At Sewerby Hall, we are proud to host the unique Amy Johnson memorabilia collection to commemorate our most famous and inspirational aviatrix, donated by her father in 1958. In 2020 we celebrated the 90th anniversary of Amy's world famous solo flight to Darwin, Australia where she landed on the 24th May 1930. For this spectacular achievement she was awarded the CBE - the highest Order of the British Empire by King George V.
In our collection is Amy's flying log book which documents this historic flight, day by day and the stopovers made for fuel, food and some repairs. It clearly says that she set off from Croydon aerodrome on the 5th May 1930 in her flimsy canvas and wood Gypsy Moth biplane G-AAAH, Jason. The plane was not equipped with radio communication, so alone, with only the most basic of maps and a bag of meat paste sandwiches our hero set off on what most people would consider to be a foolhardy, if not terrifying prospect.
Born in Hull in 1903 to Amy and John Johnson, Amy attended the Boulevard Municipal Secondary School before graduating from Sheffield University with a degree in economics. Her eventual employment as a secretary in the London law firm of William Crocker seems a far cry from her international record breaking flying achievements. One Sunday afternoon, Amy caught a bus which took her to Stag Lane aerodrome, home of the de Havilland Aircraft Company where she was instantly captivated with flight. Within a year, Amy had attained her ground engineer 'C' license - the first British woman to do so, her aviator's certificate and then on 6th July 1929 she gained her pilot's 'A' license.
The flight to Darwin was a staggering 11,000 miles but if we consider that when she took off from Croydon, Amy had barely 99 hours of flying experience which makes her achievement all the more remarkable; before Darwin, her longest solo flight had been from London to Hedon! After seven and a half hours in the air on Monday 5th May, Amy landed at Vienna, the following day 6th May she took off for San Stefano near Constantinople, a ten hour flight away. Wednesday 7th May Amy left Turkey a mere five and a half hours from her destination of Aleppo in Syria where her log book tells us she had a fuel leak. 8th May, Amy left Aleppo for Baghdad nine and a quarter hours away where she encountered a dust storm; the following day was a ten hour flight to Bandar Abbas on the Persian Gulf and here the plane's suspension strut bolt broke.
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On the 10th May Amy flew for nine and three quarter hours to Karachi where she had the plane's engine overhauled. The plan had been to land at Allahabad but a strong headwind made that impossible so Amy landed at Jhansi, she had been flying for over eleven hours; Amy flew the two hour flight to Allahabad the following day where essential maintenance was carried out and then a further eight hours to land at Calcutta all in one day. 13th May Amy flew from Calcutta to Rangoon in Burma where she sustained damage to one of the plane's wings landing in the monsoon weather. It was the monsoon headwinds which was to rob Amy of the record flight time to Darwin and further delay due to an enforced landing at Tjamal to fix a petrol leak didn't help. Flying across the islands of Sumatra and Java Amy was on the home straight, the last stopover was Atambua on Timor Island until her triumphant landing on Saturday 24th May at Darwin to uproarious crowds and much celebrity.