January 2009) was a pioneering Australian aviator, the founder and patron of the Australian Women Pilots’ Association. She knew from a young age that she wanted to fly – and with a name like bird, why not?!
A pupil of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith at 18, she became a fully qualified pilot at the age of 19 – the youngest Australian woman to gain a pilot’s licence. Nancy bought her first aircraft, a de Havilland Gipsy Moth, in around 1923, and with her friend Peggy McKillop visited country fairs, giving joyrides to people who had never seen an aircraft before, let alone a female pilot. Bird met Reverend Stanley Drummond while on the country circuit, and in 1935 they set up a flying medical service in outback New South Wales, reaching areas not covered by the Royal Flying Doctors Service.
During WWII she trained women pilots for the Royal Australian Air Force, although they never saw combat and were used mainly for ferrying empty planes, and sometimes cargo and passengers, around.
In 1997 the National Trust of Australia declared her an Australian Living Treasure. She died in January 2009, at the grand age of 93, despite being a pioneering aviator and living a decidedly dangerous and adventurous life. What an inspiration!