We continue our series [1], [2] of biographies on Australia aviation pioneers. This page is devoted to the women pioneers of Australian and New Zealand skies 1900-2000

Some biographies are more complete than others simply because there was more material available. In the former case, along with a short abstract posted on this page, a link is provided to a page or pages devoted entirely to that person.

Should you have further information about those mentioned here, or indeed missing from the list that you feel deserves a place, please write.

Millicent Bryant 1878 - 1927

Florence Taylor

Bonney, Lores 1897 - 1994

Freda Thompson 1906 - 1980

Jean Batten 1909 - 1982

Peggy McKillop 1909 - 1999

Jessie 'Chubbie' Miller 1910-1972

Nancy Bird-Walton 1915 -

Suzanne Duigan 1924 - 1993

Fran West 1952 -

Gaby Kennard

Janine Shepherd 1962 -

Allana Arnot 1967 -


bryant_TL_dspec_100.jpg BRYANT, Millicent 1878 - 1927

On March 28, 1927, Millicent Bryant became the first australian woman to gain a pilots licence. She drowned later that same year in a Sydney ferry accident. Her funeral, at Manly, Sydney, had a flypast of five aircraft, which was widely reported in the press at the time. [Ref : DoAir, The Girls Were Up There Too.]

more... (not yet)

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florence_taylor_100.jpg TAYLOR, Florence, OBE

On December 5, 1909, Florence Taylor, the country's first female architect, became the first woman to fly a heavier-than-air machine in Australia flying a glider from the Narrabeen sandhills near Sydney, built by her husband G. A. Taylor.


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lores_bonney1_100.jpg BONNEY, Maude Rose 'Lores' O.B.E.: 1897 - 1994

Australian pioneer pilot Lores Bonney, who began flying in 1931 was the first pilot to fly between Brisbane and Capetown, South Africa and the first female pilot to fly from Australia to England at a time when most people believed that a woman's place was in the home.


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thompson_1_100.jpg THOMPSON, Freda : 1906 - 1980

The first Australian woman to fly solo from England to Australia, she was also the first female flying instructor in Australia and the British Empire, gaining her Instructor's Rating in 1933.


even more...

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jean_batten_100.jpg BATTEN, Jean : 1909 - 1982

Arguably New Zealand's greatest aviator was born in Rotorua, New Zealand. During the years 1933-37 she astounded the world time after time with feats of daring, combined with highly skilled flying prowess, setting and resetting solo distance/endurance records some to stand for many decades.


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NO_IMAGE_T.JPG McKILLOP, Peggy : 1909 - 1999

PEGGY Kelman was an aviation pioneer and adventurer, one of the first few in Australia with an aircraft and a licence to fly. She flew for the love of it and kept flying well into her 80s. Today's professional female pilots owe much to the spadework of Peggy and that other icon of early aviation, her friend Nancy Bird.


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miller_chubby_PX_100.jpg MILLER, Jessie : c.1910 - 1972

Jessie Maude "Chubby" Miller left the U.K. in June 1927 with Bill Lancaster(Q.V.) in an AVRO Avian. After 159 days she finally arrived as the first woman to complete an England to Australia flight.


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walton_youthful_100.jpg BIRD-WALTON, Nancy A.O., O.B.E : 1915 -

Nancy Bird is well-named. She is one of Australia's aviation pioneers, and the first female pilot in the Commonwealth to carry passengers. Nancy Bird-Walton was the founder of the Australian Women's Pilots Association, the starting block for a proud generation of female pilots who now fly alongside men in Australia's skies.


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suzanne_1_duigan_d_100@72.jpg DUIGAN, Dr Suzanne Lawless (Sue) : 1924 - 1993

"Sue: Probably the most extraordinary pilot since Uncle Jack. Sue spent a lot of time between Melbourne University and CSIRO. She did her PHD at Cambridge. At the age of 36 she next took up flying, owned her own Piper 140 and used to visit us on Flinders Island in mid Bass Strait on a fairly regular basis." ...John Denis Duigan


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fran_west_100.jpg WEST, Fran : 1952 -

Fran West, a 46 year old librarian from Adelaide, is a private pilot who has been flying since 1980 and has over 400 hours of 'in-command' experience. She is the South Australian President of Soroptimist International, a member of the Australian Women Pilots' Association and The 99s (International Women Pilots' Association).


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gaby_kennard_100.jpg KENNARD, Gaby

Inspired by the aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart, Gaby Kennard in 1989, flew her Piper Saratoga 'Gerty' (VH-GKF) east around the globe. The journey took 99 days and covered 29,000 NM. Gaby Kennard was the first Australian woman to fly solo around the world.


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janine_shepherd_100.jpg SHEPHERD, Janine : 1962 -

In 1986, Janine Shepherd whilst 'road' training for the 1988 Winter Olympics was struck from behind by a truck and suffered horrific injuries. After months of painful rehabilitation and a determination to rebuild a new life she learned to fly, wrote three best selling books and became sought after as motivational speaker.


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allana_arnot_100.jpg ARNOT, Allana : 1967 -

In 1990, Allana survived an horrific lightplane crash. Her has been described as miraculous - not only has she taught herself to walk again but in 1995, she gained her commercial helicopter licence & in 1997, became the first woman to circumnavigate Australia solo in a helicopter.


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Great Reading

elva_rush.jpg Rush, Elva, Up Above - Down Under
Stories of Australian Women in Aviation

ISBN#: 0958717761, Publisher: Elva Rush

Elva Rush was 33 when Arthur Schutt introduced her to flying. Elva still flies her own beloved Cessna-150 VH-DTN and recently compiled a fascinating accounts of 32 Australian women in aviation.

women_of_the_air_100.jpg Lomax, Judy, Women of the Air

From the early days of ballooning to the advent of the space age, women have defied convention and discrimination to prove their ability and stamina in the air.

Women of the Air by Judy Lomax celebrates the progress of women in aviation, from the daring exploits of Edwardian parachutist Dolly Shepard to the Stinson sisters who risked their lives as stunt pilots and earned a living giving joy-rides and flying tuition before the second world war.

We read about the flying British aristocrats of the 1920s and 1930s - the Duchess of Bedford, Lady Bailey, Lady Heath, the Honourable Mrs Bruce - who used flimsy private aircraft as aerial motor cars to travel between and across continents.

Women of the Air details the exploits of the record breakers Amelia Earhart, Jean Batten, Amy Johnson and Anne Lindbergh as well as those such as Nancy Bird, an Australian, flew medical mercy flights in the outback and Beryl Markham who chased elephants from the air for wealthy safari parties in Kenya.

Also coverted are women aviators of the second world war such as the german test pilot Hanna Reitsch and after the war the women who continued to compete for international world records among them Jacqueline Cochran and Jacqueline Auriol.

Mann, Shelia. The Girls Were Up There Too: Australian Women in Aviation. Canberra: Australian Government Publications Service, 1986.

Further information

Australian Women Pilots' Association

Australian Section of The Ninety-Nines

New Zealand Association of Women in Aviation


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Last updated October 6, 2005