While listening to Kathy Mexted in a radio interview, two things became clear; they were her passion for flying and her desire to encourage women to take up flying. Of the ten pilots that she has written about, in Australian Women Pilots only one name stands out clearly and that is Nancy Bird Walton. Among the remaining pilots, some who flew during the war, one who did an around the world solo flight and one flew for the Royal Flying Doctor Service their stories tell how all these women had a dream to fly and their struggle to achieve their dream.
The humour that the Mexted has used in the book makes it an enjoyable read. For example, as the new pilot at a base in New Guinea, Patricia Toole was asked to fly a plane with passengers and cargo over the Sepik River. After ten minutes all went silent as the engine died. “It was a great pity to see the engine fail….as it was the only one we had.” After a clever landing, the passengers disappeared quickly with their possessions, leaving Patricia to walk for help.
In 1989 Gaby Kennard completed her solo flight around the world. What an achievement when one considers that she was raising two children and had a large mortgage on her house. She raised money for charity and was formally recognised on her return. The photographs of the women featured show all of them with their favourite plane. Deborah Wardley is photographed in the cockpit of an Ansett Boeing 727 with a huge smile. She won a court case against Ansett who had refused to let her fly.
Australian Women Pilots is a book of historical and social importance. There are many great women who quietly went about believing in themselves and their skills, succeeding in a man’s domain. Today female pilots are accepted but only because these amazing women paved a smooth path for them.
|Distributor||New South Books|